Bush Calls Iraqi Elections Historic Time for Iraq, the World
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2005 The Dec. 15 parliamentary elections in Iraq represent "a watershed moment in the story of freedom" that's important not only to Iraq's security and democratic future, but also to America's, President Bush said today at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars here.
"Iraqis will go to the polls to choose a government that will be the only constitutional democracy in the Arab world," the president said. "Yet, we need to remember that these elections are also a vital part of a broader strategy for protecting the American people against the threat of terrorism."
Bush called the upcoming national elections a major milestone in Iraq's transition to a constitutional democracy. Already, the coalition has transferred sovereignty to the Iraqis and Iraqis have held elections for a transitional government and adopted a democratic constitution, he noted. On Dec. 15, they will hold elections for a new government under that constitution.
All this has occurred despite terrorist efforts designed to derail these efforts, Bush noted. "In spite of the violence, Iraqis have met every milestone, and this is changing the political landscape in Iraq," he said.
The U.S. goal in Iraq has always been more than simply to remove a brutal dictator, Bush said. "It is to leave a free and democratic Iraq in place," he explained.
Bush expressed optimism that Sunni Arabs, who boycotted the January elections, are campaigning vigorously and expected to turn out to vote in large numbers. "As Sunnis join the political process, Iraqi democracy becomes more inclusive and the terrorists and Saddamists are becoming marginalized," he said.
A free and democratic Iraq will help bring stability to a troubled part of the world and ensure a better life for the Iraqi people, Bush said. It also will ensure a safer America, he said.
"I strongly believe a democratic Iraq is a crucial part of our strategy to defeat the terrorists, because only democracy can bring freedom and reconciliation to Iraq and peace to this troubled part of the world," he said. "A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform the Middle East by bringing hope and progress to the lives of millions."
"History has shown that free nations are peaceful nations," Bush said. "And as Iraqi democracy takes hold, Iraqi citizens will have a stake in a common and peaceful future."
The people of Iraq still face many challenges, including security, reconstruction and economic reform, the president acknowledged. "But they're building a strong democracy that can handle these challenges, and that will be a model for the Middle East," he said.
This is helping establish Iraq as a long-term partner for peace in the region, he said. "By helping Iraqis build a nation that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, we will gain an ally in the war on terror and a partner for peace in the Middle East."