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5/12/03 - INTERIM AUTHORITY IN IRAQ - 2003-05-13

With the ouster of the Saddam Hussein regime, Iraqis are free, in the words of Ahmed Rubai, “to do things that were forbidden before.” For Ahmed Rubai and his brother Haidar, that means selling satellite television dishes at their stationery store in Baghdad. Under the old regime, as they told the Wall Street Journal newspaper, anyone found with a satellite dish could be sent to prison for six months. Clearly, Saddam Hussein did not want the Iraqi people to have access to outside information and ideas.

Now, Iraqis are free not only to receive information, but also to say what they want without fear. But as Iraqi poet Mohammed Thamer [THAH-mer] pointed out, “to talk loudly and to think loudly takes time.” As Mr. Thamer told the Washington Post newspaper, “it takes practice to be free.”

This is especially obvious to those Iraqis trying to move their country toward democracy after decades of dictatorship. They know the transition needs to be made in careful steps leading to a government that ensures a voice for all Iraqis and protects their rights.

As President George W. Bush said, the U.S. and its coalition allies “fully believe the people of Iraq are capable of running their own country”:

“We will work to provide the conditions necessary for security, repair the infrastructure, make sure that the life of the average Iraqi citizen is back to normal, and then encourage the Iraqi people to decide their own fate and run their own government.”

Freedom and democracy -- rights for Iraqis, as for people everywhere.