Bush: Iraq regaining normalcy

Associated Press
Published November 3, 2007

FORT JACKSON, S.C. - A reopened historic market. A butcher selling more sheep. A parade in Anbar province. Electricity production above the level under Saddam Hussein. President Bush cited such indicators of normal life in Iraq along with evidence of decreased violence to argue Friday that the war is paying dividends.

"They're taking their country back," Bush said of Iraqis. "Slowly but surely the people of Iraq are reclaiming a normal society."

The president addressed a ceremony for 1,300 soldiers graduating from basic training here, many of whom will end up in Iraq. It was his first major speech on the topic since he announced in September that progress from this year's military buildup justifies keeping a large U.S. troop presence in Iraq at least until next summer.

He argued then that continued American sacrifice would create the space Iraqi leaders need to make gains on tamping down the sectarian fighting that leaves Iraq persistently fractured.

On Friday, he argued for continued patience, because even though national leaders have made little more progress since, he said Iraq offers scattered signs of hope.

Bush spent more time detailing progress in other areas. He said the Iraqi economy is growing, inflation has been cut in half and electricity production reached its highest level of the war in September. Shiite and Sunni Muslims are cooperating in some local areas, even while their leaders can't agree at the national level, Bush said.

"Our new strategy recognizes that once Iraqis feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods, they can begin to create jobs and opportunities, and that is starting to happen," the president said.