Wolfowitz Says Bravery, Commitment Underscore Iraq Visit
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2003 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said today the deepest impression left during his four-day visit to Iraq to assess progress in the country's rebuilding was the "hundreds of individual acts of courage" by Iraqis, Americans and coalition partners "working together to build a new and free Iraq."
Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz meets with Ahmed Ibrhahan, Iraqi senior deputy minister of the interior, center, and Capt. Jeff Royer, 233rd Military Police Company, Illinois National Guard, during the deputy secretary's visit to the al-Jadeeda Police Station in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 26. Wolfowitz praised the courage and commitment of Iraqi people defying what he calls the "bitter-enders" of the Saddam Hussein regime and moving their country toward democracy. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Talking with reporters during his return flight from Baghdad, Wolfowitz praised the courage and commitment of Iraqi people defying what he calls the "bitter- enders" of the Saddam Hussein regime and moving their country toward democracy.
He said he saw evidence of this commitment everywhere he went during the trip: among Iraqi police manning police stations in Kirkuk and Baghdad, at the Fatima al-Zahra Center for Women's Rights in Al Hillah, among Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers in Tikrit and among all other Iraqis he met who are striving to build a free, secure Iraq.
Wolfowitz praised the bravery exhibited by the Iraqi Facilities Protection Service during his visit. Part of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, this service is credited with buffering the severity of the Oct. 26 terrorist attack on the Al Rasheed Hotel, where Wolfowitz was staying at the time.
Facilities Protection Service forces responded within minutes when 1st Armored Division soldiers sighted a suspicious generator trailer being moved into a park near the hotel. As a result, the perpetrators fled the scene before they could fully arm the launching device hidden inside, Wolfowitz said, calling the two Iraqi Facilities Protection Service members who suffered shrapnel injuries during the attack "real heroes."
Everywhere he went during the trip, Wolfowitz said, he was struck by the bravery exhibited by the Americans he met military and civilian alike.
"They were risking their lives and proud of what they are doing," he said. "They know what the mission is about. They know they are helping to build a new country. They know they are helping to make the world and America safer."
At the U.S. Army's 28th Combat Support Hospital, where those critically wounded in the Al Rasheed Hotel attack were evacuated, Wolfowitz said he was "truly encouraged" by the "courage and commitment" of the five people seriously wounded in the blast.
"There wasn't a single complaint among them," he said. "They were all proud of being there, proud of what they have accomplished."
Among the critically injured patients Wolfowitz visited was a British civilian from the Finance Ministry who the deputy secretary said "has just helped to get Saddam's face off the currency and get a new currency on the streets and is proud of what he has done."
Wolfowitz also visited a U.S. State Department secretary who recently volunteered for service in Iraq and has "no regrets and (is) proud of what she is doing," he said.
Another patient, a civilian from the U.S. Department of Labor who is helping the Iraqis establish a new Labor Ministry, "is proud of his work, with every reason to be," Wolfowitz said.
Similarly, the deputy secretary said a Defense Department civilian employee from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, who received severe facial lacerations during the attack, "was just proud of what he was doing and amazingly upbeat."
Another patient, a U.S. Army colonel working in the Ministry of Health, was wearing an oxygen mask when Wolfowitz approached him in the intensive care unit to thank him for his service. When the deputy secretary learned that the officer had grown up in Beirut, Lebanon, he asked, "How do you feel about building a new Middle East?" and received a "thumbs up" sign. The colonel then asked the attending nurse to remove his oxygen mask so he could be photographed with Wolfowitz.
"I am inspired by their reaction (and) by their courage," the deputy secretary said.
He said the same level of commitment to and belief in their cause was evident today at the Coalition Provisional Authority. Staff members, many in tears after learning that a member of their staff had been killed in the hotel attack, quickly channeled their grief into getting back to the business at hand.
"We have people who, military and civilian, have volunteered to do a dangerous assignment because they know it's important," Wolfowitz said. "And I think everything they're learning when they are out here reinforces that commitment. It's just a wonderful spirit."