Bush Praises U.S.-Italian Solidarity in Terror Fight
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 20, 2004 Helping Iraq become a free nation was a topic of discussion between President Bush and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi when they met at the White House May 19.
President Bush said he and Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi are working on a strategy based on full transfer of sovereignty to
an interim Iraqi government June 30. The two leaders met at the White House
May 19. White House photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Bush said he and Berlusconi are working on a strategy based on full transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government June 30. He noted that the transfer will be accompanied by a U. N. Security Council resolution.
"We also talked about the need to make sure there is a security force to help the Iraqis move toward elections," Bush said. "It's tough work there now, because killers want to stop progress. It will be tough work after sovereignty is transferred, because there will still be people there trying to derail the election process."
Bush said he and Berlusconi also discussed how to continue to broaden the coalition and how to ensure that Iraq has free elections. "We believe in human rights, human dignity, rule of law and the right for people to self-govern," the president added.
Speaking through a translator, Berlusconi said, "The West must defend itself against international terror. We are winning this battle if we remain united. Should we leave, abandon Iraq before a democracy takes hold, we would leave this country to chaos and to many, many years of civil war, with thousands and thousands of casualties and victims.
"And this country would probably be an authoritarian country, a fundamentalist country, and certainly an exporter of terror," the prime minister added. "I think we've started the work, which cannot be left halfway (finished). We have to complete it, and until we are sure that we can guarantee the unlucky Iraqi people democracy and freedom, founded in democracy and freedom."
Later in the evening, Bush spoke at the Sons of Italy Foundation's 16th Annual National Education and Leadership Awards Gala here. Bush said U.S.-Italian solidarity stretches from the Revolutionary War, to World War II, to NATO, and now extends to the global war on terror.
"In the past three years," he said, "America and Italy have been steadfast allies in the war on terror," a statement that met with another round of thunderous applause.
"The war on terror continues in Iraq," Bush emphasized. "We're standing together in that desperate country as a part of a strong coalition. America appreciates the contributions and sacrifices of nearly 3,000 soldiers that Italy has deployed in that country. We honor the memory of 19 Italians killed by a terrorist's bomb last November, and the memory of the Italian soldier killed this week."
The president also recounted the courage of Fabrizio Quattrocchi, an Italian baker who went to Iraq to work as a security guard. "He was kidnapped by terrorists, and faced his killers with the bravest defiance," he said. "Just before he was murdered, he stood up and shouted, 'Now I will show you how an Italian dies!' In that moment, this good man from Genoa showed us that, and more: He showed us how a hero lives."
U.S. and coalition efforts in Iraq are approaching a crucial moment, Bush noted. "The prime minister and I had a strategy session on how to help the Iraqis realize their liberty. I appreciate his good, strong advice. On June 30, our coalition will transfer its authority to a sovereign Iraqi government. With the assistance of the United Nations and our coalition, Iraqi citizens are currently making important decisions about the nature and the scope of that interim government."
In time, Iraq will be a democratic nation at the heart of the Middle East, Bush said. "This will send a powerful message from Damascus (Syria) to Tehran (Iran), that democracy and freedom can bring hope to lives in every culture," he continued. "And this advance of freedom will bring greater security to America, to Italy, and to all who love freedom."
Bush noted that as June 30 approaches, the enemies of freedom grow even more desperate to prevent the rise of democracy in Iraq. "That's what you're seeing on your TV screens -- the desperate tactics of a hateful few -- people who cannot stand the thought of free societies in their midst," he said.
"They're targeting brave Iraqis who are leading toward democracy," Bush pointed out. "They're murdering Iraqi policemen, who stand as symbols of order. They kill foreign aid workers who are helping to rebuild Iraq. They attack our military."
Their goal, Bush noted, is to undermine the will of the coalition, and to drive it out of Iraq before its mission is complete. "They will not succeed," he said. "They will not shake the will of America or our coalition."