IDAHO Bush: No retreat from war in Iraq
Cindy Sheehan plans to return to her anti-war vigil today after spending time with her mother in California.
NAMPA, Idaho (AP) -- President Bush vowed anew that there would be no retreat from the war in Iraq as he addressed a rocking crowd of military families Wednesday, a supportive contrast to the anti-war demonstrators who have been shadowing him wherever he goes.
"So long as I'm the president, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror," Bush told National Guard troops and their families. Afterward, he met privately with relatives of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
About 150 protesters gathered across a parking lot from the arena where Bush spoke. Smaller groups were allowed closer in designated areas. Anti-war activists have staged vigils outside his ranch in Texas and during his three-day trip to Utah and Idaho.
Bush praised the unique role of Guard members, who serve both their states and their country. More than 243,000 National Guard members have been called up for the war, including more than 1,700 from Idaho.
Referring specifically to the war's growing death toll, a recent change in his remarks on Iraq, Bush said 491 Guard and Reserve members had lost their lives. "And now we'll honor their sacrifice by completing their mission," he said.
In all, more than 2,000 U.S. military service members have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was Bush's first trip as president to this strongly Republican state, and his second speech in the West this week seeking to rebuild support for his Iraq war policy.
Bush didn't say anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan's name, but he clearly sought to discredit the campaign for immediate withdrawal advocated by the slain soldier's mother, who has been camping outside his Texas ranch. He was returning there later Wednesday -- as was she, after spending time with her ailing mother in California.
"An immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq or the broader Middle East, as some have called for, would only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations," Bush said.
Idaho is one of Bush's strongest centers of support, and he was received like a rock star on the stage at the packed Idaho Center.
Many in the cheering audience of thousands wore camouflage.
Some Democrats, including party Chairman Howard Dean, said Bush has failed the guardsmen and reservists by overextending them without proper training or equipment. "Guard and Reserve troops have been shortchanged, just as they risk their lives day in and day out to keep us safe," Dean said in a statement.
But those in Bush's audience rallied behind their commander in chief, repeatedly interrupting his speech with applause and standing ovations.
Bush said the United States must stay on the offense even as troop casualties mount and violence continues.
"Now they're trying to break our will with acts of violence," Bush said. "They'll kill women and children knowing that the images of their brutality will horrify civilized people. Their goal is to force us to retreat."
"They are going to fail," Bush said.