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Spread of Democracy Will Yield Peace, Bush Says

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2006 – "The world is changing because freedom is on the march. And we shouldn't be discouraged about ... short-term setbacks," President Bush told an audience in Tampa, Fla., today.

That march began with the removal of the Taliban from Afghanistan, Bush said. It continues as democracy emerges in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.

"We have an opportunity to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come," he said. "Democracy can yield the peace we all want."

The president had arrived in town earlier in the day to meet with senior leaders at nearby headquarters for U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, both key components in the fight against terrorism.

Terrorists continue to attack innocent people in their attempts to return the Middle East to a terrorist stronghold, Bush said. They also believe the United States is soft and weak and will eventually give up.

"In order to win the war against the enemy, you got to understand the nature of the enemy," the president told the civilian audience. "First of all, these people are cold-blooded killers, people who will kill the innocent in order to achieve a tactical objective and a strategic objective.

"They have no conscience. You can't negotiate with these people. You cannot reason with them. You must bring them to justice."

Secondly, he said, these terrorists have an ideology that allows no dissent, no different point of view and "no sense of history other than their dim view of history."

"They've made it clear (they think) it's just a matter of time before we vacate parts of the world that they can then occupy in order to be able to ... plot attacks against the United States of America," he said.

The president said that scenario would not happen, and outlined the U.S. strategy to win the war on terror.

"The best way to deal with this enemy is to defeat them overseas so we don't have to face them here at home, and to stay on the hunt," he said, adding that efforts also are being made to cut off access to funding. "It makes it kind of hard to operate when you can't get (to) your bank accounts full of money."

Denying terrorists safe haven is the second part to the strategy, he said. The United States is leaning on governments to help with this key element by declaring that harboring terrorists makes the government as bad as the terrorists themselves.

This declaration was reinforced with action, Bush said.

"When a president says something like, 'If you harbor a terrorist you're equally as guilty as the terrorists,' those words mean nothing unless you act upon them," he said. "And I said that to the people of Afghanistan, the Taliban. They didn't listen, and so we acted."

When Saddam Hussein refused to "disclose and disarm," Bush said, he suffered the serious consequences he was promised if he failed to comply, Bush said.

"Removing Saddam Hussein has made America safer and the world a better place," he said.

The last key to the strategy of winning on the Iraq front of the war on terrorism is training the Iraqis to defend themselves, Bush said. "In order to achieve our objective, the Iraqis are going to have to fight the enemy," he said.

Coalition forces are making progress on this front, he said. Iraqi forces are improving and able to take over more and more responsibility for their own defense, and a command and control structure is being put in place, he added.

"As this military's getting better and better, we're turning over a lot of territory to the Iraqis," Bush said. "They now have two divisions ... that are capable of taking the fight nearly on their own."

Though the training mission is progressing successfully, Bush said, he would not be swayed by outside influences when it came to troop levels committed to the global war on terrorism.

"The troop levels will be decided by this administration, and this administration is going to listen, not to politicians, but to the commanders on the ground (about) what we need on the ground in order to win this deal," he said.

The president said the United States will, in the short term, succeed in Iraq. But there has to be a long-term strategy to win the war on terrorism as well, he added.

"That long-term strategy is to liberate people and give them the chance to live under the greatest system of government, and that's democracy," he said. "Make no mistake about it. We're going to win the war on terror."

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