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THE WORLD | EXCERPTS FROM BUSH SPEECH

'Liberty, if Not Defended, Can Be Lost'

November 07, 2003

WE'VE WITNESSED, in little over a generation, the swiftest advance of freedom in the 2,500-year story of democracy.... It is no accident that the rise of so many democracies took place in a time when the world's most influential nation was itself a democracy.

Historians in the future will reflect on an extraordinary, undeniable fact: Over time, free nations grow stronger and dictatorships grow weaker....

Liberty is both the plan of heaven for humanity and the best hope for progress here on Earth.

The progress of liberty is a powerful trend. Yet, we also know that liberty, if not defended, can be lost.... And now we must apply that lesson in our own time. We've reached another great turning point -- and the resolve we show will shape the next stage of the world democratic movement....

OUR COMMITMENT to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come....

It should be clear to all that Islam -- the faith of one-fifth of humanity -- is consistent with democratic rule. Democratic progress is found in many predominantly Muslim countries -- in Turkey and Indonesia, and Senegal and Albania, Niger and Sierra Leone....

Yet there's a great challenge today in the Middle East....

Dictators in Iraq and Syria promised the restoration of national honor, a return to ancient glories. They've left instead a legacy of torture, oppression, misery and ruin.

Other men, and groups of men, have gained influence in the Middle East and beyond through an ideology of theocratic terror. Behind their language of religion is the ambition for absolute political power....

MANY MIDDLE EASTERN governments now understand that military dictatorship and theocratic rule are a straight, smooth highway to nowhere....

For the Palestinian people, the only path to independence and dignity and progress is the path of democracy. And the Palestinian leaders who block and undermine democratic reform, and feed hatred and encourage violence, are not leaders at all. They're the main obstacles to peace....

As we watch and encourage reforms in the region, we are mindful that modernization is not the same as Westernization. Representative governments in the Middle East will reflect their own cultures. They will not, and should not, look like us....

There are, however, essential principles common to every successful society, in every culture. Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military -- so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of an elite. Successful societies protect freedom....

These vital principles are being applied in ... Afghanistan and Iraq. With the steady leadership of President [Hamid] Karzai, the people of Afghanistan are building a modern and peaceful government....

IN IRAQ, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council are also working together to build a democracy -- and after three decades of tyranny, this work is not easy....

Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export....Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East....

The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country.... And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind....

With all the tests and all the challenges of our age, this is, above all, the age of liberty.

These excerpts from President Bush's remarks Thursday to the National Endowment for Democracy, transcribed by the White House, were obtained from Associated Press.

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