Bush thanks Mongolian Parliament for help in Iraq amid congressional objections at home | VailDaily.com

Bush thanks Mongolian Parliament for help in Iraq amid congressional objections at home

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia – In the wake of congressional unrest over his war policies, President Bush thanked Mongolia on Monday for standing with him in Iraq and compared the struggle against Islamic radicalism to this country’s battle against communism.”Free people did not falter in the Cold War, and free people will not falter in the war on terror,” the president said in a speech prepared for delivery to members of Parliament and others at the Government House.Bush said Mongolia has stood with the United States as “brothers in the cause of freedom.” He called Mongolians’ success in driving communist leaders from power 15 years ago an example for the world.”Like the ideology of communism, the ideology of Islamic radicalism is destined to fail – because the will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in freedom,” Bush said.Bush’s four-hour stop in this poor and sparsely populated nation was the first by an American president. The brief visit was a reward for Mongolia’s pursuit of democracy and support for the U.S. fight against terrorism.Bush has been fiercely defending his Iraq policy across Asia as war critics in Washington found a new voice in hawkish Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania.The White House initially attacked Murtha, but Bush on Sunday toned down his backlash by saying there was nothing unpatriotic about opposing the war. He told reporters that Murtha is “a fine man” and a strong supporter of the military despite the congressman’s call for troop withdrawal as soon as possible.”People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq,” Bush said, three days after agreeing with Vice President Dick Cheney that the critics were “reprehensible.”Bush brought up the growing Iraq debate when he met reporters after inconclusive talks with President Hu Jintao about friction in U.S.-China relations. He expected a warmer welcome in Mongolia, which has been eager for closer military relations with the United States and has provided about 120 Mongolian soldiers in Iraq.The number is small, but White House officials are quick to point out that, per capita, only two other countries – the United Kingdom and Denmark – have sent more of their soldiers to Iraq.The Mongolians have been rewarded with $11 million in U.S. aid to improve military forces. Bush also noted that the country was one of 16 chosen to share in $1 billion in U.S. aid as part of his Millennium Challenge Account that rewards poor countries that show a commitment to economic and government reform. Bush urged the parliament to pass anti-corruption legislation as part of the transition to a successful democracy.Mongolia’s share of the $1 billion is subject to approval after the country submits a spending proposal to Washington. The millions of dollars expected from the program could make a big difference for a country with a total gross domestic product of only $1.1 billion.Bush said U.S. forces are proud to serve with the “fearless warriors” of Mongolia, home of legendary, ferocious horseman-warrior Genghis Khan.Bush specifically thanked two Mongolian soldiers who gunned down a suicide bomber who was trying to drive a truck full of explosives into a coalition mess tent in southern Iraq.With eight more U.S. military deaths over the weekend, Bush reminded Mongolians that their transition to liberty was not always easy. But he said Mongolians have built a better life with their struggle against communism.”Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism teaches that the innocent can be murdered to serve their brutal aims,” Bush said. “Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent.”Besides his speech, Bush’s schedule for Mongolia included a closed-door meeting with President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and a visit to a traditional felt tent to see Mongolia throat singing and other cultural events.Mongolia was the last scheduled stop during Bush’s weeklong visit to Asia, which included visits to Japan, South Korea and China. He returns to Washington on Monday night.Bush ran into stiff resistance from the Chinese to his call for expanding religious freedom and human rights. He also reported no breakthroughs toward reducing China’s massive trade surplus, overhauling its currency system or protecting intellectual property rights.The president took satisfaction simply in the fact that Hu mentioned human rights when the two leaders made joint statements to the press.”Those who watch China closely would say that maybe a decade ago, a leader wouldn’t have uttered those comments,” Bush said. “He talked about democracy.”Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained that “we’ve certainly not seen the progress that we would expect” on a months-old U.S. request for action by China on specific human rights cases. Bush said the United States had presented a list of “dissidents that we believe are unfairly imprisoned.”When a reporter suggested Bush had seemed unenthusiastic in the joint appearance with Hu, the president responded, “Have you ever heard of jet lag?”

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