- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

President Bush used his Veterans Day address to note that today’s generation is winning the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, and saluted the “hidden heroes of a peaceful nation” who are continuing America’s mission to spread freedom throughout the world.

“Some of tomorrow’s veterans are in combat now in Iraq,” Mr. Bush said yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery, where he laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns. “They have a clear mission to defeat the terrorists and aid the rise of a free government that can defend itself.

“They are performing that mission with skill and with honor. They are making us proud,” he said. “They are winning.”

As Mr. Bush was speaking under a sunny sky, U.S. Marines and soldiers were opening what was hoped to be a second and decisive phase in an operation to clear Fallujah of foreign fighters and terrorists that represent crucial resistance to a new democratic Iraqi government.

Roughly 1,400 U.S. troops have died in the nearly two years of military operations that toppled Saddam Hussein and are working to secure the country for the first free elections in its history in January. The battle in Fallujah has claimed 18 U.S. troops, but an estimated 600 insurgents.

In a short, somber address, Mr. Bush paid tribute to the few surviving “doughboys” from World War I to those who have served around the world since the September 11 attacks.

“Some of our veterans are young men and women with recent memories of battle in mountains and in deserts,” Mr. Bush said. “In Afghanistan, these brave Americans helped sweep away a vicious tyranny allied with terror, and prepared the way for a free people to elect its own leaders.

“In Iraq, our men and women fought a ruthless enemy of America, setting the people free from a tyrant, who now sits in a prison cell,” he said to applause.

Mr. Bush’s insistence that the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan are part of the same global war on terror has been met with resistance and skepticism, especially from Democrats, but the president yesterday tied those conflicts with the wars of generations past.

“All who have served in this cause are liberators in the best tradition of America,” he said in a cemetery that is the final resting place of roughly 260,000 Americans. “Their actions have made our nation safer in a world full of new dangers. Their actions have also upheld the ideals of America’s founding, which defines us still.”

Spilling American blood for the cause of freedom around the world helped secure the United States in the past, and will do so in the future, he said.

“Our nation values freedom, not just for ourselves but for all,” Mr. Bush said. “And because Americans are willing to serve and sacrifice for this cause, our nation remains the greatest force for good among all the nations on the Earth.”

Among the few world leaders who share Mr. Bush’s philosophy is British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who arrived in Washington last night to meet with the president.

Mr. Blair is expected to reiterate Britain’s full support of the war in Iraq at a White House press conference tomorrow, as he has in the face of withering criticism in his Parliament for months.

The death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat early yesterday offers an opportunity for Mr. Blair to press Mr. Bush to become more actively involved in brokering a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

The president did not once invite Mr. Arafat to the White House, insisting that the Palestinians select a leader “not compromised by terrorism.” Mr. Bush is the first president to advocate an independent Palestinian state, but says it must be at peace with Israel and dedicated to democracy.

Mr. Blair has been under more pressure to help solve the problem over the years than Mr. Bush, who has contended that the spread of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately — if gradually — lead to peace in the Middle East.

The president has tried to gain international support for his ambitious democracy-spreading Middle East initiative, and likely will press Mr. Blair to help him promote it.

Mr. Blair, in turn, hopes to get the president’s blessing for an Israeli-Palestinian summit in London early next year. White House sources would not comment on that proposal, saying they wanted to let the president announce any decision.

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