These are excerpts from President Bush's remarks on the Middle East at the University of South Carolina, as distributed on the White House Web site.
FORTY-SIX YEARS AGO, Sen. John F. Kennedy came to this campus to address the graduating class of 1957. He spoke of the great problems of that time, including, he said, "untangling the strife-ridden, hate-ridden Middle East." In the decades since, that strife and hate sometimes seem like a distant tragedy, having little to do with America.
After September the 11th, 2001, your generation and our whole country knows better. In an age of global terror and weapons of mass destruction, what happens in the Middle East greatly matters to America. The bitterness of that region can bring violence and suffering to our own cities. The advance of freedom and peace in the Middle East would drain this bitterness and increase our own security.
THE COMBINED GDP of all Arab countries is smaller than that of Spain. Their peoples have less access to the Internet than the people of sub-Saharan Africa. The Arab world has a great cultural tradition, but it is largely missing out on the economic progress of our time. Across the globe, free markets and trade have helped defeat poverty, and taught men and women the habits of liberty. So I propose the establishment of a U.S.-Middle East free trade area within a decade, to bring the Middle East into an expanding circle of opportunity, to provide hope for the people who live in that region.
We will work with our partners to ensure that small and midsized businesses have access to capital, and support efforts in the region to develop central laws on property rights and good business practices. By replacing corruption and self-dealing with free markets and fair laws, the people of the Middle East will grow in prosperity and freedom.
Making the most of economic opportunities will require broader and better education, especially among women who have faced the greatest disadvantages. We will work to improve literacy among girls and women, building on similar efforts in Afghanistan, and Morocco and Yemen. We'll provide resources for the translation of early reading books into Arabic and donate those books to primary schools in the region.
And, ultimately, both economic success and human dignity depend on the rule of law and honest administration of justice. So America will sponsor, with the government of Bahrain, a regional forum to discuss judicial reforms. And I'm pleased that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has agreed to lead this effort.
As trade expands and knowledge spreads to the Middle East, as women gain a place of equality and respect, as the rule of law takes hold, all peoples of that region will see a new day of justice and a new day of prosperity.
For generations, one of the most tragic problems in the Middle East has been the conflict in the Holy Land. Yet, now, with a liberated Iraq, with new leadership for the Palestinian people, with efforts of leaders like [Egyptian] President [Hosni] Mubarak and Crown Prince Abdullah [of Saudi Arabia], the hope of peace is renewed.
If the Palestinian people take concrete steps to crack down on terror, continue on a path of peace, reform and democracy, they and all the world will see the flag of Palestine raised over a free and independent nation.
All sides of this conflict have duties. Israel must take tangible steps now to ease the suffering of Palestinians and to show respect for their dignity. And as progress is made toward peace, Israel must stop settlement activity in the occupied territories. Arab nations must fight terror in all forms, and recognize and state the obvious once and for all: Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors.
The way forward in the Middle East is not a mystery, it is a matter of will and vision and action. The way forward depends on serving the interests of the living, instead of settling the accounts of the past.
To seize this moment, I am sending Secretary Powell to the Middle East, to call all the parties to their responsibilities. Secretary Powell leaves on this mission tonight. He carries with him my personal commitment: America will work without tiring to achieve two states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side in security and prosperity and in peace.
Los Angeles Times