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President Bush Links War in Iraq to War on Terrorism

President Bush told reporters Thursday that if U.S. troops are pulled out of Iraq, terrorists would bring their fight to American soil. Two terrorism analysts discuss the president's stance.

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    For months, President Bush has warned that the U.S. faces a stark choice: combat terror in Iraq or fight it at home. It's a point he kept making at his Rose Garden press conference this morning.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Al-Qaida's going to fight us wherever we are. See, that's their strategy. Their strategy is to drive us out of the Middle East. And the fundamental question is, will we fight them? I've made the decision to do so. I believe that the best way to protect us in this war on terror is to fight them.


    Yesterday, at the Coast Guard Academy commencement, the president raised the stakes even higher, asserting that once highly classified intelligence data revealed al-Qaida in Iraq was hatching plots against the U.S. He was pressed on those comments today.


    Mr. President, after the mistakes that have been made in this war, when you do, as you did yesterday, where you raised 2-year-old intelligence talking about the threat posed by al-Qaida, it's met with increasing skepticism. A majority in the public, a growing number of Republicans appear not to trust you any longer to be able to carry out this policy successfully. Can you explain why you believe you're still a credible messenger on the war?


    I'm credible because I read the intelligence data and make it abundantly clear, in plain terms, that, if we let up, we'll be attacked. And I firmly believe that.

    Look, this has been a long, difficult experience for the American people. I can assure you al-Qaida, who would like to attack us again, have got plenty of patience and persistence. And the question is, will we?

    Yes, I talked about intelligence yesterday. I wanted to make sure the intelligence I laid out was credible, so we took our time. Failure in Iraq will cause generations to suffer, in my judgment. Al-Qaida will be emboldened. They will say, "Yes, once again, we've driven the great soft America out of a part of the region." It will cause them to be able to recruit more; it will give them safe haven. They are a direct threat to the United States.

    And I'm going to keep talking about it. That's my job as the president, is to tell people the threats we face and what we're doing about it. They're dangerous, and I can't put it any more plainly to the American people, and to them, we will stay on the offense. It's better to fight them there than here.

    And this concept about, well, maybe, you know, let's just kind of just leave them alone and maybe they'll be all right is naive. These people attacked us before we were in Iraq. They viciously attacked us before we were in Iraq, and they've been attacking ever since.

    They are a threat to your children, David. And whoever is in that Oval Office better understand it and take measures necessary to protect the American people.


    Again in his news conference, the president re-emphasized the high stakes of the war in Iraq.


    One of the areas where I really believe we need more of a national discussion, however, is, what would be the consequences of failure in Iraq? Failure in Iraq affects the security of this country, and it's hard for some Americans to see that. I fully understand it.

    I see it clearly. I believe this is the great challenge of the beginning of the 21st century, not just Iraq, but dealing with this radical ideological movement in a way that secures us in the short term and more likely secures us in the long term.