Bremer Says Iraq Frontline of War on Terror
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2003 Ambassador Paul Bremer has ordered a full investigation of today's attack on Baghdad's Al Rasheed Hotel, but said Iraq is the frontline of the war on terrorism and these types of attacks must be expected.
Bremer is administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
The hotel, located in Baghdad's "Green Zone," houses hundreds of coalition military and civilian personnel. The 6 a.m. attack killed one U.S. soldier and wounded 15 coalition personnel. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, on a trip to the region, was staying in another part of the hotel.
News reports said the attack came from a makeshift rocket launcher placed in a park about 500 meters from the hotel. News reports said the rockets ignited via a timer.
"We have to recognize there are people in Iraq -- the enemies of freedom, the president calls them -- who do not agree with the vision we have for a free and democratic Iraq," Bremer said on Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow. "And as long as we are there and we have this job of putting security back in place there, we will have people attacking us."
He said the coalition faces Baathist loyalists, terrorist organizations and a criminal element in Iraq, and is dealing with the threats posed by all three. Bremer stressed that most of the country is peaceful. "The north is quiet; south of Baghdad all the way to the Kuwait border is quiet," he said.
Almost 90 percent of the attacks on coalition forces have been concentrated in the region to the north and west of Baghdad. The solution to that, Bremer said, is enlisting the help of Iraqis. He said more than 40,000 Iraqi police are on duty now, and battalions of the new civil defense force are coming on line and working with coalition forces. "The proposition is quite simple: the Iraqis will be able to tell who the bad guys are easier than we," he said.
DoD officials said Iraqi border guards are sealing the frontiers between Iraq and Iran and between Iraq and Syria in an effort to stem terrorists from entering Iraq. Bremer said "several hundred hardcore terrorists" are in Iraq today. "That is a lot of hardcore terrorists when you think that 9-11 probably involved a couple score people," he said.
The ambassador said there is no question that there were contacts between Iraqis and al Qaeda terrorists over the last decade. In addition, the Ansar al- Islam, a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda, is operating in Iraq.
"We have captured people who are al Qaeda terrorists," he said. "We have a major terrorist problem in Iraq. We are at the front of the war on terrorism now. It's there, and we're going to have to defeat the terrorists there."
Bremer said he thinks Saddam Hussein is still alive and is in Iraq. "We will get him; we will find him," he said. He said the coalition is receiving tips on Saddam's whereabouts and that coalition forces check all those out.
He said Saddam's capture or death would be helpful. "It won't end the attacks, but it will be helpful because it will finally pull the curtain down on the dream that some of these dead-enders have that Saddam is coming back," Bremer said. "He's not coming back. There's no future for him here. But we have to prove that.
Bremer said he was encouraged by the Madrid Donor Conference that ended Friday. Nations pledged $32 billion to reconstruct Iraq following 35 years of "total economic mismanagement and cronyism and theft. The problems in the water and electric systems ... have been there for 40 years. They've been underinvested in, and that's where the money we got in Madrid will go to."
Bremer said the electric supply is above what it was before the war. He said all the schools and hospitals are open and running, and that medical care is better today than it was before the war. "We have to provide (the Iraqis) with basic services precisely to show them that there is an alternative to the life of despair they led under Saddam," he said.
Bremer said the country is well on the road to democracy, and said that if the Iraqi Governing Council acts quickly and organizes a constitutional assembly of some type, elections for a new Iraqi government could be held in 2004.