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Election 'Finger in the Eye' of Extremists, Myers Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark., Feb. 4, 2005 – The successful Iraqi election was "a finger in the eye of extremists like (Osama) bin Laden and his ilk," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here Feb. 3.

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Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chats with crew chief Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Rebidue aboard a C- 130J at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., Feb. 3. Myers had just given Rebidue an on-the spot promotion to his present rank under the Air Force's Stripes for Exceptional Performers program. The promotion was a surprise for Rebidue, who thought his role was to give a briefing during the chairman's tour of the newest version of the workhorse transport plane. Photo by John D. Banusiewicz

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

At a news conference during a base visit here, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers praised the courage of the Iraqi people for turning out to vote in great numbers despite the best efforts of terrorists to stop them.

"We saw them stare down intimidation, stare down insurgents, and say, 'Our vote is going to count,'" the general said, noting that many Iraqis proudly held up an ink-stained finger to show they had voted.

"It was the Iraqi people standing up and taking responsibility for Iraq, and doing it with great courage," he said. "They know this is about their future, and we know that if Iraq is going to be a success, it's going to be the Iraqi people that make it that way."

Calling the election a "great, big step," Myers pointed out that more work is ahead. "There are security forces to build that are capable and self-reliant to take responsibility for the security of that country," he said. The economy still needs help and reconstruction needs to continue, the general added, and the newly elected national assembly must write a constitution that will lead to election of a permanent government.

And while the election dealt a blow to extremists and terrorists, Myers said he expects they will continue to try to derail Iraq's progress toward democracy. "These people don't know boundaries moral or territorial, for that matter," he said. "So there will be more violence in Iraq."

He noted, however, that attempted attacks on polling places on election day in Iraq were ineffective, as terrorists failed to penetrate the outer layer of security at any of the more than 5,200 polling places in the country, with Iraqi soldiers and police providing that security. "And that bodes well," the general said, "but I don't think that we should be lulled into the sense that these terrorists are going to be through. They're going to continue to fight and (try to) thwart the progress that's occurring in Iraq.

"But now when they do it," he continued, "it's not against the occupiers, it's not against the coalition, it's not against the United States. Now if they do it, it's against an elected Iraqi national assembly. It's against a democracy, and it changes the dynamics, I think, quite dramatically."

Upon his arrival here, Myers toured a C-130J Hercules, the newest version of the workhorse transport plane. But his main objective was to surprise the aircraft's crew chief with an on-the-spot promotion to technical sergeant. After telling then-Staff Sgt. Jonathan Rebidue -- who thought he was there to brief the chairman about the C-130J -- that he was out of uniform because his rank insignia was wrong, the general called over the sergeant's wife, who had been hiding out of sight, to help him affix new stripes to her husband's sleeves.

Command Chief Master Sgt. Dave Spector, 314th Airlift Wing command chief, said Rebidue's promotion under the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program one of only four such promotions the wing is authorized to give this year was well deserved. "Not only is he sharp," Spector said, "his records were just steeped in sustained superior performance."

After the promotion, Myers moved to a large hangar where more than 1,000 active duty, Reserve and Guard airmen were gathered in formation.

The general thanked the airmen for their service. "I know you do a terrific job, and I'm here to tell you we really appreciate it, and it makes such a difference in what we do around the world. Whether it's fighting extremism or providing tsunami relief we couldn't do it without the talent that's in this hangar."

Myers urged the airmen to take his message of thanks home to their families. "It is one team, and when we're stressed like this and working hard, everybody counts, and certainly the family members count," he said. "My view is and my wife's view is that they serve just like people in uniform serve. That's the way it is today."

When a show of hands showed a great many of the gathered airmen had served in Afghanistan or Iraq, the chairman said they shared in the success of Iraq's successful Jan. 30 election.

"I hope you took pride in what you saw happen on Sunday," he said, "because you all had a lot to do with that the fact that Iraqis stood up, took responsibility and made a huge choice, a choice for freedom vs. the other choices that they were told they should accept."

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Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF

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Little Rock Air Force Base
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chats with some airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., Feb. 3. The chairman told more than 1,000 active, Guard and Reserve airmen assembled at a base hangar that he is grateful for their service and that of their families. Photo by John D. Banusiewicz  
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