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Inside Politics

Bush compares Iraq, terror wars to World War II

'We will accept nothing less than victory'

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Middle East
September 11 attacks
George W. Bush

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (CNN) -- Invoking the words of Ronald Reagan, President Bush on Wednesday compared the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism to World War II and the battle against communism.

Speaking at a commencement ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Bush repeated a line from former President Reagan.

"We believe in Ronald Reagan's words that 'the future belongs to the free.' In some ways, this struggle we're in is unique," Bush told the graduates. "In other ways, it resembles the great clashes of the last century between those who put their trust in tyrants and those who put their trust in liberty.

"Our goal -- the goal of this generation -- is the same. We will secure our nation and defend the peace through the forward march of freedom."

Bush's speech was described by the White House as a followup to a speech he delivered last week outlining five general steps for bringing democracy to Iraq, which U.S.-led forces invaded last year to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The speech comes at a time when many polls show growing doubts on the part of voters about the U.S. occupation in Iraq.(Full story) An interim Iraqi government is scheduled to take power June 30 , but U.S. forces will remain in Iraq indefinitely. Bush faces re-election in November.

Bush made no mention of the election, instead reaching back to cast ongoing conflicts in historic terms. He compared the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which precipitated U.S. involvement in World War II.

"Like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless surprise attack on the United States," Bush said "We will not forget that treachery, and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy.

"Like the murderous ideologies of the 20th century, the ideology of terrorism reaches across borders and seeks recruits in every country. So we're fighting these enemies wherever they hide across the Earth."

Bush has repeatedly described the war in Iraq as one aspect of the broader terror war, but some lawmakers -- mostly Democrats -- have said that Bush has failed to offer proof that Iraq was connected to the 9/11 attacks.

The broader Middle East, Bush said, is the battleground against terror, "a clash of political visions" that threatens "the security and peace" of the United States.

Bush said the struggle against terror that began after the 9/11 attacks will be long, and noted there were many setbacks and difficulties for years after the Cold War began in the 1940s.

"If that generation of Americans had lost its nerve, there would have been no long twilight struggle, only a long twilight."

He said the fight against Osama bin Laden -- the terrorist mastermind implicated in the 9/11 attacks and others against the United States and Europe -- is a fight against "darkness across the Middle East."

Bush highlighted what he described as strides in the region, including developments in Israel.

"Prime Minister Sharon's plan to remove all settlements from Gaza and several from the West Bank is a courageous step toward peace. His decision provides a historic moment of opportunity to begin building a future Palestinian state," Bush said.

As for Iraq, he praised the fledgling interim government and the new prime minister, Iyad Allawi. Bush said the United States and the United Nations are helping Iraq prepare for elections next year.

"This free election is what the terrorists in the country fear most," he said. "Free elections are exactly what they're going to see."

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