Troops Should Talk About Afghanistan, Iraq Successes, Pace Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2005 Senior military leaders - as well as rank-and-file servicemembers - should spread the good news about anti-terrorist and reconstruction successes in Iraq, the U.S. military's top officer said during his Dec. 1 address at the National Defense University here.
During a question-and-answer session following his remarks on the president's "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" report, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, listened to an NDU student talk about a gap in perception between the media and the government in regard to how operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are going.
The questioner then asked Pace if he thought the military was providing enough information to the public.
"I think you are correct that we have not - we, guys like me - have not articulated well enough what is happening in Iraq and in Afghanistan," Pace responded.
The chairman said the U.S. military decided in 2004 that the new Iraqi government should take more of a lead role in discussing anti-terrorist operations in their country.
"But as a result of stepping back," Pace said, "I think we may have stepped back a little too far inside our own country with regard to explaining to our own people what we're doing."
Pace said he thinks it's possible for both Iraqi officials and U.S. military leaders -- from generals down to privates -- to tell the public and the media about successes achieved against terrorists in Iraq.
"When they come home, we should be encouraging them inside their local communities to take the opportunity to talk to the local newspapers, to the local chamber of commerce," he said. "If enough of us are making ourselves available to answer questions publicly, then the American people will have a large enough buffet, so to speak, that they can pick and choose, and read and listen, and determine for themselves what's really going on."
The general recalled that news coverage about the Iraq war was around-the-clock from when it began in March 2003 until Saddam Hussein's government fell that April.
"Understandably, we don't have 24/7 coverage anymore," Pace said. "Therefore, the amount of information out there for the general public is less than it used to be."
Today, myriad Iraq success stories exist to tell, yet the media seems to dwell on the bad news, the general said. For example, he pointed out, terrorists are being rounded up along the Iraqi-Syrian border, while the Iraqi military is assuming more and more responsibility in taking on the terrorists. And 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, Pace said, are relatively peaceful while the remaining four have current terrorist threats and problems.
Servicemembers should answer citizens' questions openly and honestly, Pace said. "Those of us who have the opportunity to put more on the table for more people to look at and turn around and decide for themselves what's right and what's not," he said, "need to take those opportunities."