Rumsfeld to Civilian Leaders: Victory in Iraq Critical to U.S. Security
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2006 Settling for less than victory in Iraq would embolden terrorists and invite more attacks on the American people, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told civilian business, academic and local government leaders today at the Pentagon.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld speaks to participants of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference during a breakfast meeting at the Pentagon, Oct. 16. JCOC is a seven-day conference in which civilian community leaders travel to overseas military bases to get a better understanding of U.S. armed forces and the overall mission of the Defense Department. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The secretary welcomed 45 civilian leaders from throughout the nation before they leave later today for a weeklong trip to the Middle East through the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference that will offer a firsthand look at the military at work in the war on terror.
This asymmetric conflict against non-state actors who operate largely in ungoverned areas poses a far different and more complex challenge than the American people have faced earlier in their history, Rumsfeld told the group. “It’s a heck of a lot more dangerous world,” he said, and failing to see the conflict through to victory would have serious consequences for the United States and all free people.
There’s no way the United States can lose militarily against the terrorists, but the “center of gravity of the war in Iraq is not in Iraq, it’s in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Rumsfeld shared the sentiment a wounded Marine at the National Naval Medical Hospital in Bethesda, Md., offered him over the weekend. “If the American people will only give us time, it will work,” Rumsfeld said the Marine, an embedded trainer with the Iraqi army, told him. “I see that it is working,” the Marine said.
“It’s winnable and doable,” Rumsfeld said of the Iraq conflict, but he offered no projection about when the United States will begin bringing its forces home.
“Conditions on the ground will determine (the timetable for drawing down the force in Iraq),” he said. “A timeline benefits the enemy, because all they have to do is wait us out.”
Rumsfeld emphasized important benchmarks toward that goal, with Iraqis getting to the point where they can provide their own governance and security. He called Iraq’s reconciliation process “critical” for its government to get the degree of support it needs.
The secretary encouraged the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference participants, who will visit military sites throughout the Middle East during the next week, to take advantage of the opportunity to see “what the amazing young men and women (in the military) are doing for their country every day.”
Marine Maj. Gen. Timothy F. Ghormley, special assistant to the U.S. Central Command commander, told the group at a reception last night he’s proud of what these troops are doing and is looking forward to giving the group a chance to observe it firsthand.
“I’m really excited to show you what we are doing,” he said. “What we are doing is so important. And in my heart of hearts, I believe we are winning.”
Ghormley echoed Rumsfeld’s view that the highlight of the trip won’t be the ships, aircraft and weapons systems the group will see, but the chance to meet the troops on the front lines in the war on terror. “Spend time with them,” he said. “And give them a good, hearty shake of the hand and a hug.”
The first U.S. defense secretary, James V. Forrestal, created the JCOC program in 1948 to introduce civilian "movers and shakers" with little or no military exposure to the workings of the armed forces. Nearly six decades later, it remains DoD's premier civic leader program. Participants are selected from hundreds of candidates nominated by military commands worldwide and pay their own expenses throughout the conference.