President Bush: American Democracy, Iraq's Struggle - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/12/05-Philadelphia, PA

President Bush: American Democracy, Iraq's Struggle

President Bush, speaking Monday in the cradle of American democracy, compared Iraq's struggle to the plight of America's founders and praised the war-torn nation about to hold its third election this year.

"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," Bush told the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, which bills itself as a nonpartisan organization dedicated to educating the public on important national and international issues.

The birth of democracy is never easy, Bush said.

"No nation in history has made the transition to a free society without facing challenges, setbacks and false starts," he said.

Bush also sought to assure a skeptical public that the burgeoning political process in Iraq would lead to better lives for Iraqis and Americans.

"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," he said.

The president said through democracy in Iraq that the United States would also gain an ally in the war on terror and inspire democratic reformers in the Middle East. This would bring "hope to a troubled region," Bush said, making Americans safer.

The speech is the third in a series of addresses in advance of Thursday's elections in Iraq, that is meant to increase American support for the war there.

About 15 million Iraqis are eligible to vote on a permanent 275-member National Assembly, an election that U.S. officials have said marks another important step on the path to democracy in Iraq.

"The Iraqi people are stepping forward to claim their victory, and they will have it," Bush said.

U.S. officials are hoping for a high voter turnout in Iraq, especially among Sunni Arabs, a minority that enjoyed great power during Saddam Hussein's reign. Sunnis largely boycotted the January election for a transitional National Assembly.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told CNN that "Sunnis seem to be developing confidence in the political process. They believe that their grievances can be dealt with politically."

Khalilzad add that having Sunnis involved in the government could result in "isolating the terrorists," many of whom are Sunnis, and lead to a reduction in violence in Iraq.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have increasingly said that the insurgency will not be defeated militarily, but through political means.

The address also comes as debate continues over the number of U.S. troops that should be withdrawn after the election.

Rep. John Murtha, a 17-term Democrat from Pennsylvania, sparked the debate last month with his passionate call for a redeployment of forces that would bring most troops immediately home and position others outside of Iraq.

Murtha has scheduled a news conference Monday afternoon in which he is expected to again say that U.S. troops are causing more problems than they are solving.

"Every day we're there, we inadvertently kill people," he told "Face the Nation" on Sunday, adding that doing so has made the United States the enemy.

Murtha also made a reference to the difficulty in the early American democracy, but said Iraqis should stabilize their country without further U.S. help.

"I read a book by David McCullough, '1776,' " he said. "You know, France helped us win the war. They didn't stay there after we won the war and try to tell us how to run the government.

"And we're not going to be able to run the government in Iraq. They're going to have to do this themselves."

Last week, Bush touted U.S. successes in helping Iraq improve its economy and infrastructure. The president focused on reconstruction efforts, saying U.S. strategy has shifted from large projects to smaller jobs that can be completed quickly, such as sewer lines and city roads.

Bush made his speech to members of the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank whose members include influential Democrats critical of the administration's handling of the Iraq war.

"In two and a half years, the Iraqi people have made amazing progress," the president said. "They've gone from living under the boot of a brutal tyrant to liberation, to free elections, to a democratic constitution."

Bush conceded reconstruction "has not always gone as well as we had hoped," but he vowed the United States would not abandon Iraq until "complete victory" is accomplished.

In his first speech on November 30, Bush praised Iraqi security forces and said that U.S. troops would leave Iraq, not on a specific timetable, but when Iraqis were able to take the lead in defense operations.

On Wednesday, Bush will deliver the final Iraq speech in Washington, the day before most Iraqis head to the polls.

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