Wolfowitz Relays Impressions of Soldiers, Civilians in Iraq
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 23, 2003 The killing of Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay by U.S. forces July 22 was another indicator that the United States is making progress in Iraq, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Pentagon reporters today.
He noted U.S. officials are still considering whether to release photos of the two men's bodies to prove to Iraqi citizens that they had indeed been killed. Many Iraqis are still suspicious of the United States and fear Saddam's regime will return to power, Wolfowitz said, adding that any evidence of the sons' deaths would help lift the "blanket of fear" that hangs over the Iraqi people.
Wolfowitz returned July 22 from a four-day trip to northern and southern Iraq, where he said temperatures hovered about 120 degrees. He said the trip left him with two "overwhelming" impressions about the Iraqi people's feelings.
"There is an enormous gratitude on their part for American and British forces, and for President Bush and Prime Minister Blair personally, for what they have done to bring about the liberation of the Iraqi people from an incredibly evil and brutal regime," the deputy secretary said.
The other impression, he said, was that "pervasive fear" of the old regime is still alive in Iraq.
"That's not surprising, particularly when you have a chance to view first hand the kinds of horrors that Hussein and his regime perpetrated," he said.
During the visit, Wolfowitz said, he saw evidence of the brutality of the former regime.
Iraq's Marsh Arabs used to live in "a lush landscape of productive fresh-water marshes," he said, adding that the area now is a "wasteland the size of the state of New Jersey." A reporter traveling with the deputy secretary compared the area to the surface of the moon -- "a parched, lifeless void."
In the case of the Marsh Arabs, Wolfowitz said, liberation of Iraq came "just in time to save a fragment of a civilization that dates back thousands of years."
Wolfowitz spoke of mass graves at Al Hillah, where villagers told stories of how buses and trucks loaded with people were led to a field where they were "gunned down and buried dead or alive." He noted the excavation of a newly discovered gravesite in Al Hillah was halted after the discovery of 80 victims, many of them women and little children - "some still with their toys."
He also mentioned the "industrial-style" execution process at Abu Ghraib prison.
In reporting some of the progress the United States is making in restoring Iraq, Wolfowitz said that despite repeated attacks against U.S. and coalition forces, commanders on the ground report that the entire North and South of Iraq is stable.
He also noted that public food distribution is up and running, and that hospitals are open and doctors and nurses are at work. Oil production has surpassed 1 million barrels a day, and schools throughout the country have reopened and final exams are complete. Local town councils, he said, have also been established and are operating free of Baathist influence.
"There is no humanitarian crisis. There is no refugee crisis. There is no health crisis. There has been minimal damage to infrastructure -- minimal war damage, lots of regime damage over decades, but minimal war damage to infrastructure except for telecommunications, which we had to target," he emphasized. "There has been no environmental catastrophe, either from oil well fires or from dam breaks. And there has been no need for massive oil field repair.
"So, fortunately," he said, "much of what ... we planned for and budgeted for has not proved necessary."
Meanwhile, Wolfowitz said, troops serving in Iraq are doing an "absolutely stunning job," and their morale is high.
"What they do is extraordinary, and it's a great tribute to the kind of quality of people that serve this country," he said of the service members. "Their morale is high; they're committed to the mission; and their obvious commitment to getting the job done right is having a positive effect on the people of Iraq.
"(The troops) understand that helping the Iraqis build a free and democratic society will help make our children and grandchildren safer."