Thank you, Tanya [Gilly], Ambassador [Rend al] Rahim, Congressman [James] Moran, Mr. Nijyar Shamdin, Dr. Mohamed Sabir, Mr. Ferhad Barzani, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great honor for me to be able join you today – to represent President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, and the American people.
We join you in mourning the loss of so many good people and so many Iraqi Kurdish leaders.
One of the interesting developments that has resulted from the liberation of Iraq has been the appearance of a number of anonymous Iraqis who have created their own web sites where they post news about developments in that country. One of my favorites is by an Iraqi Arab called, “Iraq, the Model.” A week ago, on Saturday, January 31st, the eve of Eid al Adha, there was a posting which expressed, I think the feelings of so many Iraqis reading what was supposed to be a joyful occasion. Let me read it to you:
“Today is the Eid of Adha eve…. I went for a drive [in Baghdad] … and the streets were incredibly crowded, … as families prepare to welcome their guests who visit them to exchange greetings on the days of the Eid:(Kol a'am wintobkheer), this is the most familiar greeting and it means: (may you be alright and safe every year)…. The hyper activity in Baghdad tells that people want to go on with their lives and celebrate their Eid with no fear of what terrorists might plan to do….
“Iraqis know that their joy and their feeling of peace is the favorite target of criminals who want to show their hatred to peace and freedom and their anger with what Iraqis are achieving everyday….
“When Iraqis keep living their lives the way they want, they're not ignoring the dangers or trying to forget the sad events that happened today or anywhere in the last months, NO, they're fighting to survive and struggling to secure their right to live in peace and freedom. Some of us are fighting with guns, others are fighting with a stronger weapon; LOVE OF LIFE.
“I hope that the coming days will be peaceful and that my people will enjoy their Eid without troubles….”
Sadly, we all know that this hope for a peaceful Eid was horribly shattered by the bombings the next day in Irbil. Later that same writer, an Iraqi Arab, posted on his web site the words that I think speak for all of us -- Iraqis and Americans, Kurds and Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Jews:
“… [C]hoose whatever policy you wish,,” he said, “pray for any God you believe in, but don’t steal the joy from children….
“… My tears are for all the victims of evil and injustice, and those who sacrificed their lives while fighting it back.
“…[T]he truth is: we need each other.
“…[L]et our voice be louder than that of the evil.”
No words can adequately convey the full meaning of the evil that struck the peaceful people of Irbil on that holy day one week ago.
But we do have words to express our sorrow for the victims – victims who include well-known leaders of both the Patriotic Union [PUK] and the Kurdish Democratic Party [KDP]. They include many others whose names may not have been well known to us, but whose suffering and loss are just as real. We share their families’ grief, and we remember the victims today in our prayers.
Sami Abdul Rahman was a man I knew and admired. For more than half a century, he dedicated himself to achieving Kurdish rights. In pursuit of that goal, he was a tough negotiator. But he also remained true to the ideals of tolerance and compromise. He was a man of great vision, and his vision will be sorely missed.
He is truly irreplaceable, as are so many others whose places we see around the walls of this room. But his legacy and theirs will live on in the work of those who will succeed them. His memory will endure as long as the people enjoy the new Irbil Park, or “Sami’s Park” as it is also known, in honor of the man who most cherished it. We all extend special condolences to his wife, for whom that terrible day brought not only the death of her husband but two sons as well.
I also want to extend heartfelt condolences to the family of Saad Abdulla, who served as KDP minister of agriculture. Agriculture remains the backbone of Iraq, and Saad Abdullah’s experience will be sorely missed, as will the contributions of more than 100 others whose lives were taken in that evil act of violence.
Let us also pray for those like Adnan Mufti, the PUK representative in Irbil and former deputy prime minister, who was severely wounded and is now recovering. I should add that it was heroic PUK bodyguards may probably saved his life. Their self-sacrifice is emblematic of the millions of Iraqis who have rallied to the cause of building a free, democratic Iraq, an Iraq that no longer terrorizes its own citizens or makes war on its neighbors or harbors international terrorists.
These men were among the leaders of a region that was the first to show the world that democratic self-government can flourish in Iraq. They helped build strong and confident institutions for the Kurds of Iraq.
Thanks in part to their work, all Iraq is now free and the vision and dedication of Iraqi Kurdish leaders is at the service of all Iraqis:
· Hoshyar Zebari represents Iraq to the world as foreign minister.
· Latif Rashid directs Iraq’s crucial water resources.
· The knowledge and experience of Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani help guide the Governing Council on Iraq’s path to full sovereignty.
· And Kurdish Iraqis are making many other contributions to building a new Iraq. At this crucial time, the future of Iraq requires no less.
After such a shocking tragedy, and after the generations of oppression suffered by Iraqi Kurds, it is understandable that some might want to raise barriers and look inward. I urge the opposite. The best guarantee of Kurdish rights is a united Iraq in which all communities can live securely and have the opportunity to participate in national leadership, as Kurds are participating now. This is a goal worthy of the sacrifice of the heroes we honor today.
The bloody events of last Sunday are one more terrible price that Kurds have had to pay to secure their freedom. And it is not only Kurds, but Americans and Coalition partners and other Iraqis as well who have paid that price. Sadly, we know that there are still further sacrifices ahead to secure that freedom. But Kurds must never be asked to give up the freedom that has been won at such high cost. At the same time, we look to Iraqi Kurds, with their experience of freedom and democracy, to help all Iraqis build a new Iraq where those precious values can flourish. Success in that venture will benefit not only Iraqi Kurds and all Iraqis, but the whole world, including my country, as well.
I would ask you today also to remember in your prayers the coalition soldiers who died in the line of duty last weekend. They too gave their lives to build the new Iraq. On Saturday, January 31, three young U.S. soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division were killed in Kirkuk when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device:
· Sgt. Eliu Miersandoval was from San Clemente, California. He was 27 years old.
· Corporal Juan Cabralbanuelos was 25 and came from the American heartland -- Emporia, Kansas.
· Private First Class Holly McGeogh was only 19. She was from Taylor, Michigan.
Another 4th Infantry Division soldier died on Sunday, February first – the day the killers struck in Irbil. He was Staff Sgt. Roger Turner, 37 years old, from Parkersburg, West Virginia. Sgt. Turner died of injuries in Iraq when his base came under mortar attack.
Like the Kurdish heroes who perished in last week’s attack, these men and women were heroes who gave their lives for the cause of freedom. The people who mounted those attacks were seeking to derail the progress that has already been made.
I believe that when we finally get to the bottom of all these evil deeds, we will find that the criminals who desecrated the hold day of Eids in Irbil will very likely turn out to be the same evildoers who perpetrated so many other acts of terrorism in Iraq, including the brutal bombing in Najaf in August that took the life of another hero, Mohammed Bakir al Hakim and more than 100 innocent Iraqis.
Their goal is to turn back to the days when Saddam Hussein could freely use poison gas against Iraqis -- a time of killing fields and prisons, of widespread torture and murder.
It’s not the first time they’ve tried to kill the aspirations of good and decent people. Three years ago this month, they murdered Fransu Hariri, the KDP majority leader in Irbil and the Irbil parliament and its highest ranking Christian member. Terrorists thought they could keep Iraqis in subjection by dividing the country, by pitting one group against another.
But they failed then, and they will fail now. Now all Iraqis – Kurds, Arabs, and Turkamen – whether they are Muslims or Christians or Yezidis – all Iraqis will win if they work together toward a common goal, freedom and democracy.
And let me make this very clear: The terrorists are also trying to shake the resolve of the United States. They have failed in that as well.
President Bush said it in no uncertain terms, speaking to the joint Congress in his State of the Union message last month: “As democracy takes hold in Iraq,” the President said, “the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends, but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. The killers will fail,” the President said, “and the Iraqi people will live in freedom.”
Those words were echoed last week by Kurdistan Prime Minister Nercivan Barzani. As reported, he responded to the attacks in Irbil by saying simply, “We shall continue.”
When I read those words, I was reminded of what Abraham Lincoln said when he visited the great battlefield of Gettysburg during the American Civil War 140 years ago. He was there to dedicate the cemetery for those who fell in that battle. “It is for us,” Lincoln said, “it is for us the living to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have this far so nobly advanced” – words, I might add, that apply to the heroes we honor here today — “that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
That is what Abraham Lincoln said 140 years ago. I think those words are a guide for how we can best honor those who continue to risk their lives in Iraq and those who died there last Sunday -- including Sami Abdul Rahman and Saad Abdulla and the many others. We can honor their sacrifice by completing the task of building a free, democratic, independent Iraq – an Iraq that is truly of the Iraqi people, by the Iraqi people, and for the Iraqi people. That is the best way to honor their memory.
In the meantime, of course, we also mourn – for all who have given their lives in this great cause. And we console our friends who grieve, with the words of Surah 3 of the Koran: “Think not of those who are killed in the way of God as dead. Nay they are alive with their Lord and they have provision.”
When I was the American Ambassador to Indonesia 12 years ago, I learned the beautiful prayer from the Koran called the Fatiha. I believe on occasions such as this it is appropriate to recite that prayer. If you would, permit me to close by reciting it. It goes:
“Bismillaah ah-Rahman ar-Raheem /Al hamdu lillaahi rabbil ‘alameen / Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem / Maaliki yaumid Deen / Iyyaaka na’abudu wa iy yaaka nasta’een / Ihdinas siraatal mustaqeem Siraatal ladheena an ‘amta’ alaihim / Ghairil maghduubi’ alaihim / waladaaleen / Aameen.”
And in English, “In the name of God the most compassionate and most merciful, praise be to God, the cherisher and sustainer of the world, the most compassionate, the most merciful, master of the day of judgment, thee do we worship and thine aid do we seek. Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom thou has bestowed thy grace, thou whose portion is not wrath and who go not astray.” Amen.
Those are words that all of us -- of every faith -- can say.
Thank you and may God bless the victims of this terrible tragedy and all their families, may God bless the Kurdish people and all the people of free Iraq. May God bless the brave Americans and the brave Iraqi and Coalition partners who are in the front lines of fighting for Iraqi freedom, and may God bless you all.