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Bush promises to finish mission in Iraq

Bush drew a strong parallel between the Cold War of former president Truman and the current US war on terror.

india Updated: May 27, 2006 21:39 IST

US President George W Bush on Saturday said the absence of freedom and democracy in the Middle East remains the key source of threats to the United States.

"Decades of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe," he told graduating cadets at the army's elite West Point military academy in New York.

"So long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it remains a place where terrorists foment resentment and threaten American security. So we are pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East."

In a graduation speech ahead of Memorial Day, on which the United States honours fallen soldiers, Bush drew a strong parallel between the Cold War of former president Harry Truman and the current US war on terror.

"President Truman made clear the Cold War was an ideological struggle between tyranny and freedom," Bush said. "Like the Cold War ... we are fighting the followers of a murderous ideology."

He emphasized that he was addressing the first West Point class to complete all their four years of training after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

He told the cadets, whose ranks usually produce the future leaders of the US military, that they will win the war on terror.

"The war began on my watch, but it's going to end on your watch. Your generation will bring us victory in the war on terror."

The president was speaking just days after he conceded errors in the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, and as he endures continuing pressure to reduce the 133,000 US soldiers deployed in Iraq.

These expectations have been reinforced by the recent formation of the first permanent Iraqi government since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

So far, however, Bush has refrained from committing himself to a troop withdrawal, saying it should depend on conditions on the ground and decisions made by military commanders.

Bush meanwhile steadfastly defended the Iraq invasion, saying the world was better off with Saddam Hussein out of power.

He compared Truman's rebuilding of Japan and Germany into US allies after World War II and setting the foundations of the fight against communism to his own administration's mission to spread freedom and democracy across the Middle East.

"In this new war we have helped transform old adversaries into democratic allies," he said, pointing to Iraq and Afghanistan.

With Iraq, he said, "the world has seen the beginning of something new: a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle east."

"By standing with democratic reformers across the troubled region, we will extend freedom to millions who have not known it and lay the foundations of peace for generations to come."

Earlier, in his weekly radio address, Bush paid tribute to US soldiers who had perished while fighting in Iraq by reiterating his determination to fulfil the US mission.

"And the best way to honour America's fallen heroes is to carry on their fight, defend our freedom, and complete the mission for which they gave their lives," he said.

"We can expect the terrorists to continue bombing and killing, but something fundamental has changed.

"The terrorists are now fighting a free and constitutional government. They are at war with the people of Iraq."

The United States will on Monday mark Memorial Day, a national holiday set aside to remember those who gave their lives in the service of the nation.

Bush will visit Arlington National Cemetery on Monday to pay homage to the war dead.