President Bush, surrounded on Thursday by cheering soldiers in camouflage, defended his decision to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq and cautioned that the buildup will not produce quick results. "It's going to take awhile," he said.
Fort Benning, south of Columbus, Ga., offered Bush a patriotic backdrop and a friendly audience in which to sell his retooled plan for Iraq, which drew heavy fire on Capitol Hill from Democrats and some Republicans. Some 4,000 members of Fort Benning's 3rd Brigade Combat Team are being sent to Iraq earlier than planned because of the president's decision.
"The new strategy is not going to yield immediate results. It's going to take awhile," Bush said. "The American people have got to understand that suicide bombings won't stop immediately."
Bush said his new plan has a well-defined mission something that military leaders have insisted upon if more troops were sent.
"The mission is to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help Iraqis protect the local population, and to ensure that the Iraqi forces that are left behind will be capable of providing the security necessary in the capital city of Iraq. That's the mission," he said.
Bush had lunch with about 300 military personnel and their relatives, saw a paratrooper training exercise and met with relatives of 25 soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He met Dave Tainsh, a retired Marine sergeant-major, and his wife, Deb, whose son, 33-year-old Army Sgt. Patrick Tainsh, was killed by a roadside bomb near the Baghdad Airport on Feb. 11, 2004. Deb Tainsh has at least 100 e-mails from parents of fallen soldiers or parents of soldiers who are about to depart for Iraq all pledging support for Bush.
"Every one of these letters says, 'Mr. President, we support you,'" she said. "The consensus is that they � want him to do everything he can to win this war and that our prayers are with him."
Before visiting Georgia, Bush awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham of Scio, N.Y. He was only the second recipient of the nation's highest military honor from the Iraq war.
"I've lost my son, but he became a part of history," Dunham's mother, Deb, said after the ceremony. "It still hurts as a parent, but the pride that you have from knowing he did the right thing makes it easier."
This is How the NY Times Reported the Same Story:Bush Speaks and Base Is Subdued
President Bush came to this Georgia military base
looking for a friendly audience to sell his new Iraq strategy. But his lunchtime
talk received a restrained response from soldiers who clapped politely but
showed little of the wild enthusiasm that they ordinarily shower on the commander
And of Course Not To Be Left Out CBS Had This:
Katie Couric characterized, on January 11, as "out of the
ordinary" the "response the President got today from a usually receptive audience,"
soldiers at Fort Benning.
Reporter Jim Axelrod checked in:
"To start selling his plan, President Bush picked about the friendliest audience hecould find -- soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia. But even rallying the troops is now a challenge. The mood here was polite but muted, more somber than usual for a President talking to soldiers."