Washington President Bush took his critics to task Saturday for using the poor marks the Iraqi government received on a progress report this week as reason to argue that the war is lost.
Bush acknowledged the Iraqis received "unsatisfactory" marks on eight benchmarks, including failure to prepare for local elections or to pass a law to share oil revenues among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. But the president said "satisfactory" grades the Iraqis received in eight other areas - like providing three Iraqi brigades for the military offensive under way and providing $10 billion of their money for reconstruction - were cause for optimism.
"Our strategy is built on the premise that progress on security will pave the way for political progress," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "This report shows that conditions can change, progress can be made, and the fight in Iraq can be won."
He said the last of more than 20,000 additional troops he ordered to Iraq recently arrived, and U.S. troops deserve more time to carry out the offensive.
"Changing the conditions in Iraq is difficult, and it can be done," he said. "The best way to start bringing these good men and women home is to make sure the surge succeeds."
In the Democratic response to Bush's radio address, Brandon Friedman, a former infantry officer in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, said it's past time for a transition to diplomatic efforts in Iraq that Democrats have long demanded.
"The fact is, the Iraq war has kept us from devoting assets we need to fight terrorists worldwide - as evidenced by the fact that Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and al-Qaida has been able to rebuild," Friedman said.