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Raise Your Purple Fingers Everyone!

Purple_banner

Americans for a Free Iraq
Raise a Purple Finger for Freedom – Show Solidarity with Free Iraqis in Their
Upcoming Election

www.purplefingerforfreedom.org 

On December 15, the people of Iraq will do what no American should ever have
to contemplate. They will risk their lives to vote. For the third time this
year, the brave people of Iraq will go to the polls to determine their future.
This time they will do so to elect a new government under the constitution that
they approved in an October referendum.

Join Bill Bennett and other radio hosts who are encouraging
Americans to follow her
example by asking them to ink their right index finger purple from December
12-15 to show support for the freedom loving people of Iraq as they prepare to
vote on December 15th.

Here are some other things you can to do to show support for a free
Iraq:

  • From December 12 – 15 ink your right index fingers purple or wear a purple
    ribbon.
  • Encourage their constituents to do the same.
  • Ask your member of the State House of Senate to pass a resolution in support
    of a free Iraq.
  • Email photos of yourself or with other supporters flashing a "Purple Finger
    ‘V’ for Victory in Iraq to purplefinger.org
  • Encourage local schools in the district to download the Purple Finger for
    Freedom Model Lesson plan from
  • www.purplefingerforfreedom.org and ask teachers
    to teach a current events class about the upcoming Iraqi election based on
    it.

    Let’s show the world that freedom loving peoples are united.

    Post the "SHOW SUPPORT for FREE IRAQIS" graphic below
    on your website with a link to www.purplefingerforfreedom.org
    Add your organization’s name to the list of Supporting
    Organizations  

    Purple_fingers

    UPDATE:  President Bush’s Speech today on Iraq and the War on Terror here

                     REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                     ON THE WAR ON
    TERROR

     

    Park Hyatt
    Philadelphia

    Philadelphia,
    Pennsylvania


    11:16 A.M.
    EST
          
    THE PRESIDENT:  Thank
    you all.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thanks for the warm welcome.  Thank you for
    the chance to come and speak to the Philadelphia World Affairs Council.  This is
    an important organization that has, since 1949, has provided a forum for debate
    and discussion on important issues.  I’ve come to discuss an issue that’s really
    important, and that is victory in the war on terror. 

     

         And that war started on
    September the 11th, 2001, when our nation
    awoke to a sudden attack. Like generations before us, we have accepted new
    responsibilities, we’re confronting dangers with new resolve. We’re taking the
    fight to those who attacked us and to those who share their murderous vision for
    future attacks. We will fight this war without wavering, and we’ll prevail.

     

         The war on terror will
    take many turns, and the enemy must be defeated on many — on every battlefield,
    from the streets of Western cities to the mountains of
    Afghanistan, to the tribal
    regions of
    Pakistan, to the islands of
    Southeast Asia and to the Horn of
    Africa.  Yet the terrorists have made it clear that
    Iraq is the central
    front in their war against humanity, so we must recognize
    Iraq is the central
    front in the war on terror.

     

    Last month, my
    administration released a document called the "National Strategy for Victory in
    Iraq" — and in recent
    weeks I’ve been discussing our strategy with the American people.  At the U.S.
    Naval Academy, I spoke about our efforts to defeat the terrorists and train
    Iraqi security forces so they can provide safety for their own citizens.  Last
    week before the Council on Foreign Relations, I explained how we are working
    with Iraqi forces and Iraqi leaders to help Iraqis improve security and restore
    order, to rebuild cities taken from the enemy, and to help the national
    government revitalize
    Iraq‘s infrastructure
    and economy.  Today I’m going to speak in depth about another vital element of
    our strategy:  our efforts to help the Iraqi people build a lasting democracy in
    the heart of the
    Middle East.  I can think of no
    better place to discuss the rise of a free
    Iraq than in the heart
    of
    Philadelphia, the city where
    America‘s democracy was
    born.

     

    I want to thank
    the — Buntzie Churchill and Bill Sasso for letting me come.  Thank you all for
    welcoming me.  I got something to say, I’m looking forward to saying it here. 
    I’m traveling with
    United States Senators — they’re
    always quick to hop a ride on Air Force One.  (Laughter.)  Particularly when
    they don’t have to reimburse the government.  (Laughter.)  But I’m proud to be a
    friend of Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum.  They’re fine, honorable members of
    the United States Senate.  (Applause.)  I’m also pleased that Jim Gerlach and
    Mike Fitzpatrick and Joe Pitts of the United States Congress are with us. 
    Thanks for serving.  Thanks for being here.  (Applause.)

     

    A few blocks
    from here stands Independence Hall, where our Declaration of Independence was
    signed and our Constitution was debated.  From the perspective of more than two
    centuries, the success of
    America‘s democratic
    experiment seems almost inevitable.  At the time, however, that success didn’t
    seem so obvious or assured. 

     

    The eight years
    from the end of the Revolutionary War to the election of a constitutional
    government were a time of disorder and upheaval.  There were uprisings, with
    mobs attacking courthouses and government buildings.  There was a planned
    military coup that was defused only by the personal intervention of General
    Washington.  In 1783, Congress was chased from this city by angry veterans
    demanding back-pay, and they stayed on the run for six months.  There were
    tensions between the mercantile North and the agricultural South that threatened
    to break apart our young republic.  And there were British loyalists who were
    opposed to independence and had to be reconciled with
    America‘s new democracy. 

     

    Our founders
    faced many difficult challenges — they made mistakes, they learned from their
    experiences, and they adjusted their approach.  Our nation’s first effort at
    governing — a governing charter, the Articles of Confederation, failed.  It
    took years of debate and compromise before we ratified our Constitution and
    inaugurated our first president.  It took a four-year civil war, and a century
    of struggle after that, before the promise of our Declaration was extended to
    all Americans. 

     

    It is important
    to keep this history in mind as we look at the progress of freedom and democracy
    in
    Iraq.  No nation in
    history has made the transition to a free society without facing challenges,
    setbacks, and false starts.  The past two-and-a-half years have been a period of
    difficult struggle in
    Iraq, yet they’ve also
    been a time of great hope and achievement for the Iraqi people.

     

    Just over
    two-and-a-half years ago, Iraq was in the grip of a cruel dictator who had
    invaded his neighbors, sponsored terrorists, pursued and used weapons of mass
    destruction, murdered his own people, and for more than a decade, defied the
    demands of the United Nations and the civilized world.  Since then, the Iraqi
    people have assumed sovereignty over their country, held free elections, drafted
    a democratic constitution, and approved that constitution in a nationwide
    referendum.  Three days from now, they go to polls for the third time this year,
    and choose a new government under the new constitution. 

     

    It’s a
    remarkable transformation for a country that has virtually no experience with
    democracy, and which is struggling to overcome the legacy of one of the worst
    tyrannies the world has known.  And Iraqis achieved all this while determined
    enemies use violence and destruction to stop the progress.  There’s still a lot
    of difficult work to be done in
    Iraq, 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.

     

    As the Iraqi
    people struggle to build their democracy, adversaries continue their war on a
    free
    Iraq.  The enemy in
    Iraq is a combination of
    rejectionists and Saddamists and terrorists.  The rejectionists are ordinary
    Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the
    regime of Saddam Hussein.  They reject an
    Iraq in which they’re no
    longer the dominant group.  We believe that over time most of this group will be
    persuaded to support a democratic
    Iraq led by a federal
    government that is strong enough to protect minority rights, and we’re
    encouraged that many Sunnis plan to actively participate in this week’s
    election. 

     

    The Saddamists
    are former regime loyalists who harbor dreams of returning to power, and they’re
    trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. 
    Yet they lack popular support, and over time, they can be marginalized and
    defeated by the people and security forces of a free
    Iraq

     

    The terrorists
    affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda are the smallest, but most lethal
    group.  Many are foreigners coming to fight freedom’s progress in
    Iraq.  They are led by a
    brutal terrorist named Zarqawi — al Qaeda’s chief of operations in
    Iraq — who has stated
    his allegiance to Osama bin Laden.  The terrorists’ stated objective is to drive
    U.S. and coalition
    forces out of
    Iraq and gain control of
    that country, and then use
    Iraq as a base from
    which to launch attacks against
    America, overthrow moderate
    governments in the
    Middle East, and establish a
    totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from
    Spain to
    Indonesia

     

    The terrorists
    in
    Iraq share the ideology
    of the terrorists who struck the
    United States on September the
    11th.  They share the ideology with those who blew up commuters in
    London and
    Madrid, murdered tourists
    in
    Bali, and killed workers
    in
    Riyadh, and slaughtered
    guests at a wedding in
    Amman,
    Jordan.  This is an enemy
    without conscience, and they cannot be appeased.  If we were not fighting and
    destroying this enemy in
    Iraq, they would not be
    leading quiet lives as good citizens.  They would be plotting and killing our
    citizens, across the world and here at home.  By fighting the terrorists in
    Iraq, we are confronting
    a direct threat to the American people, and we will accept nothing less than
    complete victory.  (Applause.)

     

    We are pursuing
    a comprehensive strategy in
    Iraq.  Our goal is
    victory, and victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no
    longer threaten
    Iraq‘s democracy, when
    the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and
    when
    Iraq is not a safe haven
    for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation. 

     

    Our strategy in
    Iraq has three
    elements:  On the economic side, we’re helping the Iraqis restore their
    infrastructure, reform their economy, and build the prosperity that will give
    all Iraqis a stake in a free and peaceful
    Iraq.  On the security
    side, coalition and Iraqi forces are on the offense against the enemy.  We’re
    working together to clear out areas controlled by the terrorists and Saddam
    loyalists, and leaving Iraqi forces to hold territory taken from the enemy.  And
    as we help Iraqis fight these enemies, we are working to build capable and
    effective Iraqi security forces, so they can take the lead in the fight, and
    eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens
    without major foreign assistance. 

     

    We’re making
    steady progress.  The Iraqi forces are becoming more and more capable.  They’re
    taking more responsibility for more and more territory.  We’re transferring
    bases to their control so they can take the fight to the enemy.  And that means
    American and coalition forces can concentrate on training Iraqis, and hunting
    down the high-value targets like the terrorist Zarqawi and his
    associates.

     

    Today, I want
    to discuss the political element of our strategy:  our efforts to help the
    Iraqis build inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests
    of all the Iraqi people.  By helping Iraqis to build a democracy, we will win
    over those who doubted they had a place in a new
    Iraq, and undermine the
    terrorists and Saddamists.  By helping Iraqis to build a democracy, we will gain
    an ally in the war on terror.  By helping Iraqis build a democracy, we will
    inspire reformers across the
    Middle East.  And by helping
    Iraqis build a democracy, we will bring hope to a troubled region, and this will
    make the American people more secure.

     

    From the
    outset, the political element of our strategy in
    Iraq has been guided by
    a clear principle:  Democracy takes different forms in different cultures.  Yet
    in all cultures, successful free societies are built on certain common
    foundations — rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, a free
    economy, and freedom to worship.  Respect for the belief of others is the only
    way to build a society where compassion and tolerance prevail.  Societies that
    lay these foundations not only survive, but thrive.  Societies that do not lay
    these foundations risk backsliding into tyranny. 

     

    When our
    coalition arrived in
    Iraq, we found a nation
    where almost none of these basic foundations existed.  Decades of brutal rule by
    Saddam Hussein had destroyed the fabric of Iraqi civil society.  Under
    Saddam,
    Iraq was a country where
    dissent was crushed.  A centralized economy enriched a dictator instead of the
    people; secret courts meted out repression instead of justice; and Shia Muslims,
    and Kurds and other groups were brutally oppressed.  And when Saddam Hussein’s
    regime fled
    Baghdad, they left behind a
    country with few civic institutions in place to hold
    Iraq society together. 

     

    To fill the
    vacuum after liberation, we established the Coalition Provisional Authority.  The CPA was ably led by Ambassador
    Jerry Bremer, and many fine officials from our government volunteered to serve
    in the EPA — CPA.  While things did not always go as planned, these men and
    women did a good job under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances —
    helping to restore basic services, making sure food was distributed, and
    reestablishing government ministries. 

     

    One of the
    CPA’s most important tasks was bringing the Iraqi people into the
    decision-making process of their government after decades of tyrannical rule. 
    Three months after liberation, our coalition worked with the United Nations and
    Iraqi leaders to establish an Iraqi Governing Council.  The Governing Council
    gave Iraqis a voice in their own affairs, but it was unelected.  It was
    subordinate to the CPA and, therefore, it did not satisfy the hunger of Iraqis
    for self-government.  Like free people everywhere, Iraqis wanted to be governed
    by leaders they had elected, not foreign officials. 

     

    So in the
    summer of 2003, we proposed a plan to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people. 
    Under this plan, the CPA would continue to govern
    Iraq while appointed
    Iraqi leaders drafted a constitution, put that constitution before the people,
    and then held elections to choose a new government.  Only when that elected
    government took office would the Iraqis regain their sovereignty.

     

    This plan met
    with the disapproval of the Iraqis.  They made it clear that they wanted a
    constitution that was written by elected leaders of a free
    Iraq, and they wanted
    sovereignty placed in Iraqi hands sooner.  We listened, and we adjusted our
    approach.  In November of 2003, we negotiated a new plan with the Governing
    Council, with steps for an accelerated transition to Iraqi self-government.  Under this new plan, a Transitional
    Administrative Law was written by the Governing Council and adopted in March of
    2004.  This law guaranteed personal freedoms unprecedented in the Arab world,
    and set forth four major milestones to guide
    Iraq‘s transition to a
    constitutional democracy.

     

    The first
    milestone was the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government by the
    end of June 2004.  The second was for Iraqis to hold free elections to choose a
    transitional government by January of 2005.  The third was for Iraqis to adopt a
    democratic constitution, which would be drafted no later than August 2005, and
    put before the Iraqi people in a nationwide referendum no later than October. 
    And the fourth was for Iraqis to choose a government under that democratic
    constitution, with elections held December 2005. 

     

    The first
    milestone was met when our coalition handed over  sovereignty to the Iraqi
    leaders on
    June 28th, 2004 — two days ahead
    of schedule.  In January 2005, Iraqis met the second milestone when they went to
    the polls and chose their leaders in free elections.  Almost eight-and-a-half
    million Iraqis defied the car bombers and assassins to cast their ballots, and
    the world watched in awe as jubilant Iraqis danced in the street and held
    ink-stained fingers and celebrated their freedom.

     

    The January
    elections were a watershed event for
    Iraq and the
    Middle East, yet they were not
    without flaws.  One problem was the failure of the vast majority of Sunni Arabs
    to vote.  When Sunnis saw a new 275-member parliament taking power in which they
    had only 16 seats, many realized that their failure to participate in the
    democrat process had hurt their chances and hurt their groups — it hurt their
    constituencies.  And Shia and Kurdish leaders who had won power at the polls saw
    that for a free and unified
    Iraq to succeed, they
    needed Sunni Arabs to be part of the government.  We encouraged
    Iraq‘s leaders to reach
    out to Sunni leaders, and bring them into the governing process.  When the
    transitional government was seated in the spring of this year, Sunni Arabs
    filled important posts, including a vice president, a minister of defense, and
    the speaker of the National Assembly. 

     

    The new
    government’s main political challenge — next political challenge was to meet
    the third milestone, which was adopting a democratic constitution.  Again,
    Iraq‘s leaders reached
    out to Sunni Arabs who had boycotted the elections and included them in the
    drafting process.  Fifteen Sunni Arab negotiators and several Sunni Arab
    advisors joined the work of the constitutional drafting committee.  After much
    tough debate, representatives of
    Iraq‘s diverse
    communities drafted a bold constitution that guarantees the rule of law, freedom
    of assembly, property rights, freedom of speech and the press, women’s rights,
    and the right to vote.  As one Arab scholar put it, the Iraqi constitution marks
    "the dawn of a new age in Arab life."

     

    The document
    that initially emerged from the committee did not unify Iraqis, and many Sunnis
    on the constitutional committee did not support the draft.  Yet
    Iraq‘s leaders continued
    working to gain Sunni support.  And thanks to last-minute changes — including a
    new procedure for considering amendments to the constitution next year — a deal
    was struck four days before the Iraqis went to the polls.  The revised
    constitution was endorsed by
    Iraq”s largest Sunni
    party.  It was approved in referendum that attracted over a million more voters
    than in the January elections.  Many Sunnis voted against the constitution, but
    Sunnis voted in large numbers for the first time.  They joined the political
    process.  And by doing so, they reject the violence of the Saddamists and
    rejectionists.  Through hard work and compromise, Iraqis adopted the most
    progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world. 

     

    On Thursday,
    Iraqis will meet their fourth milestone.  And when they do go to the polls and
    choose a new government under the new constitution, it will be a remarkable
    event in the Arab world.  Despite terrorist violence, the country is buzzing
    with signs and sounds of democracy in action.  The streets of
    Baghdad, and Najaf and
    Mosul, and other cities
    are full of signs and posters.  The television and radio air waves are thick
    with political ads and commentary.  Hundreds of parties and coalitions have
    registered for this week’s elections, and they’re campaigning vigorously. 
    Candidates are holding rallies and laying out their agendas and asking for the
    vote. 

     

    Our troops see
    this young democracy up close.  First Lieutenant Frank Shriley of
    Rock Hall,
    Maryland, says, "It’s a cool
    thing riding around
    Baghdad and seeing the
    posters — it reminds me of being home during election time.  After so many
    years of being told what to do, having a real vote is
    different."

     

    Unlike the
    January elections, many Sunnis are campaigning vigorously for office this time
    around.  Many Sunni parties that opposed the constitution have registered to
    compete in this week’s vote.  Two major Sunni coalitions have formed, and other
    Sunni leaders have joined national coalitions that cross religious, ethnic, and
    sectarian boundaries.  As one Sunni politician put it, this election "is a vote
    for
    Iraq; we want a national
    Iraq, not a sectarian
    one." 

     

    To encourage
    broader participation by all Iraqi communities, the National Assembly made
    important changes in
    Iraq‘s electoral laws
    that will increase Sunni representation in the new assembly.  In the January
    elections,
    Iraq was one giant
    electoral district, so seats in the transitional assembly simply reflected
    turnout.  Because few Sunnis voted, their communities were left with little
    representation.  Now,
    Iraq has a new electoral
    system, where seats in the new Council of Representatives will be allocated by
    province and population — much like our own House of Representatives.  This new
    system is encouraging more Sunnis to join in the democratic process because it
    ensures that Sunnis will be well-represented, even if the terrorists and
    Saddamists try to intimidate voters in the provinces where most Sunnis live.

     

    More Sunnis are
    involved because they see Iraqi democracy succeeding.  They have learned a
    lesson of democracy:  They must participate to have a voice in their nation’s
    affairs.  A leading Sunni who had boycotted the January vote put it this way: 
    "The Sunnis are now ready to participate."  A Sunni sheik explains why Sunnis
    must join the process:  "In order not to be marginalized, we need power in the
    National Assembly."  As more Sunnis join the political process, the Saddamists
    and remaining rejectionists will be marginalized.  As more Sunnis join the
    political process, they will protect the interests of their community. 

     

    Like the Shia
    and Kurds, who face daily attacks from the terrorists and Saddamists, many
    Sunnis who join the political process are being targeted by the enemies of a
    free
    Iraq.  The Iraqi Islamic
    Party — a Sunni party that boycotted the January vote and now supports
    elections — has seen its offices bombed.  And a party leader reports that at
    least 10 members have been killed since the party announced it would field
    candidates in Thursday’s elections.  Recently a top Sunni electoral official
    visited the Sunni stronghold of Baquba.  He went to encourage local leaders to
    participate in the elections.  During his visit, a roadside bomb went off.  It
    rattled his convoy, but it didn’t stop it.  He says this about the attempt on
    his life:  "The bomb is nothing [compared to] what we’re doing.  What we’re
    doing is bigger than the bomb." 

     

    By pressing
    forward and meeting their milestones, the Iraqi people have built momentum for
    freedom and democracy.  They’ve encouraged those outside the process to come
    in.  At every stage, there was enormous pressure to let the deadlines slide,
    with skeptics and pessimists declaring that Iraqis were not ready for
    self-government.  At every stage, Iraqis proved the skeptics and pessimists
    wrong.  At every stage, Iraqis have exposed the errors of those in our country
    and across the world who question the universal appeal of liberty.  By meeting
    their milestones, Iraqis are defeating a brutal enemy, rejecting a murderous
    ideology, and choosing freedom over terror.

     

    This week
    elections won’t be perfect, and a successful vote is not the end of the
    process.  Iraqis still have more difficult work ahead, and our coalition and the
    new Iraqi government will face many challenges, including in four critical
    errors — areas:  ensuring Iraqi security, forming an inclusive Iraqi
    government, encouraging Iraqi reconciliation, and maintaining Iraqi democracy in
    a tough neighborhood.

     

    The first key
    challenge is security.  As democracy takes hold in
    Iraq, the terrorists and
    Saddamists will continue to use violence.  They will try to break our will and
    intimidate the Iraqi people and their leaders.  These enemies aren’t going to
    give up because of a successful election.  They understand what is at stake in
    Iraq.  They know that as
    democracy takes root in that country, their hateful ideology will suffer a
    devastating blow, and the
    Middle East will have a clear
    example of freedom and prosperity and hope. 

     

    So our
    coalition will continue to hunt down the terrorists and Saddamists.  We’ll
    continue training Iraqi security forces to take the lead in the fight, and
    defend their new democracy.  As the Iraqi security forces stand up, coalition
    forces can stand down.  And when victory is achieved, our troops will then
    return home with the honor they have earned.   

     

    The second key
    challenge is forming an inclusive government that protects the interests of all
    Iraqis, and encourages more in the rejectionist camp to abandon violence and
    embrace politics.  Early next year,
    Iraq‘s new parliament
    will come to
    Baghdad and select a prime
    minister, and a presidency council, and a cabinet of ministers.  Two-thirds of
    the new parliament must agree on the top leadership posts, and this will demand
    negotiation and compromise.  It will require patience by
    America and our coalition
    allies.  This new government will face many tough decisions on issues such as
    security and reconstruction and economic reform.  Iraqi leaders will also have
    to review and possibly amend the constitution and ensure that this historic
    document earns the broad support of all Iraqi communities.  By taking these
    steps, Iraqi leaders will build a strong and lasting democracy.  This is an
    important step in helping to defeat the terrorists and the
    Saddamists.

     

    The third key
    challenge is establishing rule of law and the culture of reconciliation.  Iraqis
    still have to overcome longstanding ethnic and religious tensions, and the
    legacy of three decades of dictatorship.  During the regime of Saddam Hussein,
    Shia, Kurds and other groups were brutally oppressed, and for some there is now
    a temptation to take justice into their own hands.  Recently,
    U.S. and Iraqi troops
    have discovered prisons in
    Iraq where mostly Sunni
    men were held, some of whom have appeared to have been beaten and tortured. 
    This conduct is unacceptable, and the Prime Minister and other Iraqi officials
    have condemned these abuses, an investigation has been launched,  and we support
    these efforts.  Those who committed these crimes must be held to
    account.

     

    We will
    continue helping Iraqis build an impartial system of justice that protects all
    of
    Iraq‘s citizens. 
    Millions of Iraqis are seeing their independent judiciary in action, as their
    former dictator, Saddam Hussein, is put on trial in
    Baghdad.  The man who once
    struck fear in the hearts of Iraqis has heard his victims recount the acts of
    torture and murder that he ordered.  One Iraqi watching the proceedings said: 
    "We all feel happiness about this fair trial."  Slowly but surely, with the help
    of our coalition, Iraqis are replacing the rule of a tyrant with the rule of
    law, and ensuring equal justice for all their citizens.

     

    Oh, I know some
    fear the possibility that
    Iraq could break apart
    and fall into a civil war.  I don’t believe these fears are justified.  They’re
    not justified so long as we do not abandon the Iraqi people in their hour of
    need.  Encouraging reconciliation and human rights in a society scarred by
    decades of arbitrary violence and sectarian division is not going to be easy and
    it’s going to happen overnight.  Yet the Iraqi government has a process in place
    to resolve even the most difficult issues through negotiate, debate and
    compromise.  And the
    United States, along with the
    United Nations and the Arab League and other international partners, will
    support these efforts to help resolve these issues.  And as Iraqis continue to
    develop the habits of liberty, they will gain confidence in the future, and
    ensure that Iraqi nationalism trumps Iraqi sectarianism.   

     

    A fourth key
    challenge is for Iraqis to maintain their newfound freedoms in a tough
    neighborhood. 
    Iraq‘s neighbor to the
    east,
    Iran, is actively
    working to undermine a free
    Iraq
    Iran doesn’t want
    democracy in
    Iraq to succeed because
    a free
    Iraq threatens the
    legitimacy of
    Iran‘s oppressive
    theocracy. 
    Iraq‘s neighbor to the
    west,
    Syria, is permitting
    terrorists to use that territory to cross into
    Iraq.  The vast majority
    of Iraqis do not want to live under an Iranian-style theocracy, and they don’t
    want
    Syria to allow the
    transit of bombers and killers into
    Iraq — and the
    United States of America will stand with the
    Iraqi people against the threats from these neighbors.  (Applause.)

     

    We’ll continue
    to encourage greater support from the Arab world and the broader international
    community.  Many Arab states have kept the new
    Iraq at arms’ distance. 
    Yet as more Arab states are beginning to recognize that a free
    Iraq is here to stay,
    they’re starting to give
    Iraq‘s new government
    more support.  Recently,
    Saudi Arabia,
    Egypt, and
    Jordan have welcomed the
    Iraqi Prime Minister on official visits.  Last month, the Arab League hosted a
    meeting in
    Cairo to promote national
    reconciliation among Iraqis, and another such meeting is planned for next year
    in
    Baghdad

     

    These are
    important steps, and
    Iraq‘s neighbors need to
    do more.  Arab leaders are beginning to recognize that the choice in
    Iraq is between
    democracy and terrorism, and there is no middle ground.  The success of Iraqi
    democracy is in their vital interests because if the terrorists prevail in
    Iraq, they will then
    target other Arab nations.

     

    International
    support for
    Iraq‘s democracy is
    growing, as well.  Other nations have pledged more than $13 billion in
    assistance to
    Iraq, and we call on
    them, those who have pledged assistance, to make good on their commitments.  The
    World Bank recently approved its first loan to
    Iraq in over 30 years,
    lending the Iraqi government $100 million to improve the Iraqi school system. 
    The United Nations is playing a vital role in
    Iraq — they assisted in
    last January’s elections, and the negotiations for the constitution, and in the
    recent constitutional referendum.  And at the request of the Iraqi government,
    the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution extending the
    mandate of the multinational force in
    Iraq through 2006. 
    Earlier this year, the European Union co-hosted a conference for more than 80
    countries and international organizations, so they can better coordinate their
    efforts to help Iraqis rebuild their nation.  Whatever differences there were
    over the decision to liberate
    Iraq, all free nations
    now share a common interest — building an
    Iraq that will fight
    terror, and be a source of stability and freedom in a troubled region of the
    world.

     

    The challenges
    ahead are complex and difficult, yet Iraqis are determined to overcome them and
    build a free nation.  And they require our support.  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.  The American and Iraqi
    people share the same interests and the same enemies — and by helping democracy
    succeed in
    Iraq, we bring greater
    security to our citizens here at home.

     

    The terrorists know that
    democracy is their enemy, and they will continue fighting freedom’s progress
    with all the hateful determination they can muster.  Yet the Iraqi people are
    stepping forward to claim their liberty, and they will have it.   When the new
    Iraqi government takes office next year, Iraqis will have the only
    constitutional democracy in the Arab world, and Americans will have a partner
    for peace and moderation in the
    Middle East.

     

    People across
    the broader
    Middle East are drawing, and
    will continue to draw inspiration from
    Iraq‘s progress, and the
    terrorists’ powerful myth is being destroyed.  In a 1998 fatwa, Osama bin Laden
    argued that the suffering of the Iraqi people was justification for his
    declaration of war on
    America.  Now bin Laden and
    al Qaeda are the direct cause of the Iraqi people’s suffering.  As more Muslims
    across the world see this, they’re turning against the terrorists.  As the hope
    of liberty spreads in the
    Middle East, the terrorists
    will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits, and lose the sanctuaries they
    need to plan new attacks. 

     

    A free
    Iraq is not going to be
    a quiet
    Iraq — it will be a
    nation full of passionate debate and vigorous political activity.  It will be a
    nation that continues to face some level of violence.  Yet Iraqis are showing
    they have the patience and the courage to make democracy work — and Americans
    have the patience and courage to help them succeed. 

     

    We’ve done this
    kind of work before; we must have confidence in our cause.  In World War II, the
    free nations defeated fascism and helped our former adversaries,
    Germany and
    Japan, build strong
    democracies — and today, these nations are allies in securing the peace.  In
    the Cold War, free nations defeated communism, and helped our former Warsaw Pact
    adversaries become strong democracies — and today, nations of Central and
    Eastern Europe are allies in the
    war on terror.

     

    Today in the
    Middle East, freedom is once
    again contending with a totalitarian ideology that seeks to sow anger and hatred
    and despair.  And like fascism and communism before, the hateful ideologies that
    use terror will be defeated by the unstoppable power of freedom. 
    (Applause.)

     

    And the advance
    of freedom in the
    Middle East requires freedom in
    Iraq.  By helping Iraqis
    build a lasting democracy, we will spread the hope of liberty across a troubled
    region, and we’ll gain new allies in the cause of freedom.  By helping Iraqis
    build a strong democracy, we’re adding to our own security, and, like a
    generation before us, we’re laying the foundation of peace for generations to
    come.

     

    Not far from
    here where we gather today is a symbol of freedom familiar to all Americans —
    the Liberty Bell.  When the Declaration of Independence was first read in
    public, the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, and a witness said:  "It
    rang as if it meant something."  Today, the call of liberty is being heard in
    Baghdad and
    Basra, and other Iraqi
    cities, and its sound is echoing across the broader
    Middle
    East
    .  From Damascus to
    Tehran, people hear it,
    and they know it means something.  It means that the days of tyranny and terror
    are ending, and a new day of hope and freedom is dawning. 

     

    Thank you for
    letting me come.  (Applause.)

     

    I thought I
    might answer some questions.  (Laughter.)  Yes, ma’am.

     

    Q    Since the
    inception of the Iraqi war, I’d like to know the approximate total of Iraqis who
    have been killed.  And by Iraqis I include civilians, military, police,
    insurgents, translators.

     

    THE PRESIDENT: 
    How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war?  I would say 30,000, more or
    less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence
    against Iraqis.  We’ve lost about 2,140 of our own troops in
    Iraq

     

    Yes.

     

    Q    Mr.
    President, thank you —

     

    THE PRESIDENT: 
    I’ll repeat the question.  If I don’t like it, I’ll make it up.  (Laughter and
    applause.)

     

    Q    — Thank
    you for coming to the city where liberty was born.  Central to your policy in
    Iraq is the role of the
    Iraqis.  We hear widely different tales about how the Iraqis are doing in their
    own area of defense.  Could you give us your perspective on how they’re doing,
    how well the military is doing, what you feel the capability is to do the task
    that you want them to do, to include some of the widely different impressions
    that we hear about.

     

    THE PRESIDENT: 
    No, I appreciate that.  When we first began training — our strategy all along
    has been to train Iraqis so they can take the fight and succeed in what we’re
    trying to do, which is a democracy — a democracy which will serve as an example
    for others; a democracy which will join us in the fight on terror; a democracy
    which will help us prevent other countries from becoming safe haven for
    terrorists who still want to kill us.  That’s — that was our objective.  And
    all along we wanted the Iraqis to be able to do — take the
    fight.

     

    When we first
    got going we said we’ll train an army that will be able to deal with external
    threats, and a civil defense corps that will be able to deal with internal
    threats.  And the problem with that strategy was that the internal threats were
    a heck of a lot more severe than the external threats, and the army — the
    civilian corps we trained was not properly trained and
    equipped.

     

    So we
    adjusted.  We trained everybody for the army and — recognizing that the army is
    going to have to not only take the fight to the enemy — or the new army take
    the fight to the enemy, but when we clear enemies out of places like Mosul, that
    there has to be an Iraqi army presence to earn the confidence of the
    people.

     

    When the war
    first got going, we’d move into
    Mosul, clear out an
    enemy, leave, and the enemy would return.  And so the Iraqi people had no
    confidence in the future.  They were — they didn’t dare, for example, tell
    coalition forces or Iraqi forces the names of those who were killing their
    citizens because they didn’t have the confidence there would be a force to
    protect them.  And so we began the process of clearing out and holding with more
    and more trained Iraqi forces.  And now the Iraqi forces are helping to rebuild
    these cities.  Democracy is only going to succeed if people say, my life is
    going to be better.  I mean, no different a campaign here — you know, vote for
    me, I want to help improve your life.

     

    And that’s what
    — and so the strategy has been to — let me say, we adjusted our strategy, and
    there’s about 200,000-plus capable units.  Now, not all of them are ready to
    take the fight to the enemy.  In order to have a division or a battalion ready
    to fight, you’ve got to be able to communicate, you’ve got to be able to move,
    you’ve got to be able to have logistical supplies.  But more and more of the
    Iraqis are in the lead in the fight, and more and more Iraqis are being trained
    so they can hold the positions once we clear.

     

    We are not
    completed — we haven’t completed the job of training the Iraqis.  But what is
    beginning to happen is, is that you’re beginning to see our troops step back
    from the fight.  I don’t know if you realize, we had some 90 bases in
    Iraq, and I think we’ve
    closed about 40 — or turned over — closed or turned over 40 of those bases to
    the Iraqis.  In other words, our profile is beginning to move back as the Iraqis
    get trained up — so that we can continue working on training, and also help
    them chase down Zarqawi and his buddies.  They’re — these guys are very tough
    and they’re cold-blooded killers.

     

    The enemy has
    got one weapon.  See, they can’t defeat us militarily.  What they can do is they
    can — and will — kill innocent people in the hopes of trying to get the
    United States of America to leave the
    battlefield early.  The only way we can lose is if we lose our nerve.  And they
    know that.  And they’ve stated that publicly. 

     

    And — but the
    training is going much better than it was in the first year.  The — and we’ve
    just got more to do, and we need to do it, because a free
    Iraq, again, will be an
    important ally in this war.  This is a global struggle we’re in.  It’s — this
    isn’t an enemy that is isolated, kind of angry group of people.  These are
    people that have got a totalitarian vision.  They’ve got designs and ambitions. 
    They’ve laid out their strategy and they explained their tactics.  And we’ve got
    to listen to them and take them seriously.  And part of their tactics is to
    create vacuums so that their hateful ideology flows in. 

     

    They — listen,
    the attack of September the 11th was a part of a broad strategy to get us to
    retreat from the world.  And that — people say, well, he’s making it up that
    they want to establish a totalitarian empire that stretches from
    Spain to
    Indonesia.  I’m telling you
    what they said; not me.  This is what Zawahiri has said — the number-two man in
    al Qaeda.  It seems like to me we need to take it seriously when the enemy says
    something. 

     

    Kind of getting
    off subject, here, but — yes, sir.

     

    Q    Mr.
    President, I’m a proud
    U.S. citizen,
    naturalized, and card-carrying Republican.  I voted for you both times.  I grew
    in
    India, a Sunni.  In fact,
    the President of the
    Republic of
    India is a Sunni.  And I
    think it’s a great testimony to this nation that was — the vision of which was
    laid out within a few — half a mile of here, that somebody like me can be in a
    position of leadership and be successfully engaged in contributing to the
    current and future economic well-being of this nation.  Mr. President, I support
    your efforts in
    Iraq.  But I’d like to
    know what are we going to do in the broader battle in creating a favorable image
    and reaching out to people across the world, so that people like me all over the
    world can be passionate supporters of the
    United
    States
    .

     

    THE PRESIDENT: 
    Yes, I appreciate that.  First of all, success will help the image of the
    United States.  Look, I recognize
    we got an image issue, particularly when you got television stations, Arabic
    television stations that are constantly just pounding
    America, creating — saying
    America is fighting Islam,
    Americans can’t stand Muslims, this is a war against a religion.  And we’ve got
    to, obviously, do a better job of reminding people that ours is not a nation
    that rejects religion; ours is a nation that accepts people of all faith, and
    that the great strength of America is the capacity for people to worship
    freely. 

     

    It’s
    difficult.  I mean, their propaganda machine is pretty darn intense.  And so
    we’re constantly sending out messages, we’re constantly trying to reassure
    people, but we’re also — we’re also acting.  And that’s what’s important for
    our citizens to realize.  Our position in the world is such that I don’t think
    we can retreat.  I think we have a duty and an obligation to use our vast
    influence to help. 

     

    I cite two
    examples of where I think it will make a big — of where American image in the
    Muslim world will be improved.  One is the tsunami.  The tsunamis hit; it was
    the
    United States military, through
    the USS Abraham Lincoln, that provided the logistical organization necessary to
    get the — to get the — to save a lot of lives.  We moved.  A lot of people
    kind of sat around and discussed; not us.  We saw a problem and we moved. 

     

    Same in
    Pakistan.  The earthquake in
    Pakistan is devastating. 
    The
    United States of America was first on the
    scene.  We got a lot of kids flying choppers all around that country providing
    help and aid. 

     

    And so I guess
    what I’m saying to you is, is that a proper use of influence that helps improve
    people’s lives is the best way to affect — to change the image of country, and
    to defeat the propaganda.  Having said all that, a lot of people want to come to
    America.  The image may be
    bad, but give them a chance, all you who want to come to
    America, raise your hand —
    there’s a lot wanting to come.  That’s another issue, which is immigration
    reform. 

     

    But thank you
    for that.  One thing
    America must never do is
    lose our capacity to take people from all walks of life and help them become an
    American, first and foremost.  That’s what distinguishes us from other cultures
    and other nations.  You can come from wherever you are, and I can come from
    Texas, and we both share
    the same deal — we’re Americans first and foremost.  I happen to be a
    Methodist.  You’re a Sunni.  (Laughter.) 

     

    Yes,
    ma’am.

     

    Q    Mr.
    President, I would like to know why it is that you and others in your
    administration keep linking 9/11 to the invasion of
    Iraq when no respected
    journalist or Middle Eastern expert confirmed that such a link existed. 

     

    THE PRESIDENT: 
    What did she — I missed the question.  Sorry.  I didn’t — I beg your pardon, I
    didn’t hear you.  Seriously.

     

    Q    I would
    like to know why you and others in your administration invoke 9/11 as
    justification for the invasion of
    Iraq

     

    THE PRESIDENT: 
    Yes —

     

    Q    — when no
    respected journalists or other Middle Eastern experts confirm that such a link
    existed.

     

    THE PRESIDENT: 
    I appreciate that.  9/11 changed my look on foreign policy.  I mean, it said
    that oceans no longer protect us, that we can’t take threats for granted; that
    if we see a threat, we’ve got to deal with it.  It doesn’t have to be
    militarily, necessarily, but we got to deal with it.  We can’t — can’t just
    hope for the best anymore. 

     

    And so the
    first decision I made, as you know, was to — was to deal with the Taliban in
    Afghanistan because they were
    harboring terrorists.  This is where the terrorists planned and plotted.  And
    the second decision, — which was a very difficult decision for me, by the way,
    and it’s one that I — I didn’t take lightly — was that Saddam Hussein was a
    threat.  He is a declared enemy of the
    United
    States
    ; he had used weapons of mass destruction;
    the entire world thought he had weapons of mass destruction.  The United Nations
    had declared in more than 10 — I can’t remember the exact number of resolutions
    — that disclose, or disarm, or face serious consequences.  I mean, there was a
    serious international effort to say to Saddam Hussein, you’re a threat.  And the
    9/11 attacks extenuated that threat, as far as I — concerned.

     

    And so we gave
    Saddam Hussein the chance to disclose or disarm, and he refused.  And I made a
    tough decision.  And knowing what I know today, I’d make the decision again. 
    Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and
    America a safer country. 
    (Applause.)

     

    Last question. 
    I’ve actually got something to do.  (Laughter.)  You’re paying me all this
    money, I’d better get back to work.  (Laughter.) 

     

    Hold on a
    second.  Got a guy here.

     

    Q    Mr.
    President, I’m from the
    Phelps School; I’m a supporter of
    yours.

     

    THE PRESIDENT: 
    Oops, that kind of prejudices your question.  (Laughter.) 

     

    Q    Well I
    have a question for you.  Do you feel that since invading
    Iraq, the threat of
    terrorism on
    U.S. soil has been
    reduced significantly?

     

    THE PRESIDENT: 
    I think it’s been reduced; I don’t think we’re safe.  What will really give me
    confidence to say that we’re safe is when I can tell the American people we’ve
    got the capacity to know exactly where the enemy is moving.  This is a different
    kind of war.  These people hide.  They — they’re patient and they’re
    sophisticated.  And that’s why our intelligence-gathering is really
    important.

     

    You know,
    occasionally they come out and want to fight like they’re doing in
    Iraq.  This guy,
    Zarqawi, has sworn his allegiance to bin Laden.  He has — he’s declared his
    intentions.  But there’s a lot of them who lurk and hide.  And what we’ve really
    got to do is continue to hone our intelligence-gathering to make sure that we
    can, as best as possible, understand their intents and watch their movements. 
    And this requires international cooperation. 

     

    I will tell you
    the international cooperation, when it comes to sharing intelligence, is good. 
    It requires us being able to cut off their money and move money around.  They
    can’t — it turns out, they can’t launch attacks without money.  And so we’re
    doing the best we can to work with others to find out where their money is
    moving.  And that way, it will be a — give us a chance to find out where they
    are.

     

    The long run in
    this war is going to require a change of governments in parts of the world. 
    It’s — and this is why it’s very important for me to continue to remind the
    American people about what’s taking place in history.  One of my favorite
    stories is to tell people about — or go-bys — is to tell people about my
    relationship with Koizumi, Prime Minister Koizumi of
    Japan.  He’s an
    interesting guy.  He likes Elvis, for example, which is  — (laughter) —
    interesting — (laughter).  He’s a friend.  He’s also a friend when it comes to
    peace.  He’s a reliable, steady ally when it comes to dealing with
    North Korea
    North Korea is a country that
    has declared boldly they’ve got nuclear weapons, they counterfeit our money, and
    they’ve starving their people to death.  And it’s good to have an ally that
    understands human rights and the condition of the human being are vital for this
    world and world peace. 

     

    And yet, 60
    years ago, my dad fought against the Japanese — many of your relatives did, as
    well.  They were the sworn enemy of the
    United
    States
    .  I find it amazing — I don’t know if you
    find it amazing — I find it amazing that I sit down with this guy, strategizing
    about how to make the world a more peaceful place when my dad and others fought
    him. 

     

    And so what
    happened?  Now, 60 years seems like a long time, particularly if you’re 59, like
    me.  (Laughter.)  But it’s not all that long in history, when you think about
    it.  And what happened was a Japanese-style democracy emerged.  Democracies
    yield the peace.  That’s what history has shown us.  That’s what I tried to say
    in my peroration in this speech.  That’s a long word.  I’m doing it for Senator
    Specter here.  (Laughter and applause.)  Just showing off, Senator.  Just trying
    to look good in front of the folks here at home.  (Laughter.)  But it’s an
    accurate portrayal of what has happened.  Democracies yield the peace. 

     

    So the
    fundamental question is, do we have the confidence and universal values to help
    change a troubled part of the world.  If you’re a supporter of
    Israel, I would strongly
    urge you to help other countries become democracies. 
    Israel‘s long-term
    survival depends upon the spread of democracy in the
    Middle
    East
    .  I recognize people have — (applause) — I
    fully recognize that some say it’s impossible, that maybe only a certain kind of
    people can be — can accept democracy.  I just — I reject that.  I don’t agree
    with that.  I believe democracy — the desire to be free is universal.  That’s
    what I believe.  And if you believe that, then you’ve got to act on it.  That
    doesn’t mean militarily.  But that means using the influence of the
    United States to work with others
    to help — to help freedom spread. 

     

    And that’s what
    you’re seeing in
    Iraq.  And it’s hard. 
    It’s hard for a country that has come from dictatorship two-and-a-half years ago
    to become a democracy.  It is hard work.  There’s a lot of resentment and anger
    and bitterness.  But I believe it’s going to happen.  And the only way it won’t
    happen is if we leave, if we lose our nerve, if we allow the terrorists to
    achieve their objective.  The only way we can lose this is for us to say to the
    terrorists, maybe you aren’t dangerous, after all — you know, by leaving, maybe
    that you’ll become hospitable, decent citizens of the world.  That’s not
    reality.  And my job as the President is to see the world the way it is, not the
    way we hope it is.  (Applause.)

     

    I, again, want
    to thank you for giving me the chance to come and deliver this speech.  I’m
    grateful for your interest.  May God bless you all, and may God continue to
    bless
    America.  (Applause.)

     

                         END   
           
    12:14 P.M. EST

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