Bush, Australian Leader Recall Earlier Meeting, Hail Common Values
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2006 President Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard today hailed the long history of U.S.-Australian cooperation and recalled the first time they met as their respective nations' leaders: Sept. 10, 2001.
The two leaders spoke to reporters on the White House's South Lawn before going inside for a meeting.
"Prime Minister Howard, you and I stood together here at the White House the day before September the 11th, 2001," Bush said, "and our nations have stood together on every day afterwards. The American people know that Australia is a strong ally. We admire your courage, and we appreciate your sacrifice."
The Australian leader recalled their discussions on the day before terrorists attacked the United States.
"In our discussions, contrary to what the critics of our two societies say, we were not speaking evil of other people in the world, we were not condemning other religions, we were not condemning other countries," Howard said. "We were expressing hope about a more peaceful world, a world in which Christian and Muslim would work together, a world in which the nations of the world would unite in harmony and peace.
"And the following day, of course, the world changed forever," he continued. "And so much of the common effort of our two societies since has been directed to the fight on terrorism."
Bush noted that an Australian was the first American ally to be killed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and that Australian special operations forces were among the first troops on the ground in Iraq. "The bravery and skill of the Australian military have helped the people of these two nations claim their freedom and deny the terrorists safe havens from which to launch further attacks," he said.
Both leaders noted that the United States and Australia have long shared common values and have repeatedly fought side by side in the name of freedom.
"Our two nations were once remote outposts of liberty -- lands where those escaping tyranny could find a better life," Bush said. "Today, freedom is on the move. Australians and Americans celebrate freedom's advance, because nations that respect the rights and dignity of their own people are the best partners for peace and the strongest anchors of stability in every region of the world."
Howard agreed that the United States and Australia have much in common.
"Our common history, our common commitment to liberty and to democracy has been an important bond that has united the people of America and the people of Australia," he said. "But it's also been our shared values that have been an important constant in that relationship:
- "A belief that the worth of a person is defined not by his or her race or religion or nationality, but rather the worth of that person's character and his or her commitment to the common future of the nation of which he is a part;
- "A belief that the greatest force for good within any society is stable families, because it's families that bring out the best in people and provide them with the greatest source of emotional support and sustenance; and also,
- "A belief that economic future and economic liberty is best defined by competitive capitalism and the working out of market forces, provided our societies provide an understanding of the need to protect those who, through no fault of their own, may need assistance."
Howard echoed an observation by Bush that the United States and Australia have long been partners in freedom's cause, and he expressed his country's gratitude for help Australia has received from America.
"I pay tribute, in particular, to the way in which the United States of America came to the assistance of Australia in the dark days of the Pacific War in World War II," he said. "And successive generations of Australians will never forget the vital assistance that the United States extended to our country in our hour of need, in the darkest days of World War II."
Bush reaffirmed the purpose of the current military cooperation between the United States and Australia. "We share your determination to defeat those who murder the innocent to promote their ideology of hatred," the president told Howard. "To defeat the terrorists, we must stay on the offensive, and Australia has been on the front lines of every offensive in the war on terror."
Howard imparted his condolences and those of his wife, Janette, for America's losses in the global war on terror, and asserted the value of both nations' sacrifices.
"Our cause is a just cause. Terrorism respects no value system; terrorism does not respect the tenets of the great religions of the world; terrorism is based on evil, intolerance and bigotry," he said. "And no free societies, such as Australia and the United States, can ever buckle under to bigotry and intolerance."