Secretary Rumsfeld and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, today briefed the Pentagon press corps. Following are highlights.
“I do not believe they’re (Iraq) in a civil war today. There has always been a potential for civil war. That country was held together though an oppressive regime that put hundreds of thousands of human beings into mass graves. It was held together not by a constitution, not by a piece of paper, not by respect by your fellow citizens of different religious faiths, but it was held together through force and viciousness, and that’s gone.” Secretary Rumsfeld, March 7, 2006
“…(what) you have seen is the Iraqi armed forces and the Iraqi police are loyal to the central government. They have been on the streets protecting the Iraqi people. The police have gone to the mosques and protected the mosques. You’re seeing all the things you would want to see to preclude the kind of things that would lead to civil war.” Gen. Peter Pace, March 7, 2006
- This is a time of testing for the Iraqi people.
- The terrorists who were behind the bombing of the shrine in Samarra last month want to foment civil strife.
- Iraqis are successfully defying the rush to proclaim what some both here and abroad seek – a civil war.
- The leadership being shown by Iraq’s security forces, by its government officials and by its major political leaders in the wake of the bombing is encouraging.
- Iraqi forces took the lead in controlling the situation; Coalition forces assisted in a supporting role.
- Iraqi government leaders took several steps to calm the situation: They imposed a curfew and leaders of most of the major parties stepped forward to publicly urge restraint on all parties.
- Much of the media reporting after the bombing, both domestic and abroad, has exaggerated the number of attacks on mosques and the number of Iraqi deaths, and mischaracterized the behavior of Iraq’s security forces.
- Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Coalition forces in Iraq, has reported that overall levels of violence have not increased substantially as a result of the bombing.
- Violence continues to slow Iraq’s progress. The country must get control of its militias, strengthen its ministries, and fashion a unity government that will represent all elements of its society.
- The regime that held Iraq together by force and viciousness is gone, but differences in the communities still exist, and they are being reflected in one way or another. Fortunately, a lot of this is being manifested in the political debate, which is positive. (link to transcript)