Bush Notes Operation Iraqi Freedom's Accomplishments
By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2005 Two years ago today, U.S. and coalition forces disarmed a brutal regime, freed the Iraqi people and defended the world from a grave danger, President Bush said today in his weekly radio address.
"Before coalition forces arrived, Iraq was ruled by a dictatorship that murdered its own citizens, threatened its neighbors, and defied the world," the president said. "We knew of Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and support for terror. We knew of his long history of pursuing, even using, weapons of mass destruction. ... Because we acted, Iraq's government is no longer a threat to the world or its own people."
Bush praised the courage and determination of the Iraqi people in taking charge of their own destiny. "In January," he said, "over 8 million Iraqis defied the car bombers and assassins to vote in free elections." This week, he noted, Iraq's Transitional National Assembly convened for the first time, and will draft "a new constitution for a free and democratic Iraq."
The new constitution will be presented to the Iraqi people in a national referendum in October. A permanent constitutional government will be chosen in elections now planned for December.
Bush said Iraqis are proud that they are building a government that both answers to its people and honors its unique heritage.
Millions of Americans saw that pride, the president said, in Safia Taleb al-Suhail, who was present during the president's State of the Union address in January and embraced the mother of Marine Corps Sgt. Byron Norwood, who was killed in the assault on Fallujah.
Addressing all of the members of America's armed forces who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom and their families, the president expressed "the heartfelt thanks of the American people."
"I know that nothing can end the pain of the families who have lost loved ones in this struggle," he said, "but they can know that their sacrifice has added to America's security and the freedom of the world."
The president said Iraq's progress toward political freedom has opened a new phase in coalition efforts in Iraq. As Iraqi forces become more self-reliant, Bush said, Americans will increasingly assume a more supporting role. "Then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned," he said.
Bush said the victory in Iraq also is producing hopeful signs across the broader Middle East. "Today, women can vote in Afghanistan, Palestinians are breaking the old patterns of violence, and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are rising up to demand their sovereignty and democratic rights," the president said. "These are landmark events in the history of freedom. Only the fire of liberty can purge the ideologies of murder by offering hope to those who yearn to live free."