Freed from the repression of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi people are beginning to rebuild their nation. The task is immense. "What Iraq needs is not reconstruction," said U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, but "rehabilitation from thirty-five years of deliberate misuse of Iraqi resources."
Saddam Hussein squandered Iraq's wealth to build himself palaces, prisons, torture chambers, and vast amounts of weapons of every kind. Comparatively little was spent on homes, hospitals, schools, civilian industries and economic infrastructure for the people of Iraq. This is especially evident in areas of southern and northern Iraq considered by the dictator to be disloyal to his repressive rule.
In addition to pillaging the country, Saddam Hussein left a legacy of fear. Tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children were murdered by his security forces. Some of these killers are still carrying out sporadic attacks on coalition forces or Iraqi citizens. Ba'athist party terrorists are trying to prevent Iraqis from establishing a free, democratic, and prosperous Iraq. To eradicate this threat, Mr. Wolfowitz says Iraq urgently needs security forces of its own:
"We don't need more American troops. We need international troops, yes. We need actionable intelligence, yes. But what we need most of all are Iraqis fighting with us. The Iraqi people are part of this coalition and they need to be armed and trained to participate."
Mr. Wolfowitz said the U.S. and its coalition allies are working with Iraqis to meet Iraq's security needs:
"We've begun recruiting and training for a national army and are about to begin recruiting and training for a civilian defense force. That force could take over some important tasks from our troops, such as guarding fixed sites and power lines."
A free Iraqi people can ultimately be the guarantors of their own security. They can, as President George W. Bush said, "set a hopeful example to the entire region and lead other nations to choose freedom."