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American victory can be seen on the horizon

By By JO BONNER – U.S. Representative
Like many Americans last week, I watched with great interest and even greater pride as units from the American military rolled into downtown Baghdad.
After only 21 days, the conflict against the quickly evaporating regime of Saddam Hussein n a conflict that was anticipated to last several months n appears to be nearly over.
I should point out that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and leaders from both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and military commanders in the field expect that, while almost over, coalition forces can anticipate several more pockets of strong resistance in some areas of Iraq.
That estimate, though, should in no way detract from the importance of what the world witnessed in a few short hours.
The fact that military units and support personnel were able to enter the "impregnable fortress of Baghdad" in just three short weeks is in itself remarkable. However, what is even more amazing - and more uplifting - are the pictures of Iraqi men, women and children.
We are not seeing the defiant, anti-West crowds carrying rifles and firing into the air that were shown nightly on world news broadcasts in the days and weeks leading up to this war. Certainly, we have not seen signs of the professed invincibility of the Republican Guard.
The vision of Saddam that had every man, woman and child in Iraq giving up their lives to fight against the United States and her allies was far from a realistic view of his people.
Instead, we are seeing men and women weeping with joy. Families who have spent much or all of their lives under the oppressive regime of Hussein and his government are rejoicing in the early hours of freedom. Children who in many instances have never seen anyone from another country are unhesitatingly and openly embracing men and women from America, a land they were taught and in many cases forced to hate.
A historic moment
Events such as this certainly don't happen every day. In fact, you would have to go back to the early 1990s to find a time of similar and swift changes in a style of government and a way of life.
The joy that I am seeing on the faces of Iraqi citizens reminds me of the events surrounding the fall of communism and the end of the Warsaw Pact governments in 1991. Those events, too, precipitated by the breakup of the former Soviet Union, happened much more quickly and even more dramatically than our defense and international relations experts had even predicted.
Even more than the parallels in the swift demise of the government, however, I am seeing some striking similarities in the celebrations underway.
In 1991, hundreds of citizens from both East and West Berlin converged on the Berlin Wall - the symbol of decades of Soviet oppression - and took turns swinging hammers, pickaxes and even jackhammers to destroy what many perceived as the most recognized icon of the Cold War.
Now, over a decade after the fall of one regime, we watched as citizens in another subjugated country took their turn and with hammers, rope and whatever tools could be found destroyed a 40-foot tall statue of Hussein in the center of Baghdad.
Another dictator has fallen and another symbol of oppression is destroyed by the very people that dictator fought to oppress.
Real work begins
As I mentioned, it will be some time before it can be stated positively that the war is over and the government of Hussein is ended.
However, plans are already underway to assist the Iraqis in forming a new, free and truly representative government. This process will certainly be a challenge and will involve a great deal of skill on the part of our own government and military.
In certain respects, the work has already begun. Coalition military leaders are meeting with tribal and community leaders throughout Iraq to encourage and support them in the development of new community leadership councils.
The leader of the Iraqi opposition, Ahmed Chalabi, has already been flown back into his home country to begin negotiations with the leaders of the numerous ethnic and religious groups comprising the total Iraqi population. I hope this effort will go a long way towards developing an effective and fully representative government in the months ahead.
Assistance from the U.S. and other concerned nations will be of vital importance in the immediate future of Iraq.
The greatest challenge will be for us to determine when to leave Iraq and the future of that nation in the hands of its people. The president, the secretary of state and other U.S. officials have already stated their intention to put them on the road to a new life but not do all the work in getting them there.
I anticipate we will do our job effectively and depart at the appropriate time. As great as our success has been to this point in bringing an end to a brutal dictatorship, an even greater success will be allowing the citizens of Iraq to take the gift of liberty and develop it in the manner of their choosing and in a way that will put them on the road to a more hopeful future.
Until next week, may God continue to bless all of us and this great nation.
for district 1.