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His Iraq plan unveiled, Bush honors fallen and visits troops
Bush GA
President Bush, left, waves while walking with Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, right, after arriving at Ft. Benning, Ga., Thursday Jan. 11, 2007. - photo by Associated Press
FORT BENNING, Ga. — President Bush touted his new Iraq war strategy Thursday to an audience of people under orders to support it — the troops under his command.
    As debate over Bush’s military buildup intensified in Washington, the president made his case at Fort Benning, which is now poised to send a combat brigade to Iraq at a faster pace.
    ‘‘The situation in Iraq is difficult, no question about it,’’ Bush told about 300 soldiers and family members. ‘‘It’s a difficult time in Iraq because the sectarian violence needs to be challenged and stopped. ... Yet it’s important for our fellow citizens to understand that failure in Iraq would be a disaster for our future.’’
    Bush, as he did in a prime-time speech Wednesday night, asked for Americans to show resolve. In return, he said, U.S. and Iraqi troops will set out on a new course to stabilize Iraq.
    Without that commitment — including more U.S. troops — Bush said people will look back at this moment and question why America failed to see the threat to future generations.
    ‘‘It’s important for the American people to know this is new. This is something different,’’ Bush insisted of his strategy, unveiled after nearly three months of review.
    Fort Benning’s combat brigade has already done two tours in Iraq. On the last yearlong deployment, in 2005, 34 soldiers from the 4,000-member brigade were killed.
    The president also was to watch a demonstration of infantry training and meet privately with 25 families who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Bush carried out a day of military themes as his new Iraq war plan faced a showdown with the Democrats who lead Congress and oppose the plan’s centerpiece — another escalation in the American force level.
    Bush plans to send 21,500 additional U.S. forces to Iraq to try to stabilize Baghdad and troubled Anbar province, despite objections from lawmakers, some of his own generals and the public.
    Earlier on Thursday, Bush awarded the Medal of Honor to a young Marine who fell on a hand grenade in Iraq two years ago, giving his life to save comrades.
    Bush awarded the medal, the nation’s highest military decoration, to the late Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham of Scio, N.Y., who is only the second Iraq war recipient of the prestigious award.
    Dunham’s parents accepted on their son’s behalf during the somber ceremony in the White House’s East Room.
    ‘‘He was the guy who signed on for an extra two months in Iraq so he could stay with his squad. As he explained it, he wanted to ’make sure that everyone makes it home alive,’’’ the president said. ‘‘Corporal Dunham took that promise seriously and would give his own life to make it good.’’
    In April 2004, Dunham, a 22-year-old corporal, received a report that a Marine convoy had been ambushed, according to a Marine Corps account. Dunham led his men to the site near Husaybah, halting a convoy of departing cars. An insurgent in one of the vehicles grabbed him by the throat when he went to search the car and the two fought. A grenade was dropped, and Dunham covered the explosive with his Kevlar helmet, which along with his chest plate absorbed some of the blast.
    He died a few days later.
    ‘‘I’ve lost my son but he became a part of history,’’ Dunham’s mother, Deb, said after the ceremony. ‘‘It still hurts as a parent, but the pride that you have from knowing he did the right thing makes it easier.’’
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