Bush Defends Military Buildup In Iraq
As Support For His Policy Plummets, President Likens U.S. Troops To America's Founders


KENNEBUNKPORT, Me., June 30, 2007

(AP) President Bush, who faces mounting congressional pressure to end the war, called Saturday for patience as U.S. forces conduct stepped-up operations in Iraq.

"We're still at the beginning of this offensive, but we're seeing some hopeful signs," Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address, in which he likened U.S. troops deployed around the globe to the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

"We're engaging the enemy, and killing or capturing hundreds," said Mr. Bush, who is losing GOP support for his decision in January to send 30,000 extra troops to Iraq to secure Baghdad and Anbar.

The president said two senior al Qaeda leaders were killed this week north of Baghdad and U.S. troops are finding arms caches at more than three times the rate of a year ago. Despite an upward trend in May, sectarian murders in the Iraqi capital are down from January, Bush said.

He said the last of the U.S. reinforcements just arrived in Iraq earlier this month.

The White House thought it had until September, when military commanders are to give an assessment of Iraq. But most senators now believe troops should start coming home within the next few months, and House Republicans are calling to revive the independent Iraq Study Group to give the nation new options.

"The fight in Iraq has been tough, and it will remain difficult," Mr. Bush said.

He said the Fourth of July on Wednesday will be an opportunity to remember the nation's founders as well as the more than 3,568 men and women of the U.S. military who have died in the Iraq war.

"We remember the spirit of liberty that led men from 13 different colonies to gather in Philadelphia and pen the Declaration of Independence," said Bush, who plans to spend Independence Day with the West Virginia Air National Guard in Martinsburg, W.Va.

"Today, a new generation of Americans has stepped forward and volunteered to defend the ideals of our nation's founding. ... They've helped bring freedom to the Iraqi people," he said. "They've helped make Americans more secure. We will not forget their sacrifice."

Also today, the Senate Democratic leader said some Republicans are "saying the right things on Iraq," but he wants them to vote the right way as well.

In this week's Democratic radio message, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is urging GOP lawmakers to "put partisan politics aside" and vote with the Democrats on the upcoming defense bill.

The Nevada Democrat also accused Republicans of blocking ethics reform and the enactment of 9/11 Commission recommendations.

Reid listed items on his party's agenda that have been able to move forward, like funding Gulf Coast recovery as part of the Iraq spending bill. He also noted successful efforts to raise the minimum wage, provide disaster relief for farmers and fund a health insurance program for low-income children.

In Reid's words, "the progress we've made has not come easy."