Fear Still Biggest Problem in Iraq, Wolfowitz Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 20, 2004 The biggest problem facing Iraq is that fear of the former regime still pervades the country, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said here today.
Wolfowitz and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Wolfowitz told the senators that a "blanket of fear woven by 35 years of repression where even the smallest mistake could bring torture or death" won't go away in a few months, or even in a year or two. He said the "torturers and murderers" of the former regime still are active in Iraq, as many members of Saddam Hussein's intelligence branches are launching attacks against coalition targets and Iraqis who support a new free Iraq.
Even in Fallujah and other areas of the so-called Sunni Triangle, Wolfowitz said, average Iraqis do not support the former regime murderers. The former regime elements rule by fear and intimidation, and do not constitute "an enemy that has genuine popular appeal," he said.
Both Wolfowitz and Myers stressed that the United States has the will and resolve to see operations in Iraq through. "We are hitting the enemy very hard, and we are devastating them," Myers said. "But our troops are also very compassionate. Their strength of character in the end, I believe, will be a major factor in determining Iraq's future."
Life for the average Iraqi is improving, Wolfowitz said. For example, he noted, the coalition spends roughly 30 times what the former regime spent on health care. Coalition and Iraqi engineers are rehabilitating the oil infrastructure, and Iraq now ships roughly 2 million barrels of crude per day, he added.
Wolfowitz told the committee that Iraq's electrical infrastructure burdened with outdated equipment and procedures is being rehabilitated, and that electricity now exceeds pre-war levels and is more equitably distributed.
The coalition will stay the course, he said, but it must make some changes. Building the Iraqi security forces is one portion of the strategy. During operations in Fallujah and violence in the south inspired by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, some Iraqi security forces did very well, while others didn't, Wolfowitz said. "The problem is our slowness in getting equipment to the field," the deputy secretary said. In some cases, the enemy outgunned the Iraqi security forces. "This is a problem we can fix and we will," he added.
Other more long-term fixes are needed in the security forces, Wolfowitz told the committee. First, the forces need stronger leaders. Second, the Iraq security forces need an Iraqi rallying point. "They need to feel that they are fighting for Iraq, not the Americans," he said.
Another portion of the coalition strategy in Iraq is "nurturing Iraq's capacity for representative self-government with the aim of creating a government the Iraqi people will think is theirs and that moves us out of the position of being an occupying power," Wolfowitz said. This process will continue for a good way past the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people June 30, he emphasized.
Wolfowitz cited progress as Iraq moves toward self-rule. "Already, free Iraqis have been assuming responsibility of some government functions," the deputy secretary said. He noted the country now has a functioning judiciary, and that local and provincial elected assemblies are up and running.
Though the June 30 transfer of sovereignty marks an important date, Wolfowitz said, other dates also are important. The return of sovereignty will be followed up in January with elections to establish a transitional government, and that will be replaced by permanent elected government under a constitution by the end of 2005, he said.