- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

President Bush said yesterday that foreign terrorists fighting to establish a Talibanlike government in Iraq are joining forces with remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime, but he vowed the United States “will finish the mission we have begun, period.”

Addressing the situation in Iraq after the bloodiest week for U.S. forces since the fall of the Iraqi dictator in April, he said coalition forces are quickly changing tactics to neutralize Saddam loyalists and foreign terrorists.

“Over time, Ba’ath Party and fedayeen fighters and other Saddam loyalists have organized to attack our forces, to terrorize international aid workers and to murder innocent Iraqis,” Mr. Bush said in a Veterans Day speech to members of the Heritage Foundation after beginning his morning at Arlington National Cemetery, where he laid the customary wreath atop the Tomb of the Unknowns.

“In the last few months, the adversary has changed its composition and method, and our coalition is adapting accordingly. Our coalition is on the offensive in Iraq, and we will stay on the offensive.”

Mr. Bush said coalition forces are battling not just remnants of Saddam’s regime, but also foreign terrorists who “have chosen to make a stand and to test our resolve” in and around Baghdad.

“Foreign jihadists have arrived across Iraq’s borders in small groups with the goal of installing a Talibanlike regime,” he said, referring to Islamic hard-liners in Afghanistan who harbored Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist group.

Also fighting alongside Saddam loyalists, he said, are al Qaeda militants and terrorists affiliated with Ansar al-Islam — two groups “always eager to join in the killing and to seek revenge after their defeat in Afghanistan.”

“Saddam loyalists and foreign terrorists may have different long-term goals, but they share a near-term strategy: to terrorize Iraqis and to intimidate America and our allies,” Mr. Bush said. “Recent reporting suggests that despite their differences, these killers are working together to spread chaos and terror and fear.”

But Mr. Bush, who addressed the foundation members at the Reagan office building, said U.S. forces are using sophisticated battlefield technology “to locate mortar positions and roadside bombs … moving against specific targets, based on intelligence gathered from Iraqis [and] conducting hundreds of daily patrols.”

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who yesterday helped put out the administration’s message by granting several rare interviews, said the loose coalition of fighters in Iraq are “a combination of what we call dead-enders.”

“These are Ba’athists who know that they have no future in a new Iraq, and remnants of the old regime, and some foreign fighters who are making common cause with them to try and break the will of the coalition,” she said.

Like the national security adviser, Mr. Bush said defeating terrorism in Iraq will alter the situation in the Middle East, “which is, after all, the region that is the primary source of most of the terrorism that we face, and certainly, the primary source of the terrorism that we faced on September 11th.”

Speaking on the 85th anniversary of the signing of an armistice that ended World War I, Mr. Bush praised the men and women of the U.S. armed forces for protecting America.

“Our men and women are fighting terrorist enemies thousands of miles away in the heart and center of their power, so that we do not face those enemies in the heart of America.”

Also yesterday, Mr. Bush signed the Fallen Patriots Tax Relief Act, which doubles the tax-free death-gratuity payment given to the families of fallen soldiers from $6,000 to $12,000, and the National Cemetery Expansion Act to help establish new national cemeteries for veterans.

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