Bush warns of chaos, carnage in Iraq's future
But says progress is being attained by security forces
WASHINGTON -- President Bush yesterday marked the approaching third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by offering a carefully constructed account of progress against both the insurgency and sectarian violence, saying that US-trained Iraqi forces were increasingly responsible for securing the nation.
But in remarks intended to shore up flagging support for the war, the president warned that despite those forces' best efforts, mayhem would continue.
''I wish I could tell you that the violence is waning and that the road ahead will be smooth. It will not," he said. ''There will be more tough fighting and more days of struggle -- and we will see more images of chaos and carnage in the days and months to come."
The speech was the first of at least three that Bush plans to give in the coming weeks to counter suggestions that Iraq is descending into civil war.
Despite his continuing efforts to reverse waning popular support for his policies, public opinion polls suggest that Americans have grown increasingly skeptical about the US role.
Criticizing the president's remarks as ''another public relations campaign," Senate minority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said yesterday that Bush should be making a greater effort to ''help form the representative government in Iraq that is essential for defeating the insurgency and ending the sectarian violence."
Speaking at George Washington University before an audience assembled by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative foreign policy group, Bush said that since the invasion on March 20, 2003, Iraqis had gone from ''living under the boot of a brutal tyrant . . . to elections for a fully constitutional government."
He also said that Iraqi security forces took the lead in quelling unrest after the destruction in February of the Golden Mosque, a Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Samarra, and that a concerted Pentagon effort had begun to turn the tide in protecting American troops and Iraqi civilians against roadside bombs.
Right after the attack on the shrine, Bush said, Iraqi leaders put security units on alert, ''canceling all leaves, and heightening security around mosques and critical sites," with Iraqi police units manning checkpoints, protecting peaceful demonstrators, and arresting those who were violent.
Some analysts, however, have said that while a daytime curfew and the show of force by US and Iraqi units turned back would-be rioters before retaliation for the bombing got out of hand, the response only forced insurgents to go underground, where they initiated a new round of kidnappings and murders.
On Sunday and yesterday, more than 80 Iraqis were killed and more than 300 wounded in sectarian violence.
Bush called the attack on the shrine a ''massive provocation" and ''a clear attempt to ignite a civil war." But, he said, ''the Iraqi people made their choice. They looked into the abyss and did not like what they saw."
The roadside bombs, known by the military as ''improvised explosive devices," have been among the deadliest elements of the insurgents' arsenal.
The ''weapons of fear," as Bush called them, are made of artillery shells, explosives, and other munitions and can be detonated remotely.
Over the past year, insurgents have managed to build bigger, more powerful bombs that rip through the strongest armor on military vehicles.