Address to Seton Hall University
By Robert E. Andrews
e probably all remember the images in the days after Saddam Hussein’s
government fell. They were dramatic images of Iraqis going to the street and pulling
down a huge statue of Saddam Hussein in the last days of his regime. It was a
compelling image of Iraqis taking rope and pulling over this statue of Saddam and
watching, both literally and symbolically, his government fall to the ground.
At that very same spot where that statue tumbled to the ground, something
different happened on October 24, 2005. A convoy of cars and trucks reached the
security gate that is around that area. That area is a turnabout, as they call it over
there—we call it a traffic circle in New Jersey. And near it are two of the most
prominent hotels for visiting journalists, diplomats, and other people coming to
Baghdad. One is called the Palestine Hotel, which is probably the most significant
hotel in Baghdad. There was a security perimeter that existed around that circle. On
October 24, a car breached that security perimeter, engaged some of the guards, and
shot some of them. Several minutes later, a cement truck breached the same
perimeter and detonated in front of the Palestine Hotel, killing, at last count, at least
a dozen people—probably killing many more—and certainly injuring many others.
Several minutes later another vehicle came through, apparently laden with explosives,
and engaged some private security guards and US military personnel.
This vignette dramatically illustrates what I believe, sadly, is a failing US policy
in Iraq. At the very spot where we were supposed to have our greatest triumph,
where the statue of Saddam literally crumbled to the ground, there was violence and
mayhem that was beyond belief in its human suffering, but all too believable in its
frequency. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t pick up the newspaper and
read about similar attacks in virtually all parts of that country.
Another juxtaposition was the welcome, and good news, on October 25, that the
votes have been counted, and it appears that the Iraqis have approved their new
constitution. It was accompanied by the very welcome news that nearly two-thirds of
eligible Iraqi voters went to the polls, under threat and fear of death, and participated
in that referendum. That is a significant achievement that is not to be minimized.
The other news the same week was that the two thousandth US soldier gave his
or her life. Through it all, whether it was the transfer of sovereignty, the foolish
Congressman Robert E. Andrews
, (D-NJ) spoke at Seton Hall University on October 25, 2005.