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Securing Peace in Iraq Vital to War on Terrorism

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2003 – The battle to secure peace in Iraq is now the central battle in the war on terrorism, according to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

"When terrorists exploded a bomb outside a shrine in Najaf last week," Wolfowitz said in a Sept. 2 Wall Street Journal column, "they killed scores of Muslims who had gathered for prayers including one of Iraq's foremost Shiite leaders, who had been playing a key role in stabilizing post-Saddam Iraq. Similarly, when a bomb detonated in the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad recently, those killed and injured were innocent men and women including Iraqis who were engaged in the humanitarian mission of rebuilding Iraq."

These victims weren't the only targets, he added. "Terrorists were aiming a blow at something they hate even more the prospect of a country freed from their control and moving to become an Iraq of, by and for the Iraqi people."

Iraq is "on a course towards self-government that is irreversible," he wrote. It "will be an example to all in the Muslim world who desire freedom, pointing a way out of the hopelessness that the extremists feed on. And so, they test our will, the will of the Iraqi people, and the will of the civilized world."

Wolfowitz said criminal remnants of Saddam's regime share a goal with foreign terrorists to bring about the failure of Iraqi reconstruction.

"Foreign terrorists who go to Iraq to kill Americans," he added, "understand this: If killing Americans leads to our defeat and the restoration of this old regime, they would score an enormous strategic victory for terrorism and for the forces of oppression and intolerance, rage and despair, hatred and revenge."

Wolfowitz wrote that Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, has said success in Iraq will not be easy, and he evoked the general's words: "The whole difficulty in the global war on terrorism is that this is a phenomenon without borders. And the heart of the problem is in this particular region, and the heart of the region happens to be Iraq. If we can't be successful here, we won't be successful in the global war on terrorism."

American forces and coalition partners are determined to win, noted the deputy secretary. "And they will win, if we continue to give them the moral and material support they need to do the job."

Wolfowitz quoted congressional testimony of then-Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane: "They (American forces) bring the values of the American people to this conflict. They understand firmness, they understand determination. But they also understand compassion. Those values are on display every day as they switch from dealing with an enemy to taking care of a family."

The deputy secretary wrote that he recently visited the troops in Iraq and agreed with Keane's assessment. "I can tell you that they, above all, understand the war they are fighting," he wrote. "They understand the stakes involved. And they will not be deterred from their mission by desperate acts of a dying regime or ideology."

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