Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Bush admits US is `weary' of war

ATTACKS CONTINUE In Iraq a US helicopter was downed after coming under fire from a Sunni stronghold south of Baghdad, while Basra was rocked by two roadside bombs

AGENCIES , FORT IRWIN, CALIFORNIA, BAGHDAD AND BASRA, IRAQ

Children inspect a crater which they said was caused by a roadside bomb targeting a British military patrol in the southern city of Basra, Iraq, yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

US President George W. Bush said on Wednesday he knows the US is weary of war and of wondering if they can win.

Still, he said efforts to pull troops home from Iraq only make the US more vulnerable to attack from an enemy that is "pure evil."

"The enemy does not measure the conflict in Iraq in terms of timetables," Bush said to soldiers at Fort Irwin, a reference to congressional Democrats' plans to start phasing in troop withdrawals.

"A strategy that encourages this enemy to wait us out is dangerous -- dangerous for our troops, dangerous for our security," Bush said. "And it's not going to become law."

While speaking to troops the base, where more combat units are preparing to deploy to Iraq, Bush was trying to keep public pressure on Democrats. Both the House and Senate have approved war funding bills that would establish timelines for US troops to return home from the four-year-old conflict.

"It's a tough war," Bush said. "The American people are weary of this war. They're wondering whether or not we can succeed. They're horrified by the suicide bombing they see."

Yet Bush used a horrific tale in Iraq -- one in which terrorists put children in a car to get through a checkpoint, then exploded the vehicle -- to describe why he will not pull back.

"It makes me realize the nature of the enemy we face, which hardens my resolve to protect the American people," Bush said. "People who do that are not -- it's not a civil war, it is pure evil. And I believe we have an obligation to protect ourselves from that evil."

Back in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said congressional proposals to provide war funding only for certain missions could cause more bloodshed in Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week said he would propose legislation to cut off money for combat operations and provide money for only three missions -- targeted counterterrorism operations, training and equipping the Iraqi security forces and providing security for US personnel and infrastructure.

But Gates said that could pull troops from Baghdad neighborhoods, which have been the focus of the latest military buildup in Iraq.

"If we abandon some of these areas and withdraw into the countryside or whatever to do these targeted missions, then you could have a fairly significant ethnic cleansing inside Baghdad or in Iraq more broadly," Gates said in a radio interview on Wednesday with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham.

Meanwhile, two roadside bombs hit British forces in a Shiite militia stronghold in the southern Iraqi city of Basra yesterday.

One of the bombs left a large crater in the road that was at least a meter deep and several meters wide. Iraqi police said British troops had stormed a checkpoint close to the scene of the blasts shortly afterwards and disarmed the police there.

British military spokesmen in Basra, the hub of Iraq's main oil fields, had no word on casualties. Two British soldiers have been killed in separate small arms attacks this week.

To the south of Baghdad yesterday, a US helicopter went down after coming under fire in a Sunni militant stronghold but there was no word on casualties, an Iraqi army official said. The US military said it was looking into the report.

Gunmen opened fire on a Black Hawk helicopter at about 7:30am as it flew over Latifiyah, 30km south of Baghdad, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

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