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Bush Praises 'American Spirit of Enterprise' at Tank Plant

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2003 – The United States' edge in warfighting comes, in part, from the "American spirit of enterprise, from great companies and great workers," President Bush said this afternoon to a group of people who build Abrams tanks for a living.

"This is a fine place to talk about peace and security," Bush said at the Lima (Ohio) Army Tank Plant. "Because, after all, it is this facility that has provided the American military with the most effective armored vehicle in the history of warfare the mighty Abrams tank."

Powerful weapons, like the Abrams, allow the U.S. military to strike "with speed and precision," the president said. He noted the Abrams is "the most safe vehicle for our fighting forces (and) precise enough to protect innocent lives."

When tank commanders in Iraq were having problems protecting the vehicles' exhaust systems from enemy fire, plant workers in Lima "went right to work," Bush said. Within a week, they had a part designed, manufactured and on the way to Iraq.

"When our soldiers and Marines needed you most when the pressure was on you came through," the president told the cheering workers and their families. "And American is grateful."

Bush singled out one welder in particular. Mark Springer, he said, "had an especially strong interest in completing the project, in making sure the Abrams were able to fulfill the mission.

"You see, his son Joshua is serving in Iraq as an Abrams tank commander," Bush said. He told the proud papa to tell his son "the commander in chief came to Lima to say how proud I am of his service and the others' service to our country."

The president told the factory workers how Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of coalition forces in the Persian Gulf, asked for 1,200 Abrams tanks as one of his first requests in preparing for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Abrams tank and Bradley fighting vehicle units were the first to cross into Iraq and fought "decisively" in the face of "fierce resistance in An Nasiriyah," Bush said. "Throughout the campaign, our enemy learned that when Abrams tanks are on the battlefield, America means business."

Bush spoke of how the Iraqi citizens are taking advantage of religious freedoms they haven't known in 30 years. "A free society honors religion," he said. "A free society is a society which believes in the freedom of religion."

He spoke of public protests and religious displays as a positive development. "It means a new day has come in Iraq," Bush said. "When Saddam Hussein was dictator and you spoke your mind, he would cut out your tongue and leave you to bleed to death in a town square.

"No foolin'," Bush added. "That's how he dealt with dissidents."

Today in Iraq, there is discussion, debate and protest "all the hallmarks of liberty," he said. "The path to freedom may not always be neat and orderly, but it is the right of every person and every nation."

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