- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

President Bush yesterday told the country — on the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq — that America can still achieve victory there, while Democrats in Congress said the United States has already failed.

“Four years after this war began, the fight is difficult, but it can be won. It will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through,” Mr. Bush said in an eight-minute speech from the Roosevelt Room in the White House.

Mr. Bush, who decided over the weekend to mark the Iraq war’s fourth anniversary, said that his plan to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq and Afghanistan must be given “months, not days or weeks” to succeed.

But Democratic leaders in Congress said they want the roughly 140,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq to begin leaving soon.

“After four years of failure in Iraq, the president’s only answer is to do more of the same,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “To succeed in Iraq, we must have a new direction.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said, “The American people have lost confidence in President Bush’s plan for a war without end in Iraq.”

“That failed approach has been rejected by the voters in our nation, and it will be rejected by the Congress,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

The Democratic majority in Congress is headed for a showdown with the president in the next few weeks over an emergency-funding bill for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The current $95 billion House bill would require U.S. troops to leave Iraq no later than the end of 2008, and has also been stuffed with an additional $21 billion in earmarks for legislators’ pet projects.

“As the bill is presently constituted, the president would have to veto it,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow. “Democrats know that. So our view is that we ought to just go ahead and sit down and negotiate a responsible bill now.”

Mr. Bush said Congress has “a responsibility” to get a supplemental war-funding bill “to my desk without strings and without delay.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, responded that “the only strings attached are those benchmarks and standards endorsed by the president himself.”

“This legislation is the justified response … to a policy that is failing and a president who insists that we must continue to stay the course,” Mr. Hoyer said in a speech on the House floor.

As of yesterday, 3,220 American servicemen and women had died in Iraq, and more than 24,000 had been injured.

“It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home,” Mr. Bush said. “That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating.”

Mr. Bush yesterday denigrated polls showing lagging public support for the war during an appearance at the White House with the University of Florida football team, which won this year’s NCAA national championship.

“All the pre-game polls said you couldn’t win,” Mr. Bush said. “So much for polls.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that the U.S. occupation and reconstruction efforts in Iraq have been mishandled in some ways.

Miss Rice, who appeared on several morning TV shows, said that U.S. military forces should have had “enough forces to clear an area and then hold it so that building and governance can emerge.”

“That was probably not pursued at the very beginning,” she said on CBS’ “The Early Show,” but said that the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David Petraeus, is now following that strategy.

Miss Rice asked Americans to “be patient. … It’s worth the sacrifice.”

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