Bush on the hustings

“If you listen carefully for a Democrat plan for success, they don’t have one. Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, yet they don’t have a plan for victory,” he told cheering Republican faithful at a rally in Georgia.

The bloody war in Iraq has claimed the lives of more than 2,800
US troops, hurt Mr Bush’s poll numbers, and raised the prospect of a Democratic victory in looming mid-term elections that will shape Bush’s last two years in office.

Final vote drive
The president, kicking off an aggressive final week of campaigning, defiantly defended the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and painted the opposition party as eager to leave “before the job is done” there.

“The Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses. That’s what’s at stake in this election. The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq,” he said.

At a campaign stop in Georgia, Mr Bush unapologetically stood by his decision to go to war in Iraq and urged Republican activists not to lose hope, declaring: “This election is far from over”.

He acknowledged “tough” fighting in Iraq, where US forces have been locked in some of the bloodiest battles since the March 2003
US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein on grounds he possessed weapons of mass destruction.

While no such weapons were found, Mr Bush said the world agreed with him that the Iraqi leader posed a threat, and declared:
“Getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right decision, and the world is better off”.

Iraq’s bloody month
As he spoke, the number of US soldiers and civilian contractors killed in October in Iraq reached 102 even as US national security adviser Stephen Hadley held unannounced talks with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad.

The White House said that Mr Hadley’s talks were “long-planned” and dismissed any link to “overblown” strains between Washington and the fledgling government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Mr Hadley and Iraq’s national security adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, discussed “accelerating the training of the Iraqi armed forces” and giving them a broader role in Iraq, according to a statement from Iraq’s government.

The visit comes after Mr Bush and Mr Maliki held a weekend videophone summit to iron out disagreements on how to improve security in Iraq and agreed to form a new US-Iraq security committee.

Democrats, heartened by polls giving them an edge nationwide and in a handful of key races, need 15 seats to take control of the 435-seat House of Representatives and six seats to capture the 100-seat Senate.

Mr Bush’s Republicans, significant numbers of them publicly distancing themselves from the president and the party, hoped that their powerful get-out-the-vote machine would make the difference on election day.