President George W. Bush says the Iraqi people have taken another major step towards building a democratic Iraq:
". . . seven hundred and fifty Iraqi citizens completed their military training and became the first battalion of the new Iraqi army. For decades, Iraq's army served the interests of a dictator. Today, a new army is serving the Iraqi people. And less than a year from now, Iraq will have a forty-thousand-member military force, trained and dedicated to protecting their fellow citizens."
Soldiers in the new battalion join more than eighty-thousand other Iraqis serving as police officers, civil defense troops, border guards, and security forces. The U.S. and its coalition allies are helping to train and equip Iraq's new military and police forces. President Bush says the Iraqi people are already seeing a change for the better:
"For three decades, the police in Iraq were the feared enforcers of a dictatorship. Now Iraq's new police are enforcing the just laws of an emerging democracy. . . . We're on the offensive against the desperate holdouts and Saddam loyalists who oppose progress in Iraq. The free nation we are helping to build will be free of them."
Iraqi police are working with coalition forces to arrest terrorists and violent criminals. A judicial system is being established that will deal out fair and effective justice and protect the newly-won civil liberties of the Iraqi people. To aid the Iraqi people in this and help meet their security needs, the U.S. will provide some five-billion dollars. President Bush says security is vital to Iraq's development: "Greater security is essential to Iraq's future. A secure Iraq will protect the nation's schools, and the hospitals that are opening, and the roads that are being built, and the water and power facilities we are repairing."
The transition from dictatorship to self-government is a complex and difficult process, but the Iraqi people are making it. President Bush says that the U.S., for its part, "will keep our promise to fully return Iraq's government to Iraq's people as soon as possible."