Now that Saddam Hussein has been removed from power, there is a new Iraq. It is a country where the dictator’s son can no longer decide that losing a soccer game is a crime for which athletes deserve to be tortured and killed.
Today in Iraq, virtually all major hospitals and universities have reopened. Five-thousand small businesses have opened since liberation on May 1st. An Iraqi governing council has been formed and has appointed a cabinet. The process of drafting a constitution and scheduling free elections has begun.
More than three-hundred courts are open, examining evidence and applying the law. Suspects are either held for trial or they are set free. A new Iraqi army is being trained, and more than forty-thousand Iraqi police are conducting joint patrols with coalition forces.
The goal, says U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is to help Iraqis help themselves:
“We are not in Iraq to engage in nation-building. Our mission is to help the Iraqis so that they can build their own nation. It’s something that a people have to do for themselves. It cannot be handed to a people, and I think that’s an important distinction.”
Long-term stability in Iraq, says Mr. Rumsfeld, “will come not from the presence of foreign forces...but from the development of functioning local institutions”:
“This is not to underestimate the challenges in Iraq today. Foreign terrorists and Baathist remnants and criminals are doing a variety of things to try to stop the Iraqi people’s transition to democracy, and we can expect that they’ll continue to attack our successes and that the brave Iraqis who work with us will be attacked as well. But coalition forces are dealing with the threat.”
The road ahead will not be easy. But a democratic Iraq, in the heart of the Middle East, will be a defeat for the proponents of extremist ideologies who seek to take control of that region. Iraq’s recovery will take time, says Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, “But if we are steadfast, Iraq could become a model for a successful transition from tyranny to democracy and self-reliance.”