Democracy must work abroad to protect America, Bush says

Veterans Day speeches praise the courage of U.S. soldiers through the years

November 12, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - President Bush said yesterday that the grand experiment of democracy must succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan, not just for the sake of the people in those countries but to protect the national security of the United States.

"Our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear to our service members - and clear to our enemies," Bush said in a speech before the Heritage Foundation.

Marking Veterans Day by praising the valor of American fighting men and women across the years, Bush said the people serving in Afghanistan and Iraq today are helping "democracy, peace and justice rise in a violent and troubled region."

But as Bush spoke, there were new signs of how difficult the campaign in Iraq may ultimately be. In southern Iraq, an explosion killed at least six civilians yesterday. And Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, commander of the coalition ground forces, warned at a news briefing in Baghdad that more attacks on U.S. and British troops are certain. "We're going to take attacks from fundamentalists and other terrorists," he said.

In his speech to the Heritage Foundation, Bush said that in fighting thousands of miles from home, U.S. soldiers are helping to ensure "that we don't face those enemies in the heart of America."

If the grand experiment with democracy should fail, Bush asserted, "more attacks on America would surely follow."

In declaring that the United States has "an unbreakable commitment" in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush described the mission as both altruistic and eminently sensible. If representative government does take root in those two distant countries, he said, it will be good for the United States as well because "terror is not the tool of the free."

The president got a friendly reception before the Heritage Foundation, which describes itself as a research institute "whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."

In the Baghdad news briefing, Sanchez insisted that, despite the inevitable bloodshed and hardships, great progress is being made. And he vigorously rejected any comparison to an earlier war, telling a questioner, "It's not Vietnam, and there's no way that you can make the comparison to the quagmire of Vietnam."

Bush's argument that democracy must take root in the two countries not just for the sake of their peoples but for the long-range security of the United States is one he has been advancing repeatedly in recent weeks.

He laid out his companion argument, that the war in Iraq is an integral part of the worldwide campaign against terrorism, at an earlier ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery.

"At this hour, many thousands are following their duty, at great risk," Bush told the cemetery audience on a damp, gray morning. "One young man serving in Iraq recently said this: `We in the military signed up and pledged to protect this great country of ours from enemies foreign and domestic. We are fighting,' he said, `so that the next generation might never have to experience anything like Sept. 11, 2001.'"

Describing the United States as "a nation at war," Bush said: "Young Americans have died in liberating Iraq and Afghanistan. They've died in securing freedom in those countries. The loss is terrible; it is borne especially by the families left behind. But in their hurt and in their loneliness, I want these families to know your loved ones served in a good and just cause."

Bush recalled an earlier generation, their ranks almost gone now. "On Veterans Day 2003, it is still possible to thank in person almost 200 Americans who were in uniform when the guns of World War I went silent 85 years from today," he said. "All the men who served when Woodrow Wilson was the commander in chief are now more than a hundred years old, and they can know that America is still proud of them."

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