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Rice: Stable Iraq Means Death Knell for Terrorism

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2003 – Successful completion of the mission in Iraq will severely undermine the goals and strategies of terrorists, President Bush's national security adviser said today.

Foreign fighters are coming to Iraq because "Iraq, if it is prosperous and stable, in a different kind of Middle East, is going to be the death knell for terrorism." Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with Katie Couric on NBC's "Today" program.

Rice said that although the number of foreign fighters coming to Iraq is unknown, "they clearly understand that a victory for the peace in Iraq, like the military victory we've had there, will mean that their goals and their strategies will be severely undermined."

Referring to President George W. Bush's Sept. 7 address to the nation, Rice said, "I think the American people got a very good explanation from the president about why our resoluteness, our will, our willingness to use our power, is going to defeat terrorism. And that's the only way to do it."

She echoed the president's reminder that the difficulty of the mission has come as no surprise. "The administration always knew that it was going to be difficult to bring Iraq to peace, prosperity and stability after almost 30 years of brutal Baathist rule," she said. Saddam Hussein's regime, she added, impoverished the country by using its resources to obtain weapons of mass destruction "and to build castles to Saddam Hussein."

If anything was underestimated, Rice said, it was how much damage Hussein had done to his own people, to their mentality and to the country's infrastructure.

"For instance, the country had probably only 50 percent of the electrical generating power that it actually needed," she said.

With about $20 billion of the $87 billion the president will ask Congress to provide for the coming year's efforts in Iraq, Rice said, Iraqi resources will need to be mobilized and the international community will need to pitch in.

"But we believe that this is the right amount of money for reconstruction over the next year, and that with this money we can do things like accelerate the building of the Iraqi army, accelerate the building of Iraqi police forces (and) civil defense forces to protect infrastructure," she said. "This is a well-thought-out program by (Coalition Provisional Authority head) Jerry Bremer and his people."

Rice said a resolution the United States has submitted to the U.N. Security Council to further involve other nations in the effort is not the first of its kind. Two previous resolutions 1483 and 1500 deepened the involvement of the international community, she said, and the proposed resolution submitted to Security Council members would further that process.

"Let's remember that it was the U.N. headquarters that was attacked by these terrorists," she said, referring to the Aug. 19 truck bomb that destroyed the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing special representative Sergio Vieira de Mello and roughly 20 others. "The terrorists understand that their goal is to destroy civilization, to destroy freedom. And if we have a stable and prosperous Iraq, and therefore a more stable and prosperous Middle East, there's no doubt that the entire world is going to benefit from that."

Establishing a unified multinational command led by the United States is another important aspect of the proposed U.N. resolution, Rice said.

"It's very important to have unified command, and the United States has by far the bulk of the forces there," she said. "But I think if you read the comments of (U.N.) Secretary General Kofi Annan and of others, understanding that in a military sense, unified command under the command of the largest contributor is all that makes sense. And that largest contributor is the United States."

The national security adviser said U.S. force levels in Iraq are correct and at the level military commanders say they need. "We should also note," she added, "that some of these deployments are probably temporary that American troop strength, for instance, has been coming down in the Balkans over the last couple of years."

Rice said the president was talking about moving forward when he addressed the nation the previous night.

"Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, and Saddam Hussein was the problem with weapons of mass destruction," she said. "It was he who had a thorough appetite for weapons of mass destruction. It was he who had used weapons of mass destruction. It was he who was using the wealth and patronage of the country to develop weapons of mass destruction.

"We have every reason to believe that a stable, prosperous and democratizing Iraq will not be a problem in this regard," she continued. "Removing Saddam Hussein removes the threat of weapons of mass destruction."

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