Last week, an unlikely man spoke before a joint session of Congress. In the not too distant past, Iyad Allawi, could not even enter his own country for fear of losing his life, let alone dream of addressing our legislative body, in his capacity as Interim Prime Minister of a Free Iraq.
Allawi is a capable leader, who knows firsthand how far his country has come from the tyranny and terror that marked Saddam's rule. Having endured exile for decades and survived repeated assassination attempts by Saddam's regime-he is an Iraqi patriot in the truest sense-his own story belies any revisionists who would make us think that Iraq prior to March 2003 was a desirable place to live.
In the midst of press conferences and speeches, Allawi's overarching message to Americans during his time here was simple-Thank you.
He reminded us that the overwhelming majority of Iraq's 27 million people are grateful, and have a vested interest in seeing their nation stand firm in the face of Hussein loyalists and fanatical jihadists, who would like nothing better than to kill this fledgling attempt at freedom before it has breathed its first breath.
In speaking of the nationwide elections scheduled for January-Allawi admonished skeptics. Rather than crushing their spirit, decades of repression and tyranny, have made Iraqis hungry for freedom.
At a press conference with President Bush while in Washington, Allawi said, "The war in Iraq is really not only an Iraqi war, it's a war for the civilized world to fight terrorists and terrorism. And there is no route but the route of winning They want to undermine us in Iraq and to move from Iraq, to undermine the region. And once they do this, they will hit hard at the civilized world-in Washington and New York and London and Paris..."
His words reflect his appreciation for the significance of this transitional time in his own nation's history, and ultimately the impact that it will have on the unfolding of human history.
Allawi recognized the sacrifice of many of America's sons and daughters-while soberly imploring us at this critical juncture to stay the course-for if we come home prematurely, we leave a vacuum of power in an already unstable region and assure victory for an emboldened enemy.
Ultimately his visit underscored the notion that freedom is not only a western or American ideal, it is a universal principle-the seeds of which are slowly being sown in Iraq. We glimpsed the resilience of the human spirit, that which after decades of repression, and in the face of brutality and violence, yearns in Allawi's words to, "enjoy the fruits of liberty."