Bush: Iraq Has Hope Due To Difficult, Sustained U.S. Effort

His legacy forever linked to an unpopular war, President George W. Bush flew under intense security to Iraq on Sunday and called the nearly six-year conflict hard but necessary to protect the United States and give Iraqis hope.

By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent

President George W. Bush, right, walks with Iraqi President ... 
President George W. Bush, right, walks with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in Baghdad.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Bush visited the Iraqi capital just 37 days before he hands the war off to President-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it. At the end of nearly two hours of meetings at an ornate, marble-floored Salam Palace along the shores of the Tigris River, Bush defended the 2003 invasion and occupation.

“The work hasn’t been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace,” the president said. “I’m just so grateful I had the chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ends.”

The president wanted to highlight a drop in violence in a nation still riven by ethnic strife and to celebrate a recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

But in many ways, the unannounced trip was a victory lap without a clear victory. Nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq fighting a war that is intensely disliked across the globe. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have died in the conflict, which has cost U.S. taxpayers $576 billion since it began five years and nine months ago.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081214/ap_on_
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