Bush Stands Firm on Iraq Amid Violence and Waning Support


New York Times

June 24, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush assured Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari on Friday ''there's not going to be any timetable'' for withdrawal of American forces and vowed victory over insurgents attempting to prevent establishment of a democratic government.

''This is not the time to fall back,'' al-Jaafari concurred at a joint news conference at the White House.

Fielding questions hours after the latest attack on a U.S. military convoy left an unknown number of American troops dead, Bush conceded that it bothers Americans to see scenes of carnage on television.

Speaking of the insurgents, he said, ''There's no question there's an enemy that still wants to shake our will and get us to leave. ...They try to kill and they do kill innocent Iraqi people, women and children 'cause they know that the carnage that they reap will be on TV and they know that it bothers people to see death.''

''It does. It bothers me. It bothers American citizens. It bothers Iraqis,'' Bush said.

Bush said he would stay the course in Iraq despite public opinion polls showing dwindling support for his policiy. He indicated his awareness of his domestic critics when a reporter becgan asking a question about whether he was concerned about a ''slump''in his support.

''Quagmire?'' the president asked, employing a word that some Democrats in Congress have begun to use to describe the military presence in Iraq one year after the transfer of sovereignty.

His visitor, al-Jaafair, seemed to recognize the domestic pressure on the president.

''You have given us more than money,'' he told Bush. ''You have given us your sons and your daughters ... this is more precious than any other support we have received.''

More than 1,700 American troops have died in Iraq, the majority of them since the end of hostilities aimed at toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. There have been 479 car bombs in Iraq since the handover of sovereignty on June 28, 2004, according to an Associated Press count.

Freedom of the press Iraqi-style was on display when a reporter asked the two men when reconstruction would begin in the wartorn country.

Bush said he wasn't trying to ''pass the buck,'' but looked at al-Jaafari and said ''they're in charge,'' meaning the Iraqis.