WASHINGTON – President Bush said Saturday he saw "steady progress" in postwar Iraq (search), defending his $20 billion request for Iraq's rebuilding against critics who say the process is too slow and expensive.
"The transition to self-government is a complicated process, because it takes time to build trust and hope after decades of oppression and fear," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "Yet we are making steady progress, and we will keep our promise to fully return Iraq's government to Iraq's people as soon as possible."
Bush said that of the $20 billion he has requested, $5 billion would be spent on helping Iraq deal with its own security by assembling an army, training public safety and emergency personnel and establishing a fair judicial system.
"Greater security is essential to Iraq's future," the president said in his weekly radio address. "A secure Iraq will protect the nation's schools, and the hospitals that are opening, and the roads that are being built, and the water and power facilities we are repairing. Across Iraq, our coalition is turning over responsibility to the future leaders of that country."
He said Iraqi police officers recently took part in joint raids with American troops, leading to the arrest of more than 50 suspected criminals and terrorists.
"We're on the offensive against the desperate holdouts and Saddam loyalists (search) who oppose progress in Iraq. The free nation we are helping to build will be free of them."
Bush also said the U.S.-led coalition is helping train and equip Iraq's new army and said the country would have a 40,000-member military force in less than a year.
In the Democrats' radio address following Bush's remarks, Missouri Gov. Bob Holden (search) questioned the high price tag the president has put on Iraq's reconstruction.
"The Bush administration is proposing to spend $20 billion on Iraq's infrastructure while interstate highways throughout our country are in serious need of repair," Holden said.
"Democrats believe the responsibility for rebuilding Iraq should be shared by the international community, not just American taxpayers," the governor said. "Otherwise, this effort will force major cutbacks in important American priorities."