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President Bush issues Veterans Day vow

By Wolf Blitzer
CNN

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President Bush placed a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "We come to this Veterans Day in a time of war," said President Bush Tuesday, describing the somber tone of the holiday.

It's also a time of intense debate in the United States, and the president showed absolutely no signs of retreat.

Before a friendly audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, he issued a determined vow to win in Iraq -- no matter the cost in casualties and dollars.

"We will finish the mission we have begun. Period," the president said.

Even as he spoke, more explosions rocked Baghdad.

But the president said the consequences of failure in Iraq and Afghanistan are simply too great, warning that the United States can either fight terrorists there, or wind-up fighting them on U.S. soil.

"The failure of democracy in those two countries would convince terrorists that America backs down under attack, and more attacks on America would surely follow," said President Bush.

In making the case, the president claimed terrorists have come to Iraq with the goal of installing a Taliban-like regime in Baghdad. They have aligned themselves, he said, with Saddam loyalists and others already in Iraq from al Qaeda and its Ansar al-Islam partners.

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"Saddam loyalists and foreign terrorists may have different long-term goals, but they share a near-term strategy: to terrorize Iraqis and to intimidate America and our allies," he said.

The president insisted the United States was winning the war, noting that most of the attacks in Iraq have been limited to the so-called Sunni Triangle, a 200 square-mile area around Baghdad.

Missing from the president's speech were any direct references to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden -- both of whom remain at large -- and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- which have yet to be found.


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