Pace Speaks on Fighting the Tough Fight in Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 12, 2006 Americans should take pride in what U.S. forces have accomplished in Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a radio interview today.
"We should also recognize that this has been a tough fight, that it will continue to be a tough fight, but that we are doing the right thing," Marine Gen. Peter Pace told WPTF's Bill LuMaye in North Carolina.
Pace said the enemy in the Long War understands the role public opinion - especially American public opinion - will play. He said the enemy in Iraq and elsewhere cannot make an impact on American forces "in any significant way. They are looking to have us throw in the towel, ... and that's why we need to stick with this," he said.
If the United States were to walk away from Iraq, the terrorists would simply turn to the next country, "or bring the fight to us here at home," the general said.
LuMaye asked Pace if the whole story in Iraq is getting out. The general said that the concentration of news from Iraq is not what it was in April 2003. News organizations had hundreds of reporters embedded with coalition troops and the American people got the full range of stories from the area 24/7.
But today the number of reporters in Iraq and the amount of time devoted to Iraq has been cut. "What gets put on - especially on television - are things that capture your eye, which is the bombs going off," Pace said. "Digging wells and building schools and paving roads don't quite rise to that level."
Pace said the Iraqi military is doing a good job of taking over security in many parts of the country. More than 250,000 Iraqi soldiers and police are now trained and equipped. Since last November, Iraqi forces have conducted more independent operations than coalition forces, Pace said. In fact, he noted, of all operations at company level or higher, the Iraqis conduct 83 percent independently or in conjunction with coalition forces. Coalition forces working alone do only 17 percent.
"As a result, Iraqis are in the lead," Pace said. "They are taking more casualties, they are being loyal to their government and taking the fight to the enemy."
The chairman said it is important that the coalition not leave Iraq until the government can rely on the security provided by its own armed forces. The Iraqis deserve the opportunity to put together their own democracy, he said.
He reminded listeners that for decades Iraq was a dictatorship ruled in the most oppressive manner by Saddam Hussein. "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," he said. "We should have some patience with them, and support them so they can put together a leadership team that can take them into the future."