Published on Monday, August 22, 2005 by Reuters
Bush to Face Protests as He Defends Iraq Policy
by Caren Bohan
CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush, trying to counter the message of anti-war vigils outside his ranch and growing public discontent with Iraq, leaves Texas on Monday for the first of two speeches on the war and the September 11 attacks, but more protesters await him.
Bush, appearing at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Salt Lake City, will weigh in on attempts by Iraqis to meet a deadline for a draft constitution and may reiterate his stay-the-course message to Americans who are increasingly uneasy about his handling of Iraq.
At a park near the VFW venue, Celeste Zappala, 58, the Philadelphia mother of a National Guardsman killed in Iraq, plans to lead a protest. Her son Sherwood Baker was killed in Iraq last year and she is part of anti-war mother Cindy Sheehan's group, Gold Star Families for Peace.
Baker was killed while assigned to the Iraq Survey Group, which was on the hunt for stockpiles of illicit weapons but concluded they were never there.
"We all know that noble cause for war that Bush talks about has changed several times," Zappala said.
Her theme will be similar to that of Sheehan, the Vacaville, California, mother whose son Casey was killed in combat in Iraq. Sheehan has become a magnet for anti-war sentiment by camping out near Bush's ranch and demanding to talk face-to-face with the president.
"We want to meet with him. We have questions to ask him," Zappala said.
Sheehan's group is also airing television ads in Salt Lake City accusing Bush of having lied about Iraq. One station, an ABC affiliate, is refusing to air the ads.
Bush, who has ruled out a near-term pullout from Iraq, on Saturday cited the upcoming fourth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and said Iraq was a cause worth fighting for.
"Our troops know that ... if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war," he said in his weekly radio address.
Bush went to war in Iraq in 2003 warning of a threat from stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. None were found.
Critics say Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks and that the administration has tried to tie Iraq to terrorism since the war to justify its actions.
After Salt Lake City, Bush will go to Idaho for two days. He will speak on the war on terror there on Wednesday before resuming his vacation at his Crawford, Texas, ranch.
© 2005 Reuters