U.S. 'Committed To Winning the Peace' in Iraq, Feith Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 15, 2003 While there's much to do to assist the Iraqi people in the establishment of a free, democratic government of their choosing, the United States remains committed to achieving that goal, a senior DoD official told U.S. legislators today.
In testimony on Capitol Hill today, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith described the current situation in post-Saddam Iraq to House International Relations Oversight Committee members.
DoD, other U.S. government agencies and coalition partners in Iraq are continuing work "to put a free Iraq on its feet, headed toward stable, democratic government," Feith pointed out. It's been less than five weeks, he noted, since Hussein and his regime were kicked out of power by U.S. and coalition military forces.
Although stability operations are ongoing across post-Saddam Iraq, "much work remains to be done before the coalition's military victory can be confirmed as a strategic victory," Feith acknowledged.
Feith said U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq continue to experience "attacks from scattered, small elements that remain loyal to the former regime."
Yet, former regime leaders on the "most-wanted list" are being rounded up "more or less daily," he pointed out, while the hunt for weapons of mass destruction continues.
Meanwhile, U.S. and coalition personnel are "providing humanitarian relief, organizing basic services, working to establish security and creating the conditions for the liberated Iraqis to organize a new government for themselves," Feith remarked.
Such activity, he pointed out, supports U.S. and coalition policy goals to liberate the Iraqi people, not to control them or their economic resources or occupy their country. Other goals are to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and terrorist infrastructure, to safeguard the country's territorial integrity and to reconstruct the economic and political systems, putting Iraq on a path to become a prosperous and free country.
The U.S. and its coalition partners are committed to stay in Iraq "as long as required," Feith emphasized, to accomplish these objectives.
"We didn't take military action in Iraq just to leave a mess behind for the Iraqi people to clean up without our lending a hand," he asserted.
However, U.S. and coalition forces are also committed to leave Iraq as soon as possible, Feith explained, "for Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people."
More assistance and contributions for post-Saddam Iraq are being encouraged "from around the world," Feith remarked -- such as from coalition partners, nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations and other international organizations.
The goal, he said, is to "transfer as much authority as possible, as soon as possible, to the Iraqis themselves," Feith emphasized.
However, Feith noted, the U.S. "will not try to foist burdens onto those who are not in a position to carry them."
Life is getting better in Iraq, Feith asserted, thanks to myriad work performed through the auspices of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Humanitarian issues exist in Iraq today, Feith said, primarily involving electricity generation and water supplies. However, he emphasized, "the overall situation is not desperate."
In fact, Feith noted, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, recently returned from a visit to Iraq, confirmed in press remarks that there's no humanitarian crisis in the country.
The recent war caused much less damage in Iraq than most people expected, Feith maintained, and didn't cause the country's infrastructure problems. Power brownouts and water problems pre-existed during Saddam's 20-year-plus rule, he pointed out.
Iraq "had been run into the ground by decades of systematic oppression and misrule," Feith explained.
Before the war, only 60 percent of Iraqis had reliable access to safe drinking water, he pointed out, adding that 70 percent of Iraq's sewage treatment plants were in disrepair, and 23 percent of children under age 5 suffered from malnutrition.
Iraq's prewar electrical power system "was only operating at half of its capacity," Feith noted.
Today, northern and southern Iraq "have more reliable electric service now than before the war," Feith said. Also, he noted that there's no food or health crisis in Iraq.
As part of effecting stability throughout Iraq, establishing security "is the coalition's highest priority," Feith pointed out. Joint Iraqi-U.S.-coalition security patrols, he noted, are now making the rounds in many Iraqi cities and towns.
And work continues on the establishment of an Iraqi Interim Authority, that "will assume, increasingly, responsibility for administration of the country," Feith noted. However, the IIA's most important role, he noted, will be "to design the process for creating a new Iraqi government."
Regarding the search for WMDs in Iraq, U.S. and coalition forces have only checked about 20 percent of 600 suspected sites, Feith noted.
"We're learning about new sites every day," Feith said. He asserted his confidence "that we will eventually be able to piece together a fairly complete account of Iraq's WMD programs, but the process will take months, and perhaps, years."
The U.S., which with its coalition partners will help Iraq repair its oil- producing infrastructure, is committed "to ensuring that Iraq's oil resources remain under (Iraqi) national control, with the proceeds made available to support Iraqis in all parts of the country," Feith noted.
The U.S. and its coalition won the military campaign to oust Saddam and liberate the Iraqi people, he pointed out.
"And we are committed to winning the peace," he concluded.