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1/23/04 - IRAQI FREEDOM - 2004-01-23

The people of Iraq are enjoying their new freedom. “During the last regime, our only priority was how to survive,” says Muna Khder, a volunteer worker at the Iraqi Human Rights Center. Ms. Khder says she hopes she “can learn something about democracy.” Since the removal of the Saddam regime, many other Iraqis have joined her in this quest.

Town meetings are being held throughout the country. At a forum in Mosul, those who spoke agreed that Iraq should be democratic. Not surprisingly, Iraqis differ on how democracy should be implemented. The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported that Ghanim al-Basso, the Mosul region’s provincial governor, said, “We must act like one hand, one heart. But democracy is a new word for us,” he said, “and we have no experience with it.”

Iraqis are doing more than debating the forms and mechanisms of democracy. They are also beginning to live it. Hundreds of newspapers with a wide variety of opinions are being published. In Baghdad, shops are filled with merchandise. Internet cafes are open. Music is being played everywhere.

But having broken the Baathist regime, the U.S.-led coalition and the people of Iraq still face a remnant of violent Saddam Hussein supporters. These killers, joined by foreign terrorists, are a continuing danger. “Yet,” says President George W. Bush, “we’re making progress against them”:

“The work of building a new Iraq is hard, and it’s right. And America has always been willing to do what it takes for what is right. Last January, Iraq’s only law was the whim of one brutal man. Today our coalition is working with the Iraqi Governing Council to draft a basic law, with a bill of rights. We’re working with Iraqis and the United Nations to prepare for a transformance to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June.”

“As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear,” says President Bush. But, he adds, “The killers will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom.”