Iraqi Elections Represent Milestone in Victory Strategy
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Bush called the elections a major milestone in fulfilling the three-part strategy for victory that addresses security, economic and political efforts. The president released details of the national strategy Nov. 30 and has delivered several major speeches during the past two weeks focusing on its specific aspects.
Today, three days before Iraq's national elections, Bush focused on Iraq's political progress and U.S. efforts to help the Iraqis build inclusive democratic institutions that protect all Iraqi's interests.
"By helping Iraqis build a democracy, we win over those who doubted they had a place in a new Iraq and undermine the terrorists and Saddamists," the president said. It also helps the United States gain an ally in the war on terror and sets an example that will inspire reformers across the Middle East, he said.
Helping the Iraqis build their democracy also brings help to a troubled region of the world, Bush said, noting that it "will make the American people more secure."
Iraq's form of democracy won't necessarily take the same form as America's, Bush acknowledged, but will share its basic foundations. These include rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, a free economy and freedom to worship - none of which existed under former dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, the president said.
In just over two and a half years, the Iraqis have already met several major milestones toward their democratic future, he noted. They gained sovereignty in June 2004, voted for their new leaders last January, and drafted a constitution and adopted it during a national referendum last October.
Now Iraqis will return to the polls again Dec. 15 to elect a parliamentary government, which Bush said will be "a remarkable event in the Arab world."
In pressing forward with their milestones, the Iraqis are promoting freedom and democracy and defying terrorists, Bush said. "Iraqis are defeating a brutal enemy, rejecting a murderous ideology and choosing freedom over terror," he said.
The elections won't run perfectly and a successful vote won't be an end in itself, but rather just another step in an ongoing process, Bush said. "Iraqis still have more difficult work ahead, and our coalition and the new Iraqi government will face many challenges," he said.
These include ensuring Iraqi security, forming an inclusive Iraqi government, encouraging Iraqi reconciliation and maintaining Iraqi democracy in a tough neighborhood, with negative influences from both Iran and Syria.
Bush promised ongoing U.S. support in these "complex and difficult" endeavors. "Iraqis are determined to overcome them and build a free nation, and they require our support," the president said.
"Millions of Iraqis will put their lives on the line this Thursday in the name of liberty and democracy, and 160,000 of America's finest are putting their lives on the line so Iraqis can succeed," he said.
"The American and Iraqi people share the same interest and the same enemies," Bush said. "And by helping democracy succeed in Iraq, we bring greater security to our citizens here at home."
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