Debate, Discourse Not U.S. Weaknesses, Pace Tells Troops
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii, Feb. 10, 2007 No enemy should confuse U.S. debate on the war in Iraq for weakness, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.
Speaking at a town hall meeting at U.S. Pacific Command here, Marine Gen. Peter Pace said an early or precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a disaster for Iraqis and embolden U.S. enemies around the world.
Pace is in the midst of a visit to friends and allies in the Pacific Command region. He will visit Australia and Indonesia this week before returning to Washington.
The meeting showed that servicemembers are clearly worried about the debate going on in Congress about operations in Iraq. “Fundamentally, debate in the Congress of the United States is good for the health of our democracy,” Pace said. “All of us who wear the uniform … believe that, fight for that, and would be very upset if anyone tried to take that opportunity away.”
The chairman said the problem lies with enemies who look at debate, dialogue and discourse as signs of weakness. “The problem is that our enemies, who have no clue what democracy is all about, don’t understand that debate,” he said. “The trash heap of history has a lot of corpses on it -- of nations that misunderstood the will of the American people. The (enemy) should not repeat the mistake that many have made about our country.”
Pace said Congress has consistently provided the funding the military needs to conduct the war on terror. “We cannot, as a nation, send our armed forces on a mission and not give them the tools they need,” the chairman said.
He said he believes Congress will continue to give servicemembers the resources they need.
It would be a disaster for the Iraqi people if the coalition left before the mission is completed, Pace said. “Their armed forces are coming on line, they are getting better and they have demonstrated that,” Pace said. “But they are not yet ready to take care of security inside their own country by themselves.
“If we were to leave precipitously, sectarian violence would tear that country apart, and there would be a lot of dead people,” he said.
Leaving would also embolden enemies around the globe, he said. He said enemies would not take Iraq and be content, they would want to duplicate the success in Afghanistan and around the world.
“They have a 100-year plan,” Pace said. “It’s hard for a nation that likes fast food to understand that concept. What the enemy doesn’t understand is that we do like fast food, but we’re a nation that once we understand the threat we come alive.
“The Soviet Union was a threat for decades,” he continued. “Once our nation understood the nature of that threat – it didn’t make any difference whether democrats or republicans – the nation understood the need to defend itself and did so.”
The United States cannot turn its back on the enemy, because the enemy will continue to defeat America. “We want to keep this an away game,” Pace said. “But if we give up on the away game, it’s going to be a home game,” with all the dangers and casualties that terrorist attacks on America would cause.