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Public Statements

Smith on Iraq

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


IRAQ -- (House of Representatives - June 21, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Gerlach). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 7, 2003, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Burton) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, ten days from today, on Wednesday, June 30, 2004, a historic day will occur in the cradle of civilization: the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) will formally transfer power and sovereignty to an Iraqi Interim Government (IIG). We are ten days to sovereignty.

This step will be the most dramatic to date in a series of planned moves towards more democratic and representative government in Iraq. Since the elimination of the brutal Hussein regime, which terrorized and abused the Iraqi people for decades, significant changes have taken place, helping to put the country on a path to democracy, respect for human rights and economic prosperity.

About 33,000 secondary school teachers and 3,000 supervisors have been trained as part of an effort to upgrade the quality of education and level of learning in Iraq. Nearly 2,000 schools have been rehabilitated and an additional 1,200 schools are expected to be completed by the end of the year. New textbooks are also being developed and utilized. No more government mandates for indoctrinating, inciting hatred or demonizing Americans, the West, or Jewish people through the use of school books.

Last month, the first of several planned sewer treatment plants came online, ushering in a new era of sanitation and public health in an area rife with disease. On the technology side, the total number of telephone subscribers in Iraq is now over 1.2 million, which includes 429,000 cell phone subscribers-representing a 45% improvement above pre-war levels.

And, Iraqis want to be the business leaders in their new country. Already, 2,500 micro-credit clients have applied and received small business loans to help them build a free economy with robust industry. It is important to note that inflation is dropping, and the New Iraqi Dinar has been stable for the three months since its introduction.

This progress has not come without great cost and sacrifice. Thousands of American families have lost irreplaceable time with their loved ones as they serve the cause of freedom in Iraq. Some American heroes have not and will not return home. We mourn their loss. For those who served, a grateful Nation must ensure those returning get world class healthcare and the compensation to which they are entitled.

After June 30th, other milestones will be marked. Democratically held elections will be conducted in January 2005 to create a National Assembly. This representative body will craft a permanent constitution to strengthen and replace the transitional administrative law (TAL). The Iraqi people will then vote up or down in a national referendum for or against their own constitution. By the end of 2005, if all goes according to plan, the first democratically elected Iraqi government in history will take office.

President Bush put it very succinctly during his speech before the Army War College, when he said: "The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq will deny terrorists a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology, and give momentum to reformers across the region. This will be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power, and a victory for the security of America and the civilized world."

The people in Iraq-like people everywhere-want to live free. And among the many reasons why democracy has a chance to succeed in Iraq-although success is not assured-is because the United States is not in Iraq as an imperial power. We do not seek to permanently occupy Iraq. Far from it. Our mission is clear: to liberate Iraq from tyranny. Thus, it is absolutely at the heart of America's interests to see Iraq's new sovereign government succeed in establishing law and order in a just and democratic manner.

Iraqis are a justifiably proud people with an ancient and rich history and culture. Like many other people, they are patriotic and do not like to see their country occupied by any foreign power, no matter how ostensibly helpful they try to be. The Germans and Japanese were undoubtedly relieved when the Allies formally returned sovereignty to their people.

Although U.S. troops remained in each country in large numbers for decades, the former Axis nations truly thrived only after it became clear to the great majority of people that they faced a choice: they could either roll up their sleeves and get to work rebuilding their war-torn nation, or they could look backwards and remain in a miserable state.

Today, Iraqis essentially face the same choice. If they keep focused on the task at hand-rebuilding their shattered country's infrastructure and creating jobs-they too can crate an economic boom similar to that experienced by Japan and Germany.

We must not forget that rebuilding Germany, Japan, Italy after World War II was not easy. Democratic traditions take time to set roots. Italy's political system was not stable throughout almost the entirety of the Cold War. Japan essentially had one-party rule until recently. All three nations faced many upheavals and set backs along the way. But like the three defeated Axis powers, Iraq will also have the benefit of extensive international economic and financial assistance in rebuilding.

Unlike an imperial power, when a nation is militarily liberated by the United States, we are willing to put our resources, technologies and willpower to work for democracy.

Our enemies are well aware that the return of real and meaningful sovereignty to Iraqis will undercut one of their chief recruiting justifications-the occupation. That is why we have seen a decrease in terrorist attacks against U.S. and Coalition troops, and more of a focus against foreign contractor personnel and Iraqis involved in their new government.

The terrorists are increasingly targeting new regime officials, police recruiting stations, and personnel involved in development programs. The terrorists and insurgents understand-perhaps better than the U.S. news media-that if the new Interim Iraqi Government headed by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and President Sheikh Ghazi Al-Yawar succeeds, the terrorists will be defeated.

If Iraqis establish enough basic security to allow for the systematic rebuilding of Iraq's destroyed infrastructure, and commerce and prosperity return to Iraq, the moral swamps from which disaffected young Iraqi men are recruited by insurgents, will dry up. And as democratic traditions and tolerance begin to take root, and the social and economic status of women are uplifted, the appeal of radical misinterpretations of Islam will also diminish.

It is not an accident that Wahabbism and other forms of militant Islam flourish in conditions of chaos, in failed states, in places of misery and suffering, and in communities where women are seen as less than second class citizens. Our task in Iraq is to make sure these conditions never return, and are instead replaced by prosperity, freedom, and tolerance.

When, over time, democracy takes hold in Iraq, other Muslims throughout the region will be able to use the experience of Iraq to refute the arguments of repressive regimes in the Muslim world who justify their corrupt and brutal regimes by saying that there is no other way.

But there is another way. A better way. We need to stick by the side of those brave Iraqis who want to create a free, open and democratic society in Iraq and are willing to risk their lives in order to do it.

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