Bush Sees Democratic Progress in Iraq, Gaza

President calls Israeli decision to withdraw settlers "courageous"

President Bush says the drafting of a constitution in Iraq and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza are indications that democracy is growing.

Speaking to reporters in Donnelly, Idaho, August 23, Bush described the Iraqi efforts to write a constitution as “an amazing event.” He said the Iraqis are in the process of creating a document that “guarantees minority rights, women’s rights, freedom to worship … in a country that only knew dictatorship.”

Bush said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a “courageous decision” in withdrawing Israeli settlers and forces from Gaza.

“In other words, this is step one in the development of a democracy,” Bush said.

He said the next step is the establishment of a working government in Gaza. He noted that U.S. Army Lieutenant General William Ward is helping the Palestinian Authority consolidate its security forces and former World Bank President James Wolfensohn is focusing on rebuilding the economic infrastructure of Gaza.

“It’s a very hopeful period,” Bush said.

The president said that the Iraqi process of drafting a constitution and achieving compromise and unity is not a simple matter, noting that it was a process the founding leaders of the United States also struggled with.

“[A]s we watch people work to achieve compromise and unity, we've got to remember our own history. We had trouble at our own conventions writing a constitution. It took a lot of work and a lot of interest, and willingness of people to work for the common good. That's what we're seeing in Iraq, and that's a positive development,” Bush said.

The president said that the United States will “remain on the hunt” in the fight against terrorists operating in Iraq.

“We'll defeat the terrorists; we'll train Iraqi forces to defeat the terrorists. In the long run, we'll defeat the terrorists through the spread of freedom and democracy,” Bush said.

The president said an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq would be a mistake that “would weaken the United States.

The transcript of Bush’s remarks

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