As the U.S.-led coalition works to remove the remaining elements of the Saddam Hussein regime, the Iraqi people are emerging from the shadow of tyranny. Iraqis are helping coalition forces to find death squad members, uncover weapons caches, capture regime leaders, and restore order.
Near Mosul, Iraqis handed over to coalition officials Samir Abd al-Aziz, a senior Baath Party official. Other old regime officials in custody include Hikmat Mizban Ibrahim al-Azzawi, former deputy prime minister and finance minister. He was arrested by Iraqi police and turned over to U.S. Marines in Baghdad. Muhammad Hamza al-Zubaydi played a major role in the Saddam Hussein regime’s brutal suppression of Shiite Muslims in 1991. He was captured by Iraqis and placed in the coalition’s custody to be tried for war crimes.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that this kind of spontaneous cooperation is happening on a daily basis across Iraq:
“Not all Iraqis support the coalition presence, and we know that. It’s to be expected. Certainly those who benefited from the former regime don’t support the coalition. In any totalitarian system, there will be a small portion of the population that has profited from the power of the dictatorship. Those with allegiances to figures in Iran or Syria undoubtedly also do not support coalition forces, while some others may be ordinary citizens who are understandably uncomfortable with the presence of any foreign forces in the country.”
Before liberation, political protests in Iraq were prohibited. Now that Saddam Hussein has been removed from power, Iraqis are speaking out. Iraqis are free once again to practice their religion. On April 22nd, hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims went to the Iraqi city of Karbala [KAHR-bah-LAH] to take part in a religious observance that commemorates the seventh-century martyrdom of a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The pilgrimage had been banned by the Saddam Hussein regime for more than two decades.
As President George W. Bush said, “The journey from a totalitarian, brutal dictatorship to a free society is not easy. It will take time to build the institutions of democracy and the habits of freedom.”