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6/14/04 - DEMOCRACY AND MORALITY - 2004-06-14

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said recently that “liberal democracy. . .is devoid of morality” and is “the source of all human torment and suffering.” Around the world, hundreds of millions of people disagree strongly with this characterization of democracy -- including millions of Iranians. They are more inclined to the view of America’s former President Ronald Reagan, who died this month. President Reagan referred to democracy as “the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.”

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Reagan emphasized the universal right to liberty and democracy, and the need for, in his words, “free people. . .not only to remain so, but to help others gain their freedom.” He played a pivotal role in the collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War. In a proclamation, President George W. Bush said that “through his courage and determination, [Ronald Reagan] enhanced America's security and advanced the spread of peace, liberty, and democracy to millions of people who had lived in darkness and oppression.”

Supporting the spread of democracy is also crucial today, says President Bush. The global war on terrorism “resembles the great clashes of the last century”:

“Between those who put their trust in tyrants, and those who put their trust in liberty, our goal, the goal of this generation, is the same: We will secure our nation and defend the peace through the forward march of freedom.”

Since September 11th, 2001, Mr. Bush says, terrorist violence has been seen in an arc stretching around the world. But the “center of the conflict. . .is the broader Middle East”:

“If that region is abandoned to dictators and terrorists, it will be a constant source of violence and alarm. . . . If that region grows in democracy and prosperity and hope, the terrorist movement will lose its sponsors, lose its recruits, and lose the festering grievances that keep terrorists in business.”

Defeating terrorism and supporting the spread of democracy in the Middle East require perseverance. But says President Bush, “our confidence comes from one unshakeable belief: We believe, in Ronald Reagan's words, that 'the future belongs to the free.'”