Wolfowitz Talks to Iraqi Americans About Ousting Hussein, Rebuilding Homeland
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
DEARBORN, Mich., Feb. 24, 2003 The United States seeks to liberate Iraq, not occupy it, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said here Feb. 23 to nearly 300 members of the Iraqi-American community.
The Detroit suburb is home to the nation's largest Arab- American population. Wolfowitz's remark met with thundering applause.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (right) listens intently to moderator Maha Hussain, president of the Iraqi Forum for Democracy, during his meeting Feb. 23, 2003, with the Iraqi-American community in Dearborn, Mich. Wolfowitz was the keynote speaker. Photo by Rudi Williams.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Since the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, the policy of the U.S. government is that Saddam Hussein and his regime must go," he said. The audience erupted in even louder standing applause. Applause erupted again when he described Hussein as "one of the most evil rulers" of the past 100 years.
He also emphasized that the United States wants to see a democratic Iraq and would not accept replacing Hussein with someone similar. "We're not interested in replacing one dictator with another," Wolfowitz told the gathering of mostly Shi'ite Muslims.
He said critical decisions lie ahead about the future of Iraq. He told the Americans with roots in Iraq and more recent immigrants who are not yet citizens: "You have a stake in Iraq's future."
The secretary rejected critics who question whether democracy can take root in the Arab world. "The values of freedom and democracy are not just Western values or European values -- they're Muslim and Asian values as well ... universal values," he said. He then asked audience, "Is Iraq capable of democracy?"
"Yes!" "Yes!" "Yes!" they exclaimed, raising their fists in the air.
Wolfowitz said when Hussein is gone, there will be "an urgent need for your talents. For those of you who would like to work with the Department of Defense in the reconstruction of Iraq and in assisting Iraqis in the building of free institutions, there are a number of ways you can help."
Wolfowitz said Iraqi Americans could be hired as temporary civilian employees or independent contractors for the U.S. government. "We're also making arrangements for Iraqi Americans and others to be employed by contractors to serve in areas such as translating and other specialized functions," he noted.
He invited some in the audience to become members of the U.S. military by joining the reserves. "This will take advantage of your professional skills in a wide variety of areas, while also capitalizing on your understanding of local languages and culture," Wolfowitz said.
In addition to accelerating their U.S. citizenship, he said, military service would protect their civilian jobs while they're mobilized and they would have the same rights, privileges and benefits as any American serving in the military. Or, he added, they could join the Free Iraqi Force -- the Iraqi opposition groups.
"We've launched a program to train free Iraqis to support military operations inside Iraq," he noted. "If war becomes necessary, the Free Iraqi Force will be integrated with U.S. forces to serve as guides, translators and experts on civil affairs. After a conflict, the skills and local knowledge of those forces will help to rebuild Iraq."
Wolfowitz said training has begun at a military base in Hungary, and the force is open to Iraqis around the world.
"You can help improve public understanding by telling your story in Iraq, in America and around the world," Wolfowitz said. "You can help the American people understand what the stakes are here."
Accompanying the deputy secretary were David Chu, defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness; Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, deputy combatant commander of Central Command; and a host of other senior defense officials. President Emeritus Emad Dhia of the Iraqi Forum for Democracy opened the meeting with remarks. Maha Hussain, the current forum president, served as moderator.