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Rumsfeld, Sanchez Say Press Ignores Good News From Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 7, 2003 – American officials here took on the press for not reporting the "good news" coming out of Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited the headquarters of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit and the headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul Sept. 5.

Following the visit, he held a press conference. He said that as he came back, he was told a member of the traveling press said it was a good trip, but there really wasn't any news in it.

That obviously annoyed the secretary. "There was news up there," Rumsfeld said during the press conference held in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces. "There was good news. Important good news."

He said constructive things are happening throughout Iraq. "The Iraqi people are being substantively benefited and advantaged by being rid of that vicious dictator," he said.

He pointed to the surroundings and said that anyone who doubts whether the Iraqi people are better off should just examine the palaces and the enormous sums of money Saddam spent on the military. Officials estimate that Saddam spent up to 35 percent of the country's gross domestic product on the military, the intelligence service and other means of staying in power. "It's a tragic, heartbreaking thing to see how the Iraqi people suffered over these past decades," he said.

Rumsfeld said coalition forces have built or rebuilt schools, ensured hospitals are working and helped universities function. In addition, coalition forces are helping to dig wells, refurbish the irrigation system and rebuild roads. Specialists are helping to maintain and rebuild the oil, electric and water infrastructure.

Rumsfeld said the scope and speed of such operations are impressive. "If one looks back at Germany or Japan or Bosnia or Kosovo and measures the progress that has taken place in this country in four or five months, it dwarfs any other experience that I'm aware of," Rumsfeld said.

He said he is not wearing rose-colored glasses in looking at the situation. He stressed that the road ahead will be hard and have many bumps, but that it is worth traveling.

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, also took exception to media coverage of the situation in Iraq. "It is very disturbing to me to sit here every day and watch the news back home that focuses on the bad things that are occurring in Iraq," he said.

The general says it makes it seem as if the sacrifices of coalition troops is not being appreciated. He said there is progress in every area of the country. "We ought to make sure that America knows that their sons' and daughters' sacrifices are for a good cause," he said. "We have eliminated a dictator here. We are making a difference every single day."

Sanchez also addressed charges that the security situation in the country mandates that he needs more U.S. troops. He said soldiers are experiencing about 14 to 16 attacks per day from individuals or very small groups.

"I have about 160,000 service members here," he said. "I don't need any more forces here. When you look across this country there is no practical threat. There is no tactical threat, there is no strategic threat or operational threat that exists to the coalition or to America.

"One battalion's worth of coalition power can accomplish the task of defeating any threat that may surface in the coming months," he continued. "We can do this. We are doing this. We are making a difference. And we need to capture the great news that is out there and make sure that America knows what their sons and daughters are doing in Iraq."

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