Bush admits Iraq war not going well:
Bush to Consult on Changing Iraq Tactics
By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press Writer
4 hours ago
WASHINGTON - President Bush acknowledged Friday that "it's tough" in Iraq and said he would consult with American generals to see if a change in tactics is necessary to combat the escalating violence.
Seventy-four American troops have died in Iraq in October, likely to become the deadliest month for U.S. forces in nearly two years.
"One of the reasons you're seeing more casualties is the enemy is active and so are our troops, along with Iraqis," Bush said in a brief interview with The Associated Press.
He said he planned consultations within the next few days with Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, and Gen. George Casey, who leads the U.S.-led Multinational Forces in Iraq.
"We are constantly adjusting our tactics so we can achieve the objectives and right now, it's tough," the president said. "It's tough on the families who've lost a loved one. It's tough for our citizens who look at it on TV. It's hard on the Iraqis. They've lost a lot of life."
He declined to say, though, whether he thought a change in tactics was necessary.
The president has often said that U.S. goals in Iraq remain the same: to have a country that can sustain itself, govern itself and help in the war on terror.
"It's important for the country and the security of this country that the enemy be defeated in Iraq," he said. At the same time, Bush said the Iraqis had to step up their efforts to quell the violence.
"There's a criminal element that is taking advantage of the situation in Baghdad and Iraq, and the Iraqi government is going to have to deal firmly with them," he said.
The White House said that while Bush might change tactics in Iraq, he would not change his overall strategy despite growing opposition and Republican anxiety that his policy could cost the GOP control of the House or the Senate _ or both.
"He's not somebody who gets jumpy at polls," presidential spokesman Tony Snow said.
"The president is not going to alter his approach based on political considerations, but instead on the business of trying and moving toward having an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself," Bush's spokesman said.
With the war in its fourth year and the U.S. death toll above 2,780, Bush faces intense political pressure to change what critics say is a failed Iraq policy. An independent commission led by former secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana is exploring options for a new Iraq strategy.
On another contentious foreign policy issue, Bush said he would not comment on a report that North Korea had apologized for conducting a nuclear test until he had a chance to consult with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is in Beijing for talks with Chinese officials on the nuclear standoff.
The mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had told the Chinese that "he is sorry about the nuclear test." The North Korean leader also raised the possibility the country would return to arms talks.
Bush said Rice would report back to him later Friday. "I will then react, but we'll wait to hear confirmation on whether the leader of North Korea has stated that," he said.
Bush took questions for about 10 minutes after a round-table with senior citizens on the Medicare drug program.
He said Republicans were missing an opportunity if they were not talking about the drug plan and how it's working on the campaign trail.
"My own view is our candidates and the people who voted for this ought to be out there traveling to senior centers all over their districts and their state saying, 'look what we did.' I don't know if they're doing that or not," Bush said.
He brushed off changes proposed by Democrats, including having the government negotiate drug prices rather than individual insurance plans.
"We will resist any changes to weaken this program," Bush said.
Afterward, Bush stopped at a local CVS drug store, posing behind the pharmacy counter for pictures and examining the literature the Medicare pharmacists hand out to customers.
"Millions of seniors are benefiting," the president said. "Our seniors are saving money. They're getting better coverage. It's a plan that I'm real proud of. ... Our compassionate approach to health care is working for America's seniors."
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, standing at Bush's side, pledged continued improvements in the program.
"We're going to get better at it," he said. "We're getting better at it every year. It'll be better this year than it was the last."
Later, at a fundraiser in Washington for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Bush said his party has the best ideas for fostering U.S. economic progress and winning the war on terror and the war in Iraq. He urged Congress to extend his tax cuts and said if Democrats win the elections, they will raise taxes.
He also railed against Democrats who criticize the war in Iraq. Calling the Democrats the party of "cut and run," Bush said: "The voters out there need to ask the question, `Which political party will support the brave men and women who wear our uniform when they do their job of protecting America? Which political party is willing to give our professionals the tools necessary to protect the American people? Which political party has a strategy for victory in this war on terror?' "