Text of Prime Minister Allawi's address
WASHINGTON -- Following is a
transcript of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's address to a joint meeting of
Congress on Thursday, Septermber 23, 2004.
ALLAWI: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of
Congress, distinguished guests, it's my distinct honor and great privilege to speak to you
today on behalf of Iraq's interim government and its people.
It's my honor to come to Congress and to thank this nation
and its people for making our cause your cause, our struggle your struggle.
Before I turn to my government's plan for Iraq, I have three
important messages for you today.
First, we are succeeding in Iraq.
It's a tough struggle with setbacks, but we are succeeding.
I have seen some of the images that are being shown here on
television. They are disturbing. They focus on the tragedies, such as the brutal and
barbaric murder of two American hostages this week.
We Iraqis are grateful to you, America, for your leadership
and your sacrifice for our liberation and our opportunity to start anew.
Third, I stand here today as the prime minister of a country
emerging finally from dark ages of violence, aggression, corruption and greed. Like almost
every Iraqi, I have many friends who were murdered, tortured or raped by the regime of
Well over a million Iraqis were murdered or are missing. We
estimate at least 300,000 in mass graves, which stands as monuments to the inhumanity of
Saddam's regime. Thousands of my Kurdish brothers and sisters were gassed to death by
Saddam's chemical weapons.
Millions more like me were driven into exile. Even in exile,
as I myself can vouch, we were not safe from Saddam.
And as we lived under tyranny at home, so our neighbors lived
in fear of Iraq's aggression and brutality. Reckless wars, use of weapons of mass
destruction, the needless loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and the financing and
exporting of terrorism, these were Saddam's legacy to the world.
My friends, today we are better off, you are better off and
the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.
Your decision to go to war in Iraq was not an easy one but it
was the right one.
There are no words that can express the debt of gratitude
that future generations of Iraqis will owe to Americans. It would have been easy to have
turned your back on our plight, but this is not the tradition of this great country, nor
for the first time in history you stood up with your allies for freedom and democracy.
'Thank you in the United States'
Ladies and gentlemen, I particularly want to thank you in the
United States Congress for your brave vote in 2002 to authorize American men and women to
go to war to liberate my country, because you realized what was at stake. And I want to
thank you for your continued commitment last year when you voted to grant Iraq a generous
reconstruction and security funding package.
I have met many of you last year and I have in Iraq. It's a
tribute to your commitment to our country that you have come to see firsthand the
challenges and the progress we have and we are making.
Ladies and gentlemen, the costs now have been high. As we
have lost our loved ones in this struggle, so have you. As we have mourned, so have you.
This is a bitter price of combating tyranny and terror.
Our hearts go to the families, every American who has given
his or her life and every American who has been wounded to help us in our struggle.
Now we are determined to honor your confidence and sacrifice
by putting into practice in Iraq the values of liberty and democracy, which are so dear to
you and which have triumphed over tyranny across our world.
Creating a democratic, prosperous and stable nation, where
differences are respected, human rights protected, and which lives in peace with itself
and its neighbor, is our highest priority, our sternest challenge and our greatest goal.
It is a vision, I assure you, shared by the vast majority of the Iraqi people. But there
are the tiny minority who despise the very ideas of liberty, of peace, of tolerance, and
who will kill anyone, destroy anything, to prevent Iraq and its people from achieving this
Among them are those who nurse fantasies of the former regime
returning to power. There are fanatics who seek to impose a perverted vision of Islam in
which the face of Allah cannot be seen. And there are terrorists, including many from
outside Iraq, who seek to make our country the main battleground against freedom,
democracy and civilization.
For the struggle in Iraq today is not about the future of
Iraq only. It's about the worldwide war between those who want to live in peace and
freedom, and terrorists. Terrorists strike indiscriminately at soldiers, at civilians, as
they did so tragically on 9/11 in America, and as they did in Spain and Indonesia, Saudi
Arabia, Turkey, Russia in my country and many others.
So in Iraq we confront both, insurgency and the global war on
terror with their destructive forces sometimes overlapping. These killers may be just a
tiny fraction of our 27 million population, but with their guns and their suicide bombs to
intimidate and to frighten all the people of Iraq, I can tell you today, they will not
For these murderers have no political program or cause other
than push our country back into tyranny. Their agenda is no different than terrorist
forces that have struck all over the world, including your own country on September 11th.
There lies the fatal weakness: The insurgency in Iraq is destructive but small and it has
not and will never resonate with the Iraqi people.
The Iraqi citizens know better than anyone the horrors of
dictatorship. This is past we will never revisit.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me turn now to our plan which we
have developed to meet the real challenges which Iraq faces today, a plan that we are
successfully implementing with your help. The plan has three basic parts: building
democracy, defeating the insurgency and improving the quality of ordinary Iraqis.
The political strategy in our plan is to isolate the
terrorists from the communities in which they operate. We are working hard to involve as
many people as we can in the political process to cut the ground from under the
In troubled areas across the country, government
representatives are meeting with local leaders. They are offering amnesty to those who
realize the error of their ways. They are making clear that there can be no compromise
with terror, that all Iraqis have the opportunity to join the side of order and democracy,
and that they should use the political process to address their legitimate concerns and
I am a realist. I know that terrorism cannot be defeated with
political tools only. But we can weaken it, ending local support, help us to tackle the
enemy head-on, to identify, isolate and eradicate this cancer.
Let me provide you with a couple of examples of where this
political plan already is working.
In Samarra, the Iraqi government has tackled the insurgents
who once controlled the city.
Following weeks of discussions between government officials
and representatives, coalition forces and local community leaders, regular access to the
city has been restored. A new provincial council and governor have been selected, and a
new chief of police has been appointed. Hundreds of insurgents have been pushed out of the
city by local citizens, eager to get with their lives.
Today in Samarra, Iraqi forces are patrolling the city, in
close coordination with their coalition counterparts.
In Talafa, a city northwest of Baghdad, the Iraqi government
has reversed an effort by insurgents to arrest, control (inaudible) the proper
authorities. Iraqi forces put down the challenge and allowed local citizens to choose a
new mayor and police chief. Thousands of civilians have returned to the city. And since
their return, we have launched a large program of reconstruction and humanitarian
Ladies and gentlemen, let me turn now to our military
strategy. We plan to build and maintain security forces across Iraq. Ordinary Iraqis are
anxious to take over entirely this role and to shoulder all the security burdens of our
country as quickly as possible.
For now, of course, we need the help of our American and
coalition partners. But the training of Iraqi security forces is moving forward briskly
The Iraqi government now commands almost 50,000 armed and
combat- ready Iraqis.
By January it will be some 145,000. And by the end of next
year, some 250,000 Iraqis.
The government has accelerated the development of Iraqi
special forces, and the establishment of a counter-terrorist strike force to tackle
specific problems caused by insurgencies.
Our intelligence is getting better every day. You have seen
that the successful resolution of the Najaf crisis, and then the targeted attacks against
insurgents in Falluja.
These new Iraqi forces are rising to the challenge. They are
fighting on behalf of sovereign Iraqi government, and therefore their performance is
improving every day. Working closely with the coalition allies, they are striking their
enemies wherever they hide, disrupting operations, destroying safe houses and removing
But improving the everyday lives of Iraqis, tackling our
economic problems is also essential to our plan. Across the country there is a daily
progress, too. Oil pipelines are being repaired. Basic services are being improved. The
homes are being rebuilt. Schools and hospitals are being rebuilt. The clinics are open and
reopened. There are now over 6 million children at school, many of them attending one of
the 2,500 schools that have been renovated since liberation.
Last week, we completed a national polio vaccination
campaign, reaching over 90 percent of all Iraqi children.
We're starting work on 150 new health centers across the
country. Millions of dollars in economic aid and humanitarian assistance from this country
and others around the world are flowing into Iraq. For this, again, I want to thank you.
And so today, despite the setbacks and daily outrages, we can
and should be hopeful for the future.
In Najaf and Kufa, this plan has already brought success. In
those cities a firebrand cleric had taken over Shia Islam's holiest sites in defiance of
the government and the local population. Immediately, the Iraqi government ordered the
Iraqi armed forces into action to use military force to create conditions for political
Together with the coalition partners, Iraqi forces cleaned
out insurgents from everywhere in the city, capturing hundreds and killing many more.
At the same time, the government worked with political
leaders and with Ayatollah Sistani to find a peaceful solution to the occupation of the
shrine. We were successful. The shrine was preserved. Order was restored. And Najaf and
Kufa were returned to their citizens.
Today the foreign media have lost interest and left, but
millions of dollars in economic aid and humanitarian assistance are now flowing into the
cities. Ordinary citizens are once again free to live and worship at these places.
As we move forward, the next major milestone will be holding
of the free and fair national and local elections in January next.
I know that some have speculated, even doubted, whether this
date can be met. So let me be absolutely clear: Elections will occur in Iraq on time in
January because Iraqis want elections on time.
For the skeptics who do not understand the Iraqi people, they
do not realize how decades of torture and repression feed our desire for freedom. At every
step of the political process to date the courage and resilience of the Iraqi people has
proved the doubters wrong.
They said we would miss January deadline to pass the interim
We proved them wrong.
They warned that there could be no successful handover of
sovereignty by the end of June. We proved them wrong. A sovereign Iraqi government took
over control two days early.
They doubted whether a national conference could be staged
this August. We proved them wrong.
Despite intimidation and violence, over 1,400 citizens, a
quarter of them women, from all regions and from every ethnic, religious and political
grouping in Iraq, elected a national council.
And I pledge to you today, we'll prove them wrong again over
Our independent electoral commission is working with the
United Nations, the multinational force and our own Iraqi security forces to make these
elections a reality. In 15 out of our 18 Iraqi provinces we could hold elections tomorrow.
Although this is not what we see in your media, it is a fact.
Your government, our government and the United Nations are
all helping us mobilizing the necessary resources to fund voter registration and
information programs. We will establish up to 30,000 polling sites, 130,000 election
workers, and all other complex aspects mounting a general election in a nation of 27
million before the end of January next.
We already know that terrorists and former regime elements
will do all they can to disrupt these elections. There would be no greater success for the
terrorists if we delay and no greater blow when the elections take place, as they will, on
The Iraqi elections may not be perfect, may not be the best
elections that Iraq will ever hold. They will no doubt be an excuse for violence from
those that despise liberty, as were the first elections in Sierra Leone, South Africa or
But they will take place, and they will be free and fair. And
though they won't be the end of the journey toward democracy, they will be a giant step
forward in Iraq's political evolution.
They will pave the way for a government that reflects the
world, and has the confidence of the Iraqi people.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is our strategy for moving Iraq
steadily toward the security and democracy and prosperity our people crave.
But Iraq cannot accomplish this alone. The resolve and will
of the coalition in supporting a free Iraq is vital to our success.
The Iraqi government needs the help of the international
community, the help of countries that not only believe in the Iraqi people but also
believe in the fight for freedom and against tyranny and terrorism everywhere.
Already, Iraq has many partners. The transition in Iraq from
brutal dictatorship to freedom and democracy is not only an Iraqi endeavor, it is an
international one. More than 30 countries are represented in Iraq with troops on the
ground in harm's way. We Iraqis are grateful for each and every one of these courageous
men and women.
United Nations Resolution 1546 passed in June 2004, endorsed
the Iraqi interim government and pledged international support for Iraq upcoming
elections. The G-8, the European Union and NATO have also issued formal statements of
NATO is now helping with one of Iraq's most urgent needs, the
training of Iraqi security forces. I am delighted by the new agreement to step up the pace
and scope of this training.
The United Nations has reestablished its mission in Iraq, a
new United Nations special representative has been appointed and a team of United Nations
personnel is now operating in Baghdad.
Many more nations have committed to Iraq's future in the form
of economic aid. We Iraqis are aware how international this effort truly is.
But our opponents, the terrorists, also understand all too
well that this is an international effort. And that's why they have targeted members of
I know the pain this causes. I know it is difficult but the
coalition must stand firm.
When governments negotiate with terrorists, everyone in the
free world suffers. When political leaders sound the siren of defeatism in the face of
terrorism, it only encourage more violence.
Working together, we will defeat the killers, and we will do
this by refusing to bargain about our most fundamental principles.
'Freedom not tyranny'
Ladies and gentlemen, good will aside, I know that many
observers around the world honestly wonder if we in Iraq really can restore our economy,
be good neighbors, guarantee the democratic rule of law and overcome the enemies who seek
to tear us down. I understand why, faced with the daily headlines, there are these doubts.
I know, too, that there will be many more setbacks and obstacles to overcome.
But these doubters risk underestimating our country and they
risk fueling the hopes of the terrorists. Despite our problems, despite our recent
history, no one should doubt that Iraq is a country of tremendous human resources and
Iraq is still a nation with an inspiring culture and the
tradition and an educated and civilized people. And Iraq is still a land made strong by a
faith which teaches us tolerance, love, respect and duty.
Above all, they risk underestimating the courage,
determination of the Iraqi people to embrace democracy, peace and freedom, for the dreams
of our families are the same as the dreams of the families here in America and around the
world. There are those who want to divide our world. I appeal to you, who have done so
much already to help us, to ensure they don't succeed.
Do not allow them to say to Iraqis, to Arabs, to Muslims,
that we have only two models of governments, brutal dictatorship and religious extremism.
This is wrong.
Like Americans, we Iraqis want to enjoy the fruits of
liberty. Half of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims already enjoy democratically elected
As Prime Minister Blair said to you last year when he stood
here, anywhere, any time ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the
same: freedom not tyranny, democracy not dictatorship, and the rule of law not the rule of
the secret police.
Do not let them convince others that the values of freedom,
of tolerance and democracy are for you in the West but not for us.
For the first time in our history, the Iraqi people can look
forward to controlling our own destiny.
This would not have been possible without the help and
sacrifices of this country and its coalition partners. I thank you again from the bottom
of my heart.
And let me tell you that as we meet our greatest challenge by
building a democratic future, we the people of the new Iraq will remember those who have
stood by us.
As generous as you have been, we will stand with you, too. As
stalwart as you have been, we will stand with you, too.
Neither tyranny nor terrorism has a place in our region or
our world. And that is why we Iraqis will stand by you, America, in a war larger than
either of our nations, the global battle to live in freedom.
God bless you and thank you.