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Facing lagging support, Bush defends war in Iraq


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George W. Bush
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(CNN) -- The United States will settle for "nothing less than victory" in Iraq, President Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address.

Speaking amid a swirl of lagging support for the war and declining approval ratings for his leadership, Bush defended U.S. operations in Iraq and showed no intention of pulling out of the region.

"We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens," he said.

Recent polls have given Bush some of the lowest approval ratings of his tenure, with figures hovering in the low-to-mid 40s.

A Gallup poll released Monday found that 59 percent of Americans favor at least some U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, and some lawmakers are calling for troops to be brought home. A bipartisan group this week called for a timetable for bringing all the troops home.

"Their (the terrorists') goal is to get us to leave before Iraqis have had a chance to show the region what a government that is elected and truly accountable to its citizens can do for its people," Bush said in his address Saturday.

Bush's comments were a marked change from last week's address, which concentrated on domestic issues.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, speaking Thursday, said Bush realizes that Americans are concerned about the war, "and that's why he's going to sharpen his focus, spending more time talking about the progress that's being made on the ground."

In recent days, some prominent lawmakers -- including Bush's fellow Republicans -- have spoken out about their dimming views of the conflict.

"After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and this discussion on this resolution," Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, said Thursday.

Jones, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is the same congressman who pushed for the House cafeteria to change the name of French fries to "freedom fries" after France opposed the U.S. drive to war.

On Thursday he joined a bipartisan group of House members sponsoring a proposed bill calling on the administration to announce a plan for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by the year's end and for the withdrawal to begin by Oct. 1, 2006.

Jones was joined by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a former Libertarian presidential candidate; Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, another Armed Services member; and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

Of the proposed resolution, McClellan said it would be the wrong message to send the world at a time when the insurgency against U.S. troops and Iraqi forces is in a "desperate mode."

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