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4/28/04 - FREEDOM IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ - 2004-04-28

More than fifty Iraqis, including twenty schoolchildren, were killed and many others wounded by suicide bombers in the Iraqi city of Basra. Alaa Mohammad is a student who survived. She told the New York Times newspaper that she was waiting to catch a bus when she heard an explosion that lifted her off her feet. Alaa said, “There were many cars blown up, and the bus was blown up too.”

Acts of terror are not new to the people of Iraq -- or Afghanistan. Afghans lived under the Islamic extremist Taleban regime and the country was a training ground for the al-Qaida terrorist network. Iraqis lived under Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, which systematically used torture chambers and buried the victims in mass graves. Now the people of Afghanistan and Iraq are trying to build democratic societies that respect the rights of their citizens.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says that after decades of being fed lies by dictatorial regimes and the controlled press, Afghans and Iraqis “thirst for the truth”:

“In Iraq, since liberation one year ago, more than two-hundred newspapers have popped up. Afghanistan now has more than one-hundred papers in Kabul alone.”

But Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says it is necessary to report not just that there are attacks and setbacks, but also all the positive things that are happening:

“In Iraq and Afghanistan today there are millions of people contributing to progress. They are building schools. They are providing electricity to villages and establishing constitutional government to guarantee unprecedented freedoms. For the first time in years, Afghan parents are able to send their daughters to schools and to see a doctor. Our people and the people of the world need to hear their story.”

Mr. Rumsfeld says that, “Just as Americans have, so too free Afghans and Iraqis will eventually develop their own sense of balance, their own inner gyroscopes, and an ability to absorb what they hear.”