Bush: I 'Will Not Allow' Defeat

president bush speaks sunday, Dec. 18, 2005 in the oval office
President Bush asserted Sunday night the United States is winning the war in Iraq and issued a plea to Americans divided by doubt: "Do not give in to despair and do not give up on this fight for freedom."

In a prime-time address, Mr. Bush acknowledged setbacks and sacrifice and cautioned there would be more violence and death in the months ahead. "Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day," he said.

He pleaded with Americans to ignore "defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right."

Struggling to build confidence in his policy, the president

as Iraqi troops gain strength and experience. "As these achievements come, it should require fewer American troops to accomplish our mission."

The president spoke from the Oval Office, where in March, 2003, he announced the U.S.-led invasion. Nearly three years later, more than 2,150 U.S. soldiers have died, Mr. Bush's popularity has plummeted and about half of Americans think the war was a mistake.

Yet a strong majority oppose an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Read the full text of President Bush's address to the nation..

Listen to the president's speech (.mp3).

The address came on the heels of four major speeches in which Mr. Bush acknowledged setbacks and surprises in the war and took responsibility for ordering the invasion on the basis of inaccurate intelligence. The admissions were part of a White House effort to address complaints that Mr. Bush lacked a solid strategy for the war and has been oblivious to the violence that Americans plainly see on television.

But, as CBS News correspondent Bill Plante reports, the President remains unapologetic - insisting his decisions were necessary to protect the American people.

"I know that some of my decisions have led to terrible loss and not one of those decisions has been taken lightly," he said. "I know that this war is controversial, yet being your president requires doing what I believe is right and accepting the consequences."

His speech came amid an uproar in Congress over whether he exceeded his powers in conducting the war on terror with a secret eavesdropping program and on a day that Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise visit to Baghdad.

Plante reports that Mr. Bush

. Mr. Bush said the report relied on unauthorized disclosure of classified information that "damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk." Disclosure of the program helped generate opposition to a renewal of the Patriot Act in the Senate on Friday.

"The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time," Mr. Bush said. "And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said in reaction to Mr. Bush's speech: "The President's domestic spying scheme plays fast and loose with the law and our constitutional protections. How can we be credible in helping Iraq form its democratic government when our President acts in conflict to fundamental democratic ideals at home?"

Democrats were scornful even before the president spoke. Regarding a turnover to Iraqi troops, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said Bush "has to tell us how we're going to get there. The people on the ground said there is one battalion that can fight alone."

Arguing against withdrawal, Mr. Bush said that "to retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor and I will not allow."

As he has in the past three weeks, Bush acknowledged that missteps and setbacks and took responsibility for ordering the invasion based on faulty intelligence.

But, he said, "Not only can we win the war in Iraq — we are winning the war in Iraq." He said there were only two options for the United States — victory or defeat.