I had the pleasure of meeting President Bush in this historic day, December 15, 2005 in the Oval Office. He talked with and listened to us, Iraqi voters, for about an hour, took individual picture with us and gave us each a souvenir. He promised us that the US will not abandon Iraq this time.
He encouraged us to make a better future for Iraq because he believes we can. I was dressed up in my traditional Kurdish outfit, the second Kurdish suit after President Barzani’s.
He was as enthusiastic as we were about the elections, took pride in our purple fingers and related to each of us. Knowing that he has a good sense of humor himself, I told him a joke about him and Saddam. He liked it.
Afterwards, he addressed the media. Here is an excerpt from his address.
I've just had the really enjoyable experience of visiting with some Iraqi citizens who voted in the elections today. And you might notice, they've got their -- got the little ink-stained fingers there.
And, first of all, I was struck by how joyous they were to be able to vote for a government -- a permanent government under a new constitution. We take it for granted in America because we tend to -- we vote quite often in this country. These good folks got to vote for the first time for a permanent government.
And there's a lot of -- lot of joy, as far as I'm concerned, in seeing the Iraqi people accomplish this major milestone in the march to democracy. Millions of people voted. And I haven't seen all the tabulations of the vote, but we're certain that the turnout was significant and that the violence was down.
And, first, I want to congratulate the Iraqi citizens for being courageous and in defying the terrorists and refusing to be cowed into not voting. I believe freedom is universal. I believe the Iraqi citizen cares just as much about freedom and living a free life as the American citizen does.
Secondly, I want to thank our embassy for doing such good work there and working with the Iraqi citizens to get this vote off. And I want to thank the international community for participating in these elections. This is a major step forward in achieving our objective, which is an ally -- having a democratic Iraq, a country able to sustain itself and defend itself, a country that will be an ally in the war on terror, and a country which will send such a powerful example to others in the region, whether they live in Iran or Syria, for example.
I've assured these good Iraqi citizens that the United States will stay with them and complete this -- complete this job. They've expressed concern about listening to the commentary that we'll leave before the job is done -- they don't have to worry. We're doing the right thing. And we've got partners in peace with the Iraqi citizens.
I want to thank you all again for coming. May God bless your citizens. May God bless a free Iraq. I appreciate you being here.