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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Lingle backs Bush on Iraq, Israel policies

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle expressed support yesterday for President Bush's Iraq policies, which she believes protect the security interests of the United States and keep the fight against terrorism there.

"If we're not going to fight terrorism there, we're going to have to fight it here at home," Lingle told a news conference minutes after watching Bush's televised address on Iraq. "Someone put it well when they said, 'We'd rather play this as an away game instead of a home game.' "

Lingle returned to her office yesterday after a weeklong trip — along with a 27-member delegation — to Israel, where she met with top leaders and discussed agricultural cooperation.

The governor also expressed support for the Republican president's policies on Israel, which she said "clearly stands as a beacon of democracy in a part of the world that hasn't known democracy, and is a great friend of America."

"We should always support democracy, especially in a part of the world like the Middle East," she said, noting Bush's call for creation of separate states for Palestinians.

"I think the majority of people Israel now feel the same way," Lingle said.

Lingle said she was struck by the fact that Arab women participate in Israel's government.

"Israel is the only country in the Middle East where an Arab can be elected to anything, let alone an Arab woman," she said.

On Iraq, Lingle said Bush did a good job in his speech when he "tempered" the expectations of Americans that creating a free Iraq would be easy or that the resulting government would mirror an American-style democracy.

"He's said that from the beginning, but I think restating it today was very important," said Lingle, who made a secret two-day visit to Iraq with five other U.S. governors in February.

"These are people who haven't had democracy, haven't dealt with a democracy or a free society, and all of a sudden will have that ability and capability," she said.

The governor said Bush's speech "made it clear to the American people there is a plan to turn over sovereignty, there is a plan to provide security, to increase international involvement in this effort and move forward to have elections early next year."

Lingle said she didn't understand the calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign because of the Iraq prison abuse scandal.

"He's done an excellent job. The president has confidence in him. You certainly don't change the secretary of defense in the middle of a war," she said. "I think that emboldens the other side, and it's not in the interest of the country."