Rumsfeld: Iraqi Constitution Could Be Powerful Weapon
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2005 The new Iraqi constitution "will be a critical step in persuading the majority of Iraqis that the new Iraq is worth fighting for, that they have a stake in it," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
Iraqi leaders are laboring to finish the draft of their constitution by Aug. 15, Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon news briefing, with Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers at his side. Iraqis will then vote whether or not to approve the document during an Oct. 15 referendum.
"Indeed, their new constitution -- a piece of paper -- could well turn out to be one of the most powerful weapons to be deployed against the terrorists," Rumsfeld said.
The insurgents sense and understand this and are "determined to stop the constitutional process" in Iraq by employing "terror and intimidation," Rumsfeld said.
Insurgents in Iraq could become more active, and violence may increase from now until the December Iraqi elections, the secretary said. However, he added, any uptick in insurgent operations shouldn't be construed as an indicator of their gaining the upper hand.
Rumsfeld pointed out that Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan had launched desperate, sometimes suicidal, attacks against allied forces toward the end of World War II. Yet, "those deadly acts, and they were deadly, proved not to be harbingers of victory," the secretary noted.
"One should be careful not to draw the wrong conclusion" when insurgents in Iraq continue deadly attacks against U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces, Rumsfeld said.
"As long as the Iraqi people persevere, the terrorists cannot win," he said. Myers offered his condolences to the friends and families of U.S. servicemembers who've been killed or wounded during the war. The chairman noted that three landmines set in the road together, and not an improvised explosive device, were responsible for the Aug. 3 explosion that killed 14 Marines traveling in their amphibious assault vehicle near Haditha, Iraq.
The servicemembers' sacrifice wasn't made in vain, Myers emphasized, noting that the political, economic and military campaigns in Iraq are making inroads against the insurgency.
Political progress in Iraq "has met every single planned milestone" since the Iraqis took sovereignty of their country in late June 2004, Myers said. More than 8 million Iraqis voted in free elections in January, he pointed out.
Iraqi security forces "are growing in capacity and capability," Myers said. Today, more than 178,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained and equipped, he said. In the past 24 hours, 29 of the 35 major operations conducted in Iraq were combined U.S.-Iraqi operations, Myers said.
"More and more, coalition forces are turning over responsibilities to the Iraqis," the general pointed out, noting that Iraqi forces are now contracting for their own service support at five major training bases.
On the reconstruction front in Iraq, more than 140 new primary health-care facilities are being built and more than 3,200 schools have been renovated, Myers said, adding that 100,000 teachers are being trained.
Myers said these facts show that Iraqis are "making progress through their own efforts to continue to support the United States of America, our coalition partners and the international community."
The United States and its allies "are committed to continue this battle, this help, until the Iraqis can take responsibility for the security of their own country and a political process has been developed," Myers said.
Defeating the insurgency in Iraq "takes willpower," Myers said, noting "coalition forces continue to have the willpower to take the fight to the enemy."
U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in Iraq "overwhelmingly see the benefits of this fight," Myers said.
"They believe, as I believe, that it is worth the fight," the general said.