The Japanese version of this article appeared in the April 25 Sankei Shimbun on page 6.

What the Coalition achieved in Iraq

By Howard H. Baker, Jr.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan

On March 19, coalition forces initiated a military campaign in Iraq to disarm a brutal dictator, free its people, and to protect the world from a grave danger. While the coalition campaign began just a month ago, the reign of terror that Saddam Hussein inflicted on his own people started decades ago. Now, as the scenes from Baghdad of jubilant Iraqis clearly show, a regime hated by its own citizens has been deposed. The war is over and a new chapter has begun. Today, the talented Iraqi people, in all their diversity, are able to practice their religion, express their views - including protesting in the streets - and begin the process of rebuilding their country so that it can once again be a peaceful member of the international community.

We share the sadness in the deaths and injuries that occurred, of both innocent civilians and combatants, and express our condolences to their loved ones. We are grateful that casualties were kept to a minimum and damage to Iraq's economic infrastructure was limited. Now we turn our attention to helping the Iraqi people restore peace and normalcy back into their lives so that the promise of this rich country can be fully realized.

The process of healing began with the meeting April 15 in the historic city of Nasiriyah. For the first time in recent memory, Iraqis representing all religious and secular groups, Shia and Sunni, both men and women, came together to discuss the future and how they will assume authority over their own country. Make no mistake. The process will take time, but it will be the Iraqi people who will decide the future of Iraq. The administration that will be established will not be determined by the coalition but by Iraqis talking together. As President Bush said, we will not impose any form of government on Iraq. We will help Iraq build a government of, by and for the Iraqi people.

Meanwhile, coalition forces, working with the Red Cross and Iraqis, are trying to restore basic needs such as electricity, water, and telephone services. Stores and restaurants have begun to reopen. Hundreds of injured Iraqis are being treated at U.S. and British military facilities, and governments from Europe and the Middle East are moving field hospitals to Iraq.

No one expects the challenges to be easy. There are many needs, and the U.S. and its coalition partners, numbering more than fifty countries, have expressed their willingness to help. A magnificent example is the assistance of the Japanese government, one of the first and most forthright in expressing its support for coalition action to remove Iraqfs weapons of mass destruction. Japan has now announced its intention to extend food aid valued at 1.4 billion yen through the World Food Aid Program as part of its earlier decision to provide $100 million worth of humanitarian assistance in response to the United Nations appeal.

The U.S. government, through its Agency for International Development (USAID), in close cooperation with international relief agencies and non-government organizations, is also making available massive humanitarian relief supplies to save Iraqi lives and alleviate suffering. We have already given more than $200 million to the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, UNICEF, and other U.N. agencies. We have provided emergency supplies, including medical kits, blankets, water tanks and containers. We will also work with UNESCO in safeguarding Iraq's precious cultural heritage. And much more relief is on the way in the form of food valued at more than $300 million, and $260 million will be provided to the U.N. Food Program. Overall, USAIDfs funding for Iraq totals more than $500 million, and we expect that more will be requested.

Even greater than the dislocations of war are the challenges Iraq faces in reconstructing its country after two decades of economic mismanagement. No one can argue that the Iraqi people were better off under Saddam, or that the promise of a better future is now impossible to imagine. The Iraqi people deserve our help and encouragement so that they can have the chance to enjoy the peaceful and prosperous lives that we in the U.S. and Japan take for granted.