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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Asks for Patience in Iraq War

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush declared to his nation on Sunday night that the United States was winning the war in Iraq and pleaded with his viewers not to "give in to despair" over a conflict that has cost more than 2,100 American lives and an estimated 30,000 Iraqi deaths.

In a 17-minute live televised address from the Oval Office, his first in the formal setting since he announced that he had ordered the Iraq invasion in March 2003, Bush offered a vigorous reaffirmation of an unpopular war and asked his viewers for patience.

"Some look at the challenges in Iraq, and conclude that the war is lost, and not worth another dime or another day," Bush said. "I don't believe that. Our military commanders do not believe that. Our troops in the field, who bear the burden and make sacrifice, do not believe that America has lost.

"And not even the terrorists believe it. We know from their communications that they feel a tightening noose and fear the rise of a democratic Iraq."

The president, speaking in a steady voice punctuated by the constant gesturing of his hands, nonetheless acknowledged his critics more than he has in the past, and adopted a more humble tone.

But he also made clear that he himself had not wavered in his commitment to the war. "I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request," Bush said. "Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom."

The president held out the possibility of U.S. troop withdrawals in 2006, but he made no promises.

Democrats countered that while they welcomed the more realistic tone of Bush's speech, he had failed to explain the realities of the war.

"He acknowledged that we have made mistakes and he acknowledged that he understood why people are upset with him," said Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware, in an interview after Bush's speech.

But "he made it sound like if we just get rid of al-Qaida all will be fine in Iraq. As I said to the president on Friday, every single member of al-Qaida in Iraq could be shot dead, but President, you would still have a civil war in Iraq."

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said Bush's speech had not outlined the steps for the political transition that the Senate hopes to see next year in Iraq. "If the intent was to restate the mission, he certainly did that," Feinstein said in an interview. "But if the intent was to say how we get out, I don't think he did it. He did not recognize that the solutions have to be political."

Bush's address, his fifth major speech on Iraq in 19 days, was the culmination of an intense campaign by the White House to try to stop a slide in support for the war that began last summer.

As he has in his previous speeches, Bush said he had made mistakes in Iraq and acknowledged in a more personal way than before the suffering he himself had caused. "I know that some of my decisions have led to terrible loss, and not one of those decisions has been taken lightly," Bush said. "I know this war is controversial, yet being your president requires doing what is right and accepting the consequences."