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Iraqi-Americans United Against Hussein's 'Republic of Fear'

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2003 – Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator who doesn't care a whit about the Iraqi people, and he is only concerned with how they and the country's principal natural resource, oil, may serve him.

That's the message three Iraqi-Americans provided to reporters today during a press briefing held at the State Department's Foreign Press Center here.

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, long a champion for an Iraq freed from the dictator's control, joined Iraqi-Americans Emad Dhia, Zakiya Hakki and Sam Kareem to meet the press. Wolfowitz spoke of his recent trip to Dearborn, Mich., where he'd met with hundreds of members of the city's Iraqi- American community, the largest in America.

"I heard one wrenching story after another about Saddam's systematic brutality," Wolfowitz recalled, noting that his fellow panelists can describe why it's so important to end Saddam's reign in what one Iraqi writer has characterized as the "Republic of Fear."

A reporter asked the Iraqis how they felt, knowing that ongoing American and coalition military operations were demolishing their native land.

Hakki, a judge and graduate of the University of Baghdad like her fellow Iraqi- Americans on the panel, noted that Saddam is a violent, destructive leader who cares nothing for Iraq or its people.

Hussein ordered the destruction of Kuwaiti oil fields, she pointed out, upon the Iraqi forces' retreat from Kuwait during the Gulf War.

Now, "he is doing the same thing in Iraq," Hakki declared. The judge, a Kurdish Shia, noted that Saddam had ordered the torching of Iraq's southern oil fields, which are now secure in coalition hands for the Iraqi people.

And, the dictator "is the one and the only one who is responsible for all these casualties against civilians" in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, she emphasized.

"Nobody is happy or willing to see his family being bombarded," declared Dhia, who's a Shia.

Yet, during Hussein's 20-plus-year reign "we have over 1 million Iraqis killed in two wars, and (the) continuous brutality of Saddam," Dhia pointed out, noting that 4 to 5 million Iraqis live outside Iraq.

"Why (are) there so many Iraqis outside Iraq?" Dhia posited. "(They're) running for their lives and trying to escape the brutality of Saddam Hussein," he answered.

Wolfowitz pointed out the care U.S. and coalition forces are taking in conducting precision bombing raids in Iraq in a deliberate attempt to limit deaths of innocent civilians.

"If you looked at a map of Baghdad and saw where we actually have targeted, you would be astonished, I believe, at the huge expanse of the city that is untouched," the deputy secretary said.

Consequently, the war hasn't prevented Baghdad's citizens from going about their daily business, Wolfowitz remarked.

"They go to restaurants," he said, adding, "I don't believe the population of Iraq has too much doubt that what we're targeting are regime targets."

Regarding a reporter's question as to whether U.S. and coalition military planners overestimated the resolve of Saddam's forces to resist, Wolfowitz replied, "I think we probably did overestimate the willingness of this regime to commit war crimes."

He said it's a war crime "to put anti-aircraft guns on the top of hospitals," as some of Hussein's forces have done. "We're not going after those guns," the deputy secretary declared, to avoid the inadvertent killing of innocent Iraqi civilians.

U.S. and coalition leaders have also accused Saddam's minions of executing American and British prisoners of war, of disguising themselves as civilian noncombatants or feigning surrender and then attacking coalition troops, of parading prisoners of war on Iraqi state television, and more violations of the rules of war encoded in the Geneva Convention.

Additionally, Fedayeen Saddam "death squads" now roam across regime-controlled Iraq to intimidate citizens to fight for the regime and to prevent military desertions and surrenders.

The Fedayeen, a paramilitary organization headed by Hussein's son Uday, has been accused of killing citizens disloyal to Saddam in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, in Baghdad the capital, and other cities and towns.

Anyone who crosses the Fedayeen gets "a bullet in his head -- in front of his family," Dhia pointed out.

"I don't think we anticipated such a level of execution squads inside Basra," Wolfowitz acknowledged.

Kareem, a Turkoman, noted many Iraqis opposed to Saddam would likely not revolt as long as the dictator is in control of the government. In the failed 1991 revolt against Hussein, he noted that 300,000 Iraqis were killed.

"Try to realize that if you have a gun pointed at your head, you're not going to go out and greet the U.S. forces until that gun is gone," Kareem explained.

However, Wolfowitz emphasized, U.S. and coalition war plans are solid and Operation Iraqi Freedom is going well. And U.S. and coalition forces are not in Iraq to conquer and occupy the country, he stressed, but to free Iraqis from the yoke of Saddam's brutal rule.

"The ultimate end" of Saddam Hussein's regime "is a certainty," Wolfowitz concluded.

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