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Remembering Halabja

15 October, 2003

This is a special place and I should say something special to you.

But what can I say to you?

I cannot tell you that choking mothers died holding their choking babies.

You know that.

I cannot tell you that Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant. 

You know that.

I cannot tell you that the world should have acted sooner. 

You know that.

I cannot tell you of the suffering of those who were poisoned but lived.

You know that.

What I can tell you is that what happened here in 1988 is not going to happen again. 

“Chemical Ali” is in jail. He will stay in jail until an Iraqi court decides his fate.

Saddam is running and hiding. He is going to keep running and keep hiding until we catch him or until he dies.

Beyond that, the system that spawned them, a system of coups and plots and assassins is smashed and will not return.

Right now Iraqis of many faiths, many heritages run the day-to-day affairs of Iraq. Fairly soon you will vote on a new, permanent constitution and then on a new government. That new government will answer to the people of Iraq, will be accountable to you for its actions.

If some future tyrant tries to turn the armed forces against the Iraqi people he will find officers and men who have sworn their loyalty not to him, but to the constitution. 

The five thousand men and women and children murdered in Halabja live in the memory of those who knew them. 

And those who knew them constructed a museum so that others might remember them.

You have succeeded.

I will always remember Halabja.

-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell


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