NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Comparing Islamic terrorists to such notables as Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot, President Bush told a friendly audience at the National Religious Broadcasters convention March 11 that America will win in Iraq and Afghanistan unless it “forgets the lessons of history.”
“This kind of enemy must be confronted. This kind of enemy must be defeated. It’s the calling of our time. Generations are often called into action for the defense of liberty, and this is such a time,” the president said to a chorus of “Amen.”
Bush’s job approval rating is hovering in the 30s, but the NRB audience comprised mainly of Christian conservatives didn’t hesitate to show its support. Before he even began his speech Bush received a standing ovation of more than a minute.
The president’s speech touched on several conservative issues including his stance against abortion and against the so-called Fairness Doctrine, but the majority of his 30-minute speech focused on the global war against terrorism.
He drew parallels between the terrorists of Sept. 11, 2001, and Nazi leaders, Cambodian dictator Pol Pot and leaders who perpetuated the Rwanda genocide.
“We’ve seen their kind before,” Bush said of today’s terrorists. “It’s important not to forget the lessons of history.”
Bush said the surge of troop levels in Iraq is working and that if America keeps its resolve, both Iraq and Afghanistan will become models of democracy for the Middle East.
“The best way to defeat the enemy in the long-term is to defeat their hateful ideology with a vision based upon hope, and that is a society that is based upon liberty,” he said. “If you believe in the universality of freedom, then you’ll recognize that people if given a chance … will seize the moment and marginalize the extremists and isolate the radicals.
“… It will happen unless American loses is vision and its nerve. It’s going to happen unless we forget the lessons of history.”
Freedom, Bush said, is not “America’s gift to the world” but is “God’s gift to all humanity.”
Bush pointed to Japan as an example of a nation that can be transformed by democracy. His father, Bush noted, fought against Japan in World War II. Today, though, Japan is an ally with America in the war against terrorism, the president said.
“What happened was that Japan adopted liberty as the core of its political system,” Bush said. ” … Freedom can transform societies. Freedom can transform enemies into allies, and someday, if the United States is steadfast and optimistic, a president will be able to say, ‘An amazing thing happened. I sat down at the table with the leaders of Muslim nations all aiming to keep the peace, to spread freedom and keep America secure.'”
Addressing critics who say they support the war in Afghanistan but oppose the one in Iraq, Bush said both theaters “are part of the same war, the same calling, the same struggle. And that is why it is essential that we succeed.”
He also remained resolute that the initial decision to invade Iraq was the right one.
“The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency, it is the right decision at this point in my presidency and it will forever be the right decision,” he said to a standing ovation.
Bush also said the presidential election won’t impact his decision-making in Iraq.
“I want to assure you just like I assure military families and the troops: The politics of 2008 is not going to enter into my calculations,” he said. “It is the peace of the years to come that will enter into my calculations.”
Bush began his speech by talking about several issues, including his opposition to Congress bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, a former Federal Communications Commission law that governed broadcast content. He pledged to veto any such bill.
“We know who these advocates of so-called balance really have in their sights -– shows hosted by people like Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson or many of you here today,” Bush said. “By insisting on so-called balance, they want to silence those they don’t agree with. The truth of the matter is they know they cannot prevail in the public debate of ideas. They don’t acknowledge that you are the balance.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.