PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - President Bush, confronting public doubts about his postwar strategy in Iraq, likened the task to rebuilding Germany and Japan after World War II.
Speaking to a military audience Thursday, he cautioned Americans against complacency, warning that the danger of terrorism "has not passed."
Striking back at the Democrats who want his job, Bush said, "The challenges we face today cannot be met with timid actions or bitter words. Our challenges will be overcome with optimism and resolve and confidence in the ideals of America."
Six months after the statue of Saddam Hussein fell in the Iraq war, Bush said he was concerned that "perceptions" didn't reflect the reality of "progress" in Iraq. He spoke on a day when several people, including a Spanish diplomat, died in a fresh burst of violence in Baghdad.
"They're trying desperately to undermine Iraq's progress and throw that country into chaos," Bush said at an Air National Guard base here. "They believe that America will run from a challenge. They're mistaken. Americans are not the running kind."
Americans, he said, "did not run from Germany and Japan following World War II."
"We helped those countries become strong and decent and democratic societies that no longer waged war on America, and that's our mission in Iraq right now," Bush said.
Much of his speech sought to refocus Americans on what he said is the continuing danger of terrorism. He grimly read a list of places that have been struck by terror in recent months: Casablanca, Jerusalem, Jordan, New Delhi, Bali and others. "The terrorists continue to plot and plan against our country, and our people," Bush said. "America must not forget the lessons of Sept. 11."
Bush's pep talk to a friendly audience of reservists and National Guard members was the beginning of a long day that also had him talking up the economy in Manchester, N.H. and then traveling to Kentucky to raise money for a Republican locked in a tight gubernatorial contest
Outside, protesters waved signs that read "BushLiar."
As of Wednesday, some 166,000 National Guard members and reservists were on active duty, mostly deployed to hot spots in the war on terror like Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush was saluting members of the New Hampshire Air National Guard, Army National Guard and reservists in Portsmouth, N.H. During the Vietnam era, Bush flew with the Texas Air National Guard.
The reluctance of U.S. allies to send more troops to Iraq has caused greater pressure on members of the National Guard and Reserve units. Pentagon officials say they may have to activate thousands more reservists in coming weeks to augment troops in Iraq.
Such call-ups uproot part-time servicemen and women from their families and civilian jobs, and some military analysts fear it could depress recruitment in the future.
"All of you are balancing jobs in your lives, and public service," Bush said Thursday. "You are demonstrating that duty and public service are alive and well in New Hampshire. You stand ready to defend your fellow citizens and you need to know your fellow citizens are grateful."
In the face of growing doubts about postwar Iraq, Bush is leading a new effort to persuade the public that there are positive developments there.
But hours before he spoke in New Hamsphire, a suicide driver roared through the gates of a police station in a Baghdad slum and detonated his car bomb in the courtyard, killing eight policemen and civilians and injuring dozens of people. The driver and a passenger also were killed.
Elsewhere in the capital, a Spanish military attache was shot to death after four men, one dressed as a Shiite Muslin cleric, knocked on his door, according to a Spanish diplomat in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle praised the president's salute to the troops, but said Bush missed a chance to support an amendment the Senate approved last Friday to extend military and health coverage to some members of the National Guard and Reserves.
In a conference call with reporters, Daschle also challenged Bush to change his policy in Iraq, expand international involvement and cooperate more with the Iraqi Governing Council.
"I don't think the American people want spin," Daschle said. "I think they want results."
On the state-by-state map of the 2000 presidential election, New Hampshire was an island - the only Northeastern state to vote for Bush. Bush is eager to keep it in his column.
Bush was raising money in Lexington, Ky., Thursday for Rep. Ernie Fletcher, who is tied in polls with Democrat Ben Chandler in the race for Kentucky's governor.
Bush sent his wife and vice president on the road to raise money for his re-election on Thursday. Laura Bush was headlining a re-election fund-raiser in New York City. Dick Cheney was in Oklahoma City; then he was headed to South Bend, Ind. to help Republican Rep. Chris Chocola.