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Bush Hails Iraqi Progress, Discusses Strategy for Victory

By Petty Officer 3rd Class John R. Guardiano, USN
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2006 – President Bush asked Americans in his weekly radio address today to look beyond the dramatic television footage and disconcerting newspaper headlines coming out of Iraq to see the clear progress that country is making on the road to stability, self-rule and democracy.

"I'm encouraged to see that Iraqi political leaders are making good progress toward forming a unity government, despite the recent violence," Bush said. "I also remain optimistic because, slowly but surely, our strategy is getting results."

The president acknowledged that the media focus on violence in some parts of Iraq may make progress taking place less apparent to the American people. But he called Iraq's leaders' reaction to the recent violence "a clear sign of Iraq's commitment to democracy."

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zal Khalilzad "reports that the violence has created a new sense of urgency among (Iraq's) leaders to form a national unity government as quickly as possible," Bush said.

The president urged Iraq's elected officials to "continue their work; to put aside their differences; to reach out across political, religious, and sectarian lines; and to form a government that can confront the terrorist threat and earn the trust and confidence of all Iraqis."

Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bush said he's using the occasion to inform and educate Americans about what's happening in Iraq and what he and his team are doing and plan to do to achieve victory.

In a series of speeches this month, the president said he is discussing "the progress we are making, the lessons we have learned from our experience and how we are fixing what has not worked."

Last week, for instance, Bush talked about the security element of his strategy. This involves successfully training Iraqi security forces "to take the lead in the fight against the terrorists," he said. The president also discussed intensive and ongoing U.S. efforts to defeat the threat of improvised explosive devices.

Bush said he will continue his public education campaign on Iraq in a March 20 speech, discussing how the United States is "working with all elements of Iraqi society to remove the terrorists and restore order in Iraqi cities, to rebuild homes and communities and to achieve the stability that can come only from freedom." Bush said he will also share concrete examples of "real progress that is too often lost amid the more dramatic reports of violence."

In the past three years, Bush noted, "Iraqis have gone from living under a brutal tyrant, to liberation, sovereignty, free elections, a constitutional referendum, and, last December, elections for a fully constitutional government."

Nonetheless, parts of Iraq remain mired in violence. "The fighting has been tough," Bush said. "The enemy has proved brutal and relentless." In response, U.S. strategy in many parts of Iraq has changed to reflect the hard realities on the ground, he said.

Despite the violence, the president said the Iraqi people have spoken and made their intentions clear. "They want to live in a democracy and shape their own destiny," he said.

The difficulties in Iraq stem, not from that country's lack of will or desire for freedom, but because terrorists have made the country a central front in the terror war, Bush said. Their clear aim is to turn Iraq into a safe haven where they can plan more attacks against America, he said.

U.S. troops "have shown magnificent courage and made tremendous sacrifices" in the face of this terrorist-insurgency, Bush said.

These sacrifices, shared by coalition and Iraqi security forces and by ordinary Iraqis, have given Iraq an "historic opportunity to form a democratic government and rebuild itself after decades of tyranny," he said.

The president acknowledged the reality of more fighting and more sacrifice in Iraq, but said that the coalition and its Iraqi allies will prevail. "America will not abandon Iraq to the terrorists who want to attack us again," Bush said. "We will finish the mission...There is no peace, there's no honor and there's no security in retreat."

"In this fight, the American and Iraqi people share the same enemies because we stand for freedom," Bush said. "The security of our country is directly linked to the liberty of the Iraqi people, and we will settle for nothing less than complete victory."

Bush described his decision three years ago to liberate Iraq from the Saddam Hussein regime a difficult one, but the right course of action. "America and the world are safer today without Saddam Hussein in power," he said.

Saddam is "no longer oppressing the Iraqi people, sponsoring terror, and threatening the world," Bush said. "He is now being tried for his crimes, and over 25 million Iraqis now live in freedom. This is an achievement America and our allies can be proud of."

Defeating the terrorists in Iraq will bring greater security to the United States, Bush said. "And when victory is achieved," he said, "our troops will return home with the honor they have earned."

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