Myers: Struggle Against Violent Extremists Just as Vital as World War II
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 30, 2005 With the National World War II Memorial as a backdrop, the U.S. military's top general today said the country is again in an important struggle -- against violent extremism.
"I guess what I'd tell people is the struggle today is just as important as the struggle that's symbolized by the memorial behind me," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told NBC's Katie Couric on the "Today" program. "We've got to have the resolve to see this through."
Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it's important to keep events in Iraq in perspective. He noted that two years ago insurgents believed they could intimidate the coalition into leaving Iraq. "Obviously we haven't left," he said.
"Then," Myers said, the insurgents "went after Iraqi security forces, particularly at recruiting stations." And yet, he continued, Iraqis are still joining the military and police forces "in record numbers."
Next the insurgents started attacking Iraqi civilians in very high numbers. But Iraqis still went to the polls Jan. 30 and chose to participate in a democratic process. Myers noted that recent polls show 85 percent of Iraqis plan to vote in the country's next election, for a constitutional referendum.
"They are not going to be successful; they can't be successful," Myers said about the insurgents in Iraq. "These are people that are cutting off people's heads; they put it on TV. They shoot a Japanese man; they put that on their Web site.
"These folks are savages, mass murderers," he added. "There's no reason the international community should ever think about anything but winning."
Myers said the key to eventually reducing U.S. troop numbers in Iraq will be to get Iraqi security forces to a point where they can secure their own country. He said it's a positive sign that the Iraqi ministries of Defense and Interior are working closely in operations throughout Iraq. He noted that 35 military operations are being conducted now in Iraq, and Iraqi security forces are conducting five of those on their own.
"This is in contrast to just a few months ago, where the Iraqi security forces weren't so much in the front," Myers said. "We're very optimistic we'll be able to look at our force structure in the future."
As Myers prepares to retire this fall after 40 years of service, he said he's comfortable leaving the military in the hands of up-and-coming leaders.
He said he was impressed with the Army's new second lieutenants he met May 28 when he delivered the graduation address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and has similar feelings about graduates from other service academies and about Reserve Officer Training Corps graduates throughout the country.
"As you shake their hands (and) you look into their eyes, wow, what a generation we have coming up," Myers said. "So, nope, I'm not worried about leaving at all."