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U.S. Must Continue Message of Support to Iraqis, Says Wolfowitz

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2003 – Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said today that to sustain the support of the Iraqi people, America must send a "clear and strong signal that the United States will be with them until we are no longer needed."

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Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz addresses a forum in Washington hosted by George Mason University Nov. 4. Wolfowitz was one of several speakers who came to examine America's role in nation-building in Iraq. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

As part of a forum examining America's role in Iraq, the deputy secretary said Congress's bi-partisan approval of the president's $87 billion is a strong signal of exactly the kind of support needed to foster that support.

So too, he said, are the commitments of $13 billion by some 70 nations at the Madrid Donors Conference recently. Those commitments, he added, send another signal of strong support: "that the world will be with the Iraqi people until these murderers are defeated."

Wolfowitz said both President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have placed "high priority" on getting international support for U.S. efforts in Iraq, which will spell out "an international consensus for how to move forward in Iraq and to establish a multinational force under U.S. command."

"I believe that this is a great venture which the international community will one day be able to look back at with pride, and that is what we all want to see," he added.

In his speech, the deputy secretary also said that despite the violence against American troops, the U.S. is "winning" the peace in Iraq. And he also believes that the U.S. is "winning the war."

"But let's understand, the war continues," he added. "And that is what makes this such a difficult challenge. It won't be over when we finally get Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, as wonderful as those days will be," he explained.

Wolfowitz said, "We have got to do something very substantial if we want to prevent a repetition of Sept. 11 -- not just on a scale of Sept. 11, but 10 times or 100 times or 1,000 times worse. That is what is at stake for this country, in my view. And winning in Iraq is a significant part of that, but only part of that."

The deputy secretary commented that the dangers in Iraq lie with those who "cannot stand the thought of a free and peaceful Iraq." He said Iraqis have been reporting "death threats" daily and firmly believe that former Fedayeen Saddam members, which he describes as "(Saddam son) Uday's personal killers"; the secret police, along with the so-called Special Security Organization; the Iraqi intelligence, the Mukhabarat; or the Special Republican Guard are the ones responsible for the deaths of Americans and "killing Iraqis in order to bring back that hated regime."

"And if you stop and think, if you're an Iraqi in that situation, you've got to be fearful. And it is testimony to the enormous courage of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who are fighting alongside us for their country that they are doing so."

Wolfowitz also admitted that many Iraqis want U.S. soldiers to leave eventually, but added that polls in the country show that most Iraqis want the U.S. to stay as long as necessary to ensure that the defeated "bitter-enders" cannot return to power.

"So the challenge for us is to help the Iraqis see the job through, to help them set up a viable democratic government with reliable security forces," he said.

Wolfowitz conceded that Iraq still remains very "dangerous," but said that, the U.S. troops and the Iraqi and international allies are making progress.

Citing examples of much of that progress, he noted that Iraqi courts had been reconstituted, and universities and colleges had reopened, "now available to all Iraqis, regardless of religion or ethnic group or political party.

He also observed that hundreds of rehabilitated primary and secondary schools now have books "that no longer teach arithmetic by saying 'two Saddams plus two Saddams equals four Saddams.'"

He said hospitals and clinics are now open and operational; potable water and telephone service are restored and a unified currency has been introduced for the first time in 15 years. He also noted that there are 170 newspapers now publishing in a country "that only less than a year ago had no free press at all."

Wolfowitz said that, "on the one hand," the progress in Iraq is impressive. "But on the other hand, it has to be acknowledged that we must be successful on the security front for this progress ultimately to last."

Wolfowitz said that about 100,000 Iraqis now serve in various branches of the security forces in the country and make up the second-largest members of the coalition, noting that Iraqis serve in the new Iraqi Army, with the Facilities Protection Service and as border guards.

"What is unmistakable is that we are bringing eager Iraqi volunteers into the service of their country at a rate unmatched in any corresponding situation that I know of over the last decade," he said. "Whatever the precise number, there is no question that by their numbers alone, the Iraqis constitute the second-largest member of the coalition, and another tragic number that testifies to their commitment, more than 80 of them have died in the line of duty since June 1."

Wolfowitz said that from a U.S. vantage point the good news out of Iraq and Afghanistan is that the world is safer today because Saddam Hussein and the Taliban are gone. He pointed out that the United States is working with many nations to make sure neither country is "never again a source of terror and danger for the rest of the world."

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