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Inside Politics

Bush: World is changing for the better

U.S. soldiers patrol a palm grove near Ramadi, Iraq.
U.S. soldiers patrol a palm grove near Ramadi, Iraq.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, President Bush declared that because of "American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better."

But he warned that the United States is on the offensive against terrorism around the world.

"As part of the offensive against terror, we are also confronting the regimes that harbor and support terrorists, and could supply them with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons," he said.

Bush also addressed criticism that the case he made for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein has been undermined by the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found since the Iraqi dictator fell in April.

He said evidence of Saddam's WMD programs and discovery of "significant amounts of equipment" concealed from the United Nations point to the threat that Iraq would have posed if left unchecked.

"Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day," he said. "Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats.

"Iraq's torture chambers would still be filled with victims -- terrified and innocent. The killing fields of Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of men, women and children vanished into the sands, would still be known only to the killers," Bush said.

"For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place," Bush said, noting that Saddam "was found in a hole and now sits in a prison cell."

Bush said the recent decision by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to voluntarily dismantle his weapons programs showed that American resolve is changing the world "for the better."

"Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not," Bush said. "One reason is clear -- for diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible. And no one can doubt the word of America."

The president rebuffed critics who say the U.S. effort in Iraq is not sufficiently internationalized, saying such criticism is "hard to explain" to the 34 countries who have joined the U.S.-led coalition.

"From the beginning, America has sought international support for our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said. "There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few.

"America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people."

In a symbolic illustration of Iraq's move from dictatorship to democracy, the current president of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi, was Bush's guest in the balcony of the House chamber.

"Sir, America stands with you and the Iraqi people as you build a free and peaceful nation," Bush said, adding that "the work of building a new Iraq is hard, and it is right."

Bush said the United States "will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins" who are targeting U.S. troops in ongoing violence in Iraq.

"Having broken the Baathist regime, we face a remnant of violent Saddam supporters. Men who ran away from our troops in battle are now dispersed and attack from the shadows," he said.

"These killers, joined by foreign terrorists, are a serious, continuing danger. Yet, we are making progress against them."

As a reminder of who is fighting the U.S.-led war on terror, the three soldiers on the cover of Time magazine's Person of the Year issue attended the address as guests of House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

The three soldiers who appeared on Time's
The three soldiers who appeared on Time's "Person of the Year" cover were guests of House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

The soldiers are Sgt. Ronald Buxton, 32, of Lake Ozark, Missouri, Spc. Billie Grimes, 26, of Lebanon, Indiana, and Sgt. Marquette Whiteside, 24, of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

The president talked about ways to help democracy spread in the Middle East.

"As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny, despair and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety America and our friends," Bush said.

Bush said the Voice of America and other broadcast services will try to "cut through the barriers of hateful propaganda" by expanding programming in Arabic and Persian.

He also urged Congress to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy so it can focus on help develop free elections, free markets, free press and free labor unions in the Mideast.

And closer to home, Bush urged Congress to reform immigration laws to allow temporary workers to legally enter the United States to full jobs that Americans do not want.


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