Major combat activity in Iraq ended four-and-a-half months ago. Twenty-three million Iraqis were liberated and the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein no longer exists. More than forty of Iraq’s most wanted Baathist leaders are either dead or in custody.
Today, Iraq is a country on a path to democracy and representative government. But, said U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “Four-and-a-half months of freedom is not a long time for a nation that was politically and economically repressed for decades”:
“Coalition forces are continuing to root out dead-enders and criminal gangs and foreign terrorists that are in Iraq.”
Progress is being made. Iraq now has its own twenty-five member governing council. More than ninety percent of Iraq’s population live in towns and cities with local councils that bring basic services to the Iraqi people. Schools and hospitals are functioning. A free press is available with newspapers providing a variety of opinions.
Mr. Rumsfeld says that there are now more than fifty-six-thousand Iraqi police, army, and border guards providing security:
“Another fourteen-thousand Iraqis have been recruited and are in training for a total of seventy-thousand. The Iraqis are eager to participate. I’m told that the volunteers are exceeding the recruitment goals, and that joint Iraq-U.S. patrols are working well.”
The rise of Iraq as an example of moderation and democracy and prosperity is a massive and long-term undertaking. And the restoration of that country is critical to the defeat of terror and extremism throughout the Middle East.
As President George W. Bush said, “With so much in the balance, it comes as no surprise that freedom has enemies inside of Iraq. But there will be no return to tyranny in Iraq....And those who threaten the order and stability of that country will face ruin, just as surely as the regime they once served.”