U.S. Troops in Iraq Spreading 'Universality of Freedom,' Bush Says
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 13, 2006 American troops in Iraq are bringing freedom to the oppressed and helping to secure the U.S. homeland, President Bush told U.S. troops in Baghdad during a surprise visit there today.
"The mission that you're accomplishing here in Iraq will go down in the history books as an incredibly important moment in the history of freedom and peace, an incredibly important moment of doing our duty to secure our homeland," Bush said.
The president traveled to Baghdad in secret overnight and met earlier today with new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was also unaware of Bush's visit until the last minute.
"Your sacrifice is noble, and your sacrifice is important," Bush told the troops. "I understand that long deployments are tough. They're tough on you, and they're tough on your families."
Bush said Iraq is a crucial front in the war on terror, and by confronting terrorists there the U.S. is fostering peace for future generations. "I truly believe the work you are doing here is laying the foundation of peace for generations to come," he said. "And I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, some people have forgotten about the dangers the United States faces, he said. "Some would hope that the world is what it's not: a peaceful place ... in which people wouldn't want to do harm to those of us who love freedom," Bush said.
He said he plans to live up to his vow to protect the American people. "I was able to make that claim because I knew there were people such as yourself, who are willing to be on the front line in the war on terror," he said.
There is still a lot of hard work to be done in Iraq, but coalition forces have made great strides thus far, he said. "Thanks to United States forces and coalition forces the people are liberated from the clutches of Saddam Hussein," he said.
The president said the new Iraqi government is dedicated to serving all Iraqis. "Today I have come to not only thank you but to look Prime Minister Maliki in the eyes to determine whether he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are. And I believe he is," the president said.
Bush also met with Iraqi Cabinet members today. "They want to succeed. Our job is to help them succeed," he said, "and we will."
Another reason for his trip to Iraq was to show America's commitment there, Bush said.
"When America gives a gives a commitment, America will keep its commitment," he said. "My message to the Iraqi people is this: seize the moment. Seize this opportunity to develop of government of and by and for the people."
Terrorists adhere to a "dark" ideology and do not respect human life or the dignity associated with freedom, Bush said.
"I believe in the universality of freedom. I believe deep in everybody's soul is the desire to be free," he said. "I believe the Iraqi government that's formed does respect human rights and human dignity that will respond to the will of the people."
Bush said the U.S. military would stay on the offensive in Iraq. "We will continue to hunt down people like Mr. (Abu Musab al) Zarqawi and bring them to justice," he said to loud applause. Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist who was the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed by a coalition air strike June 8.
The U.S. also will continue to train the Iraqi security forces. "As Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down," he said.
The Iraqi government will not be an exact replica of the American government, he said, but will honor Iraq's traditions, histories and religious faiths.
"We do expect the Iraqi government to honor the right of every man, woman and child to live in a free society," Bush said. "When Iraq succeeds -- and it will -- the rest of the world, particularly in the Middle East, will see such a hopeful example of what's possible."