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U.S. reaches out to Iraqi-Americans

Wolfowitz: 'No greater engine' than Iraqi people

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz asks Iraqi-Americans to take a role in rebuilding a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

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DEARBORN, Michigan (CNN) -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz reached out to Iraqi-Americans on Sunday, asking them to spread the word about the suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein and help the Bush administration shape Iraq's future.

At a "town hall" meeting with a group of Iraqi-Americans in Dearborn, home to a large number of Arab-Americans, people told of suffering under Saddam's rule and expressed strong support for the administration's stance.

Wolfowitz discussed ways they could help the U.S. government "in the reconstruction of a post-Saddam Iraq," including serving alongside the U.S. military and working closely with Iraqi opposition groups.

"While there are decisions now that only President Bush can decide," Wolfowitz told his audience, "it is not too early for the rest of us to be thinking about how to build a just and peaceful and democratic Iraq after Saddam Hussein is gone. In fact, we in the administration have already begun doing so."

A number of times, the audience applauded for Wolfowitz, and he smiled at their support. A standing ovation saw Wolfowitz off the stage, after which the audience chanted "down, down, Saddam" and "yes, yes, George."

A banner at the meeting read, "No to dictatorship, yes to democracy in Iraq."

U.S. lists principles of post-Saddam Iraq

Wolfowitz listed five principles that would guide the U.S. government's dealings with Iraq:

• The United States seeks to liberate, not occupy, Iraq

• Iraq must be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction and weapons-production capabilities, and the means to deliver such weapons

• Iraq's terrorist infrastructure must be eliminated

• Iraq must be preserved as a unified state, with its territorial integrity intact

• With coalition partners, the United States must help the Iraqi people begin economic and political reconstruction

"These are principles that define American policy ... the principles on which the coalition will operate, and -- if I can judge from the reaction of this audience, it seems to me that they are principles that we here can agree on," he said.

Wolfowitz: Iraqis control some issues

Other issues, however, can be addressed only by the Iraqi people, Wolfowitz said, and the U.S. government and its coalition partners need their help. They include choosing democratic institutions, making the transition to democracy, ensuring unity while developing self-government, and accounting for past injustices while avoiding new animosities.

"We know that to arrive at these goals, there is no greater engine than the industrious and well-educated people of Iraq themselves," Wolfowitz said. "Along with our coalition partners, we would help Iraqis begin the process of economic and political reconstruction. We would assist the people of Iraq in putting their country on a path towards prosperity and freedom."

Wolfowitz denied critics' claims that Iraq is not capable of such a transition. He pointed to the Kurds in northern Iraq who have prospered out of the reach of Saddam's regime and to the success of Iraqi immigrants in adapting to Western democracy.

He asked Iraqi-Americans to help the administration develop a post-Saddam Iraq.

And, with large numbers of protesters in the United States and around the world opposing any attack on Iraq, Wolfowitz implored the Iraqi-Americans who lived under Saddam's regime to tell the world about their experiences.

Seeking Iraqi-American volunteers

He also told them the Bush administration is starting a program to hire Iraqi-Americans as temporary employees or civilian contractors, which would allow them to help the U.S. military in specialized areas such as translation.

A separate initiative will encourage Iraqi-Americans to join the U.S. military's Ready Reserve Force, which supports the rapid deployment of the military forces, he said.

The deputy secretary also encouraged the crowd to train members of Iraqi opposition groups to work with the U.S. military as guides, translators and experts on civil affairs in case of war. After any conflict, they would be called upon to help rebuild the country.

Training for that initiative has already started at a military base in Hungary and is open to Iraqis around the world, not just those in the United States, Wolfowitz said.

"The president understands the hope of the Iraqi people and your hope," he said. "We may someday look back on this moment in history as the time when the world defined itself for the 21st century, not in terms of geography or race, or religion, or culture, or language, but in terms of values -- the universal values of freedom and democracy."

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