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Bush hails 'day of deliverance' for Iraq

Speech marks anniversary of U.S.-led invasion

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

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President Bush speaks Friday in the East Room at the White House.

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Stay with CNN for ongoing updates and analysis of reactions to President Bush's speech marking the anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
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An excerpt from Bush's comments marking the anniversary of the Iraq invasion.

CNN's Bill Schneider and Jeff Greenfield look at the Bush speech.

Democratic activist Wesley Clark comments on President Bush's war anniversary speech.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Friday hailed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as the country's "day of deliverance," marking the anniversary with a speech that characterized the war and reconstruction as an international success story.

"We're the nations that recognized the threat of terrorism and we're the nations that will defeat that threat," Bush declared. (Transcript of speech)

Bush delivered the speech in the East Room before an audience that included many diplomats, underscoring the administration's point that Iraq was a challenge embraced by many nations.

"One year ago, military forces of a strong coalition entered Iraq to enforce United Nations demands, to defend our security, and to liberate that country from the rule of a tyrant," Bush said.

"For Iraq, it was a day of deliverance. For the nations of our coalition, it was the moment when years of demands and pledges turned to decisive action."

Ambassadors to the United States from France, Germany and Great Britain were among those in the audience. Bush said 84 countries were united in the war against terror, and he mentioned several countries by name as he outlined what he described as accomplishments in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Today in Iraq: Powell visits Baghdad)

The president mentioned recent bombings, including last week's attack on commuter trains in Madrid, Spain. Five charged in Spain bombings

"Each attack much be answered, not only with sorrow, but with greater determination, deeper resolve, and bolder action against the killers," Bush said.

Democrats charge that Bush alienated many long-standing allies in the buildup to the war and has failed to convince others to share the cost of rebuilding and security there, leaving American taxpayers with the bulk of the growing bill. (Polish leader: Troops stay in Iraq)

Bush acknowledged there were differences among "old and valued friends" before the war, but he described them as bygones and declared there was no debate over whether the Iraqi people and the world are better off without Saddam Hussein in power.

"No one can argue that the Iraqi people would be better off with the thugs and murderers back in the palaces," Bush said.

Bush returned to a theme that he had stressed in the immediate weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 -- that all nations must take sides in the war on terrorism.

"There is no neutral ground -- no neutral ground -- in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death," Bush said.

Democratic comment

Even before Bush began his speech, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, assailed Bush.

In a written statement, Kerry said Bush "misled the American people" about the nature of the threat posed by Saddam, particularly as it relates to weapons of mass destruction.

"Simply put, this president didn't tell the truth about the war from the beginning," Kerry said, echoing comments he had made earlier in the week. (Kerry slams Bush on Iraq, military)

"And our country is paying the price."

Bush didn't directly address the weapons of mass destruction controversy, but he said the spread of "deadly weapons and materials" had been deterred with Saddam's ouster.

The question of weapons of mass destruction has proved to be a tricky one for the administration because it had argued repeatedly before the war that Saddam possessed such weapons, but none have been found since his regime was toppled. (Interactive: What has been said about WMD)

The president said "many governments" had cooperated to "expose and dismantle" a network of illicit nuclear technology involving Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. Libya, Iran and North Korea, Bush said, had been on the receiving end of "nuclear secrets."

Fall of Taliban

The president also hailed the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying its rule had been one of the most oppressive regimes in the world.

"The people of Afghanistan are a world away from the nightmare of the Taliban," Bush said, citing improved health care, a new constitution and schools for boys and girls.

Friday's speech marks the second day in a row that Bush has offered a positive assessment of progress in Iraq and the war on terror. Thursday, he visited Fort Campbell, Kentucky, thanking troops there for their service and vowing to stay committed to rebuilding Iraq and defeating terrorism. (Bush thanks troops, 101st Airborne)

Later Friday, Bush and first lady Laura Bush visited privately with soldiers and their families at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It marked their third visit in six months to the Bethesda, Maryland, facility.

After the visit, Bush praised the soldiers for their "strong" spirit and "terrific" attitude.

"Several soldiers told me today, badly injured soldiers, that they want to get well quickly, and get back on their duty stations in Iraq," Bush said. "They want to serve our nation, and it's so refreshing and great to be here."

CNN's Kathleen Koch contributed to this report.


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