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Rumsfeld Touts Coalition Progress in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 4, 2003 – The progress the coalition is making in Iraq is "amazing," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

The secretary compared the timeline for reconstituting Iraq with American experiences in other parts of the world. He said it is going better and, to his eyes, faster than other experiences.

Rumsfeld met with L. Paul Bremer, the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority; Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7; and other civilian and military leaders during his first day here. He said Iraq still is a dangerous place, but that no one can deny the progress being made.

Rumsfeld spoke about the political progress made in the country since the end of major combat May 1. The Iraqis have put many city councils in place around the country. He said these councils and the standing up of the Iraqi Governing Council are political examples of progress being made.

The governing council is talking hold, he said, and has appointed ministers to run the ministries of the government. "They have made three or four steps along the road," Rumsfeld said. "There are still three or four to go."

On the political side, fashioning a constitutional convention, drafting a constitution and getting it approved are steps that will lead to an elected government. Officials traveling with Rumsfeld said how fast the Iraqis move along this road is in their hands. "We're not going to write a constitution for them," he said. "It's their country."

On the security side, Rumsfeld said the number of attacks is down somewhat from earlier reports, but that these fluctuate. Recent car bombings in Baghdad and Najaf are clearly aimed at the Iraqi people. The bombings were tragic, he said, but the emphasis on the attacks obscures the real progress being made in the country. "It tends to create an imbalance in public perception that is unfortunate," the secretary said.

Rumsfeld emphasized that the progress the coalition is making in Iraq is important to the region and the world. He said neighbors of a peaceful Iraq would benefit economically from a stable situation here, and that the world will be better without a regime in Iraq that sponsors terrorism in the Middle East.

The Iraqi people themselves have a long way to go to overcome Saddam Hussein's legacy. Rumsfeld pointed to the example of the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin. He said Stalin repressed the people so thoroughly that the only way even good people could see to get ahead was to cooperate with the oppressors. "To survive and succeed, you had to become part of the system," he said.

Rumsfeld said the world will never know what it lost from Stalin's oppression.

The same is true in Iraq, the secretary said, as the Iraqi people throw off the Baathist yoke. Rumsfeld said coalition officials told him the Iraqi people are responding to the coalition. More Iraqis are turning in Baathists and showing coalition soldiers where arms caches are hidden.

In addition, more than 6,000 coalition-sponsored projects have been completed already. "This touches millions of Iraqis," the secretary said.

The economic picture is looking better also. Power is flowing more freely, and progress is being made in rebuilding the water infrastructure. Stores are open, and there are even traffic jams.

Rumsfeld said the three main focal points political, security and economic must move together. They complement each other, the secretary pointed out. "Progress in the political sphere relies on progress in the economy. Progress in security makes the economy better," he said.

But the Rumsfeld said he is confident the coalition is on the right track. "The circumstances of this country are better than in April and they will be better further down the road," he said.

The secretary will travel around the country to meet with coalition service members.

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