Friday, September 29, 2006

Bush: Criticism dovetails with 'enemy propaganda'
'Updated 9/29/2006 11:17 AM ET

President Bush told a largely military audience Friday that critics who believe that fighting the war in Iraq has made America less safe are "buying into enemy propaganda."

"You do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism," Bush told a meeting of the Reserve Officers Association in Washington. "If that ever becomes the mindset of the policymakers in Washington, it means we will go back to the old days of waiting to be attacked and then respond."

He said the only way to fight terrorism "is to stay on the offense against the terrorists."

Bush said some of his critics "selectively quoted" from recently leaked portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate on the war against terrorism to suggest that extremists were using the Iraq war to recruit more terrorists.

The president declassified key judgments from the NIE after leaks appeared in The New York Times. Bush said it was noteworthy that the leaks appeared in the run-up to the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

"Some of them selectively quoted from the document to make the case that by fighting terrorists, by fighting them in Iraq, we are making people less secure here at home," Bush said. "This argument buys into the enemy propaganda that the enemies attacked up because we are fighting them."

"I want to remind American citizens," he said to long applause, "that we were not in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2001."

The president's speech focused almost exclusively on fighting in Afghanistan and made only passing reference to the war in Iraq.

At one point, however, he said, "Iraq is not the reason the terrorists are at war against us."

"Their war against us is because they hate the very thing that America stands for," he said. "And we stand for freedom."

The president's remarks were the latest in a series of speeches on the war against terrorism, which Bush calls the "ideological struggle of the 21st century", that began shortly before the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.