Bush Stresses Humanitarian Accomplishments
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2002 President Bush stressed U.S. accomplishments in providing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan during a White House ceremony Oct. 11.
Bush said the United States wants to be a participant in "the new era of hope" for Afghanistan, and said that America is making good on its pledges to the country.
The president detailed the aid America has delivered to Afghanistan. He said the basis behind this aid is America's notion that "everybody counts, everybody has worth, everybody matters."
U.S. military personnel have played an important role in the humanitarian efforts. "Our soldiers wear the uniforms of warriors, but they're also compassionate people," he said. "And the Afghan people are really beginning to see the true strength of our country. … Routing out the Taliban was important, but building a school is equally important."
Bush said Americans must remember what Afghanistan was like under the Taliban regime. "They were one of the most brutal and oppressive governments in modern times," he said. "It's hard for us to understand in America, but these were people who attempted to control every mind, and every soul in the country."
The Taliban supported terrorists and allowed extremist groups to establish training camps in Afghanistan. He said U.S. and coalition allies the Taliban's oppressive rule has been lifted. "They are no longer in power, they are on the run along with a bunch of other ones over there, too," he said.
Even before September 11, 2001, the United States was the largest donor to the people of Afghanistan. Since then, the United States has led efforts that averted starvation in the country, put in place health clinics and health care, opened hundreds of schools to both boys and girls, and put in place programs to help in the long-term recovery of the nation.
"We've seen the great generosity of our fellow Americans extended to men, women and children on the other side of the Earth," Bush said. "And yet today I want you all to know and our fellow citizens to know there's still a lot left to do … in Afghanistan to achieve our dreams and, more importantly, the dreams of the Afghan people."
Just a year ago, millions of Afghans lived in fear of famine and disease. "Over the last year, U.N. World Food Program, with the support of the United States, has provided 575,000 metric tons of food to nearly 10 million Afghans," Bush said. "The United States has also provided seed and fertilizer in time for the spring planting season."
U.N. and U.S. health care officials have immunized 8 million Afghan children against measles. They are inoculating children against polio and working to lessen chances of contracting malaria, HIV and tuberculosis. "These relief efforts have put hunger and disease on the retreat," Bush said. "We've got the Taliban gone. We'd like to get disease and hunger gone as well."
A sign that the Afghan people understand the new environment in the country is the fact that more than 2 million Afghan refugees have returned to the country since November 2001, Bush said.
The U.S. military was among the first agencies to begin rebuilding Afghanistan, Bush said. He said U.S. Army Civil Affairs soldiers worked with relief agencies to rebuild dozens of schools.
Bush honored two American soldiers helping bring humanitarian relief to Afghanistan. Sgt. 1st Class Victor Andersen, a special forces medic, spent seven months traveling in Afghanistan.
"He visited hospitals and clinics, provided medical care from his car," Bush said. "He never turned down anybody who asked for help. He treated broken bones. He treated gunshot wounds. He treated cuts and diseases. He treated a small child who was bitten by a donkey."
Bush told the NCO that the nation is grateful for his work.
Capt. Britton London, a member of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., enlisted friends, family members and church groups in the United States to supply Afghan students with thousands of pens and pencils and notebooks, Bush said.
"Capt. London is a man after my own heart," said Bush, the former owner of Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers. "He got the equipment necessary to start the first post-Taliban baseball league. He brought me a ball, two balls, signed by … the mighty Eagles of Afghan baseball. And they're practicing now, and the games are held once a week."
The president said that he remembers the celebrations in the cities of Afghanistan when the Taliban fell. "People came out to celebrate freedom," Bush said. He said the celebrations remind people that there is an enormous appetite for freedom in all lands.
As the United States stays in Afghanistan, Bush said, it is important for people who stand for tolerance and the rule of law and equal rights and freedom of expression "to see our commitment to freedom (and understand) that our commitment for freedom is complete, and it's real, and it's sincere."