Seeing Saddam Statues Fall ‘Like Seeing Berlin Wall Come Down’

By Kathleen T. Rhem, AFPS

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2003 – Seeing televised images of larger-than- life statues of Saddam Hussein tumbling all over Iraq is like "seeing the Berlin Wall come down all over again," America’s No. 2 defense official told foreign media.

"Lovers of freedom everywhere can understand the joy of the Iraqi people and their hopes for the future," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said at the Foreign Press Center here. "But the best spokesman for the Iraqis are the Iraqis themselves."

Wolfowitz encouraged the media representatives present and "all of the people throughout the Arab world to listen with open minds and help the Iraqis tell their stories to the world."

The deputy called it "tragic" that Iraq would not divest of its weapons of mass destruction without war, and said a major goal of the coalition is to help the Iraqis establish their own representative government.

"The people of Iraq now have it within their power to establish a constitution and a political system that will reflect their real wishes and interests," Wolfowitz said. He added that the task is the Iraqis’; the United States is just there to support their efforts.

Hussein’s regime sought to "make the war as painful as possible, particularly for civilians," Wolfowitz said.

He noted that American troops have been through "some hundred schools" to date in southern Iraq. "Every single one was a regime command-and- control center with weapons stored in them," he said.

Regarding Syria, Wolfowitz said the United States "is looking for a change in the current bad behavior" of that government. He said the Syrians are sending "terrorist fighters" into Iraq, sheltering Iraqi fugitives and "possibly sheltering bad materials out of Iraq."

"Syria should not meddle in Iraq," he said. "It should not be assisting people who supported that evil regime, and that behavior just has to stop."

In northern Iraq, there is a "significant presence" of U.S. forces in Kirkuk, Wolfowitz said, adding, "There will soon be a significant presence in Mosul." He noted Turkish liaison officers will be working with American forces in those two cities "so Turkey will have a clear view of what’s going on."

Turkey had threatened to send a large military force into northern Iraq should Kurdish forces take control of Kirkuk and Mosul, largely seen as seats of Kurdish power and a large source of oil revenue. Turkey has longstanding fears that Kurds holding these cities would embolden Turkey’s own Kurdish minority and cause a large-scale uprising or an increase in terrorist attacks.

The United States has worked to address Turkish concerns, yet still keep that country’s forces out of northern Iraq.

Wolfowitz allotted some time in his introductory remarks to explain the American psyche to the foreign audience. He noted that the United States understands the suspicion with which much of the Middle East views the war in Iraq.

"Given the history of the region, it is understandable," he said. "But as a nation that had to fight for its own independence more than 200 years ago, Americans have the greatest sympathy for all people who yearn for freedom and independence and a chance to live in peace."

On another historical note, Wolfowitz noted that America’s independence was "aided by foreign countries and foreign forces." He said it’s also worth noting that "it took us a little while after our independence" to put in place a permanent government.

"I think a little historical perspective is useful in this era of 24- hour news coverage when we expect everything to happen instantaneously," he said.