White House Continues to Defend Iraq Policy

The president on Saturday continued the public-relations campaign he and several top White House officials launched a day earlier to defend U.S. military action in Iraq.

President Bush in his Saturday weekly radio address offered a portrait of Iraq as a country where life is returning to normal after war, insisting that "Iraq is making progress" despite a steady drumbeat of bad news. Bush said that progress was coming as a result of his "clear strategy."

Democrats retorted that Bush's Iraq policy hadn't outlined a good plan for peace. 

"While the battle to oust Saddam Hussein (search) was well-planned and well-executed, the president did not plan well for winning the peace and rebuilding the nation," said Rep. Baron Hill (search), D-Ind.

Remarks by other administration officials — including Vice President Dick Cheney (search), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the top U.S. general in Iraq — came on Friday.

The PR blitz was an attempt by the Bush administration to deflect criticism of the government's handling of post-war Iraq and downplay reports of infighting over Iraqi policy among Bush officials in Washington.

Meanwhile, two more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq.

The soldiers were the victims of an ambush Thursday night in a Baghdad neighborhood, military officials said.

Read about the ambush of U.S. soldiers.

In the radio address, Bush said that Iraq is a place where markets are bustling, shelves are full, oil is flowing and satellite dishes are sprouting up.

"Since the liberation of that country, thousands of new businesses have been launched," Bush said. "With our assistance, Iraqis are building the roads and ports and railways necessary for commerce."

Bush noted other developments: an independent central bank; a new system to absorb foreign capital; a new currency.

He made a new pitch for his $87 billion spending request for military operations and rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. He said it was critical for helping Iraq reach its potential — and for keeping America safer from terrorism.

But in their Saturday radio address, Democrats said Bush must provide a more detailed accounting of how the money is being spent before lawmakers vote on the next budget request, likely next week.

"There has been little support from the international community; our troops have been taking almost all the risks, and American taxpayers have been paying all the bills," Hill said.

"Many proposals have been discussed in Congress to ensure accountability" for previous spending in Iraq, which Hill said totaled $63 billion this year.

On Friday, Rumsfeld told Fox News that most of the violence in Iraq was happening in Baghdad, where the majority of reporters have been stationed since the combat phase of the war ended in April.

"It's an accurate representation of what people are seeing, but it happens to be a relatively narrow slice of what we're seeing in Iraq," Rumsfeld told Fox News. "Baghdad is the most difficult situation we've got. The situation is better in the north, better in the south."

The defense secretary downplayed a Friday New York Daily News report of clashes among Bush administration cabinet leaders and the president's disappointment in the work he's done as head of defense.

"I think it's been blown significantly out of proportion," Rumsfeld said. "The National Security Council (search) is doing what its charter said it should do: coordinate among the various agencies. This problem we're wrestling with in Iraq is about Iraq. It's not about the people in the National Security Council."

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (search), Iraq's top U.S. general, said during an exclusive interview with Fox News in Baghdad that the climate in Iraq had changed for the better.

"This is a place of freedom, not a place of fear like it used to be,"  Sanchez said. "We have to tell the American and the international community that a large part of that blanket of fear is gone from this country and the people are back to living."

He acknowledged that problems remain, but he said those were to be expected.

"There are still attacks going on. We are still in a low-intensity conflict and we will be for a while. We will continue to take some casualties but we need to stay committed," Sanchez told Fox. "This is clearly a battle ground in the global war on terrorism and Americans will win here."

Cheney, in a speech to the Heritage Foundation (search) in Washington, said Friday that the war with Iraq is part of a larger fight against terrorism across the world.

Read more about Cheney's comments.

"Terrorist enemies of our country hope to strike us with the most lethal weapons known to man, and it would be reckless in the extreme to rule out action and save our worries until the day they strike," said Cheney.

Fox News' Mike Tobin, Tony Snow and The Associated Press contributed to this report.