Abizaid: Enemy Cannot Militarily Defeat Coalition
By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service
DOHA, Qatar, Nov. 16, 2004 Reflecting on what he had just seen over a three-day visit to Iraq, U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid said today that the enemy cannot militarily defeat U.S. troops or coalition forces fighting to free the country of terrorists and insurgents.
"They can't beat us. They can only break our will. They can cause us to get tired and to go home," Abizaid said. "And we just need to make sure they understand that they are going to go down before we get tired."
The battle of Fallujah waged over the past couple of weeks demonstrated the power of coalition forces, Abizaid said.
"Unfortunately for us, many of the top-tier people like Zarqawi decided that they didn't have the courage to stand and fight. They had the courage for other people to fight, but not for themselves," Abizaid said. "A lot of the fighters who were there (in Fallujah) were left there without any help or direction from their leaders."
The fighters in Fallujah were unable to stand up to the joint efforts of the U.S. Marines, Army and Air Force, which brought overwhelming force against them, according to Abizaid. He estimated that probably more than 1,000 enemy fighters were killed and an additional 1,000 were taken prisoner.
"It's a very difficult blow for the Salifist extremist groups that have been operating in there to recover from," Abizaid said. "But we are also under no illusions. We know that the enemy will continue to fight. We anticipate that Fallujah is not going to be completely calm for a while. There are people who have decided to stay and fight until they are killed, and we haven't found them yet."
Abizaid praised the efforts of Marines to prevent collateral damage during the battle.
"The Marines have done a magnificent job in protecting civilian population centers to the extent that they could, and they have been about as accurate and precise as any force can be given the nature of that type of fighting," Abizaid said. "I'm very proud of the work that was done by our troops."
Regarding recent reports and video footage of a Marine allegedly shooting a wounded, unarmed insurgent, Abizaid said, "We have to be careful about jumping to any conclusions. We need to do an investigation. We need to understand that we have at our disposal the Uniform Code of Military Justice to deal with any misconduct, should in fact there be any misconduct, and we'll just have to see what the investigation shows."
The shooting incident involving the Marine cannot be compared with, and stands "in stark contrast," to what coalition troops and Iraqi forces found in Fallujah.
"We found centers of torture, we found civilians that had been clearly executed by insurgent forces, we found bomb- making sites for the various (improvised explosive devices) that had been used against us," Abizaid said. "Clearly the amount of terror that was going on in Fallujah was absolutely out of control."
Many enemy fighters who fought in Fallujah may have thought their behavior was governed by the Koran, Abizaid said, adding that simply isn't true.
"There's nothing in the Koran that allows for suicide bombers, that allows for the beheading of hostages, that allows for the murder of countless innocent people that (are) the result of actions that have been planned and executed from Fallujah," Abizaid said.
Most people in Iraq and in the rest of the Arab world do not share the views of the extremists, and they hope to be freed of their intimidation and terrorist tactics, according to Abizaid.
"They do not want to live in a world dominated by bin Laden or dominated by Zarqawi," Abizaid said. "They want to live in a world just like the world that we live in, governed by their own laws and their own customs, but one in which their children can grow up safe and sound and have an opportunity to prosper."
The Iraqi people will have the opportunity to enjoy a safe, secure future when they move ahead with the Iraqi government, hold elections and create a constitution, Abizaid said. This will be accomplished with the help of "courageous Iraqi patriots" who are fighting every day against the extremists, he said.
It is important for the American people and the Iraqis to understand, however, that the situation will not be fixed "overnight." It will take time to train and equip enough police and military forces, and to find brave, committed individuals to lead them.
"What we need to have is patience," Abizaid said. "Patience and willpower."