Bush: No Retreat From Iraq

Two days before a major anti-war demonstration, President Bush said Thursday that withdrawing American forces from Iraq would make the world more dangerous and allow terrorists "to claim an historic victory over the United States."

Mr. Bush said terrorists have been emboldened over the years by the hesitant U.S. response to numerous events: a hostage crisis with Iran in the Carter administration, the bombing of U.S. Marines barracks in Lebanon during the Reagan administration, the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center during the Clinton administration, and others.

"The terrorists concluded we lacked the courage and character to defend ourselves," the president said. "The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission.

"For the safety and security of the American people, that's not going to happen on my watch," he said.

after receiving a briefing on the global war on terrorism, focusing mainly on Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Bush said the only way terrorists can win is if American loses its nerve and abandons its mission, which, he said, will not happen on his watch, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

He was updated by Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, and Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command, who spoke via a secure video conference. Vice President Dick Cheney joined the president.

Mr. Bush acknowledged that there are differences of opinion about Iraq and that some want the United States to withdraw to escape more violence. Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who camped outside Bush's ranch during August, is to lead an anti-Iraq war rally Saturday that organizers hope could draw tens of thousands of people.

"I recognize their good intentions but their position is wrong," the president said. "Withdrawing our troops would make the world more dangerous."

He said a pullout would embolden U.S. adversaries and allow Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden "to dominate the Middle East and launch more attacks on America and other free nations."

Mr. Bush acknowledged the loss of American lives in Iraq — more than 1,900 dead — and said "we'll honor their sacrifice by completing the mission and winning the war on terrorism."

The president said Iraqi forces are making progress toward taking responsibility for their country's security. They are increasingly taking the lead in joint operations with U.S. forces and "showing the vital difference they can make," the president said. Moreover, he said Iraqi troops are remaining behind and keeping cities safe after military operations have cleaned out terrorists.

The president said anew that Syria is not doing enough to prevent terrorists from entering Iraq. "We're getting limited cooperation" from Damascus, the president said.

Mr. Bush said that in Iraq, "The battle lines are drawn and there is no middle ground."

"If we fail that test, the consequences for the safety and security of the American people would be enormous," the president said. "Our withdrawal from Iraq would allow the terrorists to claim an historic victory over the United States."

The president opened his remarks by thanking U.S. troops for helping in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

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