Bush Says Iraq Building Democracy From Saddam's Rubble
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 10, 2006 Iraqis are beginning to build a "democracy from the rubble" of Saddam Hussein's regime, but enemies still hope to stop the process, President Bush said here today.
Bush spoke at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
He said members of Saddam's regime, Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists "dream of turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban - a safe haven from which to plot and plan new attacks against America and our allies."
The enemies of a free and democratic Iraq want to ignite a civil war, he said. "Yet the Iraqi people are determined to live in freedom, and America is determined to defeat the terrorists, and we're determined to help the Iraqi people succeed," he said.
Bush spoke the day after Iraqi Freedom Day, the third anniversary of the fall of Baghdad in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He said the decision to invade Iraq was a difficult one to make, but undoubtedly was the right one. He defended the policy of pre-emption, saying Saddam was a threat to America and the world.
"Today, because America and a great coalition acted, the regime is no longer in power, is no longer sponsoring terrorists, is no longer destabilizing the region, is no longer undermining the credibility of the United Nations, is no longer threatening the world," Bush said. "Because we acted, 25 million Iraqis now taste freedom."
The president said Americans can be proud of what U.S. servicemembers have accomplished in Iraq. "Since liberation, our forces have captured or killed thousands of al Qaeda terrorists and other enemy fighters; we've freed Fallujah and Tal Afar and other Iraqi cities from the grip of the terrorists and the insurgents; we've trained Iraqi security forces so they increasingly can take the lead in the fight," he said.
The American effort in Iraq also has learned from its mistakes, he said. The strategy has changed as circumstances on the ground have changed.
"By pursuing a clear and flexible strategy in Iraq, we helped make it possible for Iraqis to choose their leaders and begin to assume the responsibilities of self-government and self-defense," the president said.
The elections of 2005 pointed to freedom for Iraq, Bush said, and Iraqis have responded with a thriving free press. The country now has hundreds of independent newspapers, magazines and radio talk shows where Iraqis openly debate the future course of their country. Iraq is building a free economy with real growth the past two years.
"Iraqi people have stepped forward to fight for their freedom as well," Bush said. "Despite repeated attacks on military and police recruiting stations, more than 250,000 Iraqis have volunteered to wear their country's uniform. These brave Iraqis are increasingly taking the lead in the fight against the terrorists and the insurgents."
He said that by the end of 2006, Iraqi forces will control more territory than the coalition.
Still, Bush said, Iraqi leaders must step forward and finish the job of forming a unity government. He said he delivered a strong message to Iraqi leaders via Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: Iraqi leaders must put aside personal agendas and take charge of their destiny.
Iraqi leaders have moved forward, the president noted, having agreed on an agenda for the new government once it takes office. This includes such issues as demobilization of the militias, protecting women's rights, restoring Iraq's infrastructure and building national institutions to represent all Iraqis. The leaders also have agreed to form a new national security council that includes all major political groups and representatives of the executive and legislative branches.
"And now they must take the next step and fill key leadership posts, so that a new government can begin its essential work," he said.
The people of Iraq have a right to peace, stability and freedom in their country, Bush said, and the American people have made great sacrifices to give Iraq the opportunity for a better life. Both people expect results, Bush said.
"In the words of one Iraqi newspaper, 'The time has come for our politicians to save people from their suffering and crises,'" Bush said. "'The Iraqi people are more sacred than government positions.' Forming a unity government is critical to defeating the terrorists and securing the peace."