US President George W. Bush praised the determination of American revolutionary icon George Washington, as the White House faced a battle in Congress over funding the Iraq war.
Bush drew a parallel between the global "war on terror" and the US fight for independence as he invoked Washington's unshakeable resolve in the face of dispiriting setbacks on the battlefield against colonial master Britain in the 18th century.
"In the end, General Washington understood that the Revolutionary War was a test of wills, and his will was unbreakable," Bush said during a speech marking the Presidents' Day national holiday.
"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life," he said as the US military announced Monday that nine more US soldiers had died in Iraq.
"And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone," he said at the first US president's Mount Vernon, Virginia estate, now a museum and historical center.
The embattled US leader's speech came amid a fierce fight over his Iraq policy with opposition Democrats controlling Congress.
The US House of Representatives rebuked Friday his unpopular decision to deploy 21,500 new US troops to Iraq, where more than 3,100 US soldiers have died since the March 2003 invasion.
But opposition Democrats, who took control of both chambers of Congress in November elections amid a wave of anti-war sentiment, have failed to get enough support among Bush's Republicans in the Senate to pass a symbolic resolution.
Polls show more than half of all Americans support a non-binding resolution repudiating the president's troop "surge" proposal, while about three in five back proposals for withdrawing US troops from Iraq by the end of 2008.
While the non-binding bill does nothing to change Bush's decision to deploy 21,500 extra troops to Iraq, Democrats are considering putting more teeth in their efforts to change the White House's war policy.
Democrats say they are ready to up the ante, and may move to rein in Bush's authority to wage war in Iraq. They are touting a proposal that would revoke the October 2002 authorization that allowed Bush to invade Iraq.
Lawmakers will explore "a modification of that authorization in order to limit the mission of American troops to a support mission instead of a combat mission," said Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Levin vowed, however, that one way or another Democrats would pull out the stops to pass legislation taking Bush to task for his handling of Iraq, even if they did not succeed in getting a Senate vote on a symbolic measure Saturday.
"We are determined that we're going to change course in Iraq," he told Fox television on Sunday.
The Bush administration has said that with the symbolic Iraq votes now over in both chambers, Congress should give broad support to upcoming spending bills for US troops in Iraq.
Bush, who has urged skeptical lawmakers to give his new Iraq strategy time to work, noted that the US fight for independence was full of uncertainty.
"With the advantage of hindsight, it is easy to take George Washington's successes for granted and to assume that all those events were destined to unfold as they did," he said.
"Well, the truth is far different. America's path to freedom was long and it was hard. And the outcome was really never certain," Bush said.
"Honoring George Washington's life requires us to remember the many challenges that he overcame, and the fact that American history would have turned out very differently without his steady leadership," he said.
Copyright © 2007 AFP