President Praises Iraqis for Successful Election
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2005 President Bush today praised Iraqis for their courage and commitment in the face of threats and violence, which made elections possible throughout their country.
"In great numbers, and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins," Bush said in a statement from the White House. "The Iraqi people themselves made this election a resounding success," he added. "Brave patriots stepped forward as candidates." Other citizens volunteered as poll workers and more than 100,000 Iraqi security troops guarded polling places and conducted operations against terrorist groups, he said. The president seemed touched by stories of the courage of ordinary Iraqis who defied threats and went to polls. Bush quoted one man who lost a leg in a terrorist attack, yet still went out to vote today.
"I would have crawled here if I had to," he quoted the Iraqi man as saying. "I don't want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today, I am voting for peace."
In comments from London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair also seemed touched by events in Iraq today. Despite divided opinions over the war in Iraq, Blair said he knows people throughout the world "will want to embrace the birth of Iraq's new democracy."
"It may have been the force of arms that removed Saddam that created the circumstances in which Iraqis could vote," he said, "but it was the force of freedom that was felt throughout Iraq today."
The prime minister said he found it "moving and humbling, for those of us lucky enough to live in a democracy and take it for granted." Blair spoke of "the enthusiasm, the simple determination, the clear sight of courage of millions of Iraqis that came out to vote for the first time in their lives despite the terrorism, despite the threats, despite the dangers."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Iraqi people "turned away the threats and intimidation" leveled at them by Jordanian terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "They decided to go to the polls and vote because they believe that's the way to a better future," Rice said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer today.
Rice said that scattered violence and intimidation that might have kept Iraq's minority Sunni Muslim population from voting in as high percentages as other populations doesn't mean Sunnis won't be fairly represented in the new government. And "very real" problems between ethnic groups don't mean Iraq can't have a peaceful, representative government.
"I hope, given our own history of ups and downs as we moved forward to build our own democracy, that we will show greater faith and confidence in these people who are showing us that they want to get there," she said.
Bush praised international assistance that made elections in Iraq possible. "The European Union and the United Nations gave important assistance in the election process," the president said. "The American military and our diplomats, working with our coalition partners, have been skilled and relentless, and their sacrifices have helped to bring Iraqis to this day."
Blair echoed those sentiments. "I would like to pay tribute to the United Nations staff and the electoral commission of Iraq for their steadfastness in organizing the elections, and I would like to express, of course, my admiration for the work of the Iraqi and the multinational forces," he said. "Without them, there would be no election."