Bush Cites Iraq Rebuilding Progress, Accomplishments
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2005 President Bush today highlighted reconstruction achievements made in Iraq over the past two years as positive evidence that that country is making progress toward becoming a self-sufficient, productive state.
U.S. and coalition forces continue to assist the Iraqi government to establish its own military and police to confront remnant Saddam Hussein supporters and terrorists, Bush said in his speech before the Council on Foreign Relations here.
And, as Iraqi security forces are increased to eventually take over the mission of combating terrorists, progress on the reconstruction front also is being made for the benefit of all Iraqis, the president said.
"We're also helping them rebuild a sound economy that will grow and deliver a better life for their people," Bush said. Iraq's young and talented work force and its land and oil resources are indisputable indicators that point to the country's future economic prosperity, he said.
During his decades in power, Saddam Hussein confiscated Iraq's wealth for himself and his followers and destroyed the country's economic infrastructure, Bush said. "And, he squandered the most valuable resource in Iraq - the talent and the energy of the Iraqi people," he said, noting America and other nations are now assisting Iraq in reviving its economy through myriad reconstruction projects.
"Like our approach to training Iraqi security forces, our approach to helping Iraqis rebuild has changed and improved," Bush said. After the fall of Saddam's regime in April 2003, U.S. and coalition reconstruction efforts first focused on repairing or building large electric power plants and water treatment facilities, Bush said. Yet, those large-scale projects take a long time to complete. Iraqis also had other urgent, smaller infrastructure rebuilding needs such as constructing local sewer lines and city roads, Bush said.
"Delivering visible progress to the Iraqi people required us to focus on projects that could be completed rapidly," he said. Accordingly, he said, more money was provided to U.S. military commanders to pay Iraqi and other contractors to construct new sewage systems and streets and roads.
"By adapting our reconstruction efforts to meet needs on the ground, we're helping Iraqi leaders serve their people," Bush said. "And Iraqis are beginning to see that a free life will be a better life."
Bush acknowledged that terrorist-conducted sabotage has slowed down Iraq reconstruction efforts. "But, they haven't been able to stop it," he said.
In fact, the United States has helped Iraqis conduct nearly 3,000 school renovation projects, train 30,000 teachers and distribute more than 8 million school textbooks over the past two and a half years, Bush said.
U.S.- and coalition-sponsored irrigation projects have helped more than 400,000 rural Iraqis, and water treatment projects in Iraq have improved drinking water for more than 3 million people, he said.
Bush said Iraq has a new currency, a reopened stock exchange, and $21 million available to Iraqi entrepreneurs for credit and small-business loans. "As a result of these efforts and Iraq's new-found freedom more than 30,000 new Iraqi businesses have registered since liberation," Bush said.
A recent survey says that more than 75 percent of Iraqi business owners expect growth in the national economy over the next two years, which should help mitigate high rates of unemployment currently experienced in some parts of Iraq, Bush said.
Iraqi government leaders have negotiated significant debt relief while Iraq has filed an economic "report card" with the International Monetary Fund, Bush said. Internal economic and business reforms are assisting Iraq to compete on the world market, he added. "Iraqis are serious about reform and are determined to take their rightful place in the world economy," he said.
Burgeoning economic activity and business growth seen across Iraq will greatly assist military and political efforts to defeat the terrorists, Bush said. "With all these improvements, we're helping the Iraqi government deliver meaningful change for the Iraqi people," Bush said. "It's another important blow against the Saddamists and the terrorists."
Bush said Iraqis who'd once been disillusioned are now hopeful for the future of the new, democratic Iraq. "Many who once questioned democracy are coming off the fence," Bush said. "They're choosing the side of freedom."