Washington : Pressed by Congress to bring troops home from Iraq, US President George W. Bush defined success as reducing – not stopping – the country’s deadly sectarian violence.
“There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it,” he told a Washington audience Wednesday. “But success is a level of violence where the people (in Iraq) feel comfortable about living their daily lives.”
A day after vetoing legislation that would have started a US troop pullout, Bush suggested he would be satisfied if warfare in Iraq waned to the level of US inner-city crime.
“Washington for many years was the murder capital of the United States of America. I believe we were still able to do our jobs,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
He rejected speculation by reporters that Bush was lowering the bar for US goals in Iraq from lofty aims like spreading democracy in the Middle East.
Bush has recently claimed that US and Iraqi forces have made progress in curbing sectarian violence and has sought to shift the focus to fighting Al Qaeda elements in Iraq.
In a series of speeches, he has renewed efforts to rally the US public behind the unpopular war, though he said Wednesday that “casualties are likely to stay high” in Iraq.
“What the president is trying to do is to be realistic,” Snow said.
Bush earlier Wednesday vetoed a war-spending plan passed by the Democratic-led Congress that would have forced him to begin pulling US troops out of Iraq by Oct 1.
The impasse has held up some $100 billion for US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year.
Shortly before meeting Congressional leaders for talks on ending the deadlock, the White House released a message from Bush to Congress in which he argued that the legislation was unconstitutional because it infringed on his presidential powers.