Bush hails 'undeniable successes' of war

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The Independent US

With little eloquence and much rhetorical swagger, President George Bush used the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq to declare that the US was still headed for victory.

In unusually frank language, the chief instigator of the war recognised the "high cost in lives and treasure" of the war even as he boasted that "the successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable".

With less than a year left in office, the unprecedentedly unpopular President wants to build public support for his Iraqi adventure, given that a Democrat committed to ending the war may be the next incumbent in the White House.

"Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it," Mr Bush said. "The answers are clear to me. Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight that America can and must win."

But Mr Bush's low public approval ratings and the loss of US credibility abroad have undermined his authority, marking him as an increasingly irrelevant figure on the world stage. A growing number of Americans disagree with the President that the war in Iraq is worth pursuing.

He rejected the calls of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for a timetable for early withdrawal and claimed that the "surge" of more than 30,000 extra troops in Iraq last year had won results. "Retreat" would embolden al-Qai'da and Iran, Mr Bush said, and put the US at risk.

"The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around, it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror," he said, praising the Sunnis who had turned against al-Qai'da in Iraq.

But more Americans are concerned with surviving the economic recession than they are worried about the threat of terrorism. Mr Bush's efforts to link the disaster in Iraq to the threat from al-Qai'da rings increasingly hollow as a result.

The President's Democratic critics used the anniversary to renew accusations that the war was mismanaged from the outset. On the campaign trail in North Carolina, Barack Obama said: "Where are we for all of this sacrifice? We are less safe and less able to shape events abroad."