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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.

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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.
  

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The Detroit suburb is home to the nation's largest Arab- American population. Wolfowitz's remark met with thundering applause.

"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.

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Related Sites:
Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Speech at the Iraqi Forum for Democracy, Dearborn, Mich.

Related Articles:
Wolfowitz Meets Boy Who Survived Assault by Hussein's Troops as an Infant


Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong (from left), deputy combatant commander of Central Command; William Luti, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs; and David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness were among the senior DoD officials who accompanied Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to Dearborn, Mich., Feb. 23, 2003, to meet with members of the city's Iraqi- American community. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA banner welcomes Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to a meeting Feb. 23, 2003, in Dearborn, Mich., sponsored by the Iraqi Forum for Democracy. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNearly 300 Iraqi-Americans and recent immigrants let their feelings be known with a sign saying they don't want a Baath Party regime in any post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. The occasion was a visit by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to Dearborn, Mich., Feb. 23, 2003, to meet with members of the city's Iraqi-American community. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageBaker (from right) and Ketam Albaaj read handouts at a Feb. 23, 2003, Iraqi-American town hall meeting in Dearborn, Mich., during which Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was keynote speaker. The couple's 21-month-old daughter, Nora, keeps watch on the camera. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNearly 300 members of the Arab community in Dearborn, Mich., turned out Feb. 23, 2003, for a town hall meeting where Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was the keynote speaker. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMany of the nearly 300 members of the Arab community in Dearborn, Mich., wore their traditional abayas (robes) to the town hall meeting Feb. 23, 2003, where Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was keynote speaker. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA man holds a poster indicating the six of his family members who were killed during the 1991 post- Gulf War uprisings in Iraq. He presented the poster to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz during a meeting with the Arab-American community of Dearborn, Mich., Feb. 23, 2003. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDeputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (left) chats with the father of 13-year-old Ahsan Alwatan, who was kicked in the head by Saddam Hussein's combat- booted soldiers. Wolfowitz was told that the incident happened in front of the boy's mother in order to make her provide information. The boy suffered brain damage. The conversation was at Wolfowitz's meeting with the Arab- American community of Dearborn, Mich., Feb. 23, 2003. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMany of the nearly 300 members of the Iraqi- American community Dearborn, Mich., wore their traditional abayas (robes) to a meeting Feb. 23, 2003, with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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