President Bush gave a brilliant speech at Fort Campbell, Kentucky for members of the 101st Infantry and other soldiers returning from service in Iraq. It didn’t receive much coverage, but it was an excellent speech nevertheless. A selection:
Because America and our allies acted, one of the most evil, brutal regimes in history is gone forever. The dictator of Iraq committed many atrocities and he had many more in mind. This was a regime that tortured children in front of their parents. This was a regime that used chemical weapons against whole villages. This was a country in which millions of people lived in fear, and many thousands disappeared into mass graves. That was the life in Iraq for more than a generation, until the Americans arrived. Because America and our allies acted, a state sponsor of terror was put out of business. The Iraqi regime gave cash rewards to the families of suicide bombers and sheltered terrorist groups. But all that’s over. When Saddam Hussein went down, the terrorists lost an ally forever. Because America and our allies acted, an aggressive threat to the security of the Middle East and to the peace of the world is now gone.
September the 11th, 2001 taught a lesson I will never forget. America must confront threats before they fully materialize. In Iraq, my administration looked at the intelligence information, and we saw a threat. Members of Congress looked at the intelligence, and they saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence, and it saw a threat. I had a choice to make, either take the word of a madman, or take such threats seriously and defend America. Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.
Because America and our allies acted, it is clear to everyone, when America makes a pledge, we keep our word. By speaking clearly, by speaking consistently, and by meaning what we say, it is more likely the world will be more peaceful. Because America and our allies acted, all the world is now seeing democracy rising in the heart of the Middle East. A year ago, Iraq was ruled by the whims of one cruel man. Today, Iraq has a new interim law that guarantees basic rights for all: freedom of religion, the right to cast a secret ballot, and equality under the law. And these historic changes are sending a message across the region from Damascus to Tehran: Freedom is the future of every nation.
Indeed, had we not stood for freedom a year ago, who knows what the world would look like. All democracies have the obligation to support and spread freedom and democracy to all points of the world. These values are not Western values, they are innate to the human spirit. Unless we are willing to defend them to the uttermost, we risk not only our own safety, but the opportunity to leave the next generation with a safer and more peaceful world.