Myers Tells Dallas Business Leaders of Terror War Progress
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
DALLAS, Oct. 30, 2004 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff painted a decidedly different picture of the war on terrorism from that which residents of this Texas city are used to hearing during an appearance here Oct. 29.
Audience members at the event, which was sponsored by the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, asked Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers why they didn't hear any positive news from Iraq and Afghanistan. "When things go well," the chairman said, "that's not news."
Myers told about 300 business leaders that "for every bomb that explodes in Iraq or Afghanistan, many, many more are disarmed or defused. For every building that is damaged, there are many more that are being refurbished or being built. And this includes schools and hospital and clinics."
The chairman did not downplay the problems in both places. The violence in Iraq leading up to the elections in January will escalate, he said. Poppy production in Afghanistan must be dealt with in a way that provides necessary income to the Afghan farmers affected. "But despite all the challenges, there is great cause for optimism," he said, crediting his outlook to leadership displayed by American servicemembers and their civilian compatriots.
When the American military goes into an area, Myers noted, American values and knowledge go with them. "They have delivered hope to 50 million people who didn't have much hope before," he said.
The general told of meeting provincial leaders in Afghanistan. He said the governor and mayors told him they didn't much like the Soviets when they invaded Afghanistan in the 1970s, but that they like Americans, who are the only hope they have of a peaceful and prosperous existence.
He said the elections Oct. 9 in Afghanistan show just how far that country has come. Three years ago, women were treated like chattel, music was forbidden and a Taliban "thought police" threw men in jail if their beards weren't long enough. The Afghan thirst to vote in the elections proved that America and its allies are on the right track, Myers said.
Democracy also is being built in Iraq, he noted. Myers spoke of a young colonel now in his office who served with the 101st Airborne Division in northern Iraq. His brigade went into the area and showed the Iraqis how to set up town councils and neighborhood advisory councils. They helped set up elections and built polling places, "using military ponchos as the curtains for the voting booths," Myers said.
"You should be proud our American military personnel," he told the business leaders. "They learned their civics lessons well. And remember, that was not their job. Their job was to fight and win. But they were up to the challenge."
Myers told the more than 300 business leaders that in his view, violent extremists pose "perhaps the greatest threat we've faced as a country and as a democracy."
"This war is really about two opposite visions of the future: one that encompasses tolerance and democracy and freedom, justice and hope vs. one that is intolerant, repressive, uses violence and uses fear," the general said.
Terrorists want people to be afraid, because it causes them to do things they don't normally do, the chairman explained. Terrorists attack the confidence people have in their governments and in themselves, he said.
"People are less willing to take risks and invest in life" when their confidence is shaken, he noted.
Myers said he has no doubt the extremists are planning more attacks, and that if they can get their hands on more dangerous weapons, they will use them. It is important that the American people remain resolved to counter this threat, he said, and the military can't do it alone.
All levels of government and the efforts of friends and allies around the world are needed to win the war on terror, the chairman emphasized. "Failure is not an option," he said. "The stakes are too great."
Myers said the coalition in Iraq is still up to the challenge it faces. "The road to January elections will be a tough one," he said. "There are going to be more car bombings, and a lot more kidnappings." But the hard work is well under way, he pointed out, as the Iraqi people are compiling voter rolls, setting up polling places and readying for the January elections. "The Iraqis are eager to participate in democracy," Myers said.