Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentlewoman from Florida for allowing me this time and for doing this very important event to recognize the freedom that women have obtained because of the United States and the United States' policy with the world and the sacrifice of American troops.

History will record the devil deeds of Saddam Hussein, the tyrant of the desert, especially his crimes against his own people, the women of Iraq. They cry out from their unmarked graves across the wastelands created by Saddam Hussein in the desert sands. Those women were raped and tortured. Some were beheaded in the presence of their own families, and after they were murdered, their bodies were abused.

But on January 30, 2005, the women of Iraq spoke out for the living and for the dead. It was their chance to be a part of something that never before ever happened in that part of the world, a free election.

The world, civilization, began between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Those civilizations have always had a form of government other than a democracy. They have had monarchies, dictatorships, tyrants, but never a democracy.

I was privileged to be in Iraq on January 30, along with the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Shays). The two of us were there to witness this first free election.

The skeptics, the critics, they said it would never happen, that the Iraqi people did not understand democracy, that they would not vote, they would not show up, that they were intimidated by the terrorists. Well, the sceptics, the critics, the cynics, were wrong yet again.

Having been in Baghdad and Fallujah and other parts of northern Iraq, I went to those polling places, and when dawn came, the whole country was shut down to vehicular traffic. But, slowly and surely and defiantly, the Iraqi people walked to the polls. They took their families, they took their relatives, their neighbors.

They were threatened that, if they voted, they would be killed, and, sure enough, 57 of them were murdered on election day going to or from the polls. One lady was murdered with her 8-year-old son as she left a voting place in northern Iraq, a school. Almost 300 others were wounded because they decided to exercise the right to be free and vote for their own rulers.

But yet they voted, in spite of the intimidation. There was almost 60 percent voter turnout on that glorious election day, ``freedom day'' for the Iraqi people.

The insurgents tried to intimidate. They tried to harm, they tried to murder those people, but they voted anyway, and, after they voted, they stayed around the polling places to watch this event. They took photographs of family members voting. Then, when they would leave the election polling booths, they would walk down the street with that right forefinger, ink-stained, held high in the air defiant to those terrorists, because the terrorists said, even with that marking, that would mark them to be murdered later. Yet they did not care, because freedom was more important to them.

I talked to many Iraqis that day through an interpreter, and I remember one senior citizen, she was a senior-senior citizen, an Iraqi lady, and she told me through an interpreter that she had lost her son to the murderous Saddam Hussein, and she wanted to thank me for the sacrifice of our sons and daughters, American sons and daughters, that they had made it that she and her other Iraqi friends could vote that day.

American troops are spreading liberty and freedom. They are liberating enslaved peoples. The best ambassadors for freedom that we have in the United States are our young men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan liberating those enslaved people.

You know, the critics that say we should cut and run from Iraq now should remember that freedom has always cost. It has always cost all people who want to be free. And people in Iraq are free and are fighting continuously for this liberty because of Americans.

I hope we all appreciate the sacrifice our troops are making and understand that they have done more for freedom and dignity, the freedom and dignity especially of women, than any sign-carrying protester. We should just ask those noble and brave Iraqi women that held their fingers high.

My grandmother used to say, who was really the most influential person in my life, that there is nothing more powerful than a woman that has made up her mind. And I think we have seen in the Iraqi women, and I saw personally, that they have made up their mind to be free, that they will not be enslaved and abused or neglected any longer. And it is all because the United States believes in freedom for all people.