By BILL STRAUB
Scripps Howard News Service
April 13, 2005
In his second visit to the huge Army base in little more than two weeks, Bush said terrorists made Iraq "a central front in the war on terror" and that by attacking them where they live "we do not have to face them where we live."
"Because of you, the people of Iraq no longer live in fear of being executed and left in mass graves," Bush told the assembled military personnel, who responded with "hoo-ah" when the commander in chief made a point. "Because of you, freedom is taking root in Iraq. Our successes in Iraq will make America safer, for us and for future generations."
Iraq has experienced progress over the past few months, with a national election and the establishment of a 150,000-member security force.
"Like free people everywhere, Iraqis want to be defended and led by their own countrymen," Bush said. "We will help them achieve this objective so Iraqis can secure their own nation. And then our troops will come home with their honor they deserve."
The U.S. military has realized significant accomplishments since toppling the Saddam Hussein regime two years ago, Bush said, "yet your work isn't over."
"Freedom still faces dangerous adversaries," Bush said. "Terrorists still want to attack our people. But they're losing. These terrorists are losing the struggle because they're under constant pressure from our armed forces and they will remain under constant pressure from our armed forces."
Tuesday's appearance before the Phantom Corps on a beautiful Texas spring day on the parade field of the Field Cavalry Division came at a time when public support for the war in Iraq is sagging. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted earlier this month, only 43 percent of those questioned expressed approval of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq, while 54 percent disapproved.
The president's stop also coincided with an announcement out of Warsaw that Poland intends to withdraw its 1,700 troops remaining in Iraq by year's end. Poland has been one of the administration's most enthusiastic supporters.
The Fort Hood event provided the president with an opportunity to restate his goals before a supportive crowd. He also got his picture taken going through the line at the Wagon Wheel Inn - the mess for the First Cavalry, where he munched on fried chicken, macaroni-and-cheese and collard greens. He also met behind closed doors with 80 to 90 family members of fallen soldiers.