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8/14/03 - FREEDOM IN THE AIR - 2003-08-15

It has been just over one hundred days since the United States-led coalition liberated Iraq from the iron grip of Saddam Hussein. But throughout the country, people who had been subjugated for years by tyranny are now experiencing freedom. As Iraqi diplomat Akila Hashimi told the Washington Times newspaper, "You feel like you're in a free country. People are expressing their happiness [and] expressing their anger. They're saying anything they want to say."

Mr. Hashimi is a member of the new Iraqi Governing Council, created as the first step toward self-government in Iraq. The council will begin the process that will lead to an Iraqi constitution and free elections. The council brings together, for the first time, a representative group of Iraqi political leaders. The twenty-five members include Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Kurds, a Christian, and a Turkmen. Three members of the council are women.

Since major combat operations ended May 1st, many Iraqis have been killed in attacks by diehards of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Over fifty coalition troops have been killed. But President George W. Bush says progress has been made in the effort to root out and destroy the enemies of Iraqi freedom:

"[We've] got a lot of brave soldiers slowly but surely demolishing elements of [Saddam Hussein's] Baathist regime [and] those foreign terrorists who feel like they can use Iraq as a place to arm up and inflict casualties or perhaps gain strength to come and attack Americans elsewhere."

Saddam Hussein's legacy of evil cannot be overcome in just one hundred days, but as President Bush said, a great deal has been accomplished already.

"We're keeping our word to the Iraqi people by helping them to make their country an example of democracy and prosperity throughout the region. This long-term undertaking is vital to peace in that region and to the security of the United States. Our coalition and the people of Iraq have made remarkable progress in a short time, and we will complete the great work we have begun."

Every day, said President Bush, "Iraq draws closer to the free and functioning society its people were long denied."