President Bush marked the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq by telling Americans that the fall of Saddam Hussein has made them safer. Democrats used the anniversary to accuse the Bush Administration of cutting benefits for American veterans.
Because coalition troops acted against Saddam Hussein two years ago, President Bush says Iraq is no longer a threat to the world or its own people.
"We knew of Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and support for terror," he said. "We knew of his long history of pursuing, even using, weapons of mass destruction, and we know that September the 11th requires our country to think differently. We must, and we will, confront threats to America before they fully materialize."
The president used his weekly radio address to mark the second anniversary of the invasion, saying the victory of freedom in Iraq is strengthening a new ally in the war on terror and inspiring democratic reformers from Beirut to Tehran.
"Today, women can vote in Afghanistan, Palestinians are breaking the old patterns of violence, and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are rising up to demand their sovereignty and democratic rights," said President Bush. "These are landmark events in the history of freedom. Only the fire of liberty can purge the ideologies of murder by offering hope to those who yearn to live free."
More than 1,500 American soldiers have died since the start of the war in Iraq. To the families of the fallen, the president said they can know that their sacrifice has added to America's security and the freedom of the world.
In the Democratic radio address, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell also spoke about U.S. troops, criticizing the Bush Administration for cutting veterans' benefits. Among what he calls the unconscionable cuts in the president's budget are nearly $300 million less in reimbursements for people living in federal veterans' homes.
"Two years ago, the federal government tripled the veterans' co-pays for prescription drugs," said Gov. Rendell. "Now the president is proposing to again double those increased co-pays. But in the midst of a war, when many new men and women will join the legions of veterans, does it really make sense for the president to increase the cost of vets' prescriptions by 100 percent?"
During a time of war, Governor Rendell says it is the wrong time for the federal government to step back from any of its commitments to American veterans. The proposed cuts generally focus on veterans with higher incomes and those whose injuries did not occur on active duty. Overall, the Bush budget calls for a nearly three percent raise for the veterans budget to just over $70 billion.