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WASHINGTON: US President George W Bush says he sees a possible parallel between the increase in violence in Iraq and the 1968 Tet offensive that prompted a loss of support among Americans for the Vietnam War.
But the White House said the president was not making the analogy that Iraq had reached a similar turning point. Instead, he meant that insurgents might be increasing violence to try to influence the upcoming US election.
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Bush was asked in an ABC News interview on Wednesday whether he agreed with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's opinion that the violence in Iraq was "the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive."
Bush responded: "He could be right. There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."
Bush and other top US officials have long resisted comparisons to the Vietnam War when critics have suggested that Iraq has turned into a quagmire.
But they have stepped back from adamant declarations of progress as sectarian violence ratchets up, with more than 2750 American troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis killed since the US-led invasion in March 2003.
Attacks in Iraq killed about 40 people on Thursday. The death toll for US troops rose to 72 for October, which could become one of their deadliest months in two years.
"I expressed the sentiment some time ago that I thought we were over the hump in terms of violence, I think that was premature," Vice President Dick Cheney said in an interview with Time magazine.
Cheney agreed that insurgents were trying to create as much bloodshed as possible to influence public opinion in the United States.
Communist forces lost the Tet offensive, but it was a major propaganda victory and is widely considered a turning point of the war in Vietnam, prompting support among Americans for the conflict to drop. President Lyndon Johnson's popularity fell and he withdrew as a candidate for re-election in March 1968.
A new NBC Wall Street Journal poll reveals more Americans than ever are upset over Iraq.
US commanders there admit they too are discouraged and will reassess.
The war is driving approval of President Bush even lower in the latest NBC Wall Street Journal survey.
57% of those polled disapprove of his overall job performance on Iraq. Bush disapproval is 63%, 6 points worse than a month ago.
The poll shows more voters want Democrats to take over Congress.