Bush: Risks continue for US forces in Iraq

With the US military death toll in Iraq at 1,999, US President George Bush today warned the nation to brace for an even higher casualty count as the mission there has more work remaining to be successful.

“The terrorists are as brutal an enemy as we have ever faced, unconstrained by any notion of common humanity and by the rules of warfare,” Bush said in a speech before the Joint Armed Forces Officers’ Wives’ luncheon, held at Bolling Air Force Base.

“No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead.”

But, Bush added: “Nor should they overlook the advantages we bring to this fight. … Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It’s not justified.”

The president hailed the announcement in Baghdad that an election held 10 days ago resulted in the adoption of a new constitution for Iraq.

There were some allegations of fraud in the October 15 referendum, but election officials said the voting was fair.

The charter is considered a major step in Iraq’s democratic reforms, clearing the way for the election of a new, full-term parliament on December 15. Such steps are important in any decision about the future withdrawal of US-led forces.

“The Iraqis are making inspiring progress toward building a democracy,” Bush said. “By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress, from tyranny to liberation to national elections to the ratification of a constitution in the space of two and a half years.”

Earlier today, the US military announced the deaths of two Marines in fighting with insurgents last week in Baghdad, bringing to 1,999 the number of American service members killed since the war started in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

“We’ve lost some of our nation’s finest men and women in the war on terror,” Bush said.

“A time of war is a time for sacrifice.”

But he said that pulling out of the mission is not an option.

“We got more work to do and it involves great risk for Iraqis and for American and coalition forces,” he said.

“The best way to honour the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to complete the mission and lay the foundation of peace by spreading freedom.”

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