President Bush says despite rising violence and growing doubts about the scheduled Iraqi elections, he is optimistic about Iraq's future.
President Bush called the elections scheduled at the end of this month a "big moment for the Iraqi people." President Bush said, "These are people that live in a society where if they didn't toe the line of the leadership, they would be tortured or killed or maimed. And all of a sudden, a new way of life is being introduced into Iraq."
Mr. Bush says the elections will bring stability and democracy. The President is optimistic they will take place as scheduled, even in the four most troubled provinces where the majority of Sunni Muslims live.
He compared Iraqi insurgents to Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan's Taleban and warned the insurgents will try to stop people from voting. "I understand that parts of the Sunni area are being targeted by these killers. And their message is: 'If you vote, we will kill you.' But their real message is: 'We can't stand democracy,' " he said.
Concerns and doubts about the elections continue to be heard in Baghdad and in Washington.
Thursday, US Army Lieutenant General Thomas Metz, commander of the multinational corps in Iraq, said he couldn't guarantee that every Iraqi voter could vote in safety. "We are fighting an enemy who cares less who he kills, when he kills and how he kills," he said.
In Washington, Brent Scowcroft, former chair of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and national security advisor under the first President Bush, predicted that the Iraqi elections would have the potential "for deepening the conflict," and that divisions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims are likely to be increased.