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Iraqi Elections Ended any Insurgent Legitimacy, Myers Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

HUTCHISON, Kan., Feb. 24, 2005 – The Jan. 30 elections in Iraq "put an end to any moral legitimacy the insurgents may have had," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during a news conference here today.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said the terror tactics the insurgents use against innocents already had proven their lack of moral worth, but the elections in which 58 percent of eligible Iraqis voted showed they had no following in the country either.

"The Iraqis voted, and they said 'No' to intolerance, and they said 'No' to tyranny and 'No' to terror," he said.

Myers said the coalition and Iraqis had come close to capturing fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and while his capture would take a bloodthirsty zealot off the streets, it wouldn't end the terror threat in Iraq. Zarqawi is affiliated with al Qaeda, and has claimed responsibility for many of the most vicious attacks in Iraq. A letter he wrote to al Qaeda leaders intercepted from its courier -- stated that he wants to precipitate a civil war between Sunnis and Shiias in Iraq.

"He's one of (al Qaeda's) more aggressive, more vocal leaders," Myers said. "For those committed to extremism, (his capture) would be a very big blow."

The chairman said coalition and Iraqi forces have captured or killed many terrorists in Zarqawi's organization. "If he were to be captured or killed on the battlefield, it would be a good thing," Myers said. "But the nature of an insurgency is that you can cut the head off the snake, but it will grow another one."

But the other one might not be as dedicated, might not have the following, or might not be as dedicated to the task, the general said. "Remember, this is a very hard-core individual," Myers said. "This is an amoral person, in my view."

The coalition sees no signs that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating into a civil war, the chairman said. To the contrary, the typical jockeying for position that goes on in any democratic country after an election is happening.

"They start forming alliances, and (try to position their candidates) to be president and deputy presidents and prime minister, and on and on it goes," he said. "We also see an acknowledgement by the majority in the transitional national assembly a willingness to bring the other parts of that society into the fold."

Myers said there's even a willingness on the part of Sunni Arabs to cooperate with the new assembly. Many in the Sunni community are now questioning whether it was a good idea to boycott the election, he noted.

Even with the progress in Iraq, fear and intimidation are still a factor. "What keeps the insurgents effective is they are willing to intimidate and they are willing to use any tactic to do so," Myers said. "Intimidation is one thing. Using any tactic to intimidate is another issue. If they are willing to kill a family or the women and children -- and they certainly are -- that leads to pretty sure intimidation."

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Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

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