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3/23/04 - AN ANNIVERSARY IN IRAQ - 2004-03-25

Iraqis are celebrating an anniversary. A year ago, a U.S.-led coalition entered Iraq to end the regime of Saddam Hussein. The dictator is now in jail awaiting trial and Iraqis are preparing to launch a democratic government. “We had waited so long for Saddam to fall that we were stunned when it began to happen,” Om Abbas al-Imari, of Baghdad, told The New York Times newspaper.

Now, says President George W. Bush, “one of the most evil, brutal regimes in history is gone forever”:

“The dictator of Iraq committed many atrocities and he had many more in mind. This was a regime that tortured children in front of their parents. This was a regime that used chemical weapons against whole villages. This was a country in which millions of people lived in fear, and many thousands disappeared into mass graves. That was the life in Iraq for more than a generation.... But all that’s over. When Saddam Hussein went down, the terrorists lost an ally forever.”

Today, Iraq has a new interim constitution that guarantees basic rights, including freedom of religion, the right to cast a secret ballot, and equal treatment under the law. President Bush says that “these historic changes are sending a message across the region from Damascus to Tehran”:

“Freedom is the future of every nation. The Iraqi people are achieving great things and serving and sacrificing for their own future. Today, more than two-hundred-thousand Iraqis, including seventy-eight-thousand new police, are protecting their fellow citizens. They’re building a country that is strong and free.”

Much remains to be done. Terrorists are trying to undermine Iraq’s progress toward freedom.

But terrorists will not prevail. As Khalid Nemah, an Iraqi taxi driver, told The Chicago Tribune newspaper, “I can honestly say now that I'm proud to be an Iraqi.”