Pace Thanks Troops for Sharing Legacy of Freedom
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 1, 2004 As Independence Day approaches, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said service members should take pride in sharing their legacy of freedom with others.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace spoke about the war on terror, the role of the Guard and Reserve and what the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government means during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service here today.
Pace said that American service members should be very proud of liberating more than 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I think the measure of a country is not only what it does for its own citizens, but what it does for the other citizens of the world," Pace said.
In Afghanistan this means Afghans at last getting a chance, after more than 30 years of war, to elect a representative government. He said American aid allowed the Afghans to build on local processes, like the Loya Jirga, to elect Hamid Karzai as president and to establish a new constitution. Coalition presence also makes it possible for the Afghans to register voters and schedule elections for the fall. "I think all of us in uniform can take great pride in our participation," he said.
Pace said the transfer of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government June 28 "was a bad day" for the terrorists and Saddam Hussein sympathizers. "That's something they did not want to see happen, and it has happened," he said. "And the next thing they don't want to see is free elections, and those are going to happen." The transfer of sovereignty will allow the Iraqis to write a constitution and place a democratically elected government in power.
At each step, Pace said, the terrorists will lose their justification for attacking the will of the Iraqi people. "For the Iraqi people to look forward to a representative form of government, to have a voice in their future, to have freedoms to have all the things that have been suppressed for decades is an enormous sea change in the way the Iraqi people live and continue to live," he said.
Pace said U.S. service members understand what's at stake in Iraq. "They get it," he said. American service members would, of course, rather be home. But they understand how important their missions are and are not willing to leave with the jobs half done, he said.
Pace said there is great progress being made around the world in the global war on terror. The coalition of countries is working together to get at the root causes of terrorism while dealing with extremists who threaten freedom today. The vice chairman said the United States is working with many countries to train their militaries, to share intelligence and to remove the causes that make people turn to extremist philosophies in the first place.
"I think the networks that we are forming with friendly nations around the world are in fact paying great dividends," he said. He said some of these successes must be classified to protect sources and methods, but "there are many things outside Iraq and outside Afghanistan that are making us safer here at home, and making the countries with whom we're operating safer also."
Pace said he is pleased with the cooperation the United States has received. The strategy used in the war on terror is not the same in every area of the world. "It's a team. It's a coalition," he said. "We have some leadership responsibilities, we have some partnership responsibilities and we have some 'followership' responsibilities in various parts of the world."
He expects more countries to do more as they realize the stakes in this global war. "We didn't know we were in a war until 11 September (2001)," he said. "There are other nations out there right now who don't know they are in a war. But every freedom-loving individual right now is at war with terrorists whose objective is to do away with those freedoms. As more and more countries understand the common threat that we're all facing, there will be more and more opportunities for us to work collectively to defeat it."
Pace said the contributions of the Guard and Reserve to the effort have been crucial to American success in the war to date. "I like that when I visit troops overseas, I haven't got a clue whether they are Guard, reserve or active duty," he said. "I think it's a great testament to the way we train our folks, the way we mobilize and retrain before they deploy, and mostly to the great professionalism of the folks in the Guard and reserve."
Pace said reserve component service members need to be treated with the respect that they are due. "We need to give them a very clear understanding of when it is that we're going to mobilize them, how long they are going to be gone, what job they are going to do and when we're going to bring them home," he said. The Defense Department and the services are doing a better job today in mobilizing and deploying reserve component units, but DoD must be "better stewards" of the reserve forces, he added.
Pace said that as July Fourth approaches, each service member should take time "to just thank themselves for their contributions and take a minute to really appreciate the fact that every single one of them is making a difference.
"There's no doubt in my mind that each of them would rather be home with family, friends, loved ones," he continued. "But there is also no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of our troops overseas understand exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. They are proud to be serving."