For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 28, 2005
President Discusses Hurricane Katrina, Congratulates Iraqis
on Draft Constitution
Prairie Chapel Ranch
Crawford, Texas 11:31 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: This morning I spoke with FEMA Undersecretary
Mike Brown and emergency management teams not only at the
federal level but at the state level about the -- Hurricane
Katrina. I've also spoken to Governor Blanco of Louisiana,
Governor Barbour of Mississippi, Governor Bush of Florida, and
Governor Riley of Alabama. I want to thank all the folks at the
federal level and the state level and the local level who have
taken this storm seriously. I appreciate the efforts of the
governors to prepare their citizenry for this upcoming storm.
Yesterday, I signed a disaster declaration for the state of
Louisiana, and this morning I signed a disaster declaration for
the state of Mississippi. These declarations will allow federal
agencies to coordinate all disaster relief efforts with state
and local officials. We will do everything in our power to help
the people in the communities affected by this storm.
Hurricane Katrina is now designated a category five
hurricane. We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane
poses to Gulf Coast communities. I urge all citizens to put
their own safety and the safety of their families first by
moving to safe ground. Please listen carefully to instructions
provided by state and local officials.
On another matter, today Iraqi political leaders completed
the process for drafting a permanent constitution. Their example
is an inspiration to all who share the universal values of
freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. The negotiators and
drafters of this document braved the intimidation of terrorists
and they mourn the cowardly assassination of friends and
colleagues involved in the process of drafting the constitution.
Their efforts follow the bravery of the Iraqis who voted by
the millions to elect a transitional government in January. The
example of those voters remains a humbling testament to the
power of free people to shape and define their own destiny. We
honor their courage and sacrifice, and we are determined to see
the Iraqis fully secure their democratic gains.
The Iraqi people have once again demonstrated to the world
that they are up to the historic challenges before them. The
document they have produced contains far-reaching protections
for fundamental human freedoms, including religion, assembly,
conscience and expression. It vests sovereignty in the people to
be expressed by secret ballot and regular elections. It declares
that all Iraqis are equal before the law without regard to
gender, ethnicity and religion. This is a document of which the
Iraqis and the rest of the world can be proud.
The political process now advances to another important stage
for a new and free Iraq. In coming months, Iraqis will discuss
and debate the draft constitution. On October the 15th, they
will vote for a national referendum to decide whether to ratify
the constitution and set the foundation for a permanent Iraqi
government. If the referendum succeeds, Iraqis will elect a new
government to serve under the new constitution on December the
15th, and that government will take office before the end of the
This course is going to be difficult largely because the
terrorists have chosen to wage war against a future of freedom.
They are waging war against peace in Iraq. As democracy in Iraq
takes root, the enemies of freedom, the terrorists, will become
more desperate, more despicable, and more vicious.
Just last week, the terrorists called for the death of
anyone, including women and the elderly, who supports the
democratic process in Iraq. They have deliberately targeted
children receiving candy from soldiers. They have targeted
election workers registering Iraqis to vote. They have targeted
hospital workers who are caring for the wounded. We can expect
such atrocities to increase in the coming months because the
enemy knows that its greatest defeat lies in the expression of
free people, and freely enacted laws, and at the ballot box.
We will stand with the Iraqi people. It's in our interest to
stand with the Iraqi people. It's in our interest to lay the
foundation of peace. We'll help them confront this barbarism,
and we will triumph over the terrorist's dark ideology of hatred
There have been disagreements amongst the Iraqis about this
particular constitution. Of course there's disagreements. We're
watching a political process unfold, a process that has
encouraged debate and compromise; a constitution that was
written in a -- in a society in which people recognize that --
that there had to be give and take.
I want our folks to remember our own constitution was not
unanimously received. Some delegates at the Philadelphia
Convention in 1787 refused to sign it, and the draft was
vigorously debated in every state, and the outcome was not
assured until all the votes were counted.
We recognize that there's a split amongst the Sunnis, for
example, in Iraq. And I suspect that when you get down to it,
you'll find a Shiia who disagrees with the constitution and
Shiia who support the constitution, and perhaps some Kurds who
are concerned about the constitution. In other words, we're
watching a political process unfold. Some Sunnis have expressed
reservations about various provisions of the constitution, and
that's their right as free individuals living in a free society.
There are strong beliefs among other Sunnis that this
constitution is good for all Iraqis and that it adequately
reflects compromises suitable to all groups.
It's important that all Iraqis now actively engage in the
constitutional process by debating the merits of this important
document and making an informed decision on October the 15th.
On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people
of Iraq on completing the next step in their transition from
dictatorship to democracy. And I want to remind the American
people, as the democracy unfolds in Iraq, not only will it help
make America more secure, but it will affect the broader Middle
East. Democracies don't war with their neighbors; democracies
don't become safe haven for terrorists who want to destroy
innocent life. We have hard work ahead of us, but we're on the
-- we're making good progress toward making sure this world of
ours is more peaceful for generations to come.
Thank you very much.
END 11:39 A.M. CDT