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A Soldier's Observation: 'You Can't Give Away Freedom'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 1, 2004 – A 1st Armored Division soldier put the whole situation in Iraq in context. "We all got it that freedom isn't free, but you also can't give it away."

Army Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said a soldier told him that just as the soldier was leaving the country. "I think that's where we are now. We've given them the opportunity; they have to take it," he said during an interview at the Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters with reporters traveling with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Others agree with the assessment. Another coalition military official said the fight in Iraq is one between the large majority of moderates and the small minority of extremists. The Iraqi extremists are those who want the old regime or something like it back in power. They want a small minority of people to live off the fat of the land while oppressing the large majority of the population.

"It is our job to give the moderates the opportunity to form a government they want," he said.

There is an educational process involved with this. Coalition officials are working with Iraqis to help them understand their new freedoms and that these newfound freedoms are to take advantage of the situation.

The arrest of Saddam Hussein has had a favorable impact on helping the Iraqi people with their decision on freedom. The arrest was an intelligence bonanza, said a senior coalition official in Baghdad. Documents found with Saddam have provided information about the organization and financing of the insurgency, he said. But possibly the greater impact is psychological on a number of groups of people, the official said.

There is always going to be a hardcore group that will fight against the coalition, he explained. In Baghdad alone, officials put that number at 250 to 300 former regime hardliners. "That group can only be captured or killed," the official said.

But there are other groups that the capture has affected. One group supported Saddam's rule, and while he was free they cooperated with the hardcore group hoping he would return. "That hope is gone. And we have seen since the arrest people turning themselves in to tactical units, basically saying they've had enough," the official said.

There was another larger group that was afraid Saddam would return. "They were sitting on the fence, afraid he would come back, and they now know that isn't going to happen," he said. "We've seen a substantial uptick in the amount of human intelligence coming in as a result (of that realization)."

All in all, coalition officials in Baghdad said the trend lines are up. What remains to be seen is how the Iraqi people adapt to freedom after 35 years of fear.

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Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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Coalition Provisional Authority

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