FREEING IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN IMPORTANT IN WAR ON TERRORISM -- (House of Representatives - March 29, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, late last October I traveled to Iraq with several other Members of Congress, and what I saw was a country in tatters, a country that had experienced little or no infrastructure investment in decades.
But I also saw a people who, despite torture, government-sponsored slaughter and oppression on the scale of Lenin, a people who, despite all this, retained a glimmer of hope. And I thought, is it not amazing? Thirty years of torture, and Saddam and his henchmen could not break the spirit of the Iraqi people. They still had that thirst for freedom and that thirst for opportunity.
Today, watch the news that comes from Iraq. Occasionally look past the newscaster, actually take a look at the hustle and bustle behind the newscaster. You will see marketplaces, traffic jams, people on their way to and from work. That is the free market at work.
President Bush is the focus of an enormous amount of partisan political criticism. There are those, mostly on the other side of the aisle, who believe that simply getting bin Laden would end terrorism. They think we were wrong to go to Iraq, that Saddam could be contained. In short, those opposed to our work in Iraq believe Saddam's regime had no role in terrorism and that our effort will not bear any positive results for America and the world.
What a shortsighted, small view of the world and a basic misunderstanding of terrorism. Terrorism will not be stopped by removing a leader or a command structure. Terrorism is not going to be that easy to tackle.
What is going to make a difference could be this: Iraq has an interim Constitution on schedule and they are moving toward freedom. Iraq's electricity levels are exceeding pre-war capacity. They passed that benchmark last fall. The international community has pledged $32 billion to improve schools, health care, roads, water and sanitation. The nation now has a stable currency. A free press is growing. Iraqis have access to more diverse, independent sources of news. Hundreds of democratic meetings are taking place all across Iraq. America has captured 45 of the 55 most-wanted members of Hussein's regime. There are 900,000 telephone subscribers and 225,000 wireless subscribers. All of Iraq's 22 universities and 43 technical institutions and colleges are open. And, this may not sound important, but its value is immeasurable, the Iraqi children no longer have to recite "long live leader Saddam Hussein" each morning.
Some still believe all of this is irrelevant to the war on terrorism. Do you think terrorists are worried about what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? Absolutely. Do you think terrorists fear this President? Do they fear America? You bet they do. The terrorists fear America. I do not mean that figuratively. Those who would destroy America, they literally fear this President and the resolve of the American people and our military, because we have not been afraid to take swift, decisive action.
President Bush said America would not tolerate al Qaeda, that we would not tolerate a Middle East that pumped out hatred and vitriol. Our engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq speak volumes to the terror network.
Does our work in Iraq make hostile nations think twice about supporting terrorism? Yes, indeed, it does. Will our effort to bring the Iraqi people into the modern world, into the free marketplace, the community of free nations, make a difference in the long struggle to destroy what breeds terrorism? Absolutely it will.