- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

President Bush said yesterday that Iraqis “are making inspiring progress toward building a democracy,” but warned Americans that terrorists will fight to the death to establish a foothold in Iraq for a radical Islamic empire.

“By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress, from tyranny to liberation to national elections to the ratification of a constitution in the space of 2 years,” the president said in a speech before the Joint Armed Forces Officers’ Wives’ Luncheon at Bolling Air Force Base.

With the U.S. troop death toll reaching 2,000 yesterday, Mr. Bush told the spouses of men and women serving in Iraq that their loved ones are making worthy sacrifices.

“We’ve lost some of our nation’s finest men and women in the war on terror,” he said. “Each of these patriots left a legacy that will allow generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty.”

The head of the Democratic Party criticized Mr. Bush for not mentioning the death of the 2,000th U.S. soldier, which was not announced by the U.S. Army until after the morning speech.

“Today, our nation marks one of the saddest days of the war in Iraq, the loss of the 2,000th American soldier there,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

“Sadly, in delivering yet another speech about the war in Iraq that lacked a clear plan for victory, President Bush failed to mention the tragic milestone we mark today. This is not the type of leadership that the brave men and women serving in Iraq and their loved ones here at home expect or deserve from the commander in chief.”

Mr. Bush said the sacrifice of U.S. troops allowed Iraqis to vote on a constitution that guarantees fundamental freedoms and lays the foundation for lasting democracy.

“Some observers question the durability of democracy in Iraq. They underestimate the power and appeal of freedom. We’ve heard it suggested Iraq’s democracy must be on shaky ground because Iraqis are arguing with each other,” he said to laughter from the crowd.

“That’s the essence of democracy. You make your case; you debate those who disagree with you; you build consensus by persuasion; and you answer to the will of the people.”



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