|Bush to Iraqi militants ''Bring them on''
|WASHINGTON, July 2 — U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday had a tough message for Iraqi militants attacking U.S. troops -- ''Bring them on'' -- and said the U.S. military presence was sufficient to deal with the attackers.
Bush spoke in the face of increasing American concern about the rising casualty toll among U.S. troops. At least 23 American servicemen have been killed by hostile fire since Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1.
''There are some who feel like that conditions are such that they can attack us there,'' Bush told reporters at the White House. ''My answer is: Bring them on. We have the force necessary to deal with the situation.''
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg sharply criticized Bush for the ''bring them on'' comment.
''I am shaking my head in disbelief. When I served in the army in Europe during World War II, I never heard any military commander -- let alone the commander in chief -- invite enemies to attack U.S. troops,'' said Lautenberg in a statement.
A senior Pentagon official said Army Gen. John Abizaid, who will take charge of the U.S. Central Command next week, was studying whether to add forces, reposition them or use different types of troops in Iraq.
The United States blames the resistance on ousted President Saddam Hussein's Baath party loyalists, militants from the Ansar al-Islam group who have relocated to operate in the Sunni Muslim ''heartland'' of Iraq, and groups tied to al Qaeda associate Ayman al-Zawahiri.
''There's people there that (would) like to run us out of there, create the conditions where we get nervous and decide to leave. We're not going to get nervous,'' Bush said.
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