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5/13/03 - IRAQI NIGHTMARE IS OVER - 2003-05-13

By the 1980s, most people in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe had lived their entire lives under oppressive regimes. Few believed they would live to see a change. Then, in November 1989, the Berlin Wall came crashing down. That event marked the beginning of a chance for hundreds of millions of people to be free.

On April 9th, the Iraqi people got a similar chance. As people around the world watched on television, Iraqis, aided by U.S. soldiers, toppled a giant statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Iraqi poet Awad Nasir [AH-wahd NAH-sir]. Writing in the Wall Street Journal newspaper, Mr. Nasir told how he had spent three decades, part in prison, part in hiding, and part in exile. “I had often dreamed of an end to the nightmare of [Saddam Hussein’s] Baathist-fascist regime,” he said. “But I had never dreamed that the end, that is to say Iraq’s liberation, would come the way it did.”

In exile in London, Mr. Nasir got a call from his sister in Baghdad, whom he had not seen for years. “The nightmare is over,” she said. “We are free. Do you realize? We are free!”

Iraq is free, Mr. Nasir wrote in the Wall Street Journal, because when many countries were unwilling to take action, “the U.S. and Britain stood firm and insisted that Iraq must be liberated, regardless of whatever anyone might say.” And now, he said, the U.S., Britain, and other coalition members “must remain equally firm in asserting that Iraq must be democratized.”

That, as President George W. Bush made clear, is the intention of the U.S.:

“We will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy is hard, and will take time -- but it is worth every effort.”

The coalition, said President Bush, “will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave -- and we will leave behind a free Iraq.”