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Bush Wishes Troops Merry Christmas

In a Christmas Day radio address, President Bush says U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are protecting the United States from danger. Opposition Democrats also praised U.S. troops and called for unity in the legislative session ahead.

President Bush says he and the First Lady hope Christmas is a time of joy and peace, offering a chance to rest and reflect, as people look forward to the new year ahead.

During the holidays, Mr. Bush says, the men and women of the U.S. military are in his thoughts and prayers, especially those soldiers on duty, separated from family and friends.

"In Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, these skilled and courageous Americans are fighting the enemies of freedom, and protecting our country from danger," Mr. Bush says. "By bringing liberty to the oppressed, our troops are helping to win the war on terror, and they are defending the freedom and security of us all. They and their families are making many sacrifices for our nation, and, for that, all Americans are deeply grateful."

Thousands of U.S. soldiers are serving overseas during the holidays, including more than 150-thousand troops in Iraq.

On Christmas Eve, the president telephoned 10 U.S. soldiers around the world, from Iraq to South Korea to California, thanking them for their service.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush said the times Americans live in have brought many challenges to the country. At such times, he says, the story of Christmas brings special comfort and confidence.

In the Democratic radio address, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador, said no one fulfills the Christmas spirit more than the men and women serving America's military overseas.

"Our troops don't question the rationale, or ask for much in return," Mr. Richardson says. "They defend our land out of the shared values of patriotism, community and love of country. So, our courageous troops should know that our nation speaks with one voice, when we express our gratitude, and they should know that we express such gratitude with the full knowledge that our mere expression is dwarfed by the enormity of their gift to us through their fearless commitment to a nation that we too often take for granted."

Governor Richardson says the nation has many challenges and problems at home. The ability to overcome them, he says, hinges on the capacity of Americans to work together across political lines.

Regardless of who Americans voted for in last month's presidential election, regardless of race, religion, or color, Governor Richardson says, a constant truth throughout American history is that a unified country is a stronger country.

The president and Mrs. Bush spent Christmas at the presidential retreat at Camp David outside Washington. On Sunday, they travel to their Texas ranch, where they will stay through the start of the new year.