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Wednesday, July 23

Bush, in Rose Garden speech, tries to broaden focus on Iraq

By Chuck Raasch | GNS

WASHINGTON - A day after Saddam Hussein's two sons were killed in a gun battle in Iraq, President Bush tried to broaden the focus of the war, arguing anew the moral case for removing Saddam's regime.

In recent days, the focus has been on body bags and bloody ambushes of American troops, and some critics of the war invoked the memories of Vietnam. But in a Rose Garden speech, Bush used the killings of Odai and Qusai in Mosul to do two things that his allies and critics had been urging him to do for some time. Flanked by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, Bush attempted to bring the conflict in Iraq back to a larger moral theme, and he asked for international help.

He did the former without hesitation; he did the latter more subtly.

A terse Bush said the U.S. strategy toward a ``secure and prosperous'' Iraq is being carried out ``for the good of Iraq, for the peace of the region, and for the security of the United States and our friends.''

Saddam's regime, Bush said, ``tortured at home, promoted terror abroad and armed in secret.'' The killings of Saddam's two sons, who were integral in the regime, showed average Iraqis ``the former regime is gone and will not be coming back,'' Bush said.

Bush tried repeatedly to assure nervous Americans that the United States plans to turn over authority in Iraq to a new leadership as soon as possible. He also said the United States plans to introduce new Iraqi currency in the country by year's end, and that it is helping to establish a new army to ``defend Iraqis instead of terrorizing them.''

He did not mention critics' main contentions: that a primary justification for war has so far remained unproven, most notably the discovery of weapons of mass destruction, and that the United States was shouldering too heavy of a burden in rebuilding Iraq.

Democrats and other critics have focused on revelations of false or suspect intelligence information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that Bush had used to legitimize the invasion of Iraq. Several Democratic presidential candidates this week also stepped up criticism of Bush for not appealing more for foreign help in stabilizing the country.

The criticism has increased with almost daily killing or wounding of American soldiers.

``We should have built a stronger coalition before we went to war,'' Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a leading Democratic presidential contender, said before the killings of Saddam's sons. ``We absolutely, positively should try to build a stronger coalition to help the peace.''

In his Rose Garden speech, Bush characterized the Iraqis who were killing American soldiers as ``a few remaining holdouts'' who were ``enemies of the Iraqi people.''

He said that several ``milestones'' had been reached, including the establishment of an interim governing council and the training of police for a post-Saddam Iraq. And the Pentagon - buffeted in recent weeks by families of soldiers on extended duty in the dangerous theater - said Wednesday it was working on a rotation of fresh troops into Iraq.

''Now that we have reached this important milestone, I urge the nations of the world to contribute militarily and financially,'' Bush said.

About 147,000 of 160,000 foreign troops in Iraq are Americans. Democrats have criticized the Bush administration for acting out of hubris in not asking the United Nations more directly for postwar aid.

``I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you don't make a decision about protecting your own troops and winning your objectives based on false pride,'' Kerry said.