Myers Tells Arab TV That War on Terror Remains Priority
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2004 Stopping terrorist networks from acquiring weapons of mass destruction is at the top of U.S. goals for 2004, Joint Chiefs Chairman Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said today.
Myers spoke with Arab Radio and Television Network during an interview at the Pentagon with correspondent Paula Yaacoubian.
He said the global war on terrorism is still the No. 1 American focus, and the objectives remain the same: to disrupt, degrade and destroy al Qaeda, and to eliminate safe havens for terrorists.
Terror groups with weapons of mass destruction are the greatest threat facing the world, he said. "The evidence is very clear that if they could find more ways to kill more people, they would," Myers noted.
Intelligence gleaned in Afghanistan makes it clear that al Qaeda has an interest in weapons of mass destruction, the general said. That group examined developing anthrax, he said, and the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq continues.
"It's difficult," he said. "Where we found Saddam Hussein was in a hole in the ground. That same size hole could accommodate a lot of anthrax -- enough to virtually wipe out cities. This is a tough business, but that's got to be our goal. We don't want these types of weapons or these capabilities to fall into the wrong hands."
The chairman said finding Osama bin Laden will be much the same as finding Saddam Hussein. "Finding any single individual anywhere on this planet is very, very difficult," he said. The al Qaeda leader probably is in some rough terrain, guarded by followers made fanatical by belief or money, the general added.
In the end, individuals will come forward and point the way to bin Laden, Myers said. "In the case of Saddam Hussein, we were on his tail right after the war, and we got closer and closer and closer," he said. "Finally, (we) captured somebody who led to another capture. In the end, it comes down to good intelligence."
But at the heart of good intelligence is local people in Afghanistan and Iraq coming forward and giving information that puts an end to the dictatorial past of the countries.
The general was quick to state that even with bin Laden captured it won't mean that al Qaeda will go away. Yet, he said, the world is a safer place now than it was before Sept. 11, 2001.
The global war on terrorism is not just about the United States, Myers said, noting that the most recent targets have been the Saudis, the Iraqi people, Indonesians and Turks. The former regime members blew up the Baghdad headquarters of the International Red Cross and the United Nations. The bombing today in Kandahar, Afghanistan, resulted in 40 casualties, the most of whom were women and children. "This is a threat against people who want to have a prosperous and civilized life and a better life for their children," he said.
Myers said the combat in Iraq was worth it. "Less than a year ago, Iraq was ruled by a dictator that killed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens (and) had fought wars against two neighboring countries," he said. The general noted that Saddam used chemical weapons against his own people and Iranian soldiers, and that he had any number of chances to obey the U.N. Security Council resolutions, but refused. "It took combat to overturn the regime," Myers said.
He said people of the region must realize that a stable, democratic Iraq that doesn't threaten its neighbors has to be better for the region than the one with Saddam in charge.
The same is true in Afghanistan, he said. "More than two years ago, the Taliban was executing people in the soccer stadium in Kabul," Myers said. "Now they're playing soccer in the soccer stadium, and they have a new constitution that guarantees many different rights to all the various groups in Afghanistan."
Myers said the policy of pre-emption is necessary now, because the results of a miscalculation are too high to accept. He said the United States could absorb the casualties caused by a conventional attack, but the country cannot absorb the casualties caused by a nuclear, chemical or biological attack.
"These are difficult times," he said. "Al Qaeda is a real enemy. The leaders of al Qaeda are on record wanting to do away with the way of life of many of the Arab states in the Gulf region, the United States and, by extension, our friends and allies around the world. This is not a virtual enemy. This is a real enemy that can do us real harm if they had the wherewithal to do it."