U.S. Promises to be Iraq's "Partner," White House Envoy Says
Wall Street Journal article by White House envoy to Iraqis Zalmay Khalilzad
A Free Country Run By Free People
By Zalmay Khalilzad
Nasiriyah, Iraq -- There has been a gathering of Free Iraqis here, and
I am filled with hope as I look around at those who have come together
to discuss Iraq's future. The tyranny of Saddam Hussein's regime is
truly over, and we are savoring a victory for the Iraqi people. The
United States, Britain and other members of the coalition made a
promise to disarm the dictator and to free the people of Iraq. We are
in the final stages of delivering on that promise.
promise to Iraq today is to be its partner, and to help Iraq move
toward a representative government, one that respects the principles of
justice, the rule of law and the rights of the Iraqi people. The U.S.
will deliver on this promise, too, and will be with the Iraqis for as
long as it takes -- until the job is done.
Our task is to build
a democratic Iraq. In my meetings with free Iraqis before Operation
Iraqi Freedom -- whether in London or in Iraqi Kurdistan and elsewhere
-- and from what we've heard in recent days from Iraqis who are now
free, it is clear that, among other things, Iraqis desire democracy.
None of us, American or Iraqi, thinks that this is going to be quick or
easy. History shows how challenging it is to build a democracy -- it
was so in the U.S., for sure, and elsewhere in Europe, and in Asia.
Iraq will be no exception.
But people everywhere share the same
aspirations -- security, prosperity, freedom and self-government. And
Iraq is a country vibrant in its heritage, its religious faith, its
resources and its people. Iraq's very diversity -- the mosaic of Sunni
and Shiite Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Yazidis and
others -- is a source of tremendous richness and talent. Iraq's choices
over the coming weeks and months will determine the process toward a
democratic country and a new government responsible to all Iraqis.
coalition supports the formation, as soon as possible, of the Iraqi
Interim Authority -- a transitional administration, run by Iraqis,
until a government is established by the people of Iraq through
elections. The Interim Authority should be broad-based and fully
representative. It will also be temporary. Iraq in the past has had
interim constitutions that lasted too long, and transitional leaders
who overstayed their welcome.
This week is the beginning of the
road toward democracy in Iraq. Our meeting here in Nasiriyah, with
representatives of the Iraqi people, is the first in a series of
consultations with Iraqis in different parts of the country. None of
these meetings will choose a government for Iraq. Rather, they will be
forums for Iraqis to discuss their ideas about the formation of the
Iraqi Interim Authority, and to foster an Iraqi national dialogue.
Based on these consultations, a formula for constituting the Iraqi
Interim Authority will be arrived at. The Interim Authority will
gradually increase its authority and will provide the means for Iraqis
to participate increasingly in the economic and political
reconstruction of their country.
There will need to be
accountability and reconciliation in Iraq. What should be done to the
top leadership of the Baath party will be an important issue that
Iraqis will need to decide collectively. The special position and
privileges of the Baath party have already stopped as a matter of
practice. That will need to be translated into law. Iraqis, as a
society, must decide how to treat differently those who led the crimes
of the past regime, on the one hand, and those, on the other, who
joined the Baath party at the lowest levels, and are not necessarily
culpable in any crimes. There should be room for those Iraqi civil
servants -- teachers, police and irrigation engineers, for example --
who in the past have done their best to serve their country, not
The United States has no desire to govern
Iraq, and I have made that clear in all my discussions here. The Iraqi
people should govern their own affairs as soon as possible. As
President Bush said, "The Iraqis are plenty capable of governing
themselves." The American interest is to see that the weapons of mass
destruction of the Saddam regime are identified and destroyed, that
terrorists are apprehended, that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi
people are met, that security is established and that the Iraqi people
are freed and empowered to build their own future.
appreciate the many immediate difficulties that the Iraqis are facing,
and are taking steps to mitigate the severity of their hardship. With
freedom comes responsibility -- including the responsibility of not
taking the law into one's own hands, but dealing with grievances in an
organized, lawful manner. To this end, we will work with Iraqis and
others to achieve stability.
The decision of who ultimately
governs Iraq is a decision for the people of Iraq. They have suffered
terribly under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Like people
everywhere, they deserve liberty, and to live in peace under leaders
they have chosen for themselves. They deserve a government that
respects the rights of every citizen and ethnic group. They deserve a
country that is reunited, that is independent, and that is released
from years of sanctions, isolation, and sorrow. As President Bush has
said, "Our coalition has one goal for the future of Iraq -- to return
that great country to its own people."
America will be Iraq's
partner as Iraqis move toward peace, democracy, and prosperity. Their
security will be our security, their success will be our success.
This column by Zalmay Khalilzad, who is President Bush's special
envoy and ambassador-at-large for Free Iraqis, first appeared in the
Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2003, and is in the public domain. No
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