Sun, Jul 06, 2003 - Page 6 News List

US still at war, Bush warns Americans

INDEPENDENCE DAY July 4 celebrations provided the backdrop for the president to expound his view that the US needs to have an active overseas military presence


US President George W. Bush observed Independence Day with a visit to a military base here on Friday, reminding a festive crowd of the burdens that American troops abroad are shouldering.

With attacks against American forces in Iraq continuing, Bush reaffirmed that a strong American military presence overseas would help ensure security at home.

In a half-hour speech at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, just outside this industrial city, Bush invoked the Sept. 11, terror attacks in New York and Washington.

"Our nation is still at war, the enemies of America plot against us," he told a crowd estimated at 25,000. "Our people in uniform do not have an easy duty. But much depends on their success."

Standing before a parade stand packed with military personnel, Bush warned, "Without America's active involvement in the world, the ambitions of tyranny would go unopposed, and millions would live at the mercy of terrorists."

Bush's visit here on a stifling summer day was meant to coincide with a celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the invention of the airplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright, who labored in a storefront bicycle workshop in Dayton.

But the trip to Ohio also had clear political overtones for Bush, who has visited this political battleground state 10 times since taking office in 2001.

According to the Almanac of American Politics, no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio, where registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by about 400,000 in the 2000 election. Bush, who is up for re-election in 2004, won Ohio in 2000 with 50 percent of the vote, compared to 46 percent for his opponent, Al Gore.

The event offered a powerful military backdrop for Bush, who was flanked by a huge American flag, a B-1 bomber and a F-117 stealth fighter.

"We can be grateful for the unity of our country in meeting great challenges, for the renewal of patriotism that adversity has brought, and for the valor we have seen in those who defend the United States," Bush said.

Bush did not directly address the casualties among American troops in Iraq, where at least 27 US soldiers have died since May 1, when he declared the end of major combat operations. Instead, he spoke more generally about the nation's global war on terrorism.

"The United States will not stand by and wait for another attack or trust in the restraint and good intentions of evil men," he said. "We are on the offensive against terrorists and all who support them. We will not permit any terrorist group or outlaw regime to threaten us with weapons of mass murder."

Bush did not mention the fate of Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi leader, even though an Arabic television network, Al-Jazeera, broadcast an audiotape earlier in the day by someone claiming to be Saddam. The White House said officials were trying to determine the veracity of that claim.

The celebration of the Wright brothers' invention has been a major undertaking in Dayton. Much to the annoyance of Dayton residents, there is a mistaken impression that the airplane was invented in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, because that is where the Wright brothers first flew their plane, on Dec. 17, 1903.

Bush alluded to local sensitivities on the matter, telling the crowd about his meeting with two descendants of the Wright brothers, Amanda Wright Lane and Steve Wright.

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