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Bush: Withdrawing From Iraq Would Leave Americans at Risk

By Anne E. Kornblut
and Sheryl Gay Stolberg


President Bush said Thursday that withdrawing now from Iraq would leave Americans at risk of terrorist attacks “in the streets of our own cities,” and he cast the struggle against Islamic extremists as the costly but necessary successor to the battles of the last century against Nazism and communism.

“The war we fight today is more than a military conflict,” Bush said in a speech to veterans at an American Legion convention here. “It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.”

The speech, the first of five addresses on national security Bush plans to deliver between now and Sept. 19, was part of a carefully orchestrated White House offensive to buttress public support for the Iraq war and portray Democrats as less capable of protecting the country, a theme that has proved effective for Republicans in the past two elections.

Even as Bush spoke, a series of explosions ripped through Baghdad, providing more images of a sort that he acknowledged have been “sometimes unsettling” to the public.

Bush also took a hard line against Iran on a day when the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that it had found traces of highly enriched uranium, which can be used for bomb fuel, when its inspectors took samples in Iran last year. Bush said that “we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”

The latest White House offensive — the third major public relations effort in the last year to offset declining public support for the Iraq war and place it in the context of a broader cause — began unfolding this week, with combative speeches to veterans groups by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. Both invoked variations of the word “appease” to characterize critics of the president’s policies, with Rumsfeld saying they had not “learned history’s lessons.”

That language drew an immediate backlash from Democrats on Wednesday and Bush did not adopt it. But he did echo the allusions to the failed strategy of trying to appease Nazi Germany. He called today’s terrorists “successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists and other totalitarians of the 20th century,” and cautioned Americans against concluding that five years after the Sept. 11 attacks the threat had receded.

“That feeling,” Bush said, “is natural and comforting — and wrong.”