August 22, 2005


President Honors Veterans of Foreign Wars at National Convention (George W. Bush, Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, 8/22/05)

In the long run, victory in the war on terror requires changing the conditions that give rise to violence and extremism. So the third part of our strategy in the war on terror is to spread the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East. Free societies are peaceful societies. By standing with those who stand for their liberty, we will lay the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren.

As we work to spread freedom in the Middle East we have cause for optimism. The rise of liberty in Iraq is part of a wider movement in the region. The tide of freedom ebbs and flows, but it is moving in a clear direction, and freedom's tide is rising in the broader Middle East.

In Afghanistan, men and women have formed a free government after suffering one of the most brutal tyrannies on Earth. America is proud to call Afghanistan an ally in the war on terror. In Lebanon, people took to the streets to demand their sovereignty. They have now gone to the polls and voted in free elections. As freedom takes root in these countries it is inspiring democratic reformers in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Across the region, a new generation desires to be free, and they will have it. And the world will be more peaceful because of it. (Applause.)

In the heart of the Middle East a hopeful story is unfolding. After decades of shattered promises and stolen lives, peace is within reach in the Holy Land. The Palestinian people have expressed their desire for sovereignty and peace in free and fair elections. President Abbas has rejected violence and taken steps toward democratic reform. This past week, Prime Minister Sharon and the Israeli people took a courageous and painful step by beginning to remove settlements in Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank. The Israeli disengagement is an historic step that reflects the bold leadership of Prime Minister Sharon.

Both Israelis and Palestinians have elected governments committed to peace and progress, and the way forward is clear. We're working for a return to the road map. We're helping the Palestinians to prepare for self-government and to defeat terrorists who attack Israel, and terrorists who oppose the establishment of a peaceful Palestinian state. We're providing $50 million in direct assistance to the Palestinians for new housing and infrastructure projects in Gaza. We remain fully committed to defending the security and well-being of our friend and ally, Israel, and we demand an end to terrorism and violence in every form, because we know that progress toward peace depends on an end to terror.

We'll continue working for the day when the map of the Middle East shows two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security. (Applause.)

As more nations replace tyranny with liberty and replace hatred with hope, America will be more secure. Our nation has accepted a mission, and we're moving forward with resolve. Spreading freedom is the work of generations, and no one knows it better than you. Freedom has contended with hateful ideologies before. We defeated fascism; we defeated communism; and we will defeat the hateful ideology of the terrorists who attacked America. (Applause.)

Each of these struggles for freedom required great sacrifice. From the beaches of Normandy to the snows of Korea, courageous Americans gave their lives so others could live in freedom. Since the morning of September the 11th, we have known that the war on terror would require great sacrifice, as well. We have lost 1,864 members of our Armed Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 223 in Operation Enduring Freedom. Each of these men and women left grieving families and loved ones back home. Each of these heroes left a legacy that will allow generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty. And each of these Americans have brought the hope of freedom to millions who have not known it. We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for. We will honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive against the terrorists, and building strong allies in Afghanistan and Iraq that will help us win and fight -- fight and win the war on terror. (Applause.)

As veterans of foreign wars, you know that the rise of liberty is critical to our national security. You understand the power of freedom because you've witnessed it with your own eyes. In a single lifetime, many of you have seen liberty spread from Germany and Japan to Eastern Europe, to Latin America, to Southeast Asia and Africa and beyond. You've seen that democracies do not fight each other, and that liberation leads to peace. With your courage and commitment to freedom, you have lifted lives of millions around the globe, and you made this country and our world more secure.

The generation of men and women who defend our freedom today is taking its rightful place among the heroes of our nation's history. Once again, America has found patriots who are selfless and tireless and unrelenting in the face of danger. Once again, the American people have been steadfast and determined not to lose our nerve. And once again, we have confidence in our cause, because we know that freedom is the future of every nation, and that the side of freedom is the side of victory.

I want to thank you for the example you have set for all who wear our nation's uniform. I want to thank you for your bravery and your decency. May God bless this nation's veterans, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

The correspondent on NPR said that it was one of bthe few times the President has mentioned specific casualty numbers. Perhaps he did so, before this audience, because that's less guys than were killed on just D-Day? Ask them if their war wasn't worth it because mothers lost sons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 22, 2005 8:58 PM

A very nice above-the-fray response to the whole Sheehan circus.

Posted by: Jorge Curioso at August 22, 2005 11:11 PM

1400 men went down when HMS Hood exploded. That's just given for perspective. We're a few hundred over that mark after almost four years of war and the liberation of two countries.

Posted by: Mikey at August 23, 2005 9:43 AM

I was reading a book about D-Day and I recall that Allied bombers mistakenly dropped bombs a couple of weeks after D-Day in which over 600 U.S. troops (including a lt. general) were killed. This all happened in a couple of minutes.

My point? We have a multi-front war that is approaching its fourth year and have sustained relatively low numbers of troops KIA. Although I don't like us losing good men, it is really remarkable how low the numbers are in comparison to other conflicts the U.S. has been involved in.

Posted by: pchuck at August 23, 2005 10:17 PM