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American Forces Press Service

Democracy in Middle East Would Strike Blow to Terrorists, Bush Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2005 Establishing a democracy in the heart of the Middle East "will deal a serious blow" to terrorists' hateful ideology, President Bush said today.

Bush spoke at the American Legislative Exchange Council in Grapevine, Texas. He said the violence in recent days in Iraq shows what enemies of democracy are capable of in pursuing their goals. Twenty-one U.S. Marines have died in Iraq since Aug. 1.

"These terrorists and insurgents will use brutal tactics because they're trying to shake the will of the United States of America," Bush said. "They want us to retreat. They want us, in our compassion for the innocent, (to) say we're through."

But that will not happen, the president said. "They do not understand the character and the strength of the United States of America," he said. "They do not understand our desire to protect ourselves, to protect our friends, protect our allies and to spread freedom around the world."

Bush said the Americans who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan "have died in a noble cause and a selfless cause." He said the United States will honor their sacrifices by completing the mission.

Bush reiterated the military strategy in Iraq. He said coalition forces, including Iraqi forces, will continue to hunt down terrorists. Other forces will continue to train Iraqi security forces. "As Iraqis stand up, Americans and coalition forces will stand down," Bush said. "And we're making progress. More and more Iraqi units are more and more capable of defending themselves."

Bush said there is no timetable for the return of American forces, adding that any decision will be event-driven. "It makes no sense for the commander in chief to put out a timetable," he said. "We're at war. We're facing an enemy that is ruthless, and if we put out a timetable, the enemy would adjust their tactics."

The president said the political track also is moving forward in Iraq. The country's National Assembly is working on a constitution, and members have pledged to have the document ready by Aug. 15. The Iraqi people will have a chance to vote on it Oct. 15. If accepted, a new government under the constitution would be elected Dec. 15.

"At the heart of much of my policy is this firm belief: that freedom is the gift of an Almighty to every person in this world," he said. "Doesn't matter who you are. Embedded in your soul is the deep desire to live in freedom. That's what I believe.

"And if you believe that, then you shouldn't be all that surprised when, if given a chance, 8 million-plus people, in defiance of car bombers and killers and terrorists said loud and clear to the world, 'We want to be free. We want to live in a democracy. We want a government that listens to us and doesn't tell us what to do.'"

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