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Honor US fallen by staying 'in the fight,' president says

WASHINGTON -- President Bush sought to shore up support for the Iraq war yesterday, saying the best way to honor the nation's dead was to ''stay in the fight."

Bush's approval ratings have fallen to the lowest levels of his presidency in part because of growing fears about Iraq, where more than 1,700 Americans have died and thousands more have been wounded.

In his weekly radio address marking Independence Day, Bush sought to tap into patriotic feelings, saying the troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan were following in the footsteps of those Americans who fought in previous wars over three centuries.

''In this time of testing," Bush said, ''I ask every American to find a way to thank men and women defending our freedom -- by flying the flag, sending letters to our troops in the field, and helping the military family down the street."

Last Tuesday, Bush delivered an address to the nation in which he sought to connect Iraq's violent insurgency to Osama bin Laden and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, drawing fire from Democrats.

Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington accused the Bush administration yesterday of turning a ''blind eye" to the rising costs of caring for thousands of wounded veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the weekly Democratic radio address, Murray noted that the Veterans Affairs Department last week admitted it was more than $1 billion short of funds for this year.

She said lack of funding for veterans was ''the latest in a long line of White House failures to level with the American people about the cost of war," citing cases of troops using scrap metal to armor their Humvees and families raising money to buy bulletproof vests for soldiers in Iraq.

''The president has an obligation to our troops, their families, and to the American people, to tell the truth about the costs and sacrifices necessary to win the war in Iraq," she said, urging Bush to map out a clear plan.

Bush said that US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were facing ''determined enemies" and ''taking their rightful place among the greatest generations that have worn our nation's uniform."

''We know that the best way to honor the lives that have been given in this struggle is to complete the mission, so we will stay in the fight until the fight is won."

Friday, Bush visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

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