March 19, 2004
Good to be here and looking forward to your questions.
Ryan, from Chicago writes:
Hi Mr. Wilkinson, After the June 30th transition of sovernigty to the Iraqi
people what role will the United States play in controlling that country?
Will there still be an overwhelming presence of American soldiers or will
the number of Americans troops go down?
June 30th is an important day for the Iraqi people as they take sovereignty. They have a new transitional law that provides Iraqis a bill of rights and Iraqis are already running major parts of Iraq. However, there is much more work to do to help Iraq rebuild from the era of Saddam Hussein. For example, Saddam Hussein and his regime led a life of privilege and luxury, while leaving the Iraqi people with an essential services infrastructure shattered by decades of malign neglect and mismanagement. Those out of favor were denied the simplest public services, with hunger and denial of essential services used as weapons of tyranny. As a result, northern and southern Iraq suffered a severe lack of electricity, water, health care, education facilities, and other vital resources. While it will take years to fully modernize Iraqs infrastructure in the wake of Saddams decades of neglect, much progress has been made as the Coalition and the Iraqi people have worked hand in hand to improve Iraqs essential services. But it is going to take time for Iraq to recover. As for our troops, we will continue to have forces in Iraq after June 30 as we help the nation take ownership of its security.
Beth, from California writes:
Was it really okay to go to war with Iraq even if so many people at home were
opposed to it?
The President believes we need to go after terrorist threats before they can reach our shores. He believes that the nexus of WMD and terrorist organizations is a grave threat to our national security and he led an international coalition to disarm the Saddam Hussein regime and remove the regime from power.
Some people, like President Bush, think we need to go after terrorist threats where they live, hide, plot and raise money. Others have a different view, a view that we should just look at terrorism as a law enforcement problem.
Josh, from New York
This week Representative Henry Waxman released a report by his Committee
on Government Reform titled "Iraq on the Record - The Bush
Administration's Public Statements on Iraq." The study finds that
administration officials (Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld and Rice) made
237 specific false or misleading statements regarding the Iraqi threat,
most of them in the month prior to the vote for a war resolution. How would you
respond to Representative Waxman's report?
I would refer you and Congressman Waxman to the text of the more than 17 UN resolutions that the Saddam Hussein regime flouted. I also refer you both to the many UN weapons inspector reports highlighting the WMD activities of Saddam Hussein. I would continue my referrals by pointing you both to the congressional law passed that made regime change in Iraq the official policy of the US government (signed by President Clinton). I would also refer you to the USAID report just released on the mass graves that Saddam Hussein filled with the innocent. I would also refer you to the text of the many reports that highlight the rape rooms, the torture chambers, the public executions, and the environmental atrocities Saddam Hussein committed. And you might want to read up on the WMD attack in Halabja in 1988 by the Hussein regime where he killed the innocent (the anniversary of this attack was this week).
Kayla, from Bentonville, AR
What is being done in Iraq to make sure the Iraqi women have as much influence
in the new Iraqi government as possible?
Glad you brought this up.
Iraqis recently signed a Transitional Administrative Law that is unprecedented for Iraq. This framework guarantees the basic rights of all Iraqis including women. The framework also provides a goal of at least 25% representation in the new Iraqi government for women.
Also, in places like Hilla, Iraq, courageous female Coalition and CPA workers are opening Women's Rights Centers to give hope, education, and opportunity to the women that for far too long lived under the boot of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen.
Lisa, from North Carolina
Hey Jim -- Who do you think is going to win the UNC v. Texas game on Saturday? Go
Texas without a doubt. Won't even be close.
John, from Texas writes:
Watching the war on TV we saw a tank run over a car that was a taxi drivers only
means of employment. A tank commander said that is what happens to looters.
Wolfowitz said at a speech at Georgetown University that the incident was
being looked into with the intent of proscecuting the tank commander if a
crime against the Iraqi citizen was thought to have occurred. How many
crimes against the iraqi citizens by our troops have been found to have
occurred and how many troops are being charged and tried in militaruy
Any crimes by our troops have been minimal. Our young men and women are heroes working in difficult circumstances and I hope you appreciate the sacrifice they are making all over the world so that you and I can talk freely here.
Our military take great pains to protect the innocent, and when crimes are committed or accusations are made, the US military investigates these charges fully and adjudicates them quickly. The US military does not take lightly any forces that harm the innocent.
Joshua, from Princeton, NJ
When the United States officially exits Iraq, how will we safeguard those
democratic processes (human rights, rule of law, free elections, etc.)
that, as of now, we are in the process of implementing?
After June 30 the State Department will oversee in Iraq the largest US mission in the world. This Mission -- in close coordination with other government agencies and our Coalition partners -- will work closely with the interim Iraqi government and the eventual new Iraqi government to help ensure the nation continues on its path to stability. But this work won't be easy. It will take time for the Iraqis to learn how to be free after so many decades of tyranny.
The US-led Coalition liberated Iraq, but in a sense, the Iraqi people now liberate themselves by coming to grips with their past and by learning the ins and outs of the democratic institutions which are their future.
bon, from france writes:
There will be no bygones, French poeple won't ever forgive your insulting
behaviour, neither the sillyness of your President and his stupid poeple.
You are not welcome in my country Go to hell bastard
I am taking you off my holiday card list. :)
Chris, from Williamsport, PA
Mr. Wilkerson -
What is your sense of the way media, specifically network television, has
presented U.S. Military involvement in the Middle East? Is there a
particular slant that seems to be consistent in your opinion? If so, what,
from your position, is done to craft the mood of the information being
presented to the American people?
I think the media has done a fantastic job reporting on our troops. I take you back to the media embedding program that the Pentagon -- under the great public affairs leadership of Torie Clarke, Bryan Whitman and the military leaders in the field -- implemented during the war. Going back to the Vietnam War, there was a large amount of distrust between the media and the military. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, large numbers of reporters (nearly 800 or so I think) were placed on the front lines with our troops. The men and women in uniform -- not folks in Washington -- were the prime spokespeople for this war. Thus, America received the real context of war -- good and bad. I think the media did a great job during the war, and it is healthy for our Nation that for the first time in a long time, a large chunk of the media and the military now view each other as human beings, not as adversaries.
Miguel, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Generally, how is border security operations proceeding in Western Iraq?
The border areas all over Iraq are vast and challenging. Iraq is a country the size of California and policing the borders is tough. However, Ambassador Paul Bremer recently announced a new border tighting initiative to help stem the flow into Iraq, especially the flow of those who hope to do Iraqis and our Coalition personnel harm through acts of terror.
Thanks. I gotta run. Looking forward to doing this again soon.