"We Won't Forget": Wolfowitz Describes Visit to Painful Scenes in Iraq
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2003 A photo of a woman searching for family among skeletal remains wrapped in white linen hung above the podium where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz gave the keynote address Aug. 2 for victims of Saddam Hussein's regime.
The message printed in black letters on the photo read: "We Won't Forget."
Neither will Wolfowitz, who joined about 60 Iraqi family members on the campus of George Washington University for a memorial service to remember those who suffered under Saddam.
In describing a recent visit to Iraq, Wolfowitz said that no trip to the country would be complete without some exposure to the crimes of Saddam Hussein's regime. "I don't have to tell you how painful that is," he said.
The deputy secretary said that during his visit he toured the mass grave sites in Al Hillah and the torture chambers at the prison in Abu Gharib. He said he spoke with victims who survived and the families of those who did not.
He said he also met with a few of the remaining so-called "Marsh Arabs," who survived after Saddam drained the marshlands where they lived and created a vast wasteland that nearly wiped out their ancient civilization and way of life.
"We saw evidence of the cruelty that was visited on Shia and Sunni, Muslim and Christian, Kurd, Arab and Turk alike. All the people of Iraq were victims of Saddam's regime," he observed.
Wolfowitz told the families that the morale of American troops in Iraq is high, because "they understand the importance of their mission and so do the Iraqi people."
He also told them that most Iraqis support the coalition's efforts. He noted that during his visit he was met by Iraqis giving the "thumbs up" sign and shouts of "thank you" and "Bush is good."
"Throughout Iraq -- from the north and the center, as well as the south we heard many expressions of gratitude that Iraq was liberated," he said, "from Sunnis as well as Shia, from Arabs as well as Turks and Kurds, Muslims and well as Christians." Wolfowitz also asked Iraqi families not to forget the fallen service members who gave them their freedom. "We can honor their memory by completing the task of building a free, democratic Iraq, a country with a government of the Iraqi people, by the Iraqi people, and for the Iraqi people," he said.
He urged them to honor the sacrifices of the coalition soldiers by "finishing the work that they and so many others gave their lives for."
During the memorial a moment of silence was observed for the victims in Iraq and a presentation was made documenting U.S. and Iraqi efforts to uncover the remains of those missing in Iraq. There were also remarks by a representative from a victim's family.
Before departing, Wolfowitz was presented with two abstract drawings by Iraqi artists Hussein Alawan and Ahmen Barakat. The pictures, done in charcoal, depicted the artists' view of the human tragedy that millions of Iraqis suffered under Saddam's brutal regime.