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Transcript: Bush speech to troops in Kosovo

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo -- Following is a transcript of remarks by U.S. President George W. Bush to U.S. troops in Kosovo:

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want you to know there's no higher honor than to serve as your commander in chief. America appreciates your service and sacrifices for our country and I'm here to tell you that.

It's good to be here with the Screaming Eagles of the 101st airborne.

(APPLAUSE)

You just lived up to your name.

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I also want to thank the members of the United States Army Reserve, the Air Force, the Navy and Marine Corps and a National Guard unit from Nebraska...

(APPLAUSE)

... Rhode Island and Tennessee.

(APPLAUSE)

I thank the civilians and contractors who helped build this base.

(APPLAUSE)

My first opportunity as president to address America's military forces came at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

(APPLAUSE)

It's great to be back with the dog-faced soldiers of...

(APPLAUSE)

I think I'll just repeat what I said there -- oooh-aaah.

(APPLAUSE)

And finally, I want to thank all our allies who join in this mission; Greece, Italy, Jordan, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

(APPLAUSE)

It's a long list. It speaks volumes about why you are so good at your mission. You come from many nations, many cultures and many continents. Just like amongst the U.S. military personnel, many races, there are many faiths, many traditions represented. Your diversity and close cooperation, General, in the cause of peace is an example to the people of this region and is a rebuke to the ethnic intolerance and narrow nationalism that brought us here in the first place.

As we head into the 21st century, we must not allow difference to be a license to kill and vulnerability, an excuse to dominate. We will pursue a world of tolerance and freedom. From Kosovo to Kashmir, from the Middle East to Northern Ireland, freedom and tolerance is a defining issue for our world. And your service here has set an example for the whole world to see.

We're making good progress. Thanks to you and those who served before you, the people of Kosovo are able to buy food and find shelter, go to school and get medical help. Thanks to you, there will be elections here in November, elections where we want to see the widest possible participation.

Thanks to you, there are fewer arms flowing into Macedonia and a hope for peace in that land. Thanks to you and the service of our forces throughout the Balkans, the region is growing closer to the rest of Europe, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Civil institutions must be put in place and made stronger. Organized crime must be brought under control. War criminals must face justice, and Kosovo must not be a safe haven for insurgents elsewhere.

America has a vital interest in European stability and therefore peace in the region. That's why I've recently taken steps to cut off outside support for the rebels in Macedonia. That's why we need you to keep patrolling the border and cutting off the arms flow.

Each and every day, your work is important to the people of this region. America and allied forces came into Bosnia and Kosovo. We came in together and we will leave together. Our goal is to hasten the day when peace is self-sustaining, when local democratically elected authorities can assume full responsibility and when NATO forces can go home.

As well, you not only need to have a clear mission here, but you need to have a commander in chief with a clear vision who sets clear goals for our military.

(APPLAUSE)

And those goals are to be well equipped and well trained to be able to fight and win war; and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place. I know how hard frequent deployments are on you and your families. I know that America owes you a decent quality of life and those who wear America's uniform deserves America's full support...

(APPLAUSE)

... and you've got it. I'm going to do something unusual here. I brought with me a piece of legislation, a supplemental spending bill to this year's defense budget. It's been passed by the House, passed by the Senate, differences were reconciled, so I'm going to sign it here because it contains $1.9 billion for pay, benefits and health care.

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, the tax cut is real, too.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm also pleased that next year's defense budget request includes an additional $2.2 billion for pay and benefits...

(APPLAUSE)

... beyond the supplemental I'm signing here today and that will include housing as well as an additional $2.3 billion for improved health care.

(APPLAUSE) And it's important for the Congress to hear this message. It's important for Congress to start dealing with next year's defense budget now...

(APPLAUSE)

... to not only include the request we made initially, but the amendment to the defense bill. The Congress has got to keep in mind the needs of those who wear the uniform.

(APPLAUSE)

And I expect a quite response from the members of the United States Congress. When I ran for president, I promised America that help is on the way for the men and women who wear our uniform. Today, I'm proud to say help is arriving.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm committed that America does a better job of supporting you all for every one of you has dedicated yourself to something greater than yourself, you put your country ahead of your comfort. You've committed your lives to defending our nation's highest ideals and thanks to you the march of freedom continues around the world.

It's an honor to be here. It's a huge honor to be the commander in chief.

Thank you for your service to a great country.







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