Mr. President, I want to address the repeated attacks toward the Bush Administration's role in Iraq. Yesterday, one critic claimed that our unilateral policy in Iraq has steadily drifted from tragedy to tragedy and made America less safe. The very mention of Iraq and the current situation there incites what I have begun to call the "liberal naysayers" to launch into steady streams of empty rhetoric against our plans in Iraq. Just this week these critics said that our troops are paying the price for flawed policy. These brazenly political claims have no basis, in fact, and serve no purpose other than to undermine the Administration in a time of war.
In liberating Iraq, we have rid the nation and the rest of the world from the danger of Saddam Hussein. 46 of the 55 of his most wanted regime members have been captured or killed. In removing this tyrant from power and undermining his regime, we have brought about increased security in a nation that at one time barely comprehended the term. Today, over 150,000 Iraqis, including 75,000 new police personnel, are protecting the Iraqi people. Recently the Iraqi Governing Council signed the Transitional Administrative Law. This unprecedented framework promises long overdue civil rights for all Iraqis. It ensures freedom of religion and worship, the right to free expression, the right to peacefully assemble, the right to be treated equally under the law, the right to stand for election and cast a ballot secretly, the right to privacy, and the right to a fair, public and speedy trial. We have removed many barriers in the Iraqi society and allowed women to finally play a role in everyday life—including the new Iraqi government.
To abandon our mission in Iraq today would undermine all we've accomplished up until now. We'd leave behind a devastating breeding ground for terrorists. More importantly, it would give the insurgents in Iraq reason to believe they've won—that they finally succeeded in driving us out and halting the process of peace. The recent surge of violence in Iraq is not indicative of failed policy—rather it is proof that terrorists see freedom arriving there—and it terrifies them. Just recently I read of that fear firsthand in a memo written by captured Al Qaeda operative Zarqawi. Concerned that the Mujahidin may lose its footing in Iraq he wrote, "There is no doubt that our field of movement is shrinking and the grip around the throat of the Mujahidin has begun to tighten. With the spread of the Army and the police, our future is becoming frightening." The very idea of freedom incites fear in the hearts of terrorists across the world. Insurgents from Syria, Libya, Iran and other countries continue to cling to the fruitless hope that their violence will force the Coalition forces out and allow the eradicated reign of terror back in. They don't just hate freedom—they fear it. These terrorist cells infiltrating Iraq know that the introduction of democracy and peace in the Middle East is only the beginning of the annihilation of terrorism worldwide.
The accomplishments are many, Mr. President, and the truth is the liberation of Iraq is just one battle in the War on Terror. The process of creating a democracy and turning the government over to an entire new governing council will take time. But we are a nation of our word. President George Bush has told the world that we would return power to the Iraqi people on June 30th, and we intend to stick to that deadline. Our desire is to restore sovereignty to the people of Iraq—and ensure peace and stability in the transfer. To abandon Iraq prior to either of those goals being accomplished would be a failed mission—and that simply is not an option.
While it is important to note the Administration's successes in Iraq, Americans should also be aware that our actions in Iraq have made us safer here in the U.S. President Bush recognized that in order to contain the growing threat of terrorism from Iraq we had to eliminate it at its source. Our president chooses to allow the war on terror to be fought in places like Kabul and Baghdad, rather than Washington and New York. As he so boldly explained just recently, his desire was not to stand idly by. He said, "I made a pledge to this country; I will not stand by and hope for the best while dangers gather. I will not take risks with the lives and security of the American people. I will protect and defend this country by taking the fight to the enemy."
Mr. President, I applaud our administration for carrying out their mission in Iraq so effectively. Our role has brought about freedom to 50 million Iraqis and Afghans and underscored America's character in keeping our word. Former Secretary of State George Shultz said it best this week when he wrote, "Above all, and in the long run, the most important aspect of the Iraq war will be what it means for the integrity of the international system and for the effort to deal effectively with terrorism. The stakes are huge and the terrorists know that as well as we do. That is the reason for their tactic of violence in Iraq. And that is why, for us and for our allies, failure is not an option. The message is that the U.S. and others in the world who recognize the need to sustain our international system will no longer quietly acquiesce in the take-over of states by lawless dictators who then carry on their depredations—including the development of awesome weapons for threats, for use for sale behind the shield of protection that statehood provides. September 11 forced us to comprehend the extent and danger of the challenge. We began to act before our enemy was able to extend and consolidate his network."
The war on terror will not easily be won—but America is up to the task, Mr. President. May God bless our brave men and women in uniform fighting for democracy and peace—and God bless this land of the free, America.