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.
June 25, 2004
Justin, from Harrisonburg, VA
A new U.S. Embassy in Iraq will open for business on July 1, headed by Ambassador John Negroponte, who will be the USs representative to the sovereign government.
Regarding the U.S. military role, the character of our engagement will change on June 30, but our commitment will not. Iraqis will make the decisions about how their country is governed. But, as leaders of the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF), provided for under UN Security Council Resolution 1546, we will continue as full partners in helping the new government bring democracy and security to Iraq. During this stage, our focus will rest on supporting Iraqs political transition, equipping and training Iraqi security forces, and helping set the stage for national elections at the end of the year.
Over the next few months, our aim is to prepare Iraqi security forces to assume greater responsibilitiesallowing Iraqis to take local control of the cities, even as the multinational forces move into a supporting role and provide forces only as needed. We will continue the process of integrating Iraqi officers with the MNF and embedding coalition officers with Iraqisthe sort of relationship that will continue to develop more capable Iraqi security leaders and improve our coordination.
Although there are growing pains, Iraqis are stepping up to their new roles. By our own count, which is probably significantly low, nearly 400 Iraqis have died in the past year for the cause of an Iraq free from tyranny and terror. The real number could be twice that. And despite the enemys attempts to intimidate them, Iraqis continue to step forward in large numbers to defend their country.
During my recent trip to Iraq, I met a U.S. Marine whod been on patrol with some members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. When theyd been ambushed and the Marine was shot, five Iraqis risked their own lives to save himand subsequently received medals for valor from the Marines.
That story and others like it are encouraging. However, for a time, U.S. and other international forces will be indispensable to preserve security while Iraqi forces build their strength.
Faith, from Memphis writes:
Already, Iraq is beginning to contribute to its own rebuildingincluding through its oil assets. Through a combination of oil revenues and existing assets, nearly $20 billion of Iraqi funds have gone into the Development Fund for Iraq to finance government operations and reconstruction projects.
An addition $8 billion of oil revenues are projected to go into the fund by the end of this year. These funds are paying the salaries of over 350,000 teachers and professors and 100,000 doctors and health workers.
Iraqi funds have paid for $1.2 billion of improvements to the electricity infrastructure, $300 million for water, sewage and irrigation projects, and $660 million to sustain and expand oil production.
Health-care spending in Iraq has increased some 30 times over prewar levels, allowing children to receive crucial vaccinations for the first time in years. Using part of the $800 million in Iraqi funds provided to local governors and local commanders, Coalition forces and local authorities have rehabilitated more than 2,200 schools and 240 hospitals.
Kayla, from Bentonville, AR writes:
Iraqis frequently refer to the new Iraq, a place where women are beginning to play greater roles in Iraqi government. In the new Iraqi Interim Government, which will gain authority on June 30, there are six women ministers. This is an encouraging sign in itself.
Perhaps even more important is the courage many Iraqi women have displayed. On my recent trip to Iraq, a young Iraqi Kurdish woman was our interpreter, and she told us that her sister had been assassinated because she was working with Americans. And yet, there she was still working with us. I asked her why. And she said, Because my father said you mustnt retreat in the face of evil.
That sort of courage was echoed in one of the first members of Iraqs Governing Council Akila Hashimi, who was murdered so brutally last fall. On one of my earlier trips to Iraq, I met women at the Al Hillah Womens Center, which works to advance the cause of womens rights. One young women, wearing a conservative Muslim head covering, told us confidently that there was no inconsistency between her practice of her religion and human rights and rights for women.
And countless other women are defying the past with their newfound voices. I came across an amateur Iraqi Web site, one of the many where Iraqis are taking advantage of their newfound freedom of speech. One site showed two Iraqi women demonstrating a few months ago against a development which threatened womens rights. They, too, were dressed in conservative Muslim fashion. Yet, as one of them put it: We didnt wait all these years without the most basic rights to be denied them now. When an Arab reporter asked if she were Sunni or Shia, she snapped: Im an Iraqi citizen first and foremost, and I refuse to be asked such a question. In such words and actions are the hope of a new Iraq.
Ben, from Atlanta writes:
As I am sure you know, we went into Iraq for a number of reasons, not only to destroy the WMDs that everyone agreed Saddam Hussein had. Remember that he used chemical weapons against his own people and against his neighbors. He had produced biological weapons and come very close to nuclear weapons ten years ago. He was in violation of 17 UN Resolutions. Resolution 1441 was his last and final chance to come clean on WMDs and he failed to do so.
We have not yet determined why we didnt find more when we got to Iraq, but there is no question that he had the capability to build new ones, and there is no question that Saddam Hussein posed a very real threat to world peace. He invaded his neighbors. His regime supported and harbored terrorist elements like Al Qaida.
And today, a key figure in the resistance in Iraq is an Al Qaida-associated fugitive and terrorist, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who has taken credit for personally beheading several U.S. hostages and for sponsoring numerous suicide bombings.
By giving the Iraqi people a chance to live in freedom and peace, we have opened the door to progress throughout the Middle East, which has been a source of so much terrorism. Already there are important signs of positive change in the Middle East from Muammar Qaddafi giving up his WMD to some Arab governments talking for the first time about democratic reform.
So yes, the war has been worth the great investment we have made and the great sacrifices our servicemen and women are making. I believe future generations will look back at them with the same sense of gratitude that we look on the World War II generation.
jon, from huntington beach, ca writes:
Let the Iraq deel with the insurgents starting right now.
The terrorists know that if the Iraqi people succeed in setting up a free and democratic government, their days are numbered. So its very dangerous right now to serve in the Iraqi government.
But Iraq has courageous new leaders. And Iraqi security forces are also stepping up to the challenge that they face. They are serving heroically. They will still need our help for some time to beat back the terrorist challenge, but the key to victory is building up the Iraqi Army and police as rapidly as possible.
Danielle, from California writes:
Saddam Hussein led one of the most vicious regimes in the world. He not only invaded his neighbors, but he oppressed his own people with incredible brutality. Moreover, he sponsored and promoted a number of the most vicious terrorist groups in the world, including al Qaida.
The removal of Saddam Hussein means that the Iraqi government no longer supports terrorism or provides sanctuary for terrorists. It also means that Iraq will no longer threaten the world with the kinds of weapons of mass destruction that Saddam used against the Iraqi people themselves.
But Saddams old gang and their terrorist allies wont go down without a fight. That is why there is so much violence in Iraq today. That is also why we say that Iraq is presently the central battle in the war on terrorism. The terrorists understand that their defeat in Iraq will be a major victory for us.
Stephanie, from Louisiana writes:
They're not considered a "hero" for being killedinjured. We are lucky to even get their name on the news cast. Why are we not supportingtreating these soldiers like we are the soldiers in Iraq? They too are putting their lives on the line to keep us safe.
At the moment, Iraq is dominating the headlines. But our 18,000 troops in Afghanistan are fighting another crucial front in the continuing effort to destroy terrorist organizations. They are also helping Afghanistan move forward on the path to a free, representative government.
I have been to Afghanistan twice and Secretary Rumsfeld has been there five times. So have many members of Congress. Afghanistans new President Hamid Karzai was here recently and spoke out in support of our overall effort against terrorism.
Melanie, from Bayonne writes:
As we learned so tragically on 9-11, the American people do not enjoy an exemption from threats that exist in other parts of the world. On that day, 3,000 innocent people were killed for no other reason than because they were in America.
As the President has said repeatedly, the safety of the American people depends on U.S. leadership in the global war against terrorists, their organizations, and the states like Afghanistan and Iraq that support them. In Iraq, the vast majority of the people support our presence and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. They are not interested in having their country occupied, but they also know that our presence there is essential if that country is not to slip back into the control of the brutal minority who controlled it for more than 30 years. As an Iraqi said to me during my recent trip, In my heart, I would like you to leave now. But in my head, I know we need you to stay.
In a few days, the new Iraqi government will take over. For the first time in a generation, peace-loving Iraqis will have the opportunity to govern their own country and to get on with their lives. We will only stay as long as we are wanted and needed. But we will leave behind a government that does not represent a threat to the U.S. or any other country.