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8/29/03 - THE MISSION IN IRAQ - 2003-08-29

In Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition removed a regime that sponsored terror and persecuted the country’s own people. Now, said President George W. Bush, Iraq is “a point of testing in the war on terror”:

“The remnants of Saddam’s regime are still dangerous, and terrorists are gathering in Iraq to undermine the advance of freedom. Al-Qaida and the other global terror networks recognize that the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s regime is a defeat for them. They know that a democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East would be a further defeat for their ideology of terror.”

The terrorism in Iraq includes a bombing on August 29th that killed scores of people at a Najaf mosque that is considered one of Islam’s most sacred places. The victims included Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir Hakim, who had just delivered a sermon at the mosque. Terrorists have also killed many other Iraqis as well as coalition forces and United Nations personnel from many countries. And they have sabotaged water mains and oil pipelines. “They have declared war on the entire civilized world,” says President Bush, “and the civilized world will not be intimidated”:

“Retreat in the face of terror would only invite further and bolder attacks. There will be no retreat. We are on the offensive against the Saddam loyalists, the foreign fighters, and the criminal gangs that are attacking Iraqis and coalition forces.”

The coalition has detained more than eleven-hundred members of Saddam’s regime and suspected terrorists. They include more than forty of Iraq’s fifty-five most wanted ex-leaders.

Ultimately, said President Bush, Iraq will be made secure by the Iraqi people themselves:

“They must reject terror, and they must join in their defense. And they’re stepping forward. More than thirty-eight-thousand Iraqis have been hired as police officers. Iraqi police and border guards and security forces are increasingly taking on critical duties.”

At the same time, twenty-nine countries have already contributed twenty-four-thousand soldiers to build security in Iraq. They know, said President Bush, that “Iraq’s progress toward self-determination and democracy brings hope to other oppressed people in the region and throughout the world. It is the rise of democracy that tyrants fear and terrorists seek to undermine.”