Bush: Inauguration of Iraqi Government a Victory for Democracy
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 22, 2006 Last week's inauguration of the new Iraqi unity government was a victory for democracy and a turning point in the struggle between freedom and terror, President Bush said in Chicago today.
"The terrorists fought this moment with all their hateful power, with suicide attacks and beheadings and roadside bombs," Bush said during a speech. "And now the day they feared has arrived, and with it comes a moment of great clarity. The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom."
Iraq's parliament approved the new Iraqi unity government May 20, after five months of political wrangling. The ministers of defense and interior have yet to be named.
"This is a free government under a democratic constitution, and its formation marks a victory for the cause of freedom in the Middle East," Bush said. "As this new unity government takes office, it carries with it the hopes of the Iraqi nation and the aspirations of freedom-loving people across the troubled region."
A crucial moment in the "story of liberty" came during 2005, when Iraqis cast their ballot in defiance of terrorists, Bush said. "And now they have a government of their own choosing, under a constitution they drafted and approved," he said.
The ascendancy of the new government fundamentally alters the terrorist situation in Iraq, he said. "The terrorists are now fighting a free and constitutional government," he said. "They are at war with the people of Iraq, and the Iraqi people are determined to defeat this enemy, and so are Iraq's new leaders, and so is the United States of America."
Bush said he phoned Iraq's prime minister, president and parliament speaker over the weekend to congratulate them.
He said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, reiterated that the new government will do everything it can to eliminate terrorism, "backwardness," poverty, and ignorance. "The Iraqi people are blessed to have a leader like Prime Minister Maliki, and I'm proud to call him ally and friend."
Iraq's Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, demonstrated great courage in standing against terrorism and sectarian violence, Bush said, and he praised Iraq's Sunni Muslim parliament speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, for his adherence to unity. "By agreeing to serve in a prominent role in this new unity government, he's demonstrating leadership and courage," Bush said.
Bush noted that Mashhadani, who originally opposed the U.S. presence in Iraq, would have refused to take his phone call a year ago. "He's now taken it twice," he said.
Members of the new Iraqi government share a common goal to defeat terrorism, promote equal rights, advance economic prosperity, and ensure government transparency, Bush said. And he emphasized that because of Iraq's high education level, rich cultural heritage and expansive natural resources, the country has a bright future.
"Iraq's new leaders understand that as long as they remain united there is no limit to the potential of their country," he said.
Bush also said that as the Iraqi government grows stronger the U.S. will play a smaller role there. "As the new Iraqi government grows in confidence and capability, America will play an increasingly supporting role," he said.
The president said he instructed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to engage Iraq's new leaders to assess their needs and capabilities, "so we'll be in the best position to help them succeed."
Bush also highlighted the sacrifices made by U.S. troops in Iraq and stressed that they deserve a lot of credit for the successful formation of the new Iraqi government.
"This moment would not be possible without their courage," he said. "The United States of America is safer because of their success, and our nation will always be grateful to their service."