Bush Compares U.S., Iraqi Roads to Democracy
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Three days before Iraqis go to the polls to elect a 275-member parliament, Bush contrasted America's efforts to put a new democratic government in place with those being instituted at a relative lightning speed in Iraq.
America's founders endured naysayers and critics, repeatedly adjusting their approach as they worked toward a constitution that guaranteed personal freedoms, the president noted during his address to the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.
"The eight years from the end of the Revolutionary War to the election of a constitutional government were a time of disorder and upheaval," Bush said. He pointed to a planned military coup that George Washington personally intervened to defuse, to tensions between the mercantile north and agricultural south, and to opposition from British loyalists who were opposed to independence.
The Articles of Confederation failed, and years of debate and compromise followed before the United States ratified its constitution and inaugurated its first president. Even then, a bloody civil war and century of struggle that followed took place before the constitution's promise was finally extended to all Americans, Bush said.
"Our founders faced many challenges. They made mistakes, they learned from their experiences and they adjusted their approach," the president said.
It's important to keep this history in mind when evaluating political progress under way in Iraq, the president said. "No nation in history has made the transition to a free society without facing challenges, setbacks and false starts," he said.
The Iraqis have gone from living under Saddam Hussein's tyranny to preparing to elect a permanent democratic government - all in just over two and a half years, Bush said.
"Since (Saddam's reign), the Iraqi people have assumed sovereignty over their country, held free elections, drafted a democratic constitution and approved that constitution in a nationwide referendum," he said. "Three days from now, they go to the polls for the third time this year and choose a new government under the new constitution."
Bush heralded the Iraqis' success in propelling the democratic process forward. He recalled the country's first election, last January, and jubilation in the streets as Iraqis held up ink-stained fingers as a testament to their participation in the historic vote.
Recognizing the importance that all sects be represented in the new government, Iraqis banded together to promote Sunni participation and support, the president noted. They worked together to draft a constitution that protected the rights and interests of all Iraqis, and some 10 million voted to adopt that constitution during the Oct. 15 referendum, Bush said.
Two months later, the Iraqis are preparing to go to the polls for the third time this year, to choose a parliamentary government to represent them as their fledging democracy begins to grow, he said.
"It's a remarkable transformation for a country that had virtually no experience with democracy, and which is struggling to overcome the legacy of one of the worst tyrannies the world has known," Bush said. "And Iraqis achieved all this while determined enemies used violence and destruction to stop the progress."
Iraq's work won't be over following this week's elections, and the terrorist threat it faces won't immediately go away, the president acknowledged. More challenges lie ahead Iraqis continue the steps needed to build their new democracy, he said.
"There's still a lot of difficult work to be done in Iraq," Bush said. "But thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people, the year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq, the history of the Middle East and the history of freedom."
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