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03/13/2003 - DEMOCRACY POSSIBLE IN IRAQ - 2003-03-13

The United States, with the world community, desires to help the Iraqi people move their country toward democracy and prosperity. But is democracy possible in Iraq? Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz posed that question in a recent meeting with Iraqi-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan. Clearly, he said, the answer is “yes.”

“Look to the people of northern Iraq,” said Mr. Wolfowitz. “Beyond the reach of Saddam Hussein and his regime for a decade, they’ve shown an impressive ability to manage longstanding differences and develop relatively free and prospering societies. Look to the Iraqi-Americans. . .and see how quickly they have adapted to a democratic system.”

Finally, said Mr. Wolfowitz, any doubters should “look to the Iraqi people’s long yearning for representative government and their long suffering under one of the most oppressive dictatorships the world has known. Perhaps more than any other people, they have been inoculated against tyranny.”

The values of freedom and democracy, as Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz stressed, “are not just Western values or European values. They are Muslim and Asian values as well. Indeed, they are universal values. They are the bridge that spans civilization.”

Similar ideas have been expressed by many Iraqis who were forced to leave their country. Sadiq Al-Mossawi [SAH-dick al-MOO-sah-wee] is an Iraqi who narrowly escaped execution by the Saddam Hussein regime. Now a successful entrepreneur in the U.S., he wants to return to his country, as he says, “to reach out to Iraqi minds and teach them what the world has become technologically, economically, and politically. Iraq, with its wealth and abilities,” said Mr. Al-Mossawi, “can become the Japan of the Middle East.”

Among the Iraqi-Americans who spoke at the meeting with Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz was Abu Muslim al-Haydar [al-HIGH-dahr]. He said he was a university professor in Iraq and is now working in social services to help refugees. “I want to assure you and all other people around the world,” said Mr. al-Haydar, “that we suffered so much and we are willing to work towards democracy.” He said that most people want to work in two phases -- a liberation phase and a rebuilding phase.

“So please, please take it seriously,” said Iraqi exile Abu Muslim al-Haydar. “Liberate [the] Iraqi people.”