Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.
November 6, 2003
Ashleigh, from Clemson writes:
As Secretary Rumsfeld has said, we have enough troops in Iraq to handle the job. In addition to the American presence, a number of Coalition partners including Great Britain, Poland, and Spain also have troops in Iraq performing vital functions.
What is important to note when talking about the numbers of troops needed, is that each week more and more Iraqis are working along side Coalition forces to help secure the country. In just six months nearly 100,000 Iraqis have answered this call to service. On some nights Coalition troops are conducting as many as 1700 joint patrols with security services like the Iraqi Police and Civil Defense Corps. Many of these Iraqi assets have already helped relieve American and Coalition forces in some roles such as facility and infrastructure protection.
The Coalition is also standing up a new Iraqi Army, the first battalion of which graduated from basic training last month. We are on target for training nearly 40,000 new Iraqi Army troops by next fall. These troops will assist Coalition forces and be prepared to help secure the country when sovereignty is transferred back to the Iraqi people.
Meghan, from Chatsworth, CA writes:
There are many differences between now and prior to the conflict or just after liberation. Id like to focus on a few. Prior to the conflict, the children in the dilapidated schools of this country were pledging allegiance to Saddam. Now they pledge their allegiance to Iraq. In the area of education, we have seen marked progress in creating an educational environment that will breed hope not hate. This was a country that did not have a funded school maintenance program for over a decade. Conditions in schools were so bad enrollment had dropped to nearly 50% of eligible children in some areas.
Today, the Coalition and is partners are working with the Iraqi people to renovate the schools of this country. To date we have completed more than 1600 renovations, delivered tens of thousands of school supply kits, and increased teacher salaries many times over. Today Parent Teacher Associations are popping up across the country and for the first time, parents and educators are coming together to ensure a better atmosphere for learning.
The other major difference is the seeds of democracy taking root throughout Iraq. Where freedom of association was once restricted, now people of all segments of the population are coming together to make decisions about their future. In Baghdad alone, residents have selected 88 neighborhood advisory councils to help communicate the needs of the population to the City and the Coalition. This type of stewardship, cooperation and accountability is a major change for a people that suffered under the thumb of dictatorship. And they are already improving their quality of life.
As for our troops they are heroes. They are professionals who in my opinion understand the importance of this mission and are committed to seeing it through. They deserve the respect of all Americans for the outstanding job they continue to do here in Iraq and in the war on terror.
Rob, from Evansville writes:
A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with the man who would go on to become the Chief the Iraqi Supreme Court. I sat in his plainly furnished office in downtown Baghdad and listened as he spoke about finally ending the days of cutting out tongues, branding, other tortures and government interference with the judicial process. His enthusiasm as he talked about human rights and restoring the great legal tradition of Iraq, once widely regarded as the most respected in the region, filled the room with energy. I walked away from that encounter with a belief I still hold - and hold stronger today than then that the Iraqi people are ready for democracy.
There are those former regime loyalists that crave the power they once had and seek to halt this progress. While they may try, the Iraqi people I continue to meet every day are ready for this change.
Greg, from Middleton writes:
We have had broad international support from the beginning and that support continues to grow.
Kate, from Pawtucket writes:
However, now is clearly not the time to pull out our presence. We are making great strides toward helping the Iraqis build a better nation. The Coalition has articulated a seven point plan for creating the institutions of democracy here.
In just the past few months, the governing council has convened, it has appointed ministers to run the day to day operations of government agencies, and the Iraqis are actively engaged in developing a process by which a constitution can be written.
Once the constitution is written and a government has been elected the CPA will cease to exist and sovereignty will be ceded back to the Iraqi people. It needs some time, but we are making progress every day.
As for the police, there are between 45, 000 and 50,000 police on the streets right now in Iraq. They are conducting patrols with Coalition Forces, enforcing laws and serving their people.
In Baghdad, nearly 80% of Iraqi Police stations are now in what we call a monitoring phase where Iraqis rather than MPs run the stations. The justice system is operating and the Iraqi police are interdicting crime every day. Some have already lost their lives in the line of duty to help secure Iraq.
Rachel, from Newburyport writes:
The Iraqis are a proud people and like any proud people, they would like to see the eventual departure of any occupying forces.
But the people I speak to, that includes members of the new Iraqi media, understand the importance of the Coalitions presence during this pivotal moment in their history.
Our presence is paving the way for an Iraq that will be a productive member of the free world.
Bill, from Colorado writes:
Teddy, from Ocala, Florida writes:
The markets are full with shoppers. The restaurants are full. There are new products in the stores. Children are going to school. The Universities are open. And we know things are getting better everyday because we can see the Iraqi people are determined to see this reconstruction through for the betterment of their future. There is a return to normalcy to this country which can be seen everywhere -- including Baghdad. Which is not to say there is not work to be done on the security front, there is.
But to talk to the people in Baghdad and in the majority of the country, they are going about their lives and are hopeful for the future.
Trent, from Thaxton writes:
His response was to ignore , to delay and to defy the international community. The President has made very clear that in the war on terrorism, you are either with the civilized world who are peace and or you are against peace and freedom loving people of the world. And as a result of Saddam defiance of Resolution 1441 action needed to be taken that would help ensure stability and the security of the region and all those who have banded together in the war on terrorism.
Hussein is no longer a threat because of the actions we took 6 months ago. He is not coming back and the 24 million people of Iraq now have hope for a brighter future and a free society where they have the power to affect their future.
Rick, from Washington DC writes:
We work on a day to day basis with Iraqis from all segments of Iraqi society who believe and are working every day to ensure that when the CPA leaves Iraq they will leave a strong free nation for the Iraqi people.
As to the day to day activity, many of us work here in what is called as the Republican Palace in Baghdad. The dedicated employees of the CPA -- many work 16 - 18 hour days, they actively liaise with all of the Iraqi ministries, the Iraqi governing council, religious leaders, educators and businesspeople across the country.
It is an extraordinary experience to work at the CPA and to work so closely with the Iraqi people.
Ashleigh, from Strasburg, PA writes:
Jones, from Fort Worth writes:
But when you are here in Iraq and you talk to the commanders in the field, and you talk to the specialists and the privates and you listen to their stories about their relationships with the local families, with the children of the neighborhoods they are in, you see that this misperception is incorrect.
Americans should be proud of their military not only for the campaign which was waged, but for the role they played on the human level in helping to show the people of this country what an American and what America is about. They are some of the best ambassadors we have and they do it under often very difficult circumstances.
Kris, from Charlotte writes:
David, from South Brunswick writes:
Part of our job working with the new leadership in Iraq will be to help create institutions of government that will build confidence and trust among the people of this country. The Iraqi people lived in fear of the secret police and other enforcers and informants that worked for the regime and Saddam Hussein. The new Iraqi security forces are being established with an ear toward human rights, new codes of conduct and standards of professionalism and accountability that did not exist during Saddam's rule.
A prime example of change is the establishment of a new Inspector General's office in the Iraqi police force. It will take time for the people of Iraq to build strong relationships with the government officials but after decades of distrust we would never expect it not to.
Seth, from Atlanta, GA
We also will be continuing to move forward working with the governing council to develop a process by which the constitution for this country can be written and the institutions of this document be instititued so that sovereighnty can be ceded back to the Iraqi people and the CPA's mission can be successfully completed.
I get the impression from your question that you do not believe coming into this country has been worthwhile and that those who lost their lives in the pursuit of the liberation of this country died in vain. I have seen firsthand brutality of the former regime. I have had the privilege of visiting Halabjah where Saddam Hussein gassed 5,000 people; where women and children were burned alive in the streets. The survivors recognize the value and contributions of the international community. I have been to the southern part of the country where Saddam's brutality sought to destroy a 5,000 year old culture when he decimated the marshes that sustain the marsh arabs of southern Iraq. those people also recognize the brutality of the regime and will never forget the contributions that we are making here to restore their livelihood and their culture. And I've also met the man on the street who was hauled out of his home at gunpoint in front of his family and brought to the torture rooms for charges he still does not know. All of these people would disagree with you. In removing Saddam Hussein, we freed the people and we are giving them hope for the future. And we are contributing to the peace and stability of the world.