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7/24/03 - CAPTIVE NATIONS WEEK - 2003-07-24

President George W. Bush has proclaimed July 20th through July 26th as Captive Nations Week. The U.S. Congress first established Captive Nations Week in July 1959 as a statement against the domination of countries in Eastern Europe and elsewhere by Communist regimes. Today, Captive Nations Week continues to be an occasion for Americans to express their dedication to freedom and democracy around the world.

As President Bush said earlier this month when the U.S. celebrated its own freedom, “The Declaration of Independence holds a promise for all mankind”:

“Because Americans believe that freedom is an unalienable right, we value the freedom of every nation. Because we are committed to the God-given worth of every life, we work for human dignity in every land. We protect our friends and raise up our former enemies to be our friends."

In many countries, including the former Communist regimes of Eastern Europe, the principles of freedom and democracy are increasingly upheld. But as President Bush pointed out in his Captive Nations Week proclamation, “millions of people still live under regimes that violate their citizens’ rights daily. In countries such as Burma and Iran, citizens lack the right to choose their government, speak out against oppression, and practice their religion freely.”

In Cuba, said Mr. Bush, the despotic regime “imprisons political opponents and crushes peaceful opposition, while in North Korea hundreds of thousands languish in prison camps and citizens suffer from malnutrition as the regime pursues weapons of mass destruction. Violence, corruption, and mismanagement reign in Zimbabwe, and an authoritarian government in Belarus smothers political dissent.”

Yet the cause of freedom is advancing. “With the demise of the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein,” said Mr. Bush, “the Iraqi people are no longer captives in their own country. Their freedom is evidence of the fall of one of the most oppressive dictators in history.”

As President Bush said, “With America’s active involvement in the world, tyrants have learned to fear, and terrorists are on the run.”