US President George W. Bush has for the first time acknowledged a possible parallel between the raging violence in Iraq and the Vietnam War.
But the White House also affirmed that it has no plan to reassess its strategy in the war-ravaged country, despite a surge in US casualties there and unrelenting sectarian bloodshed.
Bush was asked in an ABC News interview late on Wednesday if he agreed with a New York Times columnist's comparison of the strife in Iraq with the Tet Offensive, which is considered a key turning point in the US war in Vietnam.
"He could be right," Bush said. "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence."
Bush said insurgents were trying "to inflict enough damage that we'd leave."
"First of all, al-Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they're trying to foment sectarian violence," he said.
"They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause [the] government to withdraw," Bush said.
The Tet Offensive, a campaign launched by the North Vietnamese in early 1968, was considered a military defeat for them, but the scope of the assault shocked Americans and helped turn US public opinion against the war.
Many Americans concluded that the war was unwinnable or victory too costly.
The White House later sought to put the comparison in context.
"The full context was that the comparison was about the propaganda waged in the Tet Offensive ... and the president was reiterating something he's said before -- that the enemy is trying to shake our will," Dana Perino, a Bush spokeswoman, said in a statement.
"They know that we're a caring and compassionate people and that we're deeply affected by gross violence," she said.
"The president also believes the American people understand the importance of beating our enemy who is determined to kill innocent freedom-loving people," Perino added.
The comments came amid a steep spike in US deaths in Iraq, including 10 killed in a single day, on Wednesday. The US military announced two more US soldier deaths early yesterday, bringing the total number of US fatalities in Iraq this month to 69.