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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 19:52 GMT
Bush speech: Excerpts
Excerpts from speech by US President George W Bush to the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington DC, 6 November 2003.


In June of 1982, President Ronald Reagan spoke at Westminster Palace and declared the turning point had arrived in history.

He argued that Soviet communism had failed, precisely because it did not respect its own people - their creativity, their genius and their rights.

President Reagan said that the day of Soviet tyranny was passing, that freedom had a momentum which would not be halted.

A number of critics were dismissive of that speech by the president.

'Inspiration'

In fact, Ronald Reagan's words were courageous and optimistic and entirely correct.

By definition, the success of freedom rests upon the choices and the courage of free peoples and upon their willingness to sacrifice
The great democratic movement President Reagan described was already well under way.

In the early 1970s, there were about 40 democracies in the world.

As the 20th Century ended, there were around 120 democracies in the world and I can assure you more are on the way.

Ronald Reagan would be pleased and he would not be surprised.

The United States made military and moral commitments in Europe and Asia, which protected free nations from aggression and created the conditions in which new democracies could flourish.

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

Sacrifice

The progress of liberty is a powerful trend.

It should be clear to all that Islam - the faith of one-fifth of humanity - is consistent with democratic rule
Yet, we also know that liberty, if not defended, can be lost.

By definition, the success of freedom rests upon the choices and the courage of free peoples and upon their willingness to sacrifice.

The sacrifices of Americans have not always been recognised or appreciated, yet they have been worthwhile.

Every nation has learned, or should have learned, an important lesson: freedom is worth fighting for, dying for, and standing for - and the advance of freedom leads to peace.

Now we must apply that lesson in our own time.

Our commitment to democracy is tested in countries like Cuba and Burma and North Korea and Zimbabwe - outposts of oppression in our world.

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.

'Ready' for democracy

Some sceptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to the representative government.

Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are "ready" for democracy - as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress.

In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress.

It teaches co-operation, the free exchange of ideas and the peaceful resolution of differences.

It should be clear to all that Islam - the faith of one-fifth of humanity - is consistent with democratic rule.

More than half of all the Muslims in the world live in freedom under democratically constituted governments.

They succeed in democratic societies, not in spite of their faith, but because of it.

A religion that demands individual moral accountability, and encourages the encounter of the individual with God, is fully compatible with the rights and responsibilities of self-government.

Stagnant societies

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

In the words of a recent report by Arab scholars, the global wave of democracy has - and I quote - "barely reached the Arab states".

Many Middle Eastern governments now understand that military dictatorship and theocratic rule are a straight, smooth highway to nowhere
They continue: "This freedom deficit undermines human development and is one of the most painful manifestations of lagging political development."

The freedom deficit they describe has terrible consequences, of the people of the Middle East and for the world.

As the colonial era passed away, the Middle East saw the establishment of many military dictatorships.

Some rulers adopted the dogmas of socialism, seized total control of political parties and the media and universities.

Dictators in Iraq and Syria promised the restoration of national honour, a return to ancient glories.

They've left instead a legacy of torture, oppression, misery, and ruin.

Repression

Other men, and groups of men, have gained influence in the Middle East and beyond through an ideology of theocratic terror.

As we watch and encourage reforms in the region, we are mindful that modernisation is not the same as Westernisation
Many Middle Eastern governments now understand that military dictatorship and theocratic rule are a straight, smooth highway to nowhere.

But some governments still cling to the old habits of central control.

Even when these nations have vast natural resources, they do not respect or develop their greatest resources - the talent and energy of men and women working and living in freedom.

But governments across the Middle East and North Africa are beginning to see the need for change.

Morocco has a diverse new parliament; King Mohammed has urged it to extend the rights to women.

In Bahrain last year, citizens elected their own parliament for the first time in nearly three decades.

Oman has extended the vote to all adult citizens; Qatar has a new constitution; Yemen has a multi-party political system; Kuwait has a directly elected national assembly and Jordan held historic elections this summer.

These are the stirrings of Middle Eastern democracy and they carry the promise of greater change to come.

Representative governments

As changes come to the Middle Eastern region, those with power should ask themselves: Will they be remembered for resisting reform, or for leading it?

In Iran, the demand for democracy is strong and broad... the regime in Tehran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people, or lose its last claim to legitimacy.

For the Palestinian people, the only path to independence and dignity and progress is the path of democracy.

The Saudi Government is taking first steps toward reform, including a plan for gradual introduction of elections.

As we watch and encourage reforms in the region, we are mindful that modernisation is not the same as Westernisation.

Healthy institutions

Democratic nations may be constitutional monarchies, federal republics or parliamentary systems.

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 with the consistent and impartial rule of law.

Successful societies allow room for healthy civic institutions - for political parties and labour unions and independent newspapers and broadcast media.

Successful societies guarantee religious liberty - the right to serve and honour God without fear of persecution.

Successful societies privatize their economies and secure the rights of property.

They prohibit and punish official corruption and invest in the health and education of their people... and recognise the rights of women.

Afghanistan and Iraq

These vital principles are being applied in the nations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

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
Afghanistan faces continuing economic and security challenges - it will face those challenges as a free and stable democracy.

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.

This is a massive and difficult undertaking... the failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region.

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.

Age of liberty

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.

And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo.

Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.

This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before.

The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country.

[But] with all the tests and all the challenges of our age, this is, above all, the age of liberty.




SEE ALSO:
Bush demands Mid-East democracy
06 Nov 03 |  Middle East
Bush's vision of democracy: Your verdict
06 Nov 03 |  Have Your Say
Birth pains of Iraq's democracy
09 Oct 03 |  Middle East
Saudi defends anti-terror drive
20 Sep 03 |  Middle East
US to push democracy for Muslims
05 Dec 02 |  Americas


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