Freedom House Statement on Iraq War
In response to the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq, Freedom House today issued the following statement, signed by the trustees listed below.
In 1941, Freedom House was created by Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie and other Americans at a time of impending war to be a voice for democracy and freedom in the world.
In the last sixty years, whenever U.S. troops are in harm's way, Freedom House has been consistent in voicing its appreciation of their valor and sacrifice. We fervently hope that the war effort American forces are now engaged in goes well and that Saddam Hussein's tyranny falls with minimal loss of life.
We have great confidence in the professionalism of U.S. troops and the commitment of the U.S. military to respect basic human rights. But while the war with Iraq is likely to achieve the immediate purpose of Saddam Hussein's removal, for it to have a lasting positive impact on the stability and peace of the region, the U.S. and other democracies must make a firm commitment to the establishment of democracy in that country.
The post-war effort to bring democracy to Iraq will not be easy. There are many at home and abroad who are skeptical of even making an attempt to establish democratic governance in an ethnically and religiously complex country ruled for decades by a brutal tyranny. Such concerns cannot be lightly dismissed. But, we are confident of one thing: that the Iraqi people-- like the peoples of post-war Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe-- desire peace, seek the protections of human rights rooted in the rule of law, and want democracy.
Democracy is not a Western concept, it is a universally desired goal. It has been defined and reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Warsaw Declaration of the Community of Democracies and the OSCE Copenhagen Document among others. Freedom House urges a commitment to free elections, multiple political parties, freedom of association, independent trade unions, women's equality and rights, an independent judiciary, separation of religion from the state, an independent press, and religious tolerance in Iraq and throughout the region.
Building democracy will require care and attention to the participation of all the Iraqi people-whether Sunni, Shi'a, or Christian; Arab or Kurd-in the effort to establish democratic rule. But it will also require international leadership and commitment to promoting democracy.
The building of a democratic Iraq will require a serious long-term commitment of time and resources. Freedom House will do its part to press our government and other governments to make a serious commitment to this effort. For we believe that if the effort is made, it can have major positive implications for the future development of the Middle East, particularly the Gulf Region.
Throughout most of its history, the oil rich Gulf region has been prey to colonial rule and domestic despotism.
But the potential for democratic change in the Gulf is now increasingly evident. The Gulf monarchies of Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar are moving toward constitutional rule in which significant power resides with democratically elected representatives. There is widespread democratic ferment and overwhelming public support for democracy in Iran.
Together with successful democratic reform in Iraq, the Gulf has the potential of making a clean break with a past rooted in repression and entering into the growing global community of democratic states.
John T. Joyce
Bette Bao Lord
John Norton Moore
Freedom House Chairman James Woolsey is available for comment on the above statement and on post-conflict democratization strategies for Iraq. Please contact Michael Goldfarb at 212-514-8040 x308.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.