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American Forces Press Service

Rice: Afghan, Iraqi Elections Show Trend Toward Democracy

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2005 Elections in Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of a growing trend toward democracy worldwide and “examples of the universal aspiration of all people to make their voices heard and to govern themselves,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said earlier this week.

Speaking to the media about a newly released report on U.S. support for human rights, Rice called the defense of human rights “a universal responsibility” and cited examples of what she called “a dramatic shift in the world’s landscape.”

“Today, more than 50 million people who lived under brutal regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq are on the road to democracy,” Rice noted in the preface to the report, “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2004-2005.”

“Afghan President Hamid Karzai is leading his war-torn nation forward, after 23 years of conflict and instability,” she wrote.

Rice also cited progress in Iraq, which she wrote “has taken the initial steps to joining the growing community of democracies in the world.”

“In Iraq, we witnessed citizens — despite the threat of terrorist violence — voting to ensure their voices were heard for the first time in decades,” she continued.

The report addresses other signs of progress around the world: in Palestine, where voters supported a new leadership that seeks peace and held their first municipal elections since 1976, and in Ukraine, where the people refused to stand for a rigged election and insisted on one that reflected the will of the people.

“What these dramatic events have shown us is that societies of free citizens must be founded on a commitment to the dignity of each individual,” she said during a March 28 news conference announcing the report’s release.

Rice dismissed assertions that some countries or societies may not be ready for freedom or to take responsibility for their futures.

Authoritarian and corrupt regimes can repress human freedoms and rights for only so long, Rice said. “There comes a time when all people have had enough, striking a spark of liberty, and then they rise up to take control of their own futures and their own destinies,” she said.

The trend toward democracy around the world reflects the overall goal of U.S. human rights policy: to bring an end to tyranny in the world, Rice noted.

This goal, she said, directly supports President Bush’s pledge to support countries seeking democratic reform.

“The survival of liberty in our land is dependent on the growth of liberty in other lands,” Rice said, adding that the United States will make it clear to nations of the world that “success in our relations depends on the treatment of their own people.”

Not all countries will pursue freedom in the same way or at the same rate, the secretary acknowledged in the preface to the new report. “Whatever the path or pace, however, the United States is prepared to stand with those who seek freedom for themselves and their fellow citizens,” she wrote.


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