Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, March 31, 2006

President Bush Religious Freedom Address
March 29, 2006

Washington D.C – President George W. Bush spoke about religious freedom and Iraq at a Freedom House address Wednesday. Guests included members of Congress and members of the human rights community, including the Leadership Council for Human Rights.

President Bush discussed Saddam Hussein´s efforts to sow deep divisions between different religious sects that had once co-existed in harmony. He spoke about Hussein’s genocidal rampage against the Kurdish people, and also about Shiites whose mosques burned down by the regime. The President described the regime’s well-documented attacks on Kurdish cities using chemical weapons such as mustard gas. In the aftermath, Hussein gave Sunnis control over the land from which the Kurds had fled.

The President stated that Hussein’s regime is still affecting the situation in Iraq today. He said that the wounds of the people, including chasms the former dictator created between religious sects, explain why these factions are struggling to form a cohesive democratic government.

“It is going to take time for Iraq to heal,” President Bush said, adding, “Democracy is the only way to peace.” Democracy will lead to freedom and when Iraq has achieved that, Iraqis will rule the region, Bush said.

The President spoke passionately about the current conditions in Iraq, maintaining his position, “If we leave, the terrorists will win.” He drew parallels between Iraq and Afghanistan, saying, “If we leave before the work is done the terrorists will move in and then they will go against all the freedom-loving countries.” Bush said that the United States will keep its promise and finish the work it started, completing its mission in Iraq because of the threat against that nation. He said that only time would tell how long the process might take, and encouraged the Iraqi people to stand up and defend democracy.

During an extended period of Q&A, the President answered questions on a wide range of topics, from the war in Iraq to environmental concerns and also questions regarding refugees in the United States.



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