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8/18/03 - IRAQIS TASTE LIBERTY - 2003-08-18


Ayad Najim, a former sergeant in the Iraqi Army, recently returned to Iraq after twelve years of self-imposed exile. As the New York Times newspaper reported, when Mr. Najim returned to his home town of Basra, he was greeted by his relatives with a song. "Saddam is gone," they sang. "His prisons and palaces are gone. Look at all the happy faces of the people."

Variations of that song are being sung throughout Iraq, now that the U.S.-led coalition has liberated the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. As Paul Bremer, Iraq's interim administrator, said, "Freedom matters. It matters [in Iraq} as much as it does in Montana, Cornwall or Indonesia. It's important to remember this and look beyond the shootouts and blackouts and remind ourselves of the range of rights Iraqis enjoy today because of the coalition's military victory:"

". . . .the freedom now to travel for the first time in their life, the freedom to think what they wish, the freedom to speak out and demonstrate even against me and the United States."

The Iraqi people, said Mr. Bremer, are moving toward stability and self-government. And since the deaths of Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday (au-day) and Qusay (cow-sigh), most Iraqis are no longer worried that Saddam Hussein or his totalitarian regime will return:

"We've had now an increase in the number of Iraqis coming in and giving us information about where Baathists and Fedayeen Saddam and other killers are. And we've had interestingly also an increase in the number of bad guys turning themselves into our tactical units. So, I think if we can kill Saddam or capture him, it will continue that dynamic, the dynamic that says to all the Iraqis that the Baathist days are finished here forever."

As U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz put it, “Iraqis are like prisoners who have emerged from years of solitary confinement with no light, no news, no knowledge of the outside world, and they have just emerged into the blinding sun and the fresh air of freedom. The progress that our troops are making is helping to lessen the grip of fear. And make no mistake: we are making a great deal of progress.”

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