Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq


September 17, 2005 11:00 AM


by President Jalal Talabani

President Jalal Talabani: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity
to speak at this distinguished platform. I would like to start by thanking Ms.
Andrea Bartoli and the Conflict Resolution Program at Columbia University for
making this happen, and for all their help and support for the people of Iraq,
including Iraqi Kurdistan. As a representative of the youngest democracy in the
world, I stand here to convey to you two messages. A message of sympathy and
condolences, and a message of gratitude and thanks. When Hurricane Katrina
hit, we were mourning our dead in Baghdad, but we didn't forget our friends. Our
prayers and thoughts were with the people of the Gulf Coast.

We related to their suffering. When we heard about the prevention from clean
water, food, and other essential needs, we knew what it means. We went
through the same. The difference was that death and destruction in Iraq is man-
made, and not natural. Saddam Hussein's regime killed many Iraqis and
destroyed vast areas of Iraqi. The terrorists today are trying to do the same in
Iraq and in other parts of the world. This brings me to the second message that I
am carrying from my people. Thank you for getting rid of dictatorship in Iraq and
thank you for fighting the terrorists with us.

To those of you who have family members and friends serving in Iraq, I say to
you, thank you. Thank you for their courage, thank you for your fortitude. Those
who are serving in Iraq today are fighting fascism and protection, you, with the
same dignity and courage of the great generation of Americans who fought in the
world's Second World War. As they fight, they are inspired by the ideals of
American democracy, and with the practical aim of defending your and our
interests. You, the American people, are our partners in our liberation from
tyranny. In 2003, we fought together to end a Civil War which was existing in
Iraq, the Civil War of Saddam Hussein against the people of Iraq.

Now, we continue to struggle side-by-side to uproot terrorism and fascism that
have long threatened us all. Ba'athist Iraq was one of the longest-lived fascist
states in the world. Saddam's regime was guilty of multiple acts of aggression
and genocide. The effect of this regime upon Iraqi society was been of mass
graves with hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and chemical weapons
used for the first time in history by a dictator against his own people. In these
mass graves, we discovered, we found just children, or just women, who paid the
ultimate price for imaginary crimes of other members of their family.

Saddam wanted Iraqis to fear even thinking freely, let alone to even dare forming
words to express their desire of freedom. With the assistance of your great
country and your allies in the coalition from Britain, Poland, Australia, and many
other countries, we are changing the course of history of murder in Iraq, from a
past characterized by violence, brutality, and instability into what we hope to be a
democratic future. But there are still many challenges ahead. After a tragic and
painful past, we Iraqis look to a future of promise and hope. But the forces of
darkness want to take us back to our painful past. The terrorists of Al Qaeda and
the old friends of Saddam cannot bear the sense of a Democratic, pluralistic, and
federal Iraq, where all are equal, and the rights are protected by law.

They want an Iraq that is unstable, isolated, and at war with its neighbors and
world. The fear and terror they are trying to instill in minds of my fellow citizens is
the only thing they know. As we are trying to build a democracy and an ally to
the West in the heart of Middle East, the street side criminals who are killing
innocent Iraqis are trying to prove us wrong. They have demonstrated that they
would kill anyone and destroy anywhere they get their hands to. London, Madrid,
Istanbul, *Shermashek, and other parts of the world that they are targeting as in
Iraq because we are more vulnerable.

They showed no remorse to any human suffering. When Hurricane Katrina hit
the Gulf Coast, the leaders of Al Qaeda were exchanging messages of
congratulations and greeting each other for what they described as the start of
the end of America. We will have to know this reality. The terrorists are fighting
one war against us all. So should we do. By liberating Iraq, the United States
has gained an important new partner in the battle against terrorism. Iraq is now
the front fort of the war against terrorism, as we have captured and killed
hundreds and senior Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda commanders and members, we are fighting them on two fronts. We
are building a security force that is able to fight them, and we are having an
inclusive democratic political process for all Iraqis. With the help of our allies, we
are building and training our security forces. While we are grateful for the
protection that U.S. is providing, we reiterate here that the presence of the United
States and multinational forces is vital for democracy in Iraq and in the Middle
East, and also for preventing foreign interference in the internal affairs of Iraq,
until Iraq can stand on its feet. For those who call for an immediate pullout of
American troops, we say we honor, we honor the sacrifices the United States has
made, and thank them for their kindness and generosity.

But a withdrawal of American and multinational forces now, or in the near future,
could lead to victory of the terrorists in Iraq, and create great threat to the region,
the United States, and the civilized world. Furthermore, we will set no timetable
for withdrawal. A timetable will help the terrorists. It will encourage them to think
that they can defeat a superpower of the world and the Iraqi people. We don't
want to give any signal to the terrorists that our will to defeat them is weakened,
or that they can defeat us. Neither as in Iraq, nor you in the United States can
afford to cede Iraq to the terrorists and those who want nothing but death and

Our place in the Middle East puts you and us in front of big responsibility. If we
win in Iraq, the region will change for better. The same way as Iraq has
advanced, the same way as Iraq advanced away from its brutal past. If we lose
in Iraq, all of the gains that democracy and those who seek freedom from
oppression have made across the world will be lost. A new, more perverted,
vengeful, and uncompromising dictatorship will emerge. On the security front,
important progress is being made. As we have heard, more security forces are
being trained and more terrorists are being captured or killed. The fight in
*Terrafa proved that we are getting stronger, and our enemy is getting weaker.

Their morale is getting lower, and they are getting more disparate. Their
cowardly retaliation by killing innocent civilians in Baghdad when they were not
able to face our military forces was a sign of that. Their statement after the
deaths they inflicted on Baghdad were a clear side of that. They tried to start
Civil War in the country. For this fighting them on the political front by creating a
Democratic Iraq is just as important as the military front. We have mobilized the
principles and the arms of democracy. We must defend our democracy where
we build it. We must fight even as we vote. Democracy is a dialogue. In
democracy we seek to change opinions through persuasion and not through

We have forced a dialogue, compromise, and equality. The majority of Iraqis
demonstrated that they accept that principle went over 8 million of them voted on
January 13, 2005. The election was an important milestone in the history of the
Middle East. Moreover, we have just completed one of the most important
documents in Iraq's history, a draft Constitution that enshrines many of the
values of free world. Getting to the document was not an easy task. The drafting
process was faced with many hurdles. As the President of this diverse ethnic
culture and religious mosaic, I saw it, it was my responsibility to be the moderator
and broker of this process.

After we started our marathon of talks, the majority of participants reached the
draft. Here, I must thank friends like the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay
Khalilizad, who working tirelessly with us to bring the draft and the different views
closer. Our draft Constitution has a Bill of Rights. It ensures quality of all Iraqis,
regardless of their gender, creed, religion, or ethnicity. It enshrines the
separation of powers and involves many checks and balances on the excess
side of power. It is by far one of the best Constitutions in the entire region. The
talks of our Constitution were part of our fundamental national dialogue.

The discussions and negotiations over the Constitution have been constructive
and healthy because they form an integral element in the process of national
reconciliation. They are essential to rebuilding Iraq on solid foundations.
Principle compromise is a key element of democratic life. In a compromise,
nobody is perfectly happy and nobody is perfectly unhappy, but we learn to live
with each together. That principle is vital for the survival of the world's country,
such as Iraq. Again, the vast majority of Iraqis, through their democratically-
elected representatives, have shown that they are willing to make principle
compromises. Indeed, the good news from Iraq is that the new Iraqi Constitution
is not a perfect document.

The equally good news is that no blood was spilled in the writing of the
Constitution. We talked, we sometimes disagreed, but we were, at least most of
us, always committed to settling our differences through dialogue in compromise.
If anybody was completely happy with the new Iraqi Constitution, then they would
be others who were completely unhappy, and that is a failure. A document that
the few cannot help up as a banner of victory is a success for the many.
Compromise takes time. While it is true that it took us many weeks to form a
government, that was not a bad thing. Quite the contrary, we should be pleased
that it takes longer to form a government in the new Iraq than it did in the old

The old Iraq formed governments very quickly, in roughly the time needed for the
tanks to travel from the barracks to the presidential palace. In the Iraq, unlike
under the old regime, the state is based on the principle of inclusion, not
exclusion. Iraq will be for all Iraqis who share the vision of a Democratic,
pluralistic, federal country. We will extend our hand to all those who are willing to
join us in achieving this vision. In the new Iraq, there must be no victors and no
vanquished. We will always seek compromises, but they must not the
compromises on the principles of federal democracy in which all are equal.
Those who want to come into the political process, and we want them in political
process, must choose between the bullets and the ballots.

Friends, we will talk to all, but we will not sell our democracy, we will not sell our
democracy to the few who threaten violence if their demands are not met. We
will not betray the democratically expressed wishes of Iraq's two Constitution
peoples, the Arabs and the Kurds, and the other communities of Turkoman and
Assyrian, to the masses who seek a new centralized, repressive state. We will
never surrender to the terrorists, who despise democracy and distort religion.
Never. Next month, Iraq will vote on the draft Constitution, and a higher turnout
then the January election is expected.

Although the draft Constitution is very likely to be ratified, ratifying it or not is not
relevant. The important point here is, the popular principle, the popular
participation will create a sense of ownership of the new Iraq. It will be created
amongst those who are reluctant to join the political process and are being
exploited by the terrorists. This, in addition to America's continued engagement
with Iraq, will isolate the terrorists and eventually eradicate them. I conclude by
what I said last week after meeting with President Bush. Those in America and
other countries who still ask if the war of liberation Iraq was the right decision, I
say please, please come to Iraq and see the mass graves with hundred
thousands of innocent Iraqis in it. Find out what happened to the Iraqi people.

To those who talk of stability, I say, Saddam imposes the stability of the mass
graves. To the terrorists, I say you will never win. Freedom will win in Iraq, and
thank you very much for kindly attention you pay. Thank you.

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