Via Susan H. - Just to emphasize what Senator Miller said tonight about America liberating, not occupying, nations:
Iraqi women thank soldiers, defend invasion
By Chuck Bartels Associated Press - August 31, 2004
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Two Iraqi women active in starting a democratic government in their nation thanked Arkansas soldiers Monday and told an audience that insurgents were acting in opposition to the will of the vast majority of Iraqis.
Surood Ahmad of Kirkuk, Iraq, and Taghreed Al Qaragholi of Baghdad addressed about 100 people, including relatives of Army Spc. Kenneth Melton of Batesville, who was killed April 25 in Iraq.
“God bless all of these American soldiers … these liberators,” Al Qaragholi said, looking toward Melton’s family.
“I know ‘thank you’ is not enough,” she said, starting to cry. “I don’t have the words.”
She said that when she saw the now-celebrated television broadcast of a statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down, she went outside and “touched the trees, just to make sure it wasn’t a dream.”
Al Qaragholi said her greatest concern was that Iraq establishes a free government. She recalled that a person at an appearance in Boston counseled her that the United States was only in Iraq for its oil.
“I said, ‘Welcome,” she said.
Al Qaragholi said access to the oil does not matter because the average Iraqi didn’t benefit under Saddam from living in an oil-rich nation.
The women were brought in by the Iraq-America Freedom Alliance, which is part of the Foundation of Defense for Democracies. The group lists conservatives Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp and Jeanne Kirkpatrick as its directors but includes Democrats and Republicans among its advisers.
Ahmad, a Kurd, said she is preparing to return to her hometown to help build a government in a city with different ethnicities. She said that during her seven-week visit to the United States, some people have apologized for the tumult that is now consuming Iraq. Ahmad said people who have died in the war have died for a purpose.
Regarding weekend protests in New York City in advance of the Republican National Convention, Ahmad said she didn’t bristle at demonstrations against a war she supports.
“I like the democracy,” she said. “We want to build that in our home.”
Ahmad told a hushed audience that she was with family members and neighbors in a car that was attacked by a helicopter flown by Saddam’s forces during the 1991 Kurdish rebellion after the Gulf War. Six people were killed, including three relatives, and Ahmad was wounded in two places. Ahmad said her father was hauled off and shot.
Now, for the first time, she is “not afraid to be a Kurd in Kirkuk.”
After her talk, Ahmad hugged Melton’s widow, Carol.
Carol Melton said it was helpful to see first-hand the Iraqi women and hear their appreciation for the efforts of the soldiers.
Americans don’t understand that the insurgents don’t have the backing of the majority of Iraqis, Al Qaragholi said. Most are glad the war happened.
She noted that the United States needed time to organize its democracy more than 200 years ago and that success will not come instantly to Iraq.
“We need time,” she said.
Upon her return, Ahmad plans to train women how to participate in a democratic government. Al Qaragholi is active in the Iraqi Independent Women’s Group. One of the group’s members is a minister in the new Iraqi government and the group also includes several deputy ministers.