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Rumsfeld: Iraqi Democracy Progressing Apace, but Still Long Process

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2006 – The world should not be surprised at the pace in which democracy is progressing in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld takes questions from reporters at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore June 2. Rumsfeld is in Singapore for the 5th International Institute for Security Studies Asia Security Summit. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN

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

Rumsfeld is in Singapore to attend a conference of Asian and Pacific defense ministers.

The new Iraqi government has come under pressure to appoint ministers of defense and interior. But Rumsfeld said he is optimistic that Iraqi leaders will do the right thing.

He compared the process to that of electing a president in the United States. U.S. presidential elections take place in November, but a president isn't sworn in until late January. Then it often takes months to nominate and confirm Cabinet officials.

"The length of time is long in our system, and we've been doing this for hundreds of years," Rumsfeld said. "(Iraqis have) never done this, and the period is long."

Still, he added, ongoing violence in Iraq brings a sense of urgency to the political process there. He said the Iraqi government needs to appoint these Cabinet leaders and "get about the task of governing the country."

The secretary said he believes Iraqi leaders understand the importance of putting the right people in these positions, because the Interior Ministry oversees the national police force and other law enforcement agencies, and the Defense Ministry oversees traditional military forces.

Iraqi leaders recognize that the ministries "need to be led by people who will either have or earn the confidence of all the elements in that country," Rumsfeld said.

"And they're going to have to be people who work together, because those two ministries and their forces have got to stay linked," he added.

The secretary disputed the notion that violence in Iraq is a result of U.S. military intervention. "The thing that held that country together before was repression and putting hundreds of thousands of people in jail and in mass graves," he said.

"The implication that this was a peaceful environment previously is nonsense," Rumsfeld added. "This is a dangerous, violent, vicious part of the world, and you didn't get hundreds of thousands of people in mass graves by accident -- they didn't die from natural causes."

Now, with the repressive regime out of power, a piece of paper -- the new Iraqi constitution -- is holding the factions together. Rumsfeld called this "an enormous step."

The secretary also spoke briefly about allegations that U.S. Marines killed innocent civilians in Haditha, Iraq. "We know that 99.9 percent of our force conduct themselves in an exemplary manner," Rumsfeld said. "We also know that in conflicts, (there are) things that shouldn't happen."

The secretary said two investigations into the incident are under way and that results of those investigations will be made public at their conclusion. He declined further discussion on the subject, saying public comment from him could be conceived as undue command influence into the investigative process.

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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