Wolfowitz Vows Al-Rasheed Attack Won't Deter Coalition
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 26, 2003 The terrorist attack on the Al Rasheed Hotel here this morning probably was timed to coincide with the reopening of the 14th of July Bridge in downtown Baghdad, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told reporters today.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz accompanies 1st Armored Division soldiers on a patrol in the aftermath of an Oct. 26 rocket attack on the Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Wolfowitz blamed the attack on "bitter-enders" from Saddam Hussein's regime who knew the Oct. 25 reopening of the bridge -- a bridge that had been banned to all but Saddam's closest inner circle during his dictatorship -- represents "a symbol of progress" for Iraq.
"And these guys target progress," Wolfowitz said. "They're after success. They don't have a lot of success to show other than these hit-and-run attacks."
Wolfowitz called the perpetrators cowards who "do not stand and fight" and who "time things so they don't have to be there when they go off, and pay young men to risk their lives so they don't have to be at risk."
The deputy secretary praised the quick action and coordination by U.S. troops and Iraqi police that helped buffer the attack's severity.
1st Infantry Division soldiers manning an observation post on the hotel rooftop spotted the perpetrators depositing the generator trailer rigged with 20 rockets, Wolfowitz said he was told. They immediately radioed the Facilities Protection Service, one of the new Iraqi security forces the coalition is training.
Wolfowitz said the security forces' speedy response forces the perpetrators to flee the scene before they could fully arm the device. Two Iraqi Police, he said, received shrapnel injuries during the attack.
Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the Army's 1st Armored Division, called the device used to launch the attack which consisted of 20 rounds of 68 mm French rockets and 85 mm Soviet rockets, wired together and installed into a blue, two-wheeled generator trailer "not sophisticated, but clever."
He said the attack probably took four to six weeks to coordinate.
Troops from the 1st Armored Division said they found 11 live rounds remaining in the device, along with a 12-volt battery, when they removed it from the scene. Soldiers from the 789th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company removed the rounds for destruction.
Wolfowitz confirmed that one U.S. soldier died in the attack, but his name has not yet been released. Sixteen other people were injured, and were evacuated to the 28th Combat Support Hospital.
The deputy secretary visited the five critically injured people from the attack, who he said represent "an incredible mixture of one British civilian coalition partner and four Americans one service member and three civilians representing three different agencies.
"It has been a team effort; it continues to be a team effort. The victims of this attack, including our colonel who tragically died, are real heroes," he said. "And the criminals (who) are responsible for their injuries are the people who have abused and tortured Iraqis for 35 years."
Wolfowitz called the spirit of those he visited in the hospital "just extraordinary."
"They all believe in what they're doing," he said. "It's just wonderful with civilians as well as military to see the spirit with which people face danger here, because they recognize that what they are doing is so important. They recognize it because they hear from Iraqi people many times every day that what we have done in getting rid of that tyranny is a great gift to the Iraqi people."
Wolfowitz insisted the attack on the Al Rasheed Hotel or any other desperate moves Saddam loyalists may make won't deter the coalition's commitment to helping rebuild and introduce democracy to Iraq.
"This small number of bitter-enders think they can take this country backward by destabilizing it and scaring us away," he said. "They are not going to scare us away.
"We are going to get this job done despite the last desperate acts of a dying regime of criminals. And we will be unrelenting," Wolfowitz said, "in our pursuit of these terrorists and criminals."