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Joint Chiefs Chairman 'Couldn't Be Prouder' of Troops

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2003 – The U.S. military's top general said he is proud of the performance of American and coalition troops, as they continue to battle Saddam Hussein's forces from the land, sea and sky.

Operation Iraqi Freedom continues to go according to plan, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remarked during a March 23 American Forces Radio and Television Service interview.

Myers emphasized that he "couldn't be prouder" of the "very, very professional" way U.S. troops and their coalition partners have conducted themselves in Iraq.

"I think we've shown a lot of flexibility and adaptability in reacting to certain situations," he pointed out.

Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. Central Command chief who's overseeing operations in Iraq, is also satisfied with the way things have unfolded thus far, Myers said.

Yet, warfare is ever an imperfect endeavor. Myers provided his thoughts on the downing of a British aircraft near the Iraqi- Kuwaiti border by a U.S. Patriot missile crew.

Myers noted "very strict procedures" are in place to prevent enemy aircraft -- including those potentially armed with chemical or biological weapons -- from flying into the Kuwait area.

"We have electronic means to identify friend from enemy, and, for whatever reason, this (system) apparently broke down," Myers explained, noting that Central Command is investigating the incident. "It's a real tragedy and our heart goes out to the aircrew and to the families of that aircrew."

Myers said CENTCOM is also investigating the incident at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait in which one 101st soldier died and 12 were wounded in a grenade attack allegedly by a U.S. soldier. The general also offered his condolences to family members of the killed and injured, noting that possible motives for the attack are unknown at this time.

DoD later identified the dead officer as Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, who was sleeping in a tent at the camp when the grenade exploded.

On captured U.S. soldiers being paraded on Iraqi television, Myers declared that such an act "is just one other example of how the [Iraqi] regime totally ignores international norms and makes our cause even more legitimate."

"Under the Geneva Convention, you cannot exploit enemy prisoners of war," Myers pointed out, noting that he hadn't seen the TV clips of the American captives. The United States, he said, has followed the Geneva code in regard to prisoners of war it has taken in Afghanistan and Iraq.

More than 3,000 current Iraqi prisoners of war "are being very well treated," Myers emphasized. "We expect the same out of the Iraqi regime."

Myers is convinced that U.S. and coalition troops' spirits remain high, regardless of such incidents.

"I think the morale is very good," the general emphasized, noting that the American, British, Australian and other allied forces "understand how important this fight is -- what it means not only to Iraq and to the region, but to the world."

The anti-Saddam coalition now numbers 50-plus nations, Myers said, with "more than a handful" involved in integrated combat operations in Iraq.

"They've been working together now for some time. They know their cause is just," he emphasized.

The very idea of allowing Saddam's corrupt, dysfunctional regime to possess biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, with the likelihood that those weapons would find their way into terrorists' hands, "is just unacceptable," Myers concluded.

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