For Immediate Release
President Discusses the Future of Iraq
Office of the Press Secretary
April 28, 2003
Remarks by the President on Operation Iraqi Freedom
Ford Community and Performing Arts Center
1:46 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for that warm welcome; I'm glad to be
here. I regret that I wasn't here a few weeks ago when the statue came
down. (Applause.) I understand you had quite a party. I don't blame
you. A lot of the people in the Detroit area had waited years for that
Many Iraqi Americans know the horrors of Saddam Hussein's regime
firsthand. You also know the joys of freedom you have found here in
America. (Applause.) You are living proof the Iraqi people love
freedom and living proof the Iraqi people can flourish in democracy.
(Applause.) People who live in Iraq deserve the same freedom that you
and I enjoy here in America. (Applause.) And after years of tyranny
and torture, that freedom has finally arrived. (Applause.)
I have confidence in the future of a free Iraq. The Iraqi people
are fully capable of self-government. Every day Iraqis are moving
toward democracy and embracing the responsibilities of active
citizenship. Every day life in Iraq improves as coalition troops work
to secure unsafe areas and bring food and medical care to those in
America pledged to rid Iraq of an oppressive regime, and we kept
our word. (Applause.) America now pledges to help Iraqis build a
prosperous and peaceful nation, and we will keep our word again.
Mr. Mayor, thanks, I appreciate you greeting me once again here in
Dearborn. I appreciate your leadership. If you've got any problems
with the garbage or the potholes, call the mayor. (Laughter.)
I want to thank members of the congressional delegation who have
joined us today. Thank you all for coming. Michigan is well
represented in the halls of the United States Congress. (Applause.) I
want to thank the folks from the state government who have joined us
today and local governments. I appreciate so very much the CEOs of the
major automobile manufacturing companies who are based here in Detroit
who are here: Rick Wagoner, Bill Ford and Deter Zetsche. Thank you
all for coming. I look forward to discussing things with you later.
Right before I came in here I had the opportunity to meet with some
extraordinary men and women, our fellow Americans who knew the
cruelties of the old Iraq. And like me, they believed deeply in the
promise of a new Iraq.
I spoke with Najda Egaily, a Sunni Muslim from Basra who moved to
the United States five years ago. Najda learned the price of descent
in Iraq in 1988, when her brother-in-law was killed after laughing at a
joke about Saddam Hussein in a house that was bugged.
In Iraq, Najda says, we could never speak to anyone about Saddam
Hussein -- we had to make sure the windows were closed. (Applause.)
The windows are now open in Iraq. (Applause.) Najda and her friends
will never forget seeing the images of liberation in Baghdad. Here's
what she said: we called each other and we were shouting; we never
believed that Saddam Hussein would be gone.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: He's gone. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Like Najda, a lot of Iraqis -- a lot of Iraqis --
feared the dictator, the tyrant would never go away. You're right --
he's gone. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: USA! USA!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible) back in the (inaudible). (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Because of you, Mr. President, so can you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: We love free speech in America. (Laughter and
I talked to Tarik Daoud, a Catholic from Basra who now lives in
Bloomfield Hills. (Applause.) When the dictator regime fell, here's
what Tariq said, he said: I am more hopeful today than I've been since
1958. We need to take the little children in Iraq and hold their hands
and really teach them what freedom is all about. He says: the new
generation could really make democracy work.
He's right to be optimistic. From the beginning of this conflict
we have seen brave Iraqi citizens taking part in their own liberation.
Iraqis have warned our troops about land mines and enemy hideouts and
Earlier this month, Iraqis helped Marines locate the seven American
prisoners of war, who were then rescued in Northern Iraq. (Applause.)
One courageous Iraqi man gave Marines detailed layouts of a hospital in
An Nasiriyah, which led to the rescue of American soldier Jessica
Iraqi citizens are now working closely with our troops to restore
order to their cities, and improve the life of their nation. In Basra,
hundreds of police volunteers have joined with coalition forces to
patrol the streets. In Baghdad, more than a thousand citizens are
doing joint patrols with coalition troops. And residents are also
working with coalition troops to collect unexploded munitions from
neighborhoods, and repair the telephone system. People are working to
improve the lives of the average citizens in Iraq. (Applause.)
I want you to listen to what an Iraqi engineer said who was working
with U.S. Army engineers to restore power to Baghdad. He said: We are
very glad to work with the Americans to have power for the facilities.
The Americans are working to help us. (Applause.) Iraqi Americans,
including some from Michigan, are building bridges between our troops
and Iraqi civilians. Members of the free Iraqi forces are serving as
translators for our troops, and are delivering humanitarian aid to the
One of these volunteers, an Iraqi American who fled Saddam
Hussein's regime in 1991, recently returned to his homeland with the
101st Airborne Division. A few weeks ago, when he first saw the
cheering crowds of Iraqis welcome coalition troops in Hillah he wept.
He said people could hardly believe what was happening, and he told
them: believe it -- liberation is coming. (Applause.)
Yes, there were some in our country who doubted the Iraqi people
wanted freedom, or they just couldn't imagine they would be welcome --
welcoming to a liberating force. They were mistaken, and we know why.
The desire for freedom is not the property of one culture, it is the
universal hope of human beings in every culture. (Applause.)
Whether you're Sunni or Shia or Kurd or Chaldean or Assyrian or
Turkoman or Christian or Jew or Muslim -- (applause) -- no matter what
your faith, freedom is God's gift to every person in every nation.
(Applause.) As freedom takes hold in Iraq, the Iraqi people will choose
their own leaders and their own government. America has no intention
of imposing our form of government or our culture. Yet, we will ensure
that all Iraqis have a voice in the new government and all citizens
have their rights protected. (Applause.)
In the city of An Nasiriyah, where free Iraqis met recently to
discuss the political future of their country, they issued a statement
beginning with these words: Iraq must be democratic. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: USA! USA! USA! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That historic declaration expresses the commitment
of the Iraqi people and their friends, the American people. The days
of repression from any source are over. Iraq will be democratic.
The work of building a new Iraq will take time. That nation is
recovering not just from weeks of conflict, but from decades of
In a nation where the dictator treated himself to palaces with gold
faucets and grand fountains, four out of ten citizens did not even have
clean water to drink. While a former regime exported milk, and dates,
and corn, and grain for its own profit, more than half a million Iraqi
children were malnourished. As Saddam Hussein let more than $200
million worth of medicine and medical supplies sit in warehouses, one
in eight Iraqi children were dying before the age of five. And while
the dictator spent billions on weapons, including gold-covered AK-47s,
nearly a quarter of Iraqi children were born underweight. Saddam
Hussein's regime impoverished the Iraqi people in every way.
Today, Iraq has only about half as many hospitals as it had in
1990. Seventy percent of its schools are run-down and over-crowded. A
quarter of the Iraqi children are not in a school at all. Under
Saddam's regime, the Iraqi people did not have a power system they
could depend on. These problems plagued Iraq long before the recent
conflict. We're helping the Iraqi people to address these challenges,
and we will stand with them as they defeat the dictator's legacy.
Right now, engineers are on the ground working with Iraqi experts
to restore power, and fix broken water pipes in Baghdad and other
cities. We're working with the International Red Cross, the Red
Crescent Societies, the International Medical Corps and other aid
agencies to help Iraqi hospitals get safe water and medical supplies
and reliable electricity. Our coalition is cooperating with the United
Nations to help restart the ration distribution system that provides
food at thousands of sites in Iraq. And coalition medical facilities
have treated Iraqis from everything from fractures and burns to
symptoms of stroke.
One Iraqi man who was given medical help with his wife and sister
aboard the U.S. Navy ship Comfort, said: They treat us like family.
There are babies in Iraq who are not cared for by their mothers as well
as the nurses have cared for us.
Already, we are seeing important progress in Iraq. It wasn't all
that long ago that the statue fell, and now we're seeing progress.
Rail lines are reopening, and fire stations are responding to
calls. Oil -- Iraqi oil, owned by the Iraqi people -- is flowing again
to fuel Iraq's power plants. In Hillah, more than 80 percent of the
city has now running water. City residents can buy meats and grains
and fruits and vegetables at local shops. The mayor's office, the city
council have been reestablished.
In Basra, where more than half of the water treatment facilities
were not working before the conflict -- more than half weren't
functioning -- water supplies are now reaching 90 percent of the city.
The opulent presidential palace in Basra will now serve a new and noble
purpose. We've established a water purification unit there, to make
hundreds of thousands of liters of clean water available to the
residents of the city of Basra. (Applause.)
Day by day, hour by hour, life in Iraq is getting better for the
citizens. (Applause.) Yet, much work remains to be done. I have
directed Jay Garner and his team to help Iraq achieve specific
long-term goals. And they're doing a superb job. Congress recently
allocated $2.5 -- nearly $2.5 billion for Iraq's relief and
reconstruction. With that money, we are renewing Iraq with the help of
experts from inside our government, from private industry, from the
international community and, most importantly, from within Iraq.
We are dispatching teams across Iraq to assess the critical needs
of the Iraqi people. We're clearing land mines. We're working with
Iraqis to recover artifacts, to find the hoodlums who ravished the
National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad. (Applause.) Like many of
you here, we deplore the actions of the citizens who ravished that
museum. And we will work with the Iraqi citizens to find out who they
were and to bring them to justice. (Applause.)
We're working toward an Iraq where, for the first time ever,
electrical power is reliable and widely available. One of our goals is
to make sure everybody in Iraq has electricity. Already, 17 major
power plants in Iraq are functioning. Our engineers are meeting with
Iraqi engineers. We're visiting power plants throughout the country,
and determining which ones need repair, which ones need to be
modernized, and which ones are obsolete, power plant by power plant.
More Iraqis are getting the electricity they need.
We're working to make Iraq's drinking water clean and dependable.
American and Iraqi water sanitation engineers are inspecting treatment
plants across the country to make sure they have enough purification
chemicals and power to produce safe water.
We're working to give every Iraqi access to immunizations and
emergency treatment, and to give sick children and pregnant women the
health care they need. Iraqi doctors and nurses and other medical
personnel are now going back to work. Throughout the country, medical
specialists from many countries are identifying the needs of Iraqis
hospitals, for everything from equipment and repairs to water, to
We're working to improve Iraqi schools by funding a back to school
campaign that will help train and recruit Iraqi teachers, provide
supplies and equipment, and bring children across Iraq back into clean
and safe schools. (Applause.)
And as we do that, we will make sure that the schools are no longer
used as military arsenals and bunkers, and that teachers promote
reading, rather than regime propaganda. (Applause.) And because Iraq
is now free, economic sanctions are pointless. (Applause.) It is time
for the United Nations to lift the sanctions so the Iraqis could use
some resources to build their own prosperity. (Applause.)
Like so many generations of immigrants, Iraqi Americans have
embraced and enriched this great country, without ever forgetting the
land of your birth. Liberation for Iraq has been a long time coming,
but you never lost faith. You knew the great sorrow of Iraq. You also
knew the great promise of Iraq, and you shared the hope of the Iraqi
You and I both know that Iraq can realize those hopes. Iraq can be
an example of peace and prosperity and freedom to the entire Middle
East. (Applause.) It'll be a hard journey, but at every step of the
way, Iraq will have a steady friend in the American people.
May God continue to bless the United States of America, and long
live a free Iraq. (Applause.)
END 2:10 P.M. EDT