Multinational Corps Commander Discusses Progress in Iraq
By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2004 Coalition troops and Iraqi military forces are destroying the last pockets of resistance by insurgents and terrorists in Fallujah, Iraq, and they are beginning to clean up the city and destroy weapons caches and booby traps in the city, Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz said Nov. 15 during an interview here.
Metz commands Multinational Corps Iraq, which oversees combat and stability operations in the nation. He said the next phases of the Fallujah operation are not going to be easy.
"We've got to get on with all the hard work of winning the peace in Fallujah," Metz said. "We have to bring the electricity back on. We've got to bring the water pumps back up. We've got to get the sewage running again. We've got to clean up the city so that we can start an investment in schools and municipal buildings and power plants."
Driving terrorists and insurgents out of Fallujah is an important step because it eliminates a place of refuge for the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his henchmen, according to Metz.
"He (Zarqawi) is a persistent enemy, but he no longer has his safe haven, the place where he can go plan, build his vehicle-borne (improvised explosive devices), put his organization together and export his terror. The cancer has now been cut out. We've got a lot of healing to do, but the cancer is gone and, therefore, he doesn't have that safe haven," Metz said. "He's in a much worse position than he was two weeks ago."
In many ways, the war against terrorists in Iraq is a war of opposing values systems, Metz said, adding that it says a lot about the values of Zarqawi and other terrorist leaders who left their followers to die in Fallujah while they ran away to safety.
Another example of such a leader is Muqtada al-Sadr, according to Metz. "The Sadr name will bring out thousands of poor ... kids out to die," Metz said. "He's caused a lot of problems, not the least of which is that he's killed a lot of their young men."
The insurgency is not a popular movement of the Iraqi people; rather, it is being propagated by "thugs" and people with "warped ideologies," according to Metz. Despite their attempt to perpetuate a culture of intimidation, they will not be successful, he said.
"The power of people who want to be free can't be stopped," Metz said. "People who want to be free will find a way to overcome intimidation that these thugs have brought upon their country."
The thousands of Iraqis who have stepped forward to serve their nation and communities as police officers and members of security forces are good examples. Because they are targeted by the insurgents, it is like the Iraqis who are working for their country's future "have bull's-eyes on their chests," Metz said.
"I have such admiration for some of these guys. They are willing to step out and be the police chief, be the National Guard division commander or be the company commander or be on the mayor's council," Metz said. "If you have anything to do with a successful, free Iraq, you are a threat to the insurgents, you are a threat to the former regime, and you are a threat to the professional, international terrorists."
In order to make the dream of these self-sacrificing Iraqis a reality, the coalition and the Iraqi people must continue to move forward in their fight against the insurgents and the terrorists, Metz said.
"We have got to keep the momentum going. From our successes in August in Najaf through Fallujah now, we've got to keep the pace going," Metz said. "We can't worry about a few negative things. We've got to keep our sights on a successful election."
The January elections will be a milestone for Iraq, as will the subsequent writing of a constitution and the establishment of the rule of law in Iraq, Metz said. Iraqis will elect a transitional national assembly. That body in turn will draft a new constitution that will prepare the way for electing a permanent Iraqi government.
Though he knows that the insurgents will try to use violence to derail the election, Metz said he feels confident in the ability of Iraqi police and security forces to ensure that elections are successful. Coalition troops will stand ready to support the Iraqis, Metz said.
Iraq has great potential as a nation, he said, adding that freedom will maximize that potential, creating wonderful results not only for the country and the region, but also for the whole world.
"They will prosper, and prosperity will cause them to be a strong, vibrant nation right here in the Middle East," Metz said.