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Saddam in Court, Visual Proof Iraq on Road to Democracy

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2004 – The sight of Saddam Hussein facing justice before an Iraqi court shows Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers that the Iraqi people are moving down the road to democracy.

Speaking on PBS' Lehrer Report July 1, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the Iraqi people are now in charge in the country. "The Iraqi government is taking charge of their own affairs; they have Saddam Hussein, 11 of the senior former regime leaders there all being arraigned today, and I think it's a great picture," Myers said.

He said he thought the handover has gone very well, but he is realistic. "I've got to say, though, the challenges are not over," he said. "There are people who do not want Iraq to make any progress."

He anticipates "a rocky road" ahead for the Iraqi government, but said reports from the country indicate the Iraqis are "very upbeat, very positive, very optimistic about the future."

Security remains the biggest challenge facing the new government and coalition forces. Myers noted that the coalition will provide security and, more importantly, the training and equipment for Iraqi security forces to take on the security mission.

The chairman said that as Iraqi security forces become more proficient, the status of coalition forces in Iraq will change, but that change will be gradual. "It's relatively calm (in Iraq) right now, but that's probably short term," he said. He said there are still threats in the country.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi the Jordanian terrorist affiliated with al Qaeda and his group have launched deadly attacks against the United Nations, the Iraqi government, the coalition and the Iraqi people. "He is not going to give up," Myers said. "He's going to fight this until the end.

Myers said the relationship between the interim government and the coalition is now a partnership. The new government has a national security committee and has liaisons with each level of command. "We see it as a partnership where we will agree on the security situation in a particular place, and then we'll decide how we'll act," Myers said.

"Obviously the first choice is that Iraqis take care of the situation themselves, like they did in Mosul during the unrest in April. Iraqis did all that with U.S. forces standing by in case they wanted them, but it was the Mosul government, the police force there in Mosul, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps that quelled that violence. So it'll be a partnership. There will be a lot of give and take I'm sure."

No one has a "veto" over operations, Myers said. Operations "will be worked out like it is in Afghanistan, essentially how we work in Afghanistan today," he said. "There are proposals sometimes from the (President Hamid) Karzai government that U.S. forces do this. And those become a partnership item that we work out together."

Myers said any change in the status of U.S. troops in Iraq will be gradual. "This is not going to be a dramatic moment where one moment we're there, the next moment we're not," he said. "This will be gradual over time as Iraqi forces become more capable, better equipped, well-led, very good chain of command that goes all the way up to the political level in Iraq.

"Over time they'll start to replace U.S. forces certainly, and we'll do it by priority, by sector. We worry about Baghdad. We worry about other cities, the infrastructure, protecting the key personnel in the interim Iraqi government. All of that will be taken into account, but it will be gradual over time."

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Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF

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