TCU Daily Skiff Wednesday, April 14, 2004
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Bush says setbacks in Iraq are small
In the third press conference of his presidency, President Bush reiterated that troops will remain in Iraq and that the United States is committed to bringing freedom to the country.

By Erin Baethge
Staff Reporter

President Bush said Tuesday he intends on keeping American troops in Iraq and emphasized that the setbacks America has faced in the past month with the recent increase in violence are small.

Standing before cameras for an hour — giving a 17-minute speech followed by reporters’ questions — Bush offered no apology for the government’s failure to prevent the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In response to questions, he also could not cite any mistakes or failures he made as president.

Bush said the increase in violence — at least 83 U.S. forces have been killed and more than 560 wounded this month, according to the U.S. military — in Iraq is not a sign of a civil war. At least 678 U.S. troops have died since the war began in March 2003.

“The violence we’ve seen is a power grab by ... extreme and ruthless elements,” Bush said.

With casualties climbing and doubts rising, Bush said America’s year-long involvement in Iraq “seems like a long time to the loved ones whose troops have been overseas. But when you think about where the country has come from, it’s a relatively short period of time.”

Bush reiterated that the United States will hand over power to the Iraqis on June 30, but troops will remain to maintain stability. He said he intends to give troops all the resources necessary to maintain stability in Iraq.

He said America’s objective is firm: To make Iraq an independent, free and secure nation.
Adam Schiffer, an assistant professor of political science at TCU, said Bush used the news conference as an opportunity to combat criticism over his handling of the war in Iraq.
“He was tired of having people say bad things about him without responding,” Schiffer said. “He also needed to reassure the troops and the families who lost loved ones.”

In recent opinion polls, approval of Bush’s handling of Iraq has decreased to the mid-40 percent level, and approval for his handling of terrorism has also decreased into the mid-50s. Also, an increasing number of people say the threat of terrorism is greater now after America’s military action in Iraq.

Schiffer said Bush made it clear that he will not back down from the war on terror and his speech showed his determination to win the war.

However, Schiffer said Bush spoke in broad generalizations and was not specific enough with his answers.

“He dodged all reasonably tough questions,” Schiffer said. “The biggest embarrassment is that he couldn’t name a mistake he has made since 9-11. He couldn’t admit that he has done anything wrong and this has been a pattern in his administration.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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