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Bush says U.S. will win terror war

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George W. Bush

(CNN) -- President Bush told veterans during a campaign stump speech Tuesday that the United States will win the war against terror, in contrast to a statement he made a day earlier .

"We meet today at a time of war for our country. A war we did not start, yet one that we will win," the president told members of the American Legion at their annual convention.

"In this different kind of war, we may never sit down at a peace table, but make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win.

"We will win by staying on the offensive. We will win by spreading liberty," Bush said.

Monday, Bush said it may not be possible to win the war on terrorism. That comment strayed from previous remarks by the president in which he has said the United States will win the war on terror. (Bush talks potential of terror war)

Asked whether the United States can win the war, Bush told NBC's "Today" show, "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world. Let's put it that way."

Soon afterward, White House spokesman Scott McClellan and other top officials sought to clarify the president's remarks, saying he meant an all-out victory against terrorists may not be possible in the "conventional sense."

"I don't think you can expect that there will ever be a formal surrender or a treaty signed, like we have in wars past. That's what he was talking about," McClellan said.

But Democrats pounced on Bush's comments.

Bush's rival Sen. John Kerry, during a break from wind surfing off the Nantucket coast, was asked by reporters if the war on terror could be won.

"Absolutely," he responded.

The Massachusetts senator is scheduled to address the American Legion on Wednesday.

And Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, said in a written statement, "After months of listening to the Republicans base their campaign on their singular ability to win the war on terror, the president now says we can't win the war on terrorism.

"This is no time to declare defeat. It won't be easy and it won't be quick, but we have a comprehensive long-term plan to make America safer. And that's a difference."

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