"It's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world," Mr. Bush said of the that compared Guantanamo to a Soviet-era gulag.
In a Rose Garden news conference, Mr. Bush defiantly stood by his domestic policy agenda while defending his actions abroad. With the death toll climbing daily in Iraq, he said that nation's fledging government is "plenty capable" of defeating insurgents whose attacks on Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers have intensified.
Mr. Bush spoke after separate air crashes killed four American and four Italian troops in Iraq. The governor of Anbar province, taken hostage three weeks ago, was killed during clashes between U.S. forces and the insurgents who abducted him.
"What you're seeing is a group of frustrated and desperate people who kill innocent life and we obviously mourn the loss of every life, but I believe the Iraqi government is plenty capable of dealing with them," Mr. Bush said.
The president said the job of the U.S. forces there is to help train Iraqis to defeat terrorists.
"I think the Iraqi people dealt the insurgents a serious blow when we had the elections," he said. "In other words, what the insurgents fear is democracy because democracy is the opposition of their vision."
Mr. Bush opened the news conference by urging Congress to pass his stalled energy legislation, restrain the growth of government spending, approve the Central American Free Trade Agreement and overhaul Social Security with a partial privatization plan.
He declared that the economy is strong, with 3.5 million jobs in two years and an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent. "Obviously, these are hopeful signs, but Congress can make sure the signs remain hopeful," he said in a five-minute opening statement.