Free Iraq's Future Coming Into View, Bush Says at MacDill
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 16, 2004 With the transfer of sovereignty two weeks away, the future of a free Iraq is coming into view, President Bush told a worldwide military audience and service members assembled at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., today.
U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command have their headquarters at MacDill.
A satellite television hook-up enabled the president to make his remarks directly to service members assembled in hangars at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and Baghdad International Airport, Iraq, and the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Radio and Television Service carried his address to military people in other parts of Afghanistan and Iraq, at 20 bases in the United States, and around the globe to wherever U.S. military people serve.
"A turning point will come two weeks from today," the president said. "On June 30, governing authority will be transferred to a fully sovereign interim government. The Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist. An American embassy will open in Baghdad."
In the meantime, Bush said, the Iraqi people are stepping up to bring democracy to their country.
"Iraq's new leaders are rising to their responsibilities. Together with our coalition and the United Nations, they are working to prepare the way for national elections by next January," the president said. "In July, Iraqis from every part of the country will gather for a national conference that will choose an interim national council to advise and support Prime Minister (Ayad) Allawi and his cabinet."
Noting that the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to endorse the Iraqi interim government and the plan for Iraq's political transition, Bush cited the "steady progress" the Iraqi people have made and vowed not to let insurgents and foreign fighters derail the process. "We will not let thugs and killers stand in the way of a free and democratic Iraq," the president promised.
With more than 200,000 Iraqis serving in or training for the country's new security forces, Bush said the United States is leading the international effort to train new forces for Iraq. Experience has shown, he said, that Iraqi soldiers naturally want to take their orders from Iraqi officers, and the coalition is working to build and strengthen the Iraqi chain of command. "So we're helping to prepare a new generation of Iraqi military commanders who will lead the security forces of a free and sovereign Iraq," the president said.
Iraqi forces captured a key lieutenant of fugitive terrorist Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, Bush said, repelled attacks on Mosul government buildings, and are being greeted warmly by their fellow citizens as they patrol in Najaf.
"See, these brave Iraqis are stepping up. They are setting an example for their fellow citizens. They are staying in the fight, taking the battle to the terrorists and Saddam holdouts," the president said. "They are securing a future of liberty and opportunity for their children and their grandchildren. And when the history of modern Iraq is written, the people of Iraq will know their freedom was finally secured by the courage and by the determination of Iraqi patriots."
More violence can be expected in Iraq, Bush acknowledged. "As the interim government assumes authority and Iraqi security forces defend their country, our coalition will play a supporting role," he said. "And this is an essential part of our strategy for success." The people responsible for the violence, he added, are friends of neither the coalition nor the Iraqi people.
"Terrorists who attack a self-governing Iraq are showing us and the Iraqis who they really are," Bush said. "They're not fighting foreign forces; they're fighting the Iraqi people. They're not just enemies of America; they are enemies of democracy and hope. They are enemies of a peaceful future in Iraq."
Iraq's prime minister, the president noted, said last week that anyone involved in these attacks is a traitor to the cause of Iraq's freedom and the freedom of its people.
"The prime minister and I share the same resolve. The traitors will be defeated," Bush said. "Their greatest fear is an Iraqi government of, by and for the Iraqi people. And no matter what the terrorists plan -- no matter what they attempt -- a democratic, free Iraq is on the way."
The United States also is helping Iraqis rebuild their country's infrastructure, the president said, pointing to the successful rebuilding of Germany from the rubble of World War II despite many difficulties.
"We overcame many obstacles because we knew that the only hope for a secure America was a peaceful and democratic Europe," he said. "And because we persevered, because we had faith in our values, because we were strong in the face of adversity, Germany became the stable, successful, great nation that it is today."
Bush listed a litany of successes in Iraq, and again vowed that terrorists would not derail continued progress. "The terrorists will fail. They will fail because the Iraqi people will not accept a return to tyranny. The terrorists will fail because the resolve of an America and our allies will not be shaken. And the terrorists will fail because courageous men and women like you are standing in their way," he told his worldwide military audience.
The president cited the difficulty of the mission and the work that lies ahead, and expressed gratitude to service members and their families for their sacrifices.
"Many of you have faced long deployments, sometimes longer than you expected. You miss your families; your families miss you. Some of you have lost comrades, good men and women you will never forget, and America will never forget them either," Bush said.
"You're sacrificing greatly for our country, and our country has needed that sacrifice," he continued. "By standing for the cause of freedom, you are making the world more peaceful. By fighting terrorists abroad, you are making the American people more secure here at home. And by acting in the best traditions of duty and honor, you are making our country and your commander in chief incredibly proud."