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After Five Years of War, Attention Turns to What New President Would Do

Obama and Clinton both promise withdrawal, but differ on timing. McCain supports the Iraq policies of President Bush, who says "this is a fight America can and must win." Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, the war in Iraq entered its sixth year. For millions of Americans, the economy is a more pressing concern now. But the war is still an important political issue as Americans prepare to elect a new president.

Rebuilding Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has proven more difficult than expected. Free elections took place and a new government was formed, but an insurgency grew.

Last year President Bush ordered a temporary increase of thirty thousand troops. The surge has reduced levels of violence. But experts say long-term security will require political unity among the different groups in Iraq.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in the war. Several million have been displaced from their homes.

The fifth anniversary came as the United States had lost almost four thousand troops in the war. More than sixty thousand have been wounded.

Protesters demonstrated in Washington, D.C., and other cities, but the protests were not as energetic as in the past. President Bush marked the anniversary with a speech Wednesday at the Pentagon, the Defense Department headquarters.

PRESIDENT BUSH: "Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it. The answers are clear to me. Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision – and this a fight America can and must win."

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he would have all fighting forces out of Iraq within sixteen months in office. Hillary Clinton says she would begin withdrawing troops within sixty days of becoming president. But she has stopped short of setting a time for completion.

The Democratic candidates say the war is taking away money from national needs like health care and education. Congress will have approved about six hundred billion dollars for the war by the time the new budget year begins in October. Experts disagree about the total long-term costs of the war.

Senator Obama noted that the Iraq war has lasted longer than the American Civil War and both world wars. American involvement in World War Two lasted from nineteen forty-one to nineteen forty-five. American losses, though, have been far smaller in Iraq compared to other major conflicts.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain supports the current war policy. He has said he would keep troops in Iraq even for one hundred years if necessary. Senator McCain visited Iraq last weekend with a congressional delegation.

A Reuters/Zogby poll this week suggested that both Democratic candidates would lose to John McCain in the November election. Last month the same poll showed John McCain losing to Barack Obama.

Next month, Congress will get another report on the war from American ambassador Ryan Crocker and commanding General David Petraeus. President Bush has to decide after that whether to order additional troop reductions after July.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I’m Steve Ember.