By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
June 19, 2007 – The establishment of a democratic Iraq will benefit freedom-loving people across the Middle East and around the world, President Bush told reporters today at a White House news conference. "I'm committed to helping the Iraqis succeed with a democracy," Bush told reporters with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at his side.
A democratic Iraq also is "in the interest of the Middle East," the president pointed out, noting extremists there and worldwide would be buoyed by the failure of Iraq's new government.
Establishing a free society in Iraq represents "the great challenge of our time," Bush said, while acknowledging "there will be forward movement and there will be setbacks" as U.S., coalition and Iraqi government forces continue to battle insurgents in Iraq.
Extremists have attacked democratic governments in Iraq and Lebanon, and they're also working to thwart a potential Palestinian democracy, Bush pointed out.
Bush expressed optimism that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a politically moderate Arab also known as Abu Mazen, and Olmert would work together to forge peaceful ties between the Palestinian and Israeli people.
Abbas "is a voice that is a reasonable voice against the extremists in your neighborhood," Bush told Olmert at the news conference. Dangerous extremists operating in the area include the terror group Hamas, which is sworn to destroy Israel. Abbas' party, Fatah, lost influence and Hamas gained power in Palestinian legislative elections held last year.
The enmity between Abbas and Hamas represents "an ideological struggle," Bush noted. The United States recognizes Abbas as the legitimately elected president of Palestine, Bush pointed out, while Hamas is "a group of radicals and extremists who are willing to use violence, unspeakable violence sometimes, to achieve a political objective."
Abbas represents an alternative vision that's opposed to violence as exemplified by Hamas' actions, Bush said, noting that peace-loving nations should combine forces to thwart such terrorist organizations.
"That's precisely what we're doing in Iraq. We strongly believe it's in the world's interest to support this young democracy," Bush said.
Al Qaeda terrorists "killed nearly 3,000 of our people here in the United States," the president recalled, noting that terror group is now conducting major car bomb attacks and other "unspeakable violence" in Iraq.
Leaving Iraq to the terrorists would provide them with a safe haven, Bush said, while demoralizing the world's democracies.
Defeating terrorism represents "the calling of our time," Bush said, noting today's responsible world leaders must demonstrate and provide the determination, willpower and vision necessary to triumph over terrorism's dark philosophy of violence.
"And, I believe we do," Bush concluded.