Iraqis Offering More Cooperation, But Still Fear Hussein
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 29, 2003 Iraqis are providing more tips to U.S. and coalition forces searching for Saddam loyalists in Iraq, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz told a U.S. Senate committee here today.
However, Wolfowitz, who'd taken a July 18-22 whirlwind trip to Iraq, also pointed out to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Iraqi populace continues to harbor a "pervasive" fear of the deposed Hussein regime.
"This points to one of the most formidable challenges facing us (in Iraq) today, Wolfowitz observed, noting that the Iraqi people "have much valuable information that can help us root out Baathists and help them find justice."
Yet, the Iraqi people's "willingness to tell us what they know will continue to take considerable investments on our part," Wolfowitz continued, including "investments of time, of resources, of efforts to build trust among the Iraqi people."
U.S. and coalition forces have made great gains increasing security across Iraq and in helping to reopen schools and hospitals, and resurrecting basic services such as electricity and water, the deputy secretary observed.
He noted that more work needs to be done in Iraq, such as creating more jobs and increasing electricity production.
Wolfowitz said many Iraqis have expressed their gratitude to the United States and coalition for removing Saddam from power.
"But what I also heard were continued expressions of fear - fear that has not yet left the Iraqi people," the deputy secretary remarked, noting that fear "borders on paranoia."
Such a fear is understandable, Wolfowitz asserted, in light of the fact that thousands of Iraqis were tortured, or killed outright, simply for speaking out against the Hussein government.
He said he came away with the realization that you couldn't separate Iraq's history of tyrannical government from the present day.
Wolfowitz pointed out that Iraqis who'd been tortured or had relatives that were killed and buried in mass graves under the dictator's regime "are not going to come forward willingly with information until they're absolutely convinced that Saddam and his clique are gone and that we are staying until the place is secure."
And fear of Saddam, Wolfowitz asserted, is likely hindering the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"There are leaflets circulating in Baghdad warning Iraqis that anyone who provides information about weapons of mass destruction programs to the coalition will suffer the penalty of death," he declared.
Wolfowitz observed that the July 22 deaths of Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, have caused more Iraqis to provide intelligence information to U.S. and coalition forces.
This development, he pointed out, is assisting U.S. and coalition efforts to root out Saddam supporters still in Iraq.
"What Iraq needs is rehabilitation from 35 years of deliberate misuse of Iraqi resources" and oppression of the Iraqi people, Wolfowitz pointed out, noting that that effort "cannot take place without security."
Security in Iraq, he added, "cannot take place without rehabilitation."
To enhance security in Iraq, Wolfowitz requested the restoration of $200 million to DoD's fiscal 2004 budget request in House-Senate conference action that had been removed during earlier congressional deliberations. That money, the deputy secretary pointed out, had been earmarked to equip and train "indigenous" forces to fight alongside American troops in the war against terrorism.
"It is much better to have Iraqis fighting and dying for their country than to have Americans doing the job all by themselves," Wolfowitz explained, noting there was "no shortage of Iraqis willing to help us."