Armitage: U.S. 'Will Stay The Course' In Iraq
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 16, 2004 Despite all obstacles, the United States remains committed to the establishment of a free, democratic Iraq, a senior State Department official said here March 15.
Diehard Saddam Hussein regime followers and foreign terrorists in Iraq have lately stepped up deadly attacks on U.S.-coalition forces, Iraqi security personnel and civilians, presumably to torpedo the slated June 30 transfer of sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority to an interim Iraqi government.
"These killers are a small handful of the population of Iraq and we have no intention of letting them sabotage the hopes of 24 million Iraqis," said Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, discussing Iraq with members of the Campaign to Preserve U.S. Global Leadership. The campaign consists of U.S. business and nongovernment organization leaders who advocate a robust international affairs budget and promote global engagement.
Iraqis who want to replace Saddam's deposed dictatorship with a new, democratic government "cannot do it alone," Armitage said. "That is why the United States will stay the course." However, the nation's No. 2 diplomat noted, the United States has "mighty good company" in Iraq.
"Today," he pointed out, "there are 24,500 soldiers from 34 countries standing alongside our own soldiers, patrolling and participating in important military missions across Iraq."
Additionally, many nations are involved in Iraq reconstruction projects, Armitage said. While the United States has committed $20.9 billion for Iraqi reconstruction, Armitage noted that 37 other countries and two international organizations have pledged more than $13.5 billion.
Other nations are providing other types of support in Iraq, he explained. "Vietnam has contributed tea and rice worth $700,000," he said. Jordan is helping to train police. Japan has donated millions in police vehicles."
Scandinavian forensic experts are assisting Iraqis in exhuming mass graves produced by the inhumanity of the deposed regime, he added. Armitage cited reports of 270 mass gravesites across Iraq, noting "the numbers of people still unaccounted for run from 300,000 to a million."
The Coalition Provisional Authority, in tandem with the U.S. military and government agencies, private contractors and Iraqis have "made great progress" in Iraq, the senior diplomat said, pointing to the refurbishment of sewage and electric power generating plants.
Other Iraq reconstruction work involved renovation and reopening of the Umm Qasr port and Baghdad International Airport, Armitage said, as well as repair of oil refining facilities and expansion of Iraq's communications infrastructure.
Three million Iraqi children have received needed vaccinations, he continued, and 9 million new school textbooks have been distributed. A half million Iraqis, he added, are hold coalition-created jobs.
Iraqis also have a new interim constitution, or transitional administrative law, that "established a sovereign Iraqi government which will govern the country from July of this year until elections are held in 2005," Armitage noted. However, such political and economic gains in Iraq will be hard to retain "without an improvement in the security situation," the senior diplomat acknowledged.
"And, for that reason," Armitage noted, "the United States and international military forces will remain in the country" for the foreseeable future.