Allawi Thanks America, Details Plan for Iraq's Future
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2004 "Thank you, America," Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told a joint session of Congress today.
Allawi thanked the United States for its role in the liberation of Iraq. He said that despite what people may read in the news or see on television, "Iraq is succeeding."
The prime minister did not sugarcoat the challenges lying ahead for his country. But, he said, Iraq, the region and the world are "better off without Saddam Hussein."
Allawi, who had been driven into exile by Saddam and almost murdered by Saddam's secret police, said Iraqis know America has made great sacrifices. "I have come here to thank you and to promise you that your sacrifices are not in vain," he said.
He expressed his country's sorrow to the families of Americans killed in Iraq. "The costs now have been high," he said. "As we have lost our loved ones in this struggle, so have you. As we have mourned, so have you.
"This is a bitter price of combating tyranny and terror," he continued. "Now we are determined to honor your confidence and sacrifice by putting into practice in Iraq the values of liberty and democracy which are so dear to you and which have triumphed over tyranny across our world."
Allawi also told the joint session that elections scheduled for January 2005 will happen on time despite all that terrorists and insurgents will try to do. He said elections could happen in 15 of the 18 provinces of the country tomorrow. "I know that some have speculated, even doubted, whether this date can be met," he said. "So let me be absolutely clear. Elections will occur in Iraq on time in January, because Iraqis want elections on time."
The prime minister did not downplay the threat of terrorists and insurgents. He said there is a "tiny minority who despise the very ideas of liberty, of peace, of tolerance, and who will kill anyone, destroy anything to prevent Iraq and its people from achieving this goal."
Some of these individuals want a return of the Hussein regime, others are enamored of a toxic extremist philosophy, and still others are foreign terrorists, he explained.
"For the struggle in Iraq today is not about the future of Iraq only, it's about the worldwide war between those who want to live in peace and freedom, and terrorists, who strike indiscriminately at soldiers, at civilians, as they did so tragically on 9/11 in America and as they did in Spain and Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia and my country and many others," he said.
Allawi said this tiny minority threatens to derail progress in Iraq through intimidation and fear. "I can tell you today they will not succeed," he noted.
He said his government has three parts to a plan to build a free and independent Iraq: building democracy, defeating the insurgency, and improving the quality of life for ordinary Iraqis.
This political strategy is aimed at isolating the terrorists from the communities they operate in. "We are working hard to involve as many people as we can in the political process to cut the grounds from under the terrorists' feet," Allawi said.
Political moves and talk cannot defeat terrorism, he said, "but we can weaken it." Ending local support will allow the coalition and Iraqi security forces to tackle the enemy head-on "to identify, isolate and eradicate this cancer."
The Iraqi military strategy calls for the country to build and maintain security forces that can handle the security environment in the Iraq. "Ordinary Iraqis are anxious to take over entirely this role and to shoulder all the security burdens of our country as quickly as possible," Allawi said.
He said for now, American forces are necessary but that training of Iraqi forces has sped up and the Iraqi government now commands almost 50,000 armed and combat-ready Iraqis. By January 2005, Allawi said, the number will be about 145,000 troops. And by the end of 2005 he expects it to rise to 250,000 Iraqis.
"Our intelligence is getting better every day," the president said. "These new Iraqi forces are rising to a challenge. They are fighting on behalf of sovereign Iraqi government, and their performance is improving every day."
The economic side of the plan is also moving apace. He said work on the oil infrastructure is proceeding, and basic services are being repaired or put in place.
"The homes are being rebuilt; schools and hospitals are being rebuilt; the clinics are open and reopened," he said. "There are now over 6 million children at school, many of them attending one of the 2,500 schools that have been renovated since liberation."
Allawi said that for the first time in Iraq's history, the people can look forward to controlling their destiny. "This would not have been possible without the help and sacrifices of this country and its coalition partners," he said. "I thank you again from the bottom of my heart."