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Iraqi Voting Strikes Blow for Freedom, Bush Says

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

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2005 – The millions of Iraqis who voted in their country's landmark Oct. 15, 2005, constitutional referendum have dealt a catastrophic blow to the worldwide al Qaeda terrorist network, which would like to subjugate them and the entire Middle East to a jihadist, terrorist tyranny, President Bush said today in his weekly radio address.

"By casting their ballots," Bush said, "the Iraqi people deal a severe blow to the terrorists and send a clear message to the world: Iraqis will decide the future of their country through peaceful elections, not violent insurgency ... .

"The terrorists," he added, "understand that the act of voting is a rejection of them and their distorted vision of Islam. Simply by coming out to vote, the Iraqi people have shown that they want to live in freedom, and they will not accept a return to tyranny and terror."

Bush said a recently intercepted terrorist letter shows that Iraqi political progress is stymieing al Qaeda's quest for a "totalitarian empire that denies political and religious freedom."

"These terrorists are driven by an ideology that exploits Islam to serve a violent political vision," he said. But with each step that the Iraqi people take on the march toward democracy, "al Qaeda's vision for the region becomes more remote."

The intercepted terrorist letter was written from al Qaeda's number two leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, to his chief deputy in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Zawahiri, describes Iraq precisely as "the place for the greatest battle" of our day, Bush said.

"The jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals," Zawahiri wrote. "Expel the Americans from Iraq ... . Establish an Islamic authority ... to spread its power in Iraq ... [and] extend the jihad wave" to nearby, neighboring countries.

Bush said "this letter shows that al Qaeda intends to make Iraq a terrorist haven and a staging ground for attacks against other nations, including the United States."

However, he added, "the letter makes equally clear that the terrorists have a problem: Their campaign of murder and mayhem is turning the [Iraqi] people against them."

Indeed, "many of your [Zarqawi's] Muslim admirers amongst the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia," Zawahiri says.

"Even al Qaeda," Bush noted, "recognizes that with every random bombing and every funeral of a child, the Muslim world sees the terrorists for what they really are: murderers at war with the Iraqi people."

According to the President, the terrorists hope to break America's will and force the United States to retreat from Iraq. That's why, he said, Zawahiri's letter "points to Vietnam as a model ... Al Qaeda believes that American can be made to run again."

Bush said, the terrorists "are gravely mistaken. America will not run, and we will not forget our responsibilities." The President said with pride that the United States brought down Saddam Hussein's murderous regime, while supporting Iraq's march toward democracy, free and fair elections.

A free Iraq "will be an ally in the war on terror, and a partner for peace and moderation in the Muslim world." Bush said. This, in turn, will make America's children and grandchildren safer and more secure, he added.

Today's referendum marks Iraq's second free election in less than a year. In January, the Iraqi people chose representatives for their national parliament; today's vote is to accept or reject the constitution that assembly wrote.

The new Iraqi Constitution "lays the foundation for a lasting democracy," Bush said. "Now the people of Iraq will have the final say."

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