Bush says World War II taught Democracy Brings Peace

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Bush says World War II taught Democracy Brings Peace


Netherlands – President George W. Bush said on Sunday World War II taught that democracy brings peace as he prepared to pay tribute to the Americans who died to free Europe from Nazi Germany. 


Bush is on a four-nation tour centered around the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe but balanced by visits to Latvia and Georgia which are reluctant to celebrate the post-war start of the Cold War division of the continent.


Bush met Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and was then due to see Queen Beatrix and lay a wreath at a U.S. cemetery at Margraten near the southern city of Maastricht, where around 8,000 U.S. dead from World War II are buried.


“I will be honoring a generation that made enormous sacrifices so that my generation could grow up in a free world,” Bush told a roundtable meeting with young Dutch people.

     

“The lesson of World War II at least, was that by spreading democracy throughout Europe, that Europe at last became free, whole and at peace. That’s the lesson that people at least ought to take away from the experience of the last 60 years. I believe it applies to the next 60 as well,” he said.

Commemorations to mark the end of the war that cost at least 50 million lives worldwide were also planned in Berlin, London, Paris and Washington. The war in the Pacific only ended three months later and the Allies mark Victory over Japan on Aug. 15.


Tens of thousands of Germans took part in a candlelight vigil against the far right in Berlin on Saturday night ahead of events to mark the war’s end on Sunday. Neo-Nazis also plan a rally not far from Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate.


The Allies agreed to celebrate victory on May 9, 1945 but journalists broke the news of Germany’s surrender prematurely, prompting mass rejoicing on May 8. The Soviet Union kept to the agreed date and Russia still marks victory in Europe on May 9.


Bush and dozens of other world leaders join President     Vladimir Putin for victory celebrations in Moscow on Monday.


About 10,000 people, including many war veterans, are expected at the Margraten cemetery, where the thousands of U.S. gravestones were marked with miniature U.S. and Dutch flags.


“I think it is quite important to us to remember what these gentlemen here did for us,” said 79-year-old U.S. veteran Bill Shurtleff, wearing a military cap.


Bush will fly from the Netherlands to Moscow later on Sunday for talks with Putin that could be tense after a frank exchange on the subject of democracy in February.


During a visit to the Latvian capital Riga on Saturday, Bush focused on the Cold War division of Europe after 1945, angering Russia at a time when Moscow is marking the war in which 27 million Soviet people died.


After laying a wreath to Russia’s war dead on Saturday, Putin hailed the Red Army as a liberator, not an oppressor.


Bush is expected to say that Moscow should encourage democracy both at home and in its neighbors. Russia has resisted the waning of its influence in the region as former Soviet states Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova turn westwards.


“No good purpose is served by stirring up fears and exploiting old rivalries in this region. The interests of Russia and all nations are served by the growth of freedom that leads to prosperity and peace,” Bush said in Riga.


This is Bush’s second Europe trip since winning re-election. In February, he won European support to help rebuild     Iraq, including from opponents of the U.S.-led war.


But the Iraq issue is still sensitive. Hundreds of Dutch protesters demonstrated on Saturday against Bush and the war.


The Dutch center-right government sent some 1,350 troops to help patrol Iraq after the war but recently withdrew them after left-wing opposition parties refused to extend their mandate.


A poll published by RTL television on Friday showed that only 49 percent of Dutch are grateful to the United States for freedom and democracy in the Netherlands, while 51 percent said Dutch troops should never have been sent to Iraq.

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