As I write this column, traveling on our way from the United Arab Emirates to Kuwait and Cairo with a genuine hero of the war in Iraq, Commander in Chief of Central Command Gen. Tommy Franks, the news arrived that Saddam Hussein was captured hiding in a hole, ironically just across the river from one of his palaces. I've found no happier people on the news of Saddam's capture than the leadership of the Arab world, many of whom we are meeting with on this trip.
What a great day for the Iraqi people, and what a great opportunity for them, as one of their first acts of administering sovereign Iraqi justice, to put this man on trial for his crimes against Iraq. After all, the crimes he committed were crimes against Iraqis, and it is they, the victims, who should have the opportunity to bring him to justice. Not only is it the morally right thing to do, it will be extremely important politically for the Iraqi people to demonstrate to themselves and to the world that a free and democratic Iraq is arising like a Phoenix from Saddam's ashes and is capable of administering justice.
Saddam's capture couldn't have come at a more propitious time. The Iraqi people are clamoring to assume the central role in putting their country back together again. They are, in effect, saying to us and the entire international community, "Ask not what you can do for Iraq, ask what you can do to help Iraqis help themselves." As Iraq brings Saddam to justice, countries around the world who loaned him money can help Iraq by forgiving the New Iraq of Saddam Iraq's debts.
President Bush couldn't have chosen a better personal envoy on Iraqi debt than former Secretary of State and Treasury James A. Baker III. Baker, who left Friday to talk about Iraqi debt forgiveness to France, Germany and Russia, is perfectly equipped for the role, given his professional background. Moreover, under the leadership of Ambassador Edward Djerejian, the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, which Baker created, has produced some of the most insightful work on rebuilding Iraq that I have seen.
Especially important is the report of the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World, which Djerejian chaired, titled "Changing Minds, Winning Peace," which lays out a new strategic direction for U.S. public diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim world.