President Cites Progress in Iraq in National Radio Address
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 1, 2004 A year to the day after his declaration that major combat operations in Iraq were over, President Bush cited progress for the Iraqi people his weekly national radio address.
"Despite many challenges, life for the Iraqi people is a world away from the cruelty and corruption of Saddam's regime," the president said. "At the most basic level of justice, people are no longer disappearing into political prisons, torture chambers and mass graves, because the former dictator is in prison himself."
The president noted that electricity is now more widely available in Iraq, and that the country has a stable currency and thriving banks. Schools and clinics have been renovated and reopened, he added, and the country's oil industry is producing 2.5 million barrels a day.
Bush acknowledged that the security situation still is difficult, and he blamed paramilitary groups, foreign terrorists and Saddam Hussein loyalists.
"Illegal militias and remnants of the regime, joined by foreign terrorists, are trying to take by force the power they could never gain by the ballot," the president said. "These groups have found little support among the Iraqi people."
The president outlined the coalition's strategy for the work that remains to be done.
"First, we will ensure an atmosphere of security as Iraqis move toward self- government," he said. "Our coalition supports the efforts of local Iraqis to negotiate the disarmament of the radicals in Fallujah.
"We've also made it clear that militias in Najaf and elsewhere must disarm or face grave consequences," he continued. "American and coalition forces are in place, and we are prepared to enforce order in Iraq."
Returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people as scheduled is the second element of the strategy, the president said.
"Like any proud people, Iraqis want to manage their own affairs -- and that is a goal we share." The United States fully supports the efforts of United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who since February has been consulting with Iraqis on how best to form their interim government. The United States fully supports his mission, Bush added.
Bush said he expects more violence from elements opposed to a democratic Iraq, but he added America's commitment will not waver. "As the transfer of sovereignty approaches on June 30, we are likely to see more violence from groups opposed to freedom," the president said. "We will not be intimidated or diverted. On July 1 and beyond, our reconstruction and military commitment will continue."
The president praised U.S. service members and their families and acknowledged their sacrifices.
"In the cause of a free and stable Iraq, our servicemen and women are working hard and sacrificing greatly," he said. "And families of the brave troops who have fallen must know that their loss is not in vain. We will finish our work in Iraq, because the stakes for our country and the world are high.
"The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the globe, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the Middle East," Bush continued. "The success of Iraqi democracy would send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran, that freedom can be the future of every nation. And democracy will succeed in Iraq, because our coalition is strong, because our resolve is firm, and because the people of Iraq desire and deserve to live in freedom."