Bush on civil war: It's an Iraqi thing

The president says U.S. troops won't step up to stop sectarian violence.

By Tim Grieve
Published February 28, 2006 9:05PM (EST)

So much for Colin Powell's Pottery Barn Rule.

As new waves of sectarian violence seem to push Iraq closer and closer to civil war, George W. Bush delivered a message to Iraqi citizens today: You're on your own.

In an interview with ABC News, the president was asked if U.S. troops will "step in more actively to stop" sectarian violence in Iraq. "No," Bush said. "The troops are chasing down terrorists. They're protecting themselves and protecting the people, and -- but a major function is to train the Iraqis so they can do the work. I mean the ultimate success in Iraq -- and I believe we're going to be successful -- is for the Iraqi citizens to continue to demand unity."

As the president spoke, Dick Cheney was demanding unity at home. In a speech before the annual American Legion conference, the vice president tried to call out anyone who disagrees with the administration's stay-the-course plan for Iraq. "Here in Washington, if any believe America should suddenly withdraw from Iraq and stop fighting al-Qaida in the very place they have gathered, let them say so clearly," Cheney said. "If any believe that America should break our word and abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, let them make it known. If any believe that America should be safer -- or would be safer with men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of Iraq, let them try to make that case."

Cheney may or may not able to out any Legionnaires who think that "America should suddenly withdraw from Iraq." But as we noted earlier today, he could probably find plenty of U.S. soldiers and Marines who believe just that. According to a new Zogby Poll, nearly one-third of the U.S. troops now serving in Iraq think the United States ought to get out of that country now, and more than 70 percent think the United States should be gone by the end of the year.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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