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Thursday, 31 July 2003

Farewell ceremony for Polish soldiers with the participation of the President of the Republic of Poland

On 31 July 2003 in Szczecin, the President of the Republic of Poland, Mr Aleksander Kwaśniewski, participated in the farewell ceremony for the soldiers of the Main Force of the Polish Military Contingent leaving for Iraq. Addressing the gathering, the President of the Republic of Poland said what follows: Mr Minister of National Defence, Parliamentarians, representatives of the local authorities of the city of Szczecin, Officers, Dear Soldiers, Families of those leaving, Ladies and Gentlemen, Compatriots! I have always taken the decision to send our Armed Forces abroad with a sense of responsibility for the destiny of the international community and for the safety of our soldiers. This time, however, I feel the exceptional nature of the mission, which is about to begin. In a few weeks time we will assume the responsibility for the management of one of the stabilisation zones in Iraq. Polish soldiers – together with allies and partners from over twenty countries – will look after the security of the Iraqis, they will seek to give them renewed faith in a normal life. Ladies and Gentlemen. The President’s decision concerning the mission to Iraq was a difficult one for me, also in the personal sense. I am aware of the dangers, which threaten our soldiers, I follow the painful news about victims among the American and British soldiers, I pay attention to the hesitations of Polish public opinion. In the situation in which we have found ourselves at the beginning of the new century, however, it is not possible to assume nor to pretend, that this has nothing to do with us. The dramatic events of 11 September 2001, which shocked the democratic world, have shown that nobody can feel safe anywhere any more. In the face of the threat of international terrorism it is not possible to stay aside. History has taught us, the Polish people, that in such a situation one cannot allow oneself the comfort of passive observation. Poland has experienced in its history the bitterness of defeat and the pain of isolation. Many a difficult time we have been let down and deserted by our allies. It is from these hard and often tragic experiences that we draw the conviction, that one cannot ignore friends and allies in need. We, as Poland, are a loyal and foreseeable partner. Thanks to such an attitude we can be sure that we can also count on assistance from the United States and from those countries and nations, which share our values and are ready to diligently fulfil their commitments. Faithful to such principles, Poland, to the extent that its capabilities allow it, has become involved in the operation „Iraqi Freedom”, in which it is surely not only a matter of liberty for Iraq, but also of the secure future for the world. Soldiers! Your presence on Iraqi land is consistent with the rich traditions of Polish peace missions. This year coincides with the 50th anniversary of the time when our soldiers started serving on their first mission of that kind – in Korea. Also this year, 30 years are passing from the moment, when the first military contingent coming from the banks of the Vistula river appeared on the Sinai Peninsula: the Polish Field Hospital was responsible for medical care, the engineers unit for mine clearance of the area, and a logistics unit took care of assuring the supplies of drinking water and food to all the contingents. Today Polish peace missions – numbering close to 2000 soldiers – are stationed, i.a., in Syria, Lebanon, Kosovo and Afghanistan. In all these places they meet with sympathy and recognition both on the part of the authorities and of the inhabitants of the areas, where they have come to perform their laudable service. I believe that thanks to your competence and skills you will also win over respect, and by a dignified attitude – the very important commonplace sympathy of ordinary people. Poles have successfully stood up to the test on their peace missions. Our fifty years of activities in this field, serving for security and stability in the world, bears fruit in the form of substantial knowledge and experience. And also respect and confidence of our partners and foreign friends. Exactly these strengths provided the motivation behind the request addressed to the authorities of the Republic of Poland for our country to participate in the process of stabilising the situation in Iraq. We took up the challenge, even though we were aware of the fact, that this would not be and easy service. You are departing into the unknown. You should remember, however, that the Iraqis still have positive memories of the Poles, who found themselves in their country during the second world war. In October 1942 soldiers of the Polish Army in the East were stationed there, which was formed from the 3d Division of Carpathian Fusiliers and the army commanded by general Anders, and together with them four and a half thousand young scouts and members of the Women’s Support Service. Initially our countrymen protected the oil fields near Mosul from German attack coming from the Caucasus. Later, they protected the oil rigs of Kirkuk and Mosul from sabotage. They left good impressions behind them, which undoubtedly had a bearing on the good Polish-Iraqi economic relations in the nineteen-seventies and eighties. Memories of these mutual contacts of the past are of great capital worth. I am convinced that you will multiply that. Ladies and Gentlemen ! Today the following questions frequently often raised: What for are our soldiers going to Iraq? Why did we take such a decision? What are the motives and grounds for our involvement in military stabilisation and the return of peace in Iraq? These questions are justified. I also understand the fears and anxieties concerning the fate of the close relatives, who are departing to this mission, which is not an easy one. As I have already mentioned – I share similar feelings myself. But I am deeply convinced that this course of actions taken is right. This belief is not changed by the fact that – until now – no proof has been found of the possession by the regime of Saddam Hussein of the weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt about the fact, that it still had it at its disposal in 1998, when it lawlessly ordered the UN inspectors to leave the territory of that country. We do not know what happened in Iraq over the subsequent five years. We know one thing for sure: it was Saddam Hussein, his rule and his criminal regime that represented a threat for the world. The fact that until today Hussein has not been found – surely does not imply that he did not exist. Even if until now no mass destruction arms depot has been found – this does not imply that no such a thing existed. There is evidence of Saddam Hussein’s crimes, there were thousands of victims, who were murdered using chemical and bacteriological weapons. Today, on the territory of Iraq mass graves of women and men, old people and children are being unearthed. We learn of shocking, terrifying evidence of crimes committed by the regime. The main source danger, therefore, consisted of the rule by Saddam Hussein. The elimination of that regime opened the way to peaceful arrangements for the whole region. When adopting the decision to support our friends and allies we remembered that over close to 25 years the Iraqi authorities had twice perpetrated aggression against their immediate neighbours, on Iran and Kuwait. Moreover, Saddam Hussein did not hesitate to use ballistic missiles against a number of states in that region. Ladies and Gentlemen! When taking this difficult decision, we were motivated above all and exclusively by our own well conceived interest – the interest of national security of Poland. In the contemporary world peace is indivisible. Those people, who believe that we should not be concerned about what has been going on, what is happening and what will happen in Iraq, or in other parts of the world, are wrong. The legitimacy of our involvement in Iraq has stemmed from and continues to derive from being faithful to the principles, from readiness to defend universal values everywhere, where they are disregarded and violated. These include the people’s right to live in freedom and under conditions of respect for human dignity. The motive for our engagement, therefore, consisted of the defence of democracy against dictatorship, of law against lawlessness, of freedom against fear and tyranny. We also remembered that today we would not have had in Poland, in Central and Eastern Europe, any democratic states, liberty, respect for human rights and all the related freedoms, if 14 years ago the western democracies would have remained indifferent to our aspirations, if they would not have supported us, if they would have left us in isolation. We have incurred this moral and political debt, and we have the obligation to return it. This also implies the obligation of solidarity with our strategic ally – the United States, which after the events of 11th September have a right to expect not only the words of compassion, but also joint actions. Ladies and Gentlemen! Soldiers! We say it openly and clearly: we are not a global power and we do not pretend to aspire to such a role. We do not seek easy profits in Iraq, nor do we reach for access to oil. We set a different task for ourselves: we wish to help the Iraqi nation to build a modern state, where the principles of the law will be respected, and where the Iraqi nation will cultivate its own traditions and will develop friendly relations with its neighbours and with the rest of the world. We are fully aware that democracy cannot be forced on anyone. It must stem from national roots, and its forms must correspond with the mentality and the needs of the Iraqi nation. That is a process, but that process has already started. Our presence in Iraq in the framework of the international stabilisation forces may fulfil a supporting role – until such time, when the independent Iraqi institutions of local and central self-government will be formed. We shall support to the degree that our capabilities and resources allow it, the formation of Iraqi services for law and order, the police, Iraqi courts, and with the passage of time also the reconstruction of the Iraqi army capable of safeguarding the territorial integrity and security of the borders of sovereign Iraq. We are in favour of appointment in the Polish stabilisation zone of the institution of an Iraqi ombudsman for civil rights. In brief – our strategic goal may be expressed in three words: Iraq for the Iraqis. We shall do everything we can to enable the Iraqi nation – as soon as possible – to take over full political powers in the country, and so that oil and other natural resources of that land should be able to serve to satisfy the needs of its inhabitants. These efforts shall be undertaken by our soldiers, their commanders, and also social and non-government organisations delivering humanitarian support, and also the Polish firms participating in the programme of reconstruction of Iraq. In the realisation of these goals we cooperate with the United States, Great Britain and other participants of the international coalition. We are grateful for the support, which we have received for our military presence in Iraq from the Atlantic Alliance - NATO. This decision has been of major political significance, as it contributes to the regaining of strength of the transatlantic community, the durability and effectiveness of which is the condition of our common security. A great role in the reconstruction of Iraq is to be played by the entire international community, and especially by the United Nations Organisation. The Resolution number 1483 of the Security Council of 22 May has provided the legal framework for the cooperation among all the states interested in the peaceful transformation of Iraq and in providing humanitarian assistance and medical aid to that country. I do not need to add, that in this process the key role is to be played by the great powers. I have discussed this with the presidents of the United States and Russia at the turn of May and June. President George W. Bush outlined realistic prospects for the reconstruction of Iraq in cooperation with the international community, which will result in that country becoming a factor of stability and security in the entire region. President Putin, in spite of differing views and opinions, stressed the readiness to comprehensive cooperation for peace and for the development of Iraq. The “road map” is being implemented – as the fruit of political cooperation of the United States, the European Union and Russia. That programme opens prospects for lasting peaceful arrangement of the relations between Israel and the Palestinians. The two pillars of that plan consist of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the recognition by the Arab neighbours of secure borders of Israel. Without the elimination of the criminal regime of Saddam Hussein such a plan could not have been drafted. Ladies and Gentlemen! In past months the authorities of the Republic have actively presented our position concerning Iraq, the reasons for our commitment. We have been seeking support for the creation of the most convenient possible conditions for the Polish military mission, the assurance of security for our soldiers, for all those, who will be operating in our zone. I have already mentioned the talks both with the President of the USA and of Russia, but we have also met with the European leaders, with Presidents Central Asian states. The objectives and motives of our involvement in Iraq were explained to the leaders of Iran and Kuwait by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, during his working visits. I have also despatched an address concerning this matter to the Heads of State of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. A special mission transmitted these addresses to the capitals of these states. We have discussed the situation in the region with high level representatives of many other countries, most recently in Warsaw with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia. Our arguments and stipulations were received with attention and far going understanding. We shall not spare diplomatic efforts to assure your security, Dear Soldiers, and the security of all those, who will be operating in Iraq, and especially in our zone. Soldiers! Ladies and Gentlemen! In the modern world we have to do with new, unconventional threats and we must tackle them in a new and unconventional way. I have in mind the threat of terrorism on a scale, which is difficult to imagine. We are afraid that mass destruction weapons might find its way into the hands of terrorists or unpredictable dictators. The number of weak and poverty stricken states, which do not control the development of the situation on their territory, is increasing. They become places of asylum of some kind for terrorist networks and for international criminal groups. Such areas are the places, where mass massacres and acts of genocide are perpetrated. This happened years ago in Rwanda, and nowadays – in Congo and Liberia. The world could not and cannot remain indifferent to such crimes – even if they take place far away from us. I am deeply convinced that the democratic world can effectively counteract against these threats – we should be united in such actions. Poland and Europe need America. America needs Europe and Poland. We are an important state in this part of Europe, and this also gives rise to our duties in the face of new threats – we must behave reliably, responsibly and in solidarity. Such are the motives, in a nutshell, of our military engagement in Iraq. Soldiers ! I wish to stress very strongly once again: the Poles shall not act as occupants in Iraq. We do not wish to coerce the Iraqis as to what way of life they are to follow. We respect their history, culture, tradition and religion. Our presence is only intended to help them return to normality. To living without anx
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