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President Bush Urges Spread of Freedom

January 26, 2005 at 12:00 AM EDT


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: In my inaugural address, I renewed this nation’s commitment to expanding liberty at home and promoting liberty abroad. Because our own freedom is enhanced by the expansion of freedom in other nations, I set out the long-term goal of ending tyranny in our world.

This will require the commitment of generations, but we’re seeing much progress in our own time. In late 2004, the people of Afghanistan defied the threats of terrorists and went to the polls to choose their leaders.

The Palestinian people have elected a president who has renounced violence. This week Ukraine inaugurated a new president, President Yushchenko. And just four days from now, the people of Iraq will vote in free national elections.

Terrorists in that country have declared war against democracy itself, and thereby declared war against the Iraqi people themselves, yet the elections will go forward. Millions of Iraqi voters will show their bravery, their love of country, and their desire to live in freedom. Across the world, freedom has deadly enemies. Yet across the world, freedom has great and growing momentum.

REPORTER: Sir, your inaugural address has been interpreted as a new, aggressive posture against certain countries, in particular Iran. Should we view it that way?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: My inaugural address reflected the policies of the past four years that said that we’re implementing in Afghanistan and Iraq and it talked about a way forward. I think America is at its best when it leads toward an ideal, and certainly a world without tyranny is an ideal world.

The spread of freedom is important for future generations of Americans. I firmly believe that free societies are peaceful societies, and I believe every person desires to be free. And so I look forward to leading the world in that direction for the next four years.

REPORTER: Do you see it as a policy shift?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: No, as I said, it reflects the policy of the past, but it sets a bold new goal for the future. And I believe this country is best when it heads toward an ideal world. We’re at our best.

And in doing so, we’re reflecting universal values and universal ideas that honor each man and woman, that recognize human rights and human dignity depends upon human liberty. And it’s — I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m looking forward to reaching out to our friends and allies to convince them of the necessity to continue to work together to help liberate people.

DAVID SANGER: Mr. President, Dr. Rice referred in her testimony to six “outposts of tyranny,” countries where we clearly, I think, have a pretty good idea of your policies. What we’re confused by right now, I think, or at least what I’m confused by is how do you deal with those countries like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, with whom we have enormous broad interests?

Should the leaders of those countries now be on notice that the primary measure of their relationship with the United States should be their progress toward liberty? Or can they rest assured that, in fact, you’ve got this broad agenda with them and you’re willing to measure liberty up against what China does for you on North Korea, what Russia does for you in other areas?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I don’t think foreign policy is an either/or proposition. I think it is a possible, when you’re a nation like the United States, to be able to achieve both objectives, one objective, the practical objective of dealing, for example, as you mentioned, with North Korea.

But I, in my meetings with Chinese leadership in the past, and my meetings with Chinese leadership in the future, I will constantly remind them of the benefits of a society that honors their people and respects human rights and human dignity. I’ve discussed with Vladimir Putin some of his decisions. I will continue — as you might remember in our meeting in Chile — I will continue to do so.

I will remind him that if he intends to continue to look west; we in the West believe in western values. You know, democracy is a, you know, progressed. — you’ll see progress toward a goal. There won’t be instant democracy. And I remind people that our own country is a work in progress.

And so in my talks, in my discussions with world leaders to solve the problem of the day, I will constantly remind them about our strong belief that democracy is the way forward. There’s a notion in some parts of the world that, you know, certain people can’t self- govern.

You know, certain religions don’t have the capacity of self- government and that condemns people to tyranny, and I refuse to accept that point of view. We’re witnessing amazing history, and the fundamental question is can we advance that history? And that’s what my inauguration speech said; it said, “Yes we can.”

I firmly planted the flag of liberty for all to see that the United States of America hears their concerns and believes in their aspirations. And I am excited by the challenge and am honored to be able to lead our nation in the quest of this noble goal, which is freeing people in the name of peace.