Bush: Ending Saddam's regime will bring stability to Mideast
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday said ending the "direct and growing threat" posed by Saddam Hussein will create a "free and peaceful" Iraq and bring stability to the entire Mideast.
"The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted," Bush said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute.
The administration hopes that the Iraqi regime will meet U.N. disarmament requirements, he said. If not, force will be used to make Baghdad comply.
"Either way, this danger will be removed," he said.
Creating a free Iraq will be a difficult task requiring a "sustained commitment" from the United States and other countries, but a new Iraq could serve as "a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom" throughout the Middle East, Bush said.
"Bringing stability and unity to a free Iraq will not be easy. Yet, that is no excuse to leave the Iraqi regime's torture chambers and poison labs in operation," Bush said.
"Any future the Iraqi people choose for themselves will be better than the nightmare world that Saddam Hussein has chosen for them," he said, adding "we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another."
Bush said the United States does not plan any permanent occupation of Iraq, but he did not offer a timeline.
"We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary and not a day more," he said.
If war does come, coalition forces will protect oil fields "from sabotage by a dying regime and ensure those resources are used for the benefit of the owners, the Iraqi people," Bush said.
The president compared the rebuilding of Iraq to U.S. efforts after World War II to rebuild war-ravaged countries, including wartime enemies Germany and Japan.
"After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies. We left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could built lasting institutions of freedom.
"In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home."
Reminding Americans of the price the nation paid on September 11, 2001, Bush said the "safety of the American people depends on this direct and growing threat" posed by Saddam.
"The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers. And other regimes will be given a clear warning: That support for terror will not be tolerated."
An end to Saddam's reign also would have positive ramifications on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said it would set in motion "progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state," and Palestinians would be rid of Saddam's "outside support for terrorism."
"The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life, and there are hopeful signs of the desire for freedom in the Middle East," Bush said.
Earlier in the day, Bush's father, former President George Bush, spoke at Tufts University in Massachusetts and detailed his view for the Middle East. He said stability requires a "new vision to be advanced by the region's leaders and embraced by the people. It will require them to once again rise above violence and recrimination, and to choose hope over hate."
"I believe in the longer run the 21st century will offer leaders throughout the eastern Mediterranean a real chance to emerge from their current period of conflict and begin building a brighter future worthy of their proud peoples," he said.
At one point, antiwar protesters interrupted the speech by shouting at the elder Bush. As security escorted the demonstrators away, the former president said, "We've now found another real good reason to use duct tape."