Iraq, Afghan Olympians Send Messages of "Freedom and Hope"
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2004 President Bush asked Americans watching this year's Olympic Games at home to "think about the many Americans deployed overseas to defend our nation."
"In Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, our men and women in uniform are serving with great skill and compassion," he said during his weekly radio address today. "They are making America more secure, and America is grateful to all of them, and to their families," he said.
Bush told listeners that by coming together in the Games' friendly competition, "all Olympians are sending the message that freedom and hope are more powerful than terror and despair."
In Athens, athletes from more than 200 nations, including Iraq and Afghanistan, are participating the 28th Olympic Games that run through Aug. 29.
Among them are 29 athletes from Iraq, a country whose soccer team celebrated its first Olympic victory Aug. 13 by defeating Portugal, 4-2.
The president said Iraq's participation in this year's Olympics was made possible because the "world acted with courage and moral clarity, those nations (Afghanistan and Iraq) are free, and their athletes are competing in the Olympic Games."
He also noted that during opening ceremonies Aug. 13, Team USA marched alongside men and women from Afghanistan and Iraq, "nations that four years ago knew only tyranny and repression," he said.
Officials in the 2000 Olympics had banned Afghanistan because the then-ruling Taliban had refused to allow Afghan women to compete. And news reports have said Iraq's former Saddam Hussein regime had tortured Iraqi Olympians who didn't receive game medals.
"For the first time in history, people everywhere will see women competitors wearing the uniform of Afghanistan," Bush said. "For the first time in decades, the world will see Iraqi Olympians free from the brutal punishment of the dictator's son.
"The rise of freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq is transforming life in those nations," the president said, "and its effect will spread far beyond their borders."