President Bush in Salt Lake City:
President George W. Bush, speaking amid protests and growing public unease over Iraq, said on Monday America owed it to the more than 1,800 U.S. soldiers killed there to complete the mission, which he linked with the campaign against terrorism.
In a speech to a convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush again linked the Iraq war with efforts to protect the United States from another September 11-style attack — a link critics say is an attempt to shift the justification for war.
“Iraq is a central front in the war on terror,” Bush said. “It is a vital part of our mission.”
Critics accuse Bush of shifting his argument for war when he invokes the issue of terrorism to argue for staying the course in Iraq. They point out that a commission investigating the hijacked plane attacks of September 11, 2001, found no operational ties between those attacks and deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s government.
The White House says the presence in Iraq of al Qaeda-linked insurgents shows the link with terrorism, although the U.S. administration concedes many of those militants have come into Iraq from other countries since the U.S. invasion.
I suppose if you were tanking in the polls — even the most charitable to the president show him at below 40% approval — you’d grasp at any justification you can for the disasterous track you’ve embarked on. But the polls don’t just reflect the negative feelings about the war. Americans aren’t happy about a lot of other things, including the sharp rise in gas prices, interest rates and housing costs, and other economic indicators. The electorate tends to blame the party in power for their discomfort, and the Republicans can’t blame Clinton for everything (they’ll try, though). In addition, the Republicans have shown themselves to be just as corrupt (Tom DeLay, Jack Abramhoff, Duke Cunningham, Bob Taft) as they said everyone else was. No wonder Bush is showing up at at Veterans of Foreign Wars (there’s an irony for you) convention. But even there he can’t catch a break; Rocky Anderson, the mayor Salt Lake City, the biggest city in the reddest state, is against the war.