Speeches & Floor Statements
Posted on April 7, 2005
I have three or four comments I would like to make this morning. Most importantly, I want to say a word about the new leadership in Iraq. In a delegation led by the Democratic leader, Senator Reid of Nevada, seven of us were in Iraq, in Baghdad, about 10 days ago. We met with two of the three new leaders who have been chosen. Mr. al-Hassani, the new speaker, a Sunni, spent some time with us. We spent an hour with Dr. al-Jaafari who, just an hour ago, was named the new Prime Minister of Iraq, and who will be the most important leader we will be dealing with. I believe our delegation was one of the first from the Senate to spend that much time with the new leader of Iraq. I want to report that I was most impressed with what we saw there. We met a man in his late-50s, who had been in exile from Iraq for a number of years because of the brutality of Saddam Hussein. He is a physician. It seems as though physicians are ascending in all sorts of different places, including in the U.S. Senate and in Iraq. He is a well-educated man and conducted our discussion in English. He showed in his presence a great deal of calm. He is not a quiet man, but he is a calm man who seems to know exactly what he believes and what he thinks. I was taken with the fact that he began his discussion with us with about a 5-minute monolog about the brutality of Saddam Hussein. He said he was "worse than Hitler, worse than Stalin." Those were his words. He said Hussein had murdered a million people in 35 years. In his words, al-Jaafari said "he had buried 300,000 people alive." He said that quietly, but he obviously feels that very deeply. Second, I was most impressed with his understanding of U.S. history. We talked about the difficulty of creating a democracy and how we are expecting them to create a Constitution by August. In our situation, years ago, it took us 12 years from the time of the Declaration of Independence to the time of our Constitution. Our Founders locked the news media out for 6 months while they did that. Today, we are expecting the Iraqis to come together - people of different backgrounds - and have a Constitution by August, while we watch and criticize on 24/7 television everything they do. He has a good understanding of U.S. history and, I thought, a great appreciation for democracy and freedom. He showed not only no resentment about the American presence in Iraq, he showed great gratitude for the American presence in Iraq. He wants us to stay there for a while, so that there is enough security for their constitutional government to form. He seemed very comfortable with that. Finally, he is a brave man - brave during exile, brave today. There may be only a few thousand people in Iraq - a country the size of California with 25 million people - who are causing all the trouble, but they are making it a dangerous place to be. Even the Green Zone and the areas around it are not entirely safe. So we have a sophisticated, English-speaking, well-educated, U.S.-history-knowing, brave man, who is the new leader of Iraq, a man who is grateful for the American presence and who is determined to help create a democracy. I congratulate the Iraqi people on the substantial achievement. Also, Mr. al-Hassani, the new speaker, a Sunni – the new Prime Minister is a Shiite - was very impressive to us in the Senate delegation. He, as well as the Prime Minister, wore western clothing in these meetings. I say this as a fact, not as a judgment. Mr. al-Hassani was educated in the U.S. at two major universities. He lived in Los Angeles during his exile. He created a business in Los Angeles. He went back to Iraq to help create a new democracy. He is also a sophisticated person with a strong knowledge of freedom and democracy, a strong appreciation of the United States, and he is also a brave man to be undertaking this. I congratulate the Iraqis for that.