- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

President Bush yesterday sought to connect the U.S. mission in Iraq with World War II, telling Navy sailors and veterans in California that America must maintain the same kind of resolve that led to the defeat of Japan.

At celebrations ahead of the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, Mr. Bush said, “We are again a nation at war” and “must not forget the lessons of the past.”

“Once again, war came to our shores with a surprise attack that killed thousands in cold blood. Once again, we face determined enemies who follow a ruthless ideology that despises everything America stands for,” Mr. Bush said at the Naval Air Station North Island, with a backdrop of the USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier.

“And once again, we will not rest until victory is America’s and our freedom is secure. … We will never let the new enemies of a new century destroy with cowardice what these Americans built with courage,” Mr. Bush said to the audience, which included WWII veterans.

Mr. Bush compared his resolve to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s in the 1940s and said America’s mission in Iraq is to turn it into a democratic ally like Japan after its 1945 surrender.

“Franklin Roosevelt refused to accept that democracy was finished. His optimism reflected his belief that the enemy’s will to power could not withstand our will to live in freedom,” Mr. Bush said.

But Democrats said Mr. Bush, whose poll numbers have plummeted in recent weeks as anti-war demonstrators have garnered nationwide press coverage, is failing in his effort to lay out an exit plan for U.S. troops in Iraq.

“Democratic Presidents Roosevelt and Truman led America to victory in World War II because they laid out a clear plan for success to the American people, America’s allies and America’s troops,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

“President Bush has failed to put together a plan, so despite the bravery and sacrifice of our troops, we are not making the progress that we should be in Iraq. The troops, our allies and the American people deserve better leadership from our commander in chief,” he said.

For the first time in recent months, Mr. Bush said the United States cannot allow Iraq’s vast oil fields to fall into the hands of terrorists such as Abu Musab Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden.

“If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks,” he said. “They’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition.”

After the speech, Mr. Bush returned to Texas to prepare to fly back to the nation’s capital today — two days ahead of schedule. This afternoon, he will meet with the heads of federal agencies dealing with relief efforts related to Hurricane Katrina.

The White House said yesterday that there have been “initial discussions” about a presidential visit to affected areas — likely by the end of the week.

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