MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – President Bush, with an Independence Day appeal for patriotism, urged resolve in the war in Iraq on Monday and said that "the proper response is not retreat. It is courage."
Bush made a quick holiday visit to the West Virginia University (search) campus and spoke outdoors at a grassy circle on a hot, humid day. The audience of a couple thousand people was restricted to ticket-holders who gave him an enthusiastic welcome. The shouts of several hundred protesters who were kept out of sight could be heard faintly during the address.
With his approval ratings sagging and anxiety over the war rising, Bush has decided to devote more attention to explaining what he believes is at stake in Iraq and his strategy for dealing with it.
His address reflected the same themes — and some of the same phrasing — of his prime-time address to the nation on Tuesday and his weekly radio address on Saturday.
The president's communications effort has been complicated by the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the surprise retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (search).
Bush is expected to have to spend an increasing amount of time in selecting and selling his nominee in a tough Senate confirmation battle. He will take information about potential nominees when he sets out for Europe on Tuesday to visit Denmark and attend the annual summit of leading industrialized nations.
In his speech, Bush said that "times of war are times of great sacrifice" and that America remembers its fallen on Independence Day (search).
The war in Iraq has claimed the lives of more than 1,740 Americans, wounded 13,190 and cost more than $200 billion.
"We know that the best way to honor their sacrifice is to complete the mission," Bush said, "and so we will stay until the fight is won."
"As we celebrate the Fourth of July," he said, "we rededicate ourselves to the ideals that inspired our founders. During that hot summer in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago, from our desperate fight for independence to the darkest days of a civil war, to the hard-fought battles of the 20th century, there were many chances to lose our heart, our nerve, or our way.
"But Americans have always held firm, because we have always believed in certain truths," the president said. "We know that the freedom we defend is meant for all men and women, and for all times. And we know that when the work is hard, the proper response is not retreat. It is courage."
He called Iraq only the latest battlefield in the war on terror, and declared that "America will not tolerate regimes that harbor or support terrorists."
Bush said that insurgents won't win.
"They continue to kill in hope they will break the resolve of the American people but they will fail," Bush said.
Bush characterized the insurgents there as "men who celebrate murder" as they seek to spread their ideology and "turn the Middle East into a haven of terror."
Even though the television images of death "are "difficult for our compassionate nation to watch," he said, the insurgents are no closer to stopping the move toward democracy."
"Terrorists can kill the innocent but they cannot stop the advance of freedom," he said.
Bush has made Independence Day visits to West Virginia something of a tradition. It was his third July Fourth visit to the state in four years. He carried the state in 2000 and 2004.