Wed, Sep 01, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US president admits war on terror cannot be won


US President George W. Bush admitted on Monday that the war on terror could not be won, as the Republican party convention, designed to showcase the president as a resolute leader at a time of national peril, was launched in New York.

The White House rushed to limit the potential damage as Democrats seized on the remarks as a sign of defeatism. A spokesman for the president said he was simply pointing out the unconventional nature of the conflict.

However, the timing of the remarks could not have been worse for the president, coming on a day that the party had lined up two of its biggest names -- Rudy Giuliani, the ex-mayor who led New York through the Sept. 11 trauma, and Senator John McCain, a Vietnam war hero -- to pay tribute to his qualities as a wartime leader.

Asked on NBC television whether the US could win its "war on terror," the president replied: "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the -- those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

The comments represented a break from earlier determined predictions of victory, and drew an immediate Democratic response.

"After months of listening to the Republicans base their campaign on their singular ability to win the war on terror, the president now says we can't win the war on terrorism," Senator John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, said. "This is no time to declare defeat -- it won't be easy and it won't be quick, but we have a comprehensive long-term plan to make America safer. And that's a difference."

In the NBC interview, the president also made it clear that he had no intention of retreating in the face of the terrorist threat.

That, he told the interviewer, "would be a disaster for your children."

He added: "You cannot show weakness in this world today because the enemy will exploit that weakness. It will embolden them and make the world a more dangerous place."

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