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Myers Tells Vets U.S. Making 'Amazing Difference' in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2003 – American service members are making "an amazing difference" in the lives of Iraqis, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said Aug. 25.

Speaking at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in San Antonio, the nation's top military leader said the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay sent a message to the Iraqi people that America is not going to let a similar regime back in power.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the veterans and their families that while major combat operations are over, the coalition is still on the offensive in Iraq to root out the former regime loyalists. He said U.S. troops participate in more than 2,000 patrols "day and night" in Iraq. They have targeted "the Fedayeen Saddam, the Baathists, the criminals, as well as foreign fighters and jihadists and everyone else who wants freedom to fail in Iraq."

The chairman said he was encouraged by a recent visit to Iraq. He detailed how the coalition has recovered thousands of tons of munitions, including rocket- propelled grenades, surface-to-air missiles, mortars, rifles and other weapons. He said many of these weapons were stored in schools, hospitals and mosques.

"If you remember that deck of cards (designed by coalition forces to identify the 'most wanted' members of Saddam Hussein's regime), we've now captured 42 of the 55 faces that were in that deck of cards," Myers said.

The death of Saddam's sons sent a particularly important signal to the Iraqi people. "That signal is that we will not let Saddam or his supporters bring back the reign of terror," he said. "The Iraqi people understood that. In fact, right after those two despicable people were killed, the number of Iraqis coming forward to report former regime loyalists and weapons caches increased dramatically. They frankly weren't afraid anymore."

Myers said Saddam Hussein left a horrible legacy to the Iraqi people: fear, corruption, a crippled economy and a badly deteriorated infrastructure. "In a matter of just a few months, America's sons and daughters ... are making an amazing difference in the lives of this newly liberated land," he said.

Myers told the veterans more than 30,000 Iraqi policemen are working to establish law and order in Iraq, many of them being trained by U.S. forces with ethics as part of the training regimen. Hundreds of Iraqi courts are up and running, and U.S. military lawyers are advising the Iraqis on how to conduct fair trials.

Most banks are operating, and the Iraqi Central Bank is now paying salaries to police, schoolteachers, hospital staff, petroleum workers and other key people.

"Our forces helped deliver more than a million tons of food and thousands of tons of medical supplies," he said. "Of course, there are still many challenges and much room for improvement, but there is no food or medical crisis in Iraq despite dire predictions."

Almost all of Iraq's hospitals and clinics are treating patients. "Our forces are providing security for many of them and some, sadly, have lost their lives defending these medical facilities," he said.

Almost all the schools are open again. U.S. forces are helping to repair and rebuild many of the schoolhouses. "(The schools) are now being used for education instead of storing weapons, and education is not being taught with a Baathist agenda any more," Myers said.

U.S. troops are working to restore bridges, rebuild or dig wells, rescue homeless children from the streets and help at medical clinics. "There are more than 5,000 different projects that our troops have done while at the same time they are trying to bring security to Iraq," Myers said. "Every day they go beyond what is asked of them to find new ways to make things better. Character and compassion ... are just as much a part of the American armed forces as courage and combat capability."

But international terrorists still are adapting to counter U.S. tactics. "They are still very shrewd, and they are still evil - as we witnessed less than a week ago with the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and the bus bombing in Jerusalem," Myers said.

The Defense Department is working to examine the lessons learned and will configure the military to best fight the al Qaeda and other terror groups. "We owe it to our nation to stamp out this terrorist that is so contemptuous of the innocent both in America and abroad," he said. "We're as focused and committed as we can be, and there should be no doubt that we will not fail in our mission."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageVeterans of Foreign War Commander in Chief Ray Sisk presents the 2003 Armed Forces Award to Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Aug. 25. Myers delivered a speech to the group at its convention in San Antonio. Photo by Gloria Montgomery, VFW.  
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