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Iraqi People Pulled Back From Civil War Abyss, Pace Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2006 – The Iraqi people responded to terrorist outrages by pulling back from the abyss of a civil war, Marine Gen. Peter Pace said on NBC's Meet the Press today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responds to a question from Tim Russert, host of NBCs Meet the Press during an interview, March 5. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, U.S. Air Force

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the February 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, was an act of desperation on the part of the terrorists.

The growth of democracy and the political progress leaders of the country are making in forming a government has made terrorists desperate. "So desperate that they would destroy one of their own most sacred shrines in an attempt to cause civil war and strife," Pace said. "The Iraqi people ... have walked up to that abyss, looked in and said, 'That's not where we want to go.'"

Pace said the Iraqi security forces have maintained calm and Iraqi leaders are urging all to stay calm.

Pace put events in Iraq in perspective and said he is pleased with the progress being made in the country. "I wouldn't put a great big smiley face on it, but things are going very, very well," he said.

On the political side, he said the three elections over the past year show the Iraqi people want democracy. On the military side, there were a handful of Iraqi battalions last year; there are now more than 100 battalions and 31 brigades in the field. "No matter where you look - at their military, their police, their society - things are much better this year, than last," he said.

He said the military must work harder to get the good news in Iraq out to the American people. The only images the American people see from Iraq entail attacks and explosions. "People don't get a chance to see or hear about the good things that are happening," he said.

Pace said that Iraq is not out of danger yet. He told Tim Russert - the host of the program - that he agrees with the U.S. commander in Iraq Army Gen. George Casey that, "anything can happen" in the country. "But having said that, I think the Iraqi people have shown in the last week to 10 days that they do not want a civil war," he said. "They are not attacking each others' mosques. There were reports that there were hundreds of mosques attacked. Not true. The number is somewhere around 30 and less than half a dozen actually had significant damage done."

He said the Iraqi people have shown they want calm, and they are working to maintain that calm.

Iraqi militias are a problem even though the government has stated all units must be subordinate to the government. "That is something to be dealt with, but it is not a major long-term problem as long as the Iraqi armed forces and the Iraqi police continue to be loyal to the central government," Pace said.

Pace said the combating the insurgency in Iraq is more than simply applying military power. "If you have the opportunity to get a job and feed your family, you are much less likely to accept $100 to plant a bomb on the side of the road," he said. "The insurgency is not about ideology, it's about assisting the families in many cases. Once the Iraqi government is functioning the way it is supposed to, I think you will see the vast majority of those who were willing to participate in insurgent-like activity, will not longer do so."

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