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Wolfowitz Seeks Iraqi Aid to Oust Saddam

February 24, 2003

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) _ Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, speaking Sunday to a town-hall meeting filled with Iraqi-Americans, told his audience they should help the U.S. government oust Saddam Hussein.

The audience of between 250 and 300 people expressed support _ at times breaking into applause and rising to their feet _ for the message from Wolfowitz: That Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must be removed from power and the Iraqi people must play a key role in the ``deadly serious business″ of his ouster.

``It is not too early for us to be thinking about how to build a just, peaceful and democratic Iraq after Saddam Hussein is gone,″ Wolfowitz said.

The United States is expected to introduce a resolution early next week before the U.N. Security Council that would strengthen its case for an attack on Iraq.

No one spoke out against a U.S.-led attack on Iraq during the forum, but some hoped for a nonviolent resolution.

``I don’t support war 100 percent and would like to see more proof that the U.S. is looking at every peaceful option,″ said Baker Albaaj, who attended the meeting. ``But if it comes to war, I know the regime has to go.″

Wolfowitz emphasized that the United States is seeking to liberate Iraq and not occupy the country. He encouraged those in attendance to aid the U.S. government. Attendees were given the chance to sign up for work as interpreters, for example, or learn more about opportunities in the U.S. military.

Detroit and Dearborn have a concentration of people with roots in the Middle East, including a large Iraqi community.

With the help of interpreters, many in the crowd told Wolfowitz stories of oppression and torture under Saddam’s regime.

``On the heart of everyone here is a scar,″ one man said as he brought forward a young boy who he said had been beaten by Iraqi troops when he was just one year old.

Maha Hussein, one of the meeting’s moderators and incoming president of the Iraqi Forum for Democracy, asked Wolfowitz how Iraqi people can trust U.S. assertions. She said the United States has a ``history of supporting dictatorships″ in the Middle East and many believe the country turned its back on an Iraqi uprising in 1991.

Wolfowitz pointed to U.S.-led efforts in other war-torn countries such as Bosnia and Afghanistan and promised similar support for a post-Saddam Iraq.

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