COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. President Bush, linking the wars of his tenure to the deadliest one in history, is asking the country to commit anew to postwar rebuilding.
In an address for Wednesday to more than 1,000 graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Bush frames their futures by harking back to the World War II generation. He links the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to postwar Germany and Japan six decades ago.
"America has assumed this obligation before," Bush said in prepared remarks released by the White House. "After World War II we helped Germany and Japan build free societies and strong economies. These efforts took time and patience, and as a result Germany and Japan grew in freedom and prosperity and are now allies of the United States."
The result, Bush says, was "generations of security and peace" in the United States.
"Today we must do the same in Afghanistan and Iraq," he says in the prepared comments. "And by helping these young democracies grow in freedom and prosperity we will once again reap the benefits in generations of security and peace."
Today's wars aren't over yet. As reconstruction unfolds, the enemy keeps fighting not national militaries but a complex mix of militias and terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another difference: It remains in debate within the country whether the pre-emptive Iraq war has bolstered U.S. security or weakened it. Bush has expressed no doubts it was warranted.
Bush's message was overshadowed by a blistering tell-all book by his former press secretary, Scott McClellan. The former voice of the White House, McClellan writes that Bush favored propaganda over honesty and candor in selling the war to the American public.
McClellan strikingly calls the Iraq war a "serious strategic blunder." His scathing account of Bush's leadership drew dominant news coverage and lit up many Internet blogs Wednesday.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said that McClellan's account was puzzling and sad, and that Bush had more important matters than commenting on books by former staffers.
At least 4,085 U.S. military members have died in the Iraq war. More than 430 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department.
The U.S. death toll in World War II was roughly 406,000. Overall, tens of millions of people died. The conflict transformed the globe; chief U.S. enemies of that day, Germany and Japan, re-emerged as major allies.
Bush's speech was expected to compare air power and warfare techniques of World War II and today. He also was to talk about the differences in the enemies that U.S. forces face.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Bush would zero in on one constant "that freedom has the power to overcome tyranny and transform societies." That theme has underpinned Bush's foreign policy and was the calling of his second inaugural address.
The president is on a three-day trip through five states. The purpose is mainly to raise money for Republicans, something Bush remains strong at even as his influence wanes.
After the commencement, Bush was heading to Utah for two closed events to raise money for John McCain, the Arizona senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and other GOP candidates. Bush held a similar event on Tuesday in Arizona, raising an estimated $3 million.