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Rumsfeld Says Iraqi Problems Real But Workable

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2003 – Iraq, with the help of the Coalition Provisional Authority, will work past its current problems, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York May 27.

Rumsfeld said Iraq's problems are real, but shouldn't be blown out of proportion. Every country making a break with its past has gone through similar trauma.

Rumsfeld talked about a country that faced "looting, crime and mobs storming government buildings, the breakdown of government structures and institutions that maintained civil order (and) rampant inflation caused by the lack of a stable currency." He continued describing "supporters of the former regime roaming the streets and countryside whose fate has to be determined, regional tensions between north and south, delays, bickering and false starts in the effort to establish a new government."

That country, the secretary pointed out, was the United States at the end of the American Revolution. "Those early years of our young republic were characterized by chaos and confusion," he said. "Our first effort at a governing charter the Articles of Confederation failed miserably, and it took eight years of contentious debate before we finally adopted our Constitution and inaugurated our first president."

Iraq suffers all this, plus the added trauma of decades of denial and brutal rule, Rumsfeld noted. "It is now just seven weeks since the liberation of Iraq, and the challenges are there," he said. "Just as it took time and patience, trial and error, and years of hard work before our founders got it right so too will it take time and patience, trial and error, and hard work for the Iraqi people to overcome the challenges they face today."

But, the secretary said, the Iraqis have an advantage over early Americans. The war plan to topple Hussein was such that most of the infrastructure is undamaged. The oil fields the Iraqi source of wealth are safe and will soon begin pumping. Coalition forces safeguarded Iraqi dams and worked to limit civilian casualties.

"Iraq could conceivably become a model proof that a moderate Muslim state can succeed in the battle against extremism taking place in the Muslim world today," Rumsfeld said. "We are committed to helping the Iraqi people get on the path to a free society."

The Coalition Provisional Authority is not about to impose a template of western democracy on the country. "Iraqis will figure out how to build a free nation in a manner that reflects their unique culture and traditions," he said.

The goal is a representative government for all of Iraq that protects the rights of all citizens, does not threaten its neighbors and believes in the rule of law, the secretary said.

The authority in Iraq will not use a template, but will use guidelines, Rumsfeld noted. "First, while our goal is to put functional and political authority in the hands of Iraqis as soon as possible, the Coalition Provisional Authority has the responsibility to fill the vacuum of power in a country that has been under a dictatorship for decades, by asserting temporary authority over the country," he said. "The coalition will do so. It will not tolerate self-appointed 'leaders.'"

The coalition will provide security and restore law and order to the country. "The coalition is hiring and training Iraqi police and will be prepared to use force to impose order as required," he said. "Because without order, little else will be possible." Coalition forces will remain the country as long as it takes to maintain order "and no longer."

The secretary said that 39 nations have offered stabilization forces or other needed assistance, and that number is growing.

Working with the Iraqis, the authority will continue rehabilitating basic services such as electrical power, pure water and sewage disposal -- all neglected by the former regime.

The coalition will work to staff ministries quickly with competent, acceptable Iraqis. "The coalition will work with forward-looking Iraqis and actively oppose the old regime's enforcers the Baath Party leaders, Fedayeen Saddam and other instruments of repression, and make clear that it will eliminate the remnants of Saddam's regime," Rumsfeld said. "Those who committed war crimes or crimes against humanity will be tracked down and brought to justice."

He said this process may cause inefficiencies, "but it is critical to removing pervasive fear from Iraqi society."

The secretary stated that market systems are the best route forward for the country. Under Hussein, it was a command economy with all decisions made by a small circle in Baghdad.

"The coalition will favor activities that will begin to diversify the Iraqi economy beyond oil," he said. "The coalition will encourage moves to privatize state-owned enterprises. And it will work to provide enterprise-driven economic development opportunities for the Iraqi people." The coalition is setting up a system so Iraq's oil wealth will be used for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

Rumsfeld said that countries, the United Nations, other international organizations and non-governmental organizations are all welcome to assist in Iraq. "They can and are playing an important role," he said. "The Coalition Provisional Authority will work closely with them to maintain a focus of effort."

Help from neighboring countries is encouraged, he said. "Conversely, interference in Iraq by its neighbors or their proxies will not be permitted," he said. "Indeed, Iran should be on notice that efforts to try to remake Iraq in their image will be aggressively put down."

Finally, in assisting the Iraqi people, the United States will do what needs to be done, "but should not be considered the first and only donor of funds."

The secretary said that America has already made a significant investment to liberate Iraq and stands ready to contribute to the rebuilding efforts. "But when funds are needed, the coalition will turn first to Iraqi regime funds in Iraq, Iraqi funds in the Oil-for-Food Program, seized frozen Iraqi regime assets in the U.S. and other countries, and international donors, many of whom are already assisting," he said.

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