Washington, 5 February 2004 (RFE/RL) - U.S. President George W. Bush says he is confident that freedom and democracy will triumph in the Middle East.
Bush told an audience yesterday at the Library of Congress in Washington that Iraq, in effect, is a free nation now and that there are signs of democracy taking root elsewhere in the region, including in Morocco and Qatar. "For too long American policy looked away while men and women were oppressed, their rights ignored and their hopes stifled," he said. "That era is over, and we can be confident -- as in Germany, and Japan, and Eastern Europe -- liberty will overcome oppression in the Middle East."
The president said an unstable and undemocratic Middle East is against America's national interest because it would be a magnet for terrorism. "As long as that region [the Middle East] is a place of tyranny and despair and anger, it will produce men and movements that threaten the safety of Americans and our friends. We seek the advance of democracy for the most practical of reasons, because democracies do not support terrorists or threaten the world," Bush said.
To help promote democracy in the Arab world, Bush said a new TV network dubbed "The Free One" in Arabic will begin broadcasting next week across the Middle East. He said the network will show news, movies, sports, and entertainment programming. "Freedom of the press and the free flow of ideas are vital foundations of liberty," he said. "To cut through the hateful propaganda that fills the airwaves in the Muslim world and to promote open debate, we are broadcasting the message of tolerance and truth in Arabic and Persian to tens of millions."
Concerning the war on terror, Bush said the United States and its allies are facing a ruthless enemy, which he said includes stateless terrorists. He said the terrorists are the successors to the murderous ideologies of the 20th century, referring to fascism and communism.
In his speech Bush praised British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his closest Iraq war ally. He likened Blair to the prime minister's World War II predecessor, Winston Churchill, who recognized early the dangers of both fascism and communism.
Days after he and Blair agreed to open independent probes into gaps between their prewar claims about Iraqi arms and postwar findings, Bush suggested that the United States and Britain would be vindicated by future generations for going to war against Saddam Hussein's regime.