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Powell Speaks of Importance of Human Rights in Iraq Fight

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2003 – America is the light of freedom to the world, Secretary of State Colin Powell said today, and sometimes, Americans must fight to keep that light lit.

Powell spoke about the U.S. war to overturn Saddam Hussein during a press conference on the release of the department's 2002 Human Rights Report, today.

The report gives country reports on human rights practices that will help to shape the Bush administration's policy decisions as it works toward a safer, freer world.

"Our country was founded on the precept that freedom is the birthright of every human being, and America is proud to serve as a force for freedom across the globe," Powell said. "As we lead an international campaign against terrorism, we are also working to extend the blessings of freedom at home and abroad."

The secretary said that people everywhere want to live in freedom and safety and to create a better future for their children.

"As I speak, U.S. forces and our coalition partners are fighting to protect our country and the world from the potentially catastrophic combination of an outlaw state, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism," he said. "In the process, we are liberating the Iraqi people from a ruthless tyranny that has showed utter contempt for human life."

Once the war against the Hussein regime is over the United States and coalition partners will help the Iraqi people recover from 24 years of misrule. "We are resolved to help the Iraqi people achieve a united and stable country, and move toward democracy and prosperity under a representative government that respects the rights of all of its citizens," Powell said.

Hussein's cabal is a classic illustration that such regimes tend to pose the greatest dangers to the peace of the world, he said. Democracies, as a rule, don't make war on each other.

"States which demonstrate a high degree of respect for human rights are likeliest to contribute to international security and well-being," he said. "Where human rights and freedoms flourish, terrorists and tyrants do not thrive, and conflict and chaos do not reign."

Powell explained that the Bush administration is strongly committed to working with government leaders, non- governmental organizations, free trade unions and individuals across the globe to improve compliance with international human rights standards.

The administration will defend the rights of women and "combat the appalling crime of human trafficking, of which the overwhelming majority of victims are women and children."

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