Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Mr. Bush's speech

President Bush gave a speech yesterday at the National Defense university. You can (and should!) read it in full. It was a wide-ranging speech, but here are a few points I thought were particularly well made. First, on Lebanon:

And any who doubt the appeal of freedom in the Middle East can look to Lebanon, where the Lebanese people are demanding a free and independent nation. In the words of one Lebanese observer, "Democracy is knocking at the door of this country and, if it's successful in Lebanon, it is going to ring the doors of every Arab regime."

Across the Middle East, a critical mass of events is taking that region in a hopeful new direction. Historic changes have many causes, yet these changes have one factor in common. A businessman in Beirut recently said, "We have removed the mask of fear. We're not afraid anymore." Pervasive fear is the foundation of every dictatorial regime — the prop that holds up all power not based on consent. And when the regime of fear is broken, and the people find their courage and find their voice, democracy is their goal, and tyrants, themselves, have reason to fear.

History is moving quickly, and leaders in the Middle East have important choices to make. The world community, including Russia and Germany and France and Saudi Arabia and the United States has presented the Syrian government with one of those choices — to end its nearly 30-year occupation of Lebanon, or become even more isolated from the world. The Lebanese people have heard the speech by the Syrian president. They've seen these delaying tactics and half-measures before. The time has come for Syria to fully implement Security Council Resolution 1559. All Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel must withdraw before the Lebanese elections, for those elections to be free and fair.

The elections in Lebanon must be fully and carefully monitored by international observers. The Lebanese people have the right to determine their future, free from domination by a foreign power. The Lebanese people have the right to choose their own parliament this spring, free of intimidation. And that new government will have the help of the international community in building sound political, economic, and military institutions, so the great nation of Lebanon can move forward in security and freedom.

Today I have a message for the people of Lebanon: All the world is witnessing your great movement of conscience. Lebanon's future belongs in your hands, and by your courage, Lebanon's future will be in your hands. The American people are on your side. Millions across the earth are on your side. The momentum of freedom is on your side, and freedom will prevail in Lebanon.

On the prospects for a real peace between Israel and the Palestinians:

The bombing in Tel Aviv is a reminder that the fight against terrorists is critical to the search for peace and for Palestinian statehood. In an interview last week, Palestinian President Abbas strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, declaring, "Ending violence and security chaos is first and foremost a Palestinian interest." He went on to say, "We cannot build the foundations of a state without the rule of law and public order."

President Abbas is correct. And so the United States will help the Palestinian Authority build the security services that current peace and future statehood require: security forces which are effective, responsive to civilian control, and dedicated to fighting terror and upholding the rule of law. We will coordinate with the government of Israel, with neighbors such as Egypt and Jordan, and with other donors to ensure that Palestinians get the training and equipment they need. The United States is determined to help the parties remove obstacles to progress and move forward in practical ways, so we can seize this moment for peace in the Holy Land.

On Iraq's future:

Iraq's democracy, in the long run, must also be defended by Iraqis, themselves. Our goal is to help Iraqi security forces move toward self-reliance, and they are making daily progress. Iraqi forces were the main providers of security at about 5,000 polling places in the January elections. Our coalition is providing equipment and training to the new Iraqi military, yet they bring a spirit all of their own.

Last month, when soldiers of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment were on combat patrol north of Baghdad, one of their Humvees fell into a canal, and Iraqi troops came to their rescue — plunging into the water again and again, until the last American was recovered. The Army colonel in charge of the unit said, "When I saw those Iraqis in the water, fighting to save their American brothers, I saw a glimpse of the future of this country." One of the Iraqi soldiers commented, "These people have come a hundred — 10,000 miles to help my country. They've left their families and their children. If we can give them something back, just a little, we can show our thanks." America is proud to defend freedom in Iraq, and proud to stand with the brave Iraqis as they defend their own freedom.

I watched a video of the speech; not only was it well-written, it was delivered with great skill. I think Mr. Bush's communications skills have been misunderestimated...

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