Radio Interview with Gen. Pace and Bill LeMaye from 680 WPTF, Raleigh, N.C.
Radio Interview with Gen. Pace and Bill LeMaye from 680 WPTF, Raleigh, N.C.
LUMAYE: Good afternoon. I'm Bill LeMaye, News Talk 680, WPTF. We're fresh back from Iraq just a couple of weeks ago. And, of course many of you know I was there in 2003. A lot has changed.
We have the honor, really, the great honor and privilege to talk with a gentleman who happens to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is General Peter Pace and General, thank you so much for taking some time for us today. We really appreciate it.
GENERAL PACE: Bill, my pleasure, and thanks for taking time to go over and see your troops in action. I appreciate you doing that.
LUMAYE: It's the least I could do. Let me ask you, do you see more friendlies in a Washington press conference or in Iraq, sir?
GENERAL PACE: [Laughter]. The press here is doing what they're supposed to do. They're asking the tough questions and we're supposed to answer them.
LUMAYE: Oh, I know that.
This is the third anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, and I know a lot of Americans had high hopes from that point on, but we've traveled three years, we've I guess made some mistakes, but we're also making progress, that was quite evident on my trip. What do you tell the folks here in North Carolina in particular who have such a vested interest in what's going on with our military bases here and the families that are behind. How are things really going in Iraq today?
GENERAL PACE: First of all I say to them thank you. Because as you know, the population of North Carolina that supports the military is almost everybody who lives there, number one. And number two; there are so many military families. Thank you for your sacrifice that your soldier, sailor, airman, Marine can go do what they're doing for their country.
We should all take pride in what our forces have accomplished. We should also recognize that this has been a tough fight; it will continue to be a tough fight, but that we are in fact doing the right things. Our troops can and should be proud of what they're doing, and as long as we stick with this we're going to do what we should be doing for our nation and for the Iraqi people.
LUMAYE: I get this impression, and correct me if I'm wrong. It's almost as though we're fighting two fronts here. The one, of course, in Iraq, and then here at home with the public opinion; and I think they're tied together. We're having success in Iraq. I saw that with my own eyes. Yet we're not getting the message out. It seems as though if you believe the polls more and more people are becoming frustrated with what's going on.
Would you agree? Do we have two fronts here?
GENERAL PACE: I think our enemy clearly understands that global opinion and especially opinions inside the United States make a huge difference in this war. Our enemy understands that they can not win in battle. They will not be able to do anything that's going to impact the U.S. military forces in a significant way. They are looking to have us throw in the towel, so to speak, and that's why I say we need to stick with this, because if we were for some reason to determine that we would walk away from Iraq the terrorists would simply turn to the next country and/or bring the fight to us here at home. So we need to stick with this and do what we're doing for as long as we need to.
LUMAYE: What do we need to do to get the word out, sir? Because, there are successes, and I'm not trying to paint a rosy picture. There are problems as well. But what I saw when I was there in 2006 versus 2003 is night and day. Why can't we get this message out to the folks?
GENERAL PACE: I think what you're doing at this instant is helping get the word out. Your personal time going over and seeing and coming back and telling your listeners what you saw. The more reporters that we can have go look around, and report back what they see, the better.
As you remember early on in the war when we had the embedded reporters and we had 24-7 coverage, people could get on TV on radio, read magazines, newspapers, and get all kinds of information where they could then determine for themselves what was really going on. Now, because news is in many ways a business, the amount of time that's been allocated to covering the war has been truncated, and because of that what gets put on are the things that - especially on television - are the things that capture your eye which are the bombs going off and digging wells and building schools and paving roads, don't quite rise to that level.
LUMAYE: We have some folks, some politicians of course, calling for a couple of things. They're very critical, but hindsight's a wonderful thing, 20/20's a wonderful thing. So they're criticizing what could have been, should have been done. But as we are here today, third anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, what would happen, sir, if some of the politicians that are out there calling for a pullout, setting a deadline, whether it be the calling of the Parliament together and pulling our troops off on any given day, what would happen to Iraq in your opinion?
GENERAL PACE: Well, I think we need to keep our eye on the objective, and the objective is to have an Iraq that is functioning with its own freely elected government, a unifying government, one that's providing services to the people that free nations are able to enjoy. And, to do that, there needs to be a secure environment and that's how we help. We helped initially by providing that ourselves, and we're helping now with almost one-quarter of a million Iraqi army and police trained to provide security for their own folks. We should not leave that country until the Iraqi government is able to rely on the security provided by its own armed forces so that they have a chance to put together a democracy, which when you think about it - three years ago, they're coming off of decades of dictatorship - and folks who have enjoyed freedom for decades are having a hard time understanding why it might take folks who have never done this before a little while to figure it out. We should have some patience with them and support them so that they can put together a leadership team that will take them into the future and not pull the rug out from them as they're trying to put this together.
LUMAYE: You brought up the training of the army and the security forces, and that figure's been, of a quarter million, and I actually had a chance to be embedded with the Iraqi 1st Army so I had a chance to actually see their dedication and passion for protecting their country, but I hear well gee, you know, once the security forces are brought up to speed we can stand down. I think a lot of people think that means immediately come home. But haven't the troops already in a sense begun to take less of a front in this war? I'm not suggesting they're taking a back seat, but I look at the casualty numbers, they seem down. Are we in fact turning things over to the Iraqis at this point?
GENERAL PACE: That's a very good observation on your part, and thank you for being there to see that for yourself.
It is in fact … it is true that since last November that the Iraqi armed forces are conducting more independent operations than are coalition forces. So if you have company-sized operations - operations that are 150 troops or more - since November, more of those operations have been done by the Iraqis than by coalition. In fact, of all the operations at company and above level, 83 percent are being conducted either independently or in coordination with coalition forces by the Iraqis and only 17 percent are being done solely by coalition.
As a result of that you are seeing that the Iraqi armed forces are out in the lead and they are taking more casualties, they are being extremely loyal to their government and they're taking the fight to the enemy.
LUMAYE: Is it unreasonable to say that we probably are going to be there for some time yet on some level? It doesn't seem to me to be an unrealistic statement to make or for people to realize that. Would that be legitimate? And I'm not trying to put you on the spot here, General, but it would seem that we're not going to be out in six months or a year or a couple of years realistically. And that's not an unfair assessment, do you think?
GENERAL PACE: I think the sovereign government of Iraq and the sovereign government of the United States will determine together what the way ahead is.
From a pure logic standpoint as we are able to turn over more and more responsibility, that's going to take some time, and it does make sense that for the foreseeable future - I do not know at what level - but for the foreseeable future as long as the Iraqis want us to stay and it's under conditions that we find acceptable, we'll have troops on the ground trying to help.
LUMAYE: General, I can't tell you what an honor it was to talk with you today and I just want to let you know that from all of us here in North Carolina we're very, very proud of what's being done in Iraq, and of course our military, and we thank you for your time today.
GENERAL PACE: Bill, thank you. And again, to all your listeners thank you for your incredible support of your armed forces.
LUMAYE: Thank you. General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff here on News Talk 680, WPTF.