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Special Defense Department Briefing

Presenters: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF
August 26, 2005 11:35 AM EDT
Special Defense Department Briefing

            GEN. MYERS:  Well, good morning.  As you all know, I just returned Wednesday night from a 10-day troop visit that literally took us around the world. 


            We were talking about how to best give you some feedback on this trip, and I think originally we had a couple of groups scheduled today.  And we decided yesterday afternoon that perhaps the best way to do it was just to come down here to the briefing room and share our observations with you all. 


            It was about six months ago that I asked the staff to put together a plan that would provide the opportunity for me to see as many service members as I could.  And my intent was simply to thank them for what they did and to take the pulse of the force and see how they were doing.  


            We also asked the USO to coordinate several celebrities to come with us, so we could provide a little touch of home and some entertainment and perhaps for a few moments, anyway, relieve some of the pressure that they're under. 


            As you, I hope, can see on the map behind me, we traveled around the world, as I said, visiting 18 different bases -- one in Germany and one in Kosovo, two in Kuwait, three in Iraq, one in Djibouti, one aboard USS Nimitz in the Persian Gulf -- went to Kandahar and Bagram in Afghanistan, two bases in Korea, in Japan and in Hawaii, and then wound up with one base in Alaska. 


            As the folks that have calculated this have come up with, we traveled more than 25,000 miles, and we estimate that we saw more than 15,000 service members, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.  And contractors and DOD civilians would be on top of that.   


            We have a fact sheet over on the side here that you can use later, if you're so inclined. 


            At each stop, of course, I talked to the troops for a little bit and then the several celebrities we had with us would entertain them. And then we spent about 45 minutes to an hour afterwards or whatever time we had before we had to go on to the next event to talk to them, to take pictures, sign autographs, whatever it is they wanted to do. 


            What I'd like to say is that I'm here to report that morale in the United States military remains very high.  Our troops know the mission.  They know and accept the challenges that they've been given. They are extremely well led by officers and NCOs, and they're well cared for.  And they particularly want to finish the job at hand.  


            Four years into the global war on terrorism, the U.S. military is the best-trained and most capable force we have ever seen.  America's -- Americans should be assured that their military is indeed the finest organization on the planet. 


            Specifically, I had the opportunity to shake hands and take photographs with thousands of service members.  And while surveys, retention statistics and our senior commanders in several reports in the media have very clearly indicated this, after looking at our people in the eye and personally interacting with many of them, I am absolutely convinced that, as I said before, morale is very high and our troops are doing very well. 


            A couple of anecdotes: 


            We were in Iraq -- don't remember the base -- a woman came up to me who was in the Army National Guard.  And what I normally do is thank people for their service, and the first thing out of -- before I could say that, the first thing out of her mind was -- or out of her lips were thank you for the opportunity to serve and to come to Iraq and make a difference.  This is a National Guard woman. 


            On two separate bases, one in Djibouti, one in Iraq, I met Army service members who had retired, but then volunteered to come back on active duty, both senior NCOs.  The one in Djibouti was acting as a paymaster, which was not his skill in the Army before, but was his skill there in Djibouti, and then another guardsman who when his unit was called up -- he had retired recently -- he went to the unit commander and said is there a way I can join back up and go with the unit to be with you while you're in Iraq.  A couple of anecdotes that tell you about the spirit of the American service member today. 


            We are indeed a nation at war, and it is difficult.  And we should never underestimate the challenges that our military members face in this global war on terrorism, and as with all conflicts since our own independence, we are asking a lot of our people.  They're performing tremendously, and they always have as their -- as when their country has called.  Our troops know the mission, and they're fully up to the task.  They are trained and they are ready, and they want to see the mission through to completion.  That means, of course, staying the course as we train the Iraqi security forces to provide for their own security, and our troops understand that winning -- that the winning strategy is to continue to fight the insurgency and to create an environment to allow the political process to continue. 


            My only wish is that every American could see, just like I did over the past 10 days, the resolve of our people in uniform, whether in Kosovo, Iraq or Afghanistan or Korea or Hawaii or Alaska, Germany, wherever it was.  Our young American men and women in uniform have gained substantial momentum and are moving closer to reaching their objective each day.  The soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen engaged in this fight are the reason we are winning.  Their successes are the untold story of the global war on terrorism, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and interestingly enough, despite what we may read and hear back here in Washington, our troops see firsthand the progress we are making.  And our troops know we are winning.  The biggest question they ask is "What's going on back home?"  Our troops overwhelmingly want reassurance that they will be allowed to finish what we began four years ago, and I think this speaks volumes to the American spirit and our country's genuine desire to help people. 


            You may have seen Army Captain Powell's interview last week on television from Iraq, when he said, quote, "I know it's hard to get out and get on the ground and report the news, and I understand that. And I appreciate that fact.  But for those of us who actually have a chance to go out and go on patrols and meet the Iraqi army and Iraqi police, and go on patrols with them, we are very satisfied with the way things are going here, and we are confident that if we are allowed to finish the job we started, we'll be very proud of it, and our country will be proud of us for doing it." 


            What we observed -- end quote.  What we observed during our trip is very consistent with what we have been seeing and with the reports we are getting from our commanders in the field.  And I am concerned about what appears to be a growing gap between what people are hearing back here in the United States and with what we saw on this trip.   


            There was a lot of discussion about retention and recruiting, and I would like to address them individually.  First of all, on retention, I think it's fair to say that retention figures are an indicator of many things.  But perhaps most of all, they are an indicator of whether the military is fulfilling our people's needs adequately, so that enough people decide to continue to serve.   


            And as you know, we are exceeding our retention goals.  In the Army, we are exceeding our goals in every category -- initial, mid- career and career.  And speaking of career, we're at 131 percent in the Army retention, above the goal. 


            Again, we need to continue to work to ensure we meet our retention goals.  But let me be very clear; this is a very positive sign.   


            Retention in the Reserve component also remains strong, particularly among those who are deploying or who have deployed.  With the combat operations that our Reserves have experienced, today's Reserve force is more ready than ever before.  


            Recruiting, unlike retention, is dependent not only on how people feel the military is fulfilling their needs, but also on what they hear from their friends and leaders, community leaders.  While recruiting numbers have improved the last couple of months, I think we should make every effort to ensure the youth of America are getting a very clear picture of what we just witnessed on this trip.  What we've witnessed as we went around the world is a group of service members that are well-trained and extremely proud of what they've been asked to do and what they're doing. 


            And I've focused a little bit here, I think, on Iraq in particular, but I've got to say, you know, as you look at the troops -- Osan Air Base in Korea, up at Camp Casey near the DMZ in Korea -- their readiness to, as they say over there on the peninsula, to fight tonight, their readiness to do that, brings so much security and stability to that region, not only the peninsula but the region.  


            The folks that we saw in Wiesbaden, units of the 1st Armored Division, some of whom had returned from Iraq last summer and are preparing now to go back this winter, all bringing security and stability as well. 


            And in Hawaii, of course, troops that are trained and ready to deploy or have just gotten back. 


            And the same thing we saw in Alaska -- one of the units there was in the process of moving out.  Others had deployed in the past and were getting ready to deploy again. 


            So the focus is not just on the people we met in Iraq, it's around the world, and their focus on the mission and what they're being given to do, and their confidence that they can get it done. 


            Before I conclude and take some questions, I would like to add that while in Iraq, I always -- also had the opportunity to meet with Iraq's president, President Talabani, and Prime Minister Ja'afari. They both expressed their sincere appreciation for the efforts of the United States military.  And they understand America's effort and America's sacrifice very well.  And they expressed their very strong desire for U.S. forces to maintain our resolve and continue to fight the insurgency, giving the political process a chance to mature and develop. 


            I passed to both of them my observations that our forces were committed to see this particular mission through. 


            And with that, I'll be happy to take your questions.  Charlie. 


            Q     Mr. Chairman, first you extol the United Sates military as the best in the world, and I think there are few -- 


            GEN. MYERS:  No question about it, yeah. 


            Q     -- anybody who would question that.  And yet you say you are concerned about a growing gap about what the people in the United States are hearing and what is actually happening in Iraq.  And yet your own commanders there say that violence will grow in the months ahead leading up to the elections, almost as if they are resigned to the fact that the insurgents can operate.   


            I guess my question is, is the military prepared to deal with this insurgency in the months ahead and during the election?  And will you be able, therefore, to draw down sharply next year? 


            GEN. MYERS:  Well, there's a lot in that question.  First of all, it is the best military on the planet, without question.  They are also the best urban warfighters.  Occasionally you read an article that they aren't equipped for this or not trained for it; and that's rubbish.  They are exceedingly good.  They are very effective in Afghanistan; they're very effective in Iraq.  They will provide and help provide -- with Afghan forces carrying the brunt of it, with Iraqi security forces carrying the brunt of it, they will help provide security for the elections, as they did for the presidential elections in Iraq and the National Assembly elections -- in Afghanistan, and the National Assembly elections in Iraq in January of this year.  Sure, they're going to do that. 


            Insurgencies are like that.  I mean, as we've talked about at this platform before, insurgencies require lots of things to help overcome them.  Part of it is the military piece.  It also requires a political piece, which is a big part of what we see going on in both Afghanistan and Iraq today.  And what I'm confident about is that our forces can train Iraqi forces, Afghan forces, can provide and go after the Taliban in Afghanistan, the other insurgents inside Iraq, to allow the political process to develop and be successful.  That's what I'm confident about. 


            Q     With what you've just said, then, are you convinced that the U.S. military is going to be able to draw down sharply in Iraq, realizing that it's -- 


            GEN. MYERS:  I'm glad you brought that up, because I shouldn't let you off the hook for that. 


            Q     -- realizing it's events driven, are you convinced that they will be able to draw down sharply next year? 


            GEN. MYERS:  Who says we're going to draw down sharply next year, Charlie?  


            Q     Well -- 


            GEN. MYERS:  I haven't said it.  And General Casey has never said it and General Abizaid has never said it.  What we've said is, as events dictate and as Iraqi security forces become more capable, they'll be given more and more lead responsibility and more area that will be their responsibility, and we will go from working with them to a supporting role and being available if they get in trouble, if they need help.  And if we get to that state, if events dictate that, if this political process continues, then there's a possibility we might be able to reduce forces.  But sharp reductions -- I mean, nobody -- no senior commander has talked about sharp reductions.  And we'll just have to see what plays out. 


            Q     Well, hasn't the word "significant" been used -- 


            GEN. MYERS:  I don't know.  I'm just telling you what I know. What I know is that we'll plan for several contingencies and it will be event driven, and I kind of gave you an idea of the sort of the events. 


            Q     General, when you talk about the difference between what's happening over there and what the American people are hearing, I wonder if you would elaborate on that.  What aspects of what's happening in Iraq do you think are not being reported?  Because I understand that as a criticism of the news media. 


            GEN. MYERS:  No, I wouldn't take it that way.  I think some of the good things that are happening over there are hard to report.  I think we could do a better job of talking about success in ways that are -- is more easily understood.  This is not a war of front lines where, gee, we took another hill today or two hills or a city and we've advanced.  Insurgencies aren't like that.  So it's difficult to describe progress, and it has to be broadly based, as I just talked about.  It's not just the military or security aspect; it's the economic, political and so forth.  But if -- 


            Q     So you don't feel that the news coverage is distorted? 


            GEN. MYERS:  It's just -- it could be fuller.  I mean, it could be fuller, but it's a difficult environment to report on as well.  So no, this is not a criticism of the media.  It's -- I think -- but as you read these articles, you know, we've heard terms like "broken Army."  You don't have retention of senior NCOs of 131 percent and call that a "broken Army."  We've heard of comparisons to Vietnam.  I mean, the troops -- I wish we could line them all up here.  I wish all hundreds of thousands of them could come by here and give you their views, and there'd be some that would not be as optimistic as others, but the majority of them -- the vast majority would be like the anecdotes that I told you.  That's what I've just learned after 10 days on the road. 


            That was my observation.  That was the observation of the people with me, and I think it's just -- some of those successes are -- don't get a lot of time.  You know, we tend to -- we tend to -- and I understand it -- it's a natural phenomenon; it's human nature that we tend to go where the fire trucks are going or where the police cars are going or where the ambulance is going.  Well, there's a lot going on besides where the fire trucks are going and the police cars are going and a quick response force.  There's a lot of other things that are happening that are indeed great measures of progress, and like I said, I think we can do a better job of helping explain that and we will. 


            Q     General? 


            GEN. MYERS:  Jim? 


            Q     Since the status of U.S. forces in Iraq is -- and as you've said -- event driven, what is the U.S. military's assessment of the current political situation, what appears to be at least a temporary impasse over the drafting of a constitution? 


            GEN. MYERS:  Well, I think the constitution was submitted to the -- and this is not my area of the expertise -- but the constitution was submitted to the National Assembly.  They are still discussing the issues which you all know well, and I'm not going to go into the details here.  And I think people remain optimistic that as they go through this great debate, much like the debate -- I mean, it's interesting that we've had David McCullough come out with his book "1776," which reminds us -- as you read about our own history around the time of our independence and our Declaration of Independence -- the great debate that was raging in this country, and it was not pretty.  People were dying; there were people on all sides -- a lot of people trying to exert whatever leverage they had.  And this debate we see inside Iraq, I think, is at this point a healthy debate.  And you have to go to the State Department to get a better gouge on that because it changes fairly rapidly, and I've not had an update from the ambassador in the last couple of days.  


            Q     Let me ask you something about how this process directly affects the U.S. military.  So far, by all accounts out of Iraq, the large majority of Sunnis do not feel that this constitution will adequately represent or protect them.  So even if the constitution, as was presented to the parliament -- we understand the parliament may not even vote, that it may go to a vote in October, and the Sunnis still don't feel like they're represented or protected under that constitution.  What sort of progress, then, do you see for the war against the insurgency, which in large part is driven by Sunnis, former Ba'athists and Saddamists? 


            GEN. MYERS:  The answer is that people are working very hard to make sure the Sunnis do see a political future in Iraq and a future for them. And that's very important, I think, to progress on all fronts, economic and security and so forth.  It's very important. 


            Q     Not to belabor this, but from a military standpoint, when you're looking at that debate going on now and the state of the insurgency and who's involved in the insurgency, as the military planners sit around, do they see any real progress in the war on the ground short term as a result of this political process? 


            GEN. MYERS:  We have seen progress on the war on the ground in many different aspects.  We've seen more cooperation in the Sunni communities than we had prior to the National Assembly elections.  If you look at just hotline tips alone as they go up -- and I think people have talked to you about those, we certainly have the charts on those -- but no, we've seen progress along the line, across the board, all charts going up and to the right as you would expect. 


            Now, the political progress that you're talking about is going to have to continue for that to be true, I guess.  But it's an important point.  And I know that the Iraqis are working this very hard.  We talked about that with the president and the prime minister.  In fact, the president -- one thing you could tell for sure with President Talabani and the prime minister is that they were tired.  And they were tired because they'd been in the middle of these negotiations.  I left -- I think it was a Wednesday -- I left their place around 6:00 at night or so; at 8:00 they were getting together with the Shi'a and the Sunni to continue this dialogue and to try to, you know, find the compromises that will allow a constitution to go forward that people will feel comfortable with, will ratify.   


            And you're absolutely right, Sunni inclusion in the political process is going to help with this insurgency because the fence- sitters will see their future with the new Iraq and not with the old Saddam Hussein regime or whatever the cause is.  That's absolutely right. 


            Q     General, you weren't, in Charlie's question, ready to say that there will be a significant withdrawal next year.  Could you just tell us the criteria by which some amount of U.S. troops would start coming home?  It has been a little hazy over recent months of what exactly the U.S. military is looking to see before a number of U.S. troops could come home.   


            GEN. MYERS:  I think in essence what they're going to look to see -- and this will be the judgment of the commanders that are on the ground, of the mentors and trainers that are with Iraqi troops -- are Iraqi units that are capable of operating at a level that will provide security in whatever region that they're supposed to provide security in.  That's the basic.  And that will be judgment calls based on Iraqis' judgment in their hierarchy and judgment calls on Captain [General] Casey and General Vines and the hierarchy that they've established, our division commanders, our brigade commanders, our battalion commanders, our company commanders and these training teams that we have with the Iraqis.  And so it will be an amalgamation of that judgment that will determine when these folks -- when various parts of Iraq can be turned over. 


            I don't know the exact figure, we're trying to calculate it, but, you know, certainly a third of Iraq -- of Baghdad -- I'm sorry -- has been turned over to the Iraqis.  The Shi'a neighborhoods, there has not been a violent incident in the Shi'a neighborhoods now for months since the Iraqis have taken over.  It doesn't mean you couldn't have violence there tomorrow, but I'm just saying they've been given that responsibility.  And there are more areas where we share it, and that at some point it will be given over to Iraqis; and more, then, of Baghdad will be, until eventually Baghdad will be -- the security in Baghdad will be the responsibility of Iraqi security forces, both their army and their police.  And that's going to be the process. 


            Q     I mean, when you talk about it you put a significant emphasis on the Iraqi security troops, but does it hinge more on the political process? 


            GEN. MYERS:  It all goes together.  I mean, it all has to work absolutely together.  We've said that, or I've said that from the beginning.  I guess there probably are some insurgencies that yield to just military force, but the majority of them yield to a combination of forces, political, economic and security.  So security is going to be part of it; the political progress that Jim talked about is going to have to take place as well.  I mean, everybody's going to have to feel that they have a stake in the outcome on Iraq under a new constitution and then a constitutionally elected government. 


            Q     General?  Recent polls indicate that there's declining public support in the United States for the war.  Are you worried about that?  Or how worried are you about that?  And is that part of this disconnect that you were talking about? 


            GEN. MYERS:  In a conflict like this, which is not conventional, which will take time and patience, the most important thing we have if we're a nation at war, the most important thing we have right now in this kind of conflict is our will and our resolve.  And I just commented on the will and the resolve of the American service member around the world, the people that I met, that understood what they've been asked to do.  They understand very well the challenges.  A lot of them are living those challenges daily.  By the way, we picked August because August is a pretty tough month in certain parts of the world, certainly in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It's hot. Sand storms.  And I thought that would be a good time to take the pulse of the force. 


            So if that's important, you know, we -- this military can do anything as long as they have the will and resolve of the American people.  They can do absolutely anything.   


            They can do phenomenal feats, like they've done in -- since 9/11, the things that have been done by this military, the success we've had in Afghanistan -- you remember we went into Afghanistan, all the pundits said, "Well, the Afghanis don't like any foreigners, and they particularly aren't going to like you."  And what's the fact?  The facts are that our senior leaders in Afghanistan get ovations when they go into villages because of what -- of the support that they're bringing -- I'm thinking particularly the support they're bringing to the Afghan National Army, but both -- but because of the way -- not only what we do, but how we do it, the values we bring. 


            Other anecdotes: 


            People would say, "Yeah, here's my mission, but here's what I'm also doing, and I'm trying to get school supplies from my hometown or wherever, so I can get them in here and give them to the Iraqi children and the Afghan children."  I mean, people are looking for ways to do what they were taught when they growing up or by their moms and dads or by their schools or whatever, and churches.  They're trying to bring American -- they bring their American values with them, and it shows.  And I mean, they're doing phenomenal work, and it's important work. 


            We are a nation at war, and of course you worry about resolve.  I mean, that's what this is all about.  And if you look at the -- if you look at what the adversary is trying to do, of course, their whole strategic communications plan, if you will, is to try to weaken that resolve.  I mean, that's what they're about.  And that's why they show beheadings on TV.  That's why they murder innocent men, women, children -- I mean, uncivilized behavior, but that's the effect they're trying to have. 


            Yes, sir? 


            Q      General, recently the Army fired a four-star general for misconduct.  Yet in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, only one general was disciplined, and she was demoted to colonel.  Can you explain the apparent disparity in punishments?    


            GEN. MYERS:  There's no disparity in the punishments, first of all.  Every case -- every case -- of misconduct is separate and distinct unto itself.   


            And I think we've been through the Abu Ghraib enough to know that what every -- and I think we've had at least 15 investigations on Abu Ghraib -- there was -- and identifying, you know, at what level of responsibility and people -- where people should be held accountable, where people were responsible -- and we've dealt with that. 


            I mean, just a little snapshot: 


            If it was only the night shift at Abu Ghraib, which it was, it was only a small section of the guards that participated in this, it's a pretty good clue that it wasn't a more widespread problem. 


            So they're completely different.  Every case is different.  And the one thing it tells you, in my view, is that in each case, the two cases you cited -- glad you brought them up -- it tells you that the values of the institution of the United States military are well, intact and in hand, and that we police ourselves the best we can, and that we have very high standards, extremely high standards, and we don't tolerate people who deviate from those standards. 


            Q     But in a follow-up, I understand that, General.  But on the one hand, you have someone who allegedly had some kind of misconduct, something outside marriage.  In the other, you have someone in charge of Abu Ghraib when prisoners are getting tortured.  That begs the question:  Is there something about the Kevin Byrnes case that we don't know that makes it much more major? 


            GEN. MYERS:  There probably is. 


            Q     Really?  Can you say what it is? 


            GEN. MYERS:  Thank you.   


            Next question. 


            Q     General Myers, you've mentioned several times here that we are a nation at war.  You mentioned that a lot is being asked of the U.S. military, and you've emphasized several times that they have the will and resolve to win this war.  And if you go down each of those and you apply those sorts of things to the American public, where I go, at least, it seems like the American public doesn't really get the sense that we're a nation at war.  You don't really feel that.  You don't really get the sense that there is that will and resolve out there.  And there's not really much being asked of the American public. 


            Do you feel like enough is being done to communicate to -- why is it that the American public doesn't quite get the stakes that you get? And how do you think you need to change that and maybe communicate that and win that fight as well as you say you're winning -- 


            GEN. MYERS:  Oh, I think it's incumbent upon -- on the national leadership, writ large, to help communicate this to the American public.  I think there have been many attempts to do it, but it's -- you're right.  This is not like World War II, where -- and of course I was born in 1942, but I do remember victory gardens because I was -- I   mean, as -- I used to stomp through them as a little kid, and I usually got chastised by that.  And I do remember that a lot of the scrap metal drives, paper drives, things that started then continued for a long while as this country continued to develop economically. So I can remember some parts of that.  And that, of course, is not the case today.  And so I think it's easy for people that don't have individuals indirectly or directly involved in this to forget for a minute that we are a nation at war.   


            So you're right.  We just -- we need to continue to talk about it and talk about it in ways that hopefully will resonate that this is -- these are very serious times. 


            What I often say to groups when I'm talking to civic groups is just transport yourself to post-9/11, in the weeks and months after 9/11, and talk about the uncertainty that probably was in your mind -- as I'm talking to these groups -- in your mind.  And there was a lot of uncertainty.  I was talking to a fellow in the bed-and-breakfast business in Italy this spring.  And I said, "Well, how's business?"  He said, "Well, we're finally getting back to where we were prior to 9/11."  I mean, the impact had gone on for a very long time and they were finally -- so what does that say?  That says that when you can create fear, that it can cause us to act in irrational ways, or at least create enough uncertainty where we don't act, perhaps.  And that's a very dangerous thing.  And that's what folks who use terror are counting on.  They're counting on creating enough fear that that causes us to act irrationally or not act.  And that's why I say this threat is probably as big a threat to our way of life as any we've confronted. 


            Q     Could I follow up on that? 


            Q     Would it help --  


            GEN. MYERS:  I'm going to let this gentleman follow up real quick. 


            Q     Sure.  Just for that B&B owner that you talk about, what are the stakes for him in Iraq if the insurgents do manage to somehow convince us that it's time to go before the job is done?  What does that mean for him? 


            GEN. MYERS:  The stakes are huge.  If the Zarqawis of the world, who is part of al Qaeda, the al Qaeda were allowed to be successful in Iraq, in their view, and that would be the start of the caliphate that they envision, the stakes would be huge for the region.   And you talk about instability.  It would be instant instability in that region, in Saudi Arabia on down the Gulf states, perhaps Iran, Syria, Turkey.  I mean, just economically it would be instability of the sort I think would affect the globe.  And then they would keep pressing on.  They would continue their movement, and it would involve -- in my view, it would involve terror incidents that would expand.  I mean, they've already expanded pretty far around the world.  We see terror incidents all around the world.  But you would see probably an intensification of that.  They would be buoyed by this victory, this victory, and that would have a direct impact, I think, clearly on the global economy and on the actions we would have to take to protect ourselves. 


            And I'm going to go to Bob, who was going to ask a question, unless it's been taken. 


            Q     Well, if you have a follow-up --   


            Q     Yeah, just a quick follow-up on that. 


            GEN. MYERS:  Didn't you ask one already? 


            Q     Well, not a follow-up.  (Scattered laughter.)  Would it bring the stakes that are -- what's at stake in the war home to the American public, maybe, if there was a tax increase to pay for the war? 


            GEN. MYERS:  I don't know.  I mean, that's for others to -- I mean, others to decide, something that I think the senior leadership, political leadership and others, you know, think about and how to bring home the impact and the significance and the importance of what's being done.  I don't know if that's -- I have no idea if that's the answer. 


            Q     Can I follow up on that follow-up?  (Scattered laughter.) No, I mean, just that -- on Rick's point.  I mean, as the senior military officer in the country, what do you think should be done to convey to the American public what is at stake?  You say it's the job of the senior leadership, and you did talk about a difference between now and 9/11.  I mean, what do you think ought to be done? 


            GEN. MYERS:  Well, first of all, I think people need to talk very responsibly and consider their words carefully when they talk about this conflict.  And I think -- I think that was the case right after 9/11 and for a year or so, was very serious talk.  And I think we just need to -- people need to think, when they talk, about what they're saying and what impact it has on the effort, and if what they're saying is actually true or not, if they've got their facts.  And I'm always available for phone calls for any of the military talking heads or others if they want to talk about, you know, at least my view of things and give them whatever data they want.  


            It's a complex issue.  I don't think I have a solution.  I do know that serious debate and dialogue about this is useful.  It's not particularly useful to criticize and then not have an alternative or not propose alternatives.  I mean, that's not particularly useful. But I think -- Bob, last question. 


            Q     Okay.  I'll take you back to specifically the insurgency in Iraq.  It's been described as being intrinsic, suggesting that it's become part of the fabric of the society to some extent, or at least tolerated.  To what extent do you think the insurgents have gained either the support or the tolerance of the Iraqis this 2-1/2 years? 


            GEN. MYERS:  I think the foreign fighters have not.  I think the tolerance for foreign fighters has gone down, is my personal assessment after looking at the intelligence reports and so forth.  I think the Iraqi people are less tolerant.  The "man in the street" interviews after a recent bombing over there were strongly negative towards the Zarqawi organization; I mean strongly negative.  And I'd say that the tolerance for -- or support for the other Sunni extremist insurgents has probably diminished since elections. 


            I think as Jim pointed out, it's important as the political process goes forward and the constitution is developed that people feel they're part of this, to continue that trend.  And we may see uneven progress here as we go through this great debate that's taking place inside Iraq as they decide on their constitution. 


            And one of the ways, you know, they win support is through intimidation.   I mean, these are ruthless people.  Saddam Hussein and the remnants of his regime out there perpetrating a lot of these acts were used to killing people, hundreds of thousands of people, of their own countrymen.  So they're ruthless.  They're murderers.  They're uncivilized.  They're not doing it in the name of any particular religion; they're just doing it to maintain -- and so it's intimidation, I think, that keeps a lot of people from coming over. And you see it.  You get somebody that is a good leader in one of these cities or a good police chief, and they'll go right after them or their family and get rid of them.   


            The good news is, in my opinion, is that the Iraqis have shown a lot of courage.  The Iraqi people have shown a lot of courage. They've given an awful lot.  And I think they're prepared to give a lot more.  And our job is to help them and provide the environment for them to do their job, clearly. 


            Thank you all.  Thank you very much. 


            Q     Thank you.



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