Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: One of the things that is most important for troops facing danger on the front lines is the knowledge that their dedication and sacrifice is appreciated by the people of America. On behalf of the men and women who serve our country so faithfully and so well, let me begin by expressing thanks to Congress for the bipartisan support that you give our armed forces.
The enemy are people who show no mercy toward women or children. They are people who kill Arabs and Indonesians and Iraqis and Afghans, not just Americans and Europeans and Australians.
Although they claim to act in the name of Islam, they attack not only churches and synagogues, but mosques as well. They pride themselves on being people who love death above life. They fear democracy because, as one recent Al Qaeda publication makes clear, in their view, the goal of democracy is to "make Muslims love this world, forget the next world and abandon jihad." Evidently, they are not happy that citizens of democracies can freely choose to remain faithful to their religious beliefs and traditions—apparently in their view, religion can survive only if it is imposed by tyranny and terror.
America: a Nation at War
It is fitting that, during this week of September 11th, we gather in this seat of American democracy to take stock of America’s efforts since that tragic day, in the global war on terrorism.
Just two years removed from the most brutal attack on our nation’s soil since Pearl Harbor, we remain a nation at war. We fight a threat posed by an enemy that hides in the shadows and has burrowed into scores of countries around the globe. And with the help of a coalition of some 90 nations, we’ve gone after that adversary of freedom wherever he may be found, using every resource at our command—including our instruments of diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement, financial influence, and, of course, every necessary weapon of war to destroy and defeat the global terror network.
Like World War II and the Cold War, this war is fought on a global stage. And like those previous conflicts, the stakes are enormous and our very freedom is threatened. However, we also need to realize that this war is different from any previous war. If we react based on experiences from prior conflicts—or from prior peacekeeping experiences—we are likely to act wrong in many cases. We face a new situation and we need to think anew about it.
I’ve traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq, as have many of you here, and I think you’ll agree, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, that the men and women of America’s armed forces support this national endeavor with the greatest pride, their very best efforts, a clear understanding of their mission, and the strongest possible determination to win.
At the Pentagon, only one year removed from sealing the horrible gash the terrorists made in its outer wall, the memory of our lost comrades remains strong; our military and civilian forces have not forgotten whom we are fighting and what we are fighting for. They, above all, know what’s at stake.
If you go to the Memorial Chapel in the Pentagon, which is located at the restored site of the deadly impact, you’ll find that service members and civil servants, as well as other Americans who come to visit, to this very day, write their thoughts into a book there—they leave their condolences for those lost at their posts, killed simply because they were defending America. Visitors put into words their faith that America will prevail over the forces that would destroy freedom.
We will prevail. We will prevail because we’re the sort of people who meet adversity head on and come out better for it. When the terrorists attacked, they seem to have thought we were a weak people, grown used to comfort, and softened by everything we enjoy in this great nation. But, since September 11th, they’ve come to learn just how wrong they are.
We rebuilt the Pentagon. And the builders who labored so tirelessly to put it back together made it better than it was before. That’s the American way.
And we fought back. When the time came to make a choice, America took the fight to those who would rob us and others of our freedom. We acted decisively to keep gathering threats from becoming even more deadly attacks on the American people—because sitting back and hoping we don’t get hit again is not a strategy.
We worked with those dozens of countries, exchanging intelligence, closing bank accounts to keep funds from moving to terrorists; sharing information and police records, keeping people from crossing borders—to keep applying pressure across the globe. And, of course, we’re working with our coalition partners in Afghanistan and Iraq and in other regions of the world to root out terrorists. It’s a big job, and it’s going to take patience and time and determination.
It will take more than killing and capturing terrorists and dismantling terrorist networks—as important as that is. It also requires winning on what could be called the second front of the war on terror, what the President called "building a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror," particularly in the Muslim world.
We don’t start a job we can’t finish. And when we do start a job, we give it our best. That’s the American way.
As the President said on Sunday night: "Our strategy in Iraq has three objectives: destroying the terrorists, enlisting the support of other nations for a free Iraq and helping Iraqis assume responsibility for their own defense and their own future. First, we are taking direct action against the terrorists in the Iraqi theater, which is the surest way to prevent future attacks on coalition forces and the Iraqi people…. Second, we are committed to expanding international cooperation in the reconstruction and security of Iraq, just as we are in Afghanistan…. Third, we are encouraging the orderly transfer of sovereignty and authority to the Iraqi people. Our coalition came to Iraq as liberators and we will depart as liberators."
Helping Win the War on Terror
To help this nation finish what it has begun and continue to victory in the war on terror, I’m here today to ask for help in three critical areas:
- Obtaining the appropriation and the authority to train and equip foreign military forces;
- Giving us the flexibility we've asked for to reduce the stress on active duty end strength by making it easier to convert military jobs to civilian jobs; and,
- No single thing is more important or more demanding than supporting the President’s request, expressed so forcefully Sunday night, for adequate resources to wage and win this war. We need resources for our military, we also need resources to win that second battle front, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, to help those people build new and free countries that will remain free of instability and terrorism—and to send the message to the world, especially to our enemies, that we have the staying power to finish the job.
Training and equipping foreign military forces: In the Authorization Bill, we asked the Congress to provide us with $200 million in authority to provide assistance or support to foreign nations aiding U.S. military operations to combat terrorism. We intend to use this authority to train and equip foreign forces that are fighting alongside our forces—and often in place of our forces—in the war on terrorism. Both the House and Senate deleted that provision from the bill. While we have been asking on an urgent basis for the Conference Committee to restore this authority, we will undoubtedly be requesting it again, and probably on a larger scale, in the Supplemental request that the President spoke about Sunday night. However, I would still urge the Conferences to consider restoring our original request because it is impossible sitting here to predict that Iraq and Afghanistan will be the only places in the world where well trained and equipped foreign forces fighting alongside our own could help our forces be more effective and save American lives.
To fight the kind of war we face, we need maximum flexibility to benefit from the effect of foreign military forces who share our goals. We can’t do it alone. Nowhere is this more clear than in Iraq.
General Abizaid and his commanders have said repeatedly that not only don’t they need more troops, they don’t want more American troops. They do want more international troops to share the burden of providing stability forces and to reduce the political liability of a US-only occupation. But most of all, what they want are more Iraqi troops because it is their country that we have liberated and it is they who need to take over the main security tasks.
In July, the commander of the 1st Marine Division, Maj. General Jim Mattis told me how he’d sent some of his 15,000 troops home already because he had enough of them to do the job, and he didn’t want what he called the "reverberations of a heavy foot print" that a large army requires—the fuel, the food, the equipment, and all the materials a sizable force in place requires. He said that if you want more people on your side, don’t bring in more Americans.
As General Abizaid mentioned in his briefings here last week, what we really need are more Iraqis fighting with us. We’ve begun recruiting and training Iraqis for an Iraqi civilian defense force to take over tasks such as guarding fixed sites and power lines.
It is the same with former New York City police chief Bernard Kerik, who just completed four months helping Iraqis rebuild their police force. He favors empowering Iraqis over sending in more American troops. He said: If you triple the number of coalition forces, you’ll probably triple the attacks on the troops. The future is not in the military but in getting control back in the hands of the Iraqi people."
Currently we have more than 55,000 Iraqis serving with us in providing security for their country, making Iraqis the single largest member of the coalition after the United States. These Iraqis are fighting with us and taking casualties with us. Just a few days ago, one of them was killed by a suicide bomber attempting to attack our troops.
Their numbers are made up of roughly 40,000 members of the Iraqi police, as well as members of the new Facility Protection Service, the new Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, and the border guards. By January, we plan to have 15,000 members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, and 20,000 members of the Facility Protection Service.
With additional resources, those numbers could be expanded further, because there is no shortage of Iraqis willing to serve. We also have plans to field 66,000 police and 3 divisions of the new Iraqi Army which could be speeded up substantially with the additional resources the President has called for.
Iraqis want to do their part to help secure public order and create a civil society. In fact, some 50 Iraqis have already died and many more have been wounded working with us to do just that.
We should not find that we are held back by a shortage of money or authority to give those willing and able to fight on our side the proper training and equipment to do the job.
Converting military jobs to civilian jobs: Along with preparing more Iraqis to fight with us, giving us the flexibility to make it easier to convert military jobs to civilian jobs—my second point—would help relieve some of the current stress on the active duty force. Right now, the complexities of putting civilians in the thousands of jobs that don’t need to be performed by men and women in uniform puts unnecessary strain on our uniformed personnel. Today, as some thousands of uniformed personnel perform non-military jobs, we are calling up Reserves to help deal with the global war on terror.
In the current situation, bringing more troops on line by increasing our end strength is not the answer. It takes time to recruit and train people, and any increase we put into effect now would have no appreciable effect for some time to come. And if the current strains on our military force reflect an inevitable, yet temporary, spike from an increase in wartime operations tempo, it would be better to resist increasing forces for the long-term. If it turns out that an increase was unnecessary, a sizeable increase in personnel costs would come at the expense of other things our Armed Forces need.
What makes more sense—and can deliver results more quickly—are the kinds of things we’re looking at to reduce the stress on our current end strength, including reexamining our entire global footprint, looking at how best to make adjustments in the active\reserve mix, and most of all, looking at how we can shift some jobs performed by the military that would be more appropriately be done by civilians.
We realize that achieving the goal of reforming the Defense Department’s civil service system requires some bold moves to constitute real transformation. We are asking you now to help us take such a bold step and help us with our proposed National Security Personnel System. That we are fighting a tough and sustained war on terrorism only makes the need to take that step to reform our personnel system even more pressing.
Providing the necessary resources: And that we fight this war to win is why, in his address to the Nation Sunday evening, President Bush announced his intention to submit a request to Congress for additional funds to pay for military and intelligence operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in the war on terror and to help pay for the reconstruction of both nations.
The bulk of the President’s request ($66 billion) will be dedicated to ensuring our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to complete their missions in the war on terror. The rest ($21 billion) would help build safe, stable and self-governing societies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In recent weeks, many of you have agreed that even if this is a formidable venture, even if it costs substantial resources, it is important enough to our national interests to merit Congress’s full support.
As the President said to the nation on Sunday, the undertaking in Iraq is "difficult and costly—yet worthy of our country, and critical to our security." This undertaking is so critical because, as the President said, "Iraq is now the central front" in the war on terror. "Enemies of freedom," he said, "are making a desperate stand there—and there they must be defeated."
There’s no question that a powerful signal will go out to the terrorists and their allies that defeat in Iraq will be theirs when Congress acts quickly on the President’s request.
For Iraq, the roughly $51 billion of the total amount the President has requested for military expenses will be key to eliminating the remnants of Saddam’s regime, as well as the foreign terrorists who’ve been fighting in Iraq. The President will request $20 billion to help in Iraq’s transition to self-government, and to create the conditions that will encourage economic investment. Iraq’s infrastructure was badly decayed. It is estimated that between $50-$75 billion will be needed to address the infrastructure’s decades of malicious neglect. Roughly $5 billion will go to addressing security, so crucial to overall success, by training people who can guard borders and enforce customs laws, as well as a new Iraqi army, police force and local civilian defense corps.
As the President said on Sunday, this victory will require us to commit "years and resources," just as in the aftermath of the Second World War, when we helped rebuild Germany and Japan. But that effort and investment, he reminded us, "has been repaid in three generations of friendship and peace. America today accepts the challenge of helping Iraq in the same spirit we have helped others."
The costs are large, but it is a battle that we can win and we must win. Because victory in this battle will be a major victory in the war on terrorism and a major defeat for the global terrorist networks. As large as these costs are, they are still small compared to just the economic price that the attacks of September 11 have inflicted, to say nothing of the terrible loss of human life. And even those costs are small in comparison to what future more terrible terrorist attacks could inflict.
America is behind the troops: By those actions and what Congress says, you can help us send the message to the world, and particularly to our enemies, that America is behind her troops, and has the staying power to fight this war on terrorism to victory.
The Baathist bitter enders and their foreign terrorist allies believe that if they inflict casualties on us, like in Beirut and Somalia, we will give up and go home.
We know that Osama bin Laden saw Somalia as an example of how Americans can be driven out by inflicting casualties. We know that Saddam Hussein told Ambassador April Glaspie in 1990 that he could take casualties and the Americans could not.
When the terrorists exploded a bomb outside a shrine in Najaf, and when they detonated a bomb in the UN Headquarters, the men and women killed weren’t the only targets.
Terrorists were aiming a blow at something they hate even more -- the prospect of a country freed from their control and moving to become an Iraq of, by, and for the Iraqi people. Terrorists recognize that Iraq is on a course towards self-government that, once achieved, will be an example to all in the Muslim world who desire freedom, pointing a way out of the sense of failure that the extremists feed on. And so, they test our will, the will of the Iraqi people, and the will of the civilized world.
The sooner these terrorists understand clearly that our will can’t be broken and that the Iraqi people, despite hardship and difficulty, will persevere in building their new society—the sooner the terrorists will come to terms with their defeat.
That is why it is so urgent that Congress pass this supplemental request to cover ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to ensure our troops have the resources they need to complete their mission.
Just as after September 11th, a speedy bipartisan passage of the supplemental request would send a strong message to our friends and our enemies—and to our troops, who are giving us 100 percent. They need to know we are behind them 100 percent.
View of the Military Front: Afghanistan: Afghanistan was the first arena in the global war on terrorism and the United States remains strongly committed to success in that country. Success in Afghanistan entails the establishment of a moderate and democratic political order that is fully representative of the Afghan people. Afghanistan has suffered a great deal over the last quarter century and it has come a long way since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. The United States shares and supports President Karzai’s and the Afghan people’s hopes for a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous country that can serve as a partner in the region and as a model for other Muslim states.
As part of our ongoing commitment to success in Afghanistan, we seek to accelerate the progress the United States, our Coalition partners, and our allies in the Afghan government have been making to bring lasting peace to the war torn country. Together, we have accomplished a great deal over the last two years. The Afghan people are experiencing restored liberties, some as simple as the right to education. The Afghan government, under the able leadership of President Karzai, continues to establish legitimate authority throughout the country and in the international community as a respected and recognized member of the community of nations.
Over a million Afghan refugees have returned, and many more continue to do so with hopes for a better future in their native land after years of refuge in neighboring countries. Schools, clinics, and businesses continue to open around the country. The International Security Assistance Force, now under NATO command, continues to help provide security in the capital, Kabul. NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is testimony to the Alliance’s commitment to redefining its role in the new global era. We continue to support the ISAF mission in Kabul and look favorably upon possible expansion of the mission beyond the capital.
The United States continues to lead the international community in reconstruction and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, with close to a billion dollars in 2003 alone. We are assisting the Afghan government in its effort to rebuild the Afghan national army. The army has already proven effective in support of the war on terrorism.
We have accomplished a great deal and we recognize that much more remains to be done to ensure success in Afghanistan. The war on terror is one aspect of our involvement in Afghanistan. The other is our commitment to promoting a functioning moderate and democratic political order that can serve as the foundation for lasting peace in the country. Realizing this vision will require increased commitment on the part of the United States and the international community.
Recent weeks have shown that security in Afghanistan must be protected and enhanced as an important prerequisite to lasting peace. Taliban forces and their allies operating out of their sanctuaries along both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border are attempting to regroup and destabilize Afghanistan. Taliban elements are targeting NGO workers, Afghan civilians, including moderate local religious leaders, in an effort to impose their tyrannical and alien ways on the Afghan people. Afghan national army forces working with U.S. and Coalition forces continue to successfully target and neutralize Taliban forces in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Afghan national army forces have successfully conducted their first operations in support of their efforts.
President Karzai continues to assert the legitimate authority of the central government in an effort to improve governance and security in the provinces. Over the last year alone, he has appointed new governors to key provinces and has initiated the important reform of the national Ministry of Defense. The United States stands firmly behind President Karzai and his administration in their effort to implement the will of the Afghan people. Afghanistan will soon usher in a new constitution by the end of this year with elections scheduled for June 2004. The Bonn Process has been a vital political roadmap for the country. We remain committed to its success and we recognize that our commitment will require increased resources to help the Afghan people realize their hopes for a better future free from religious tyranny and warlord banditry.
Iraq: I would like to express my thanks and the thanks of our troops for the special efforts that members of this Committee have made to visit Iraq. Your visits have not only been important for the morale of our men and women. And they also give you an opportunity to get a much clearer picture of the situation on the ground. The common experience of almost everyone who goes there seems to be that, while we can see the problems that are so frequently reported in the press, we also see a great deal of good news. And in the case of Iraq-- where the only news for 35 years has been bad news—the remarkable amount of good news is indeed a story.
I had an opportunity to get some of that good news first hand in July when I visited the troops of the 1st Marine Division in the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. The Marines achieved some stunning success in those cities in Iraq’s Shi’a heartland, success that can be perceived even despite the recent bombing in Najaf. That event was, of course, a terrible tragedy and it has contributed to unease and fear in Iraq. However, it doesn’t take many people to plant a car bomb or truck bomb. They’ve done that here in United States. To me, the real news has been the relative calm and restraint that Iraqis have shown in the wake of this horrible provocation. Some hundreds of thousands of people came out to witness the funeral procession of Ayatollah Hakim, with no major violence reported. Fears have been expressed that this horrendous act could lead to revenge attacks by Shi’a and Sunni, but so far at least that hasn’t happened.
Last week, General Abizaid told reporters that, after being in the United States a week and a half, overheated news reports on the conditions in Iraq could lead someone to think he should go back to Iraq "to find someone to surrender to." Yet when he talks to our troops—well-informed by first-hand knowledge—he said, "They are so confident and so positive that it takes me only about 30 minutes to understand we’ve got this under control."
Secretary Rumsfeld has just returned from Iraq, and reports that the general is exactly right. Our troops do have the situation under control. We must ensure they have the tools, the resources, and the moral support back home, to keep it that way.
There are still many challenges remaining for our troops in Iraq. And, as our commanders consider military operations in Iraq, there are at least two things they tell us they would like more of. Number one is Iraqis fighting to secure their own liberty, which I mentioned earlier.
Their number two critical item is forces from other countries, and we’re making substantial progress there. So far, close to 30 nations have sent close to 23,000 personnel to Iraq. Over 40 nations have pledged more than $3 billion in assistance. In southern Iraq, Polish forces have assumed command of an international division, and we are hoping to add another division above and beyond that. The President’s request will provide some $800 million to support the troops of our coalition partners with limited resources who are interested in providing support.
In that same multinational division, the Spanish brigade has taken charge of the other major holy Shia city, Najaf. Further south, under the British multinational division, an Italian infantry brigade—which will include some 400 carabinieri— who will be performing security and stability operations.
We are actively pursuing the option of a UN resolution, which would lead other countries, whose laws or domestic politics require such a resolution, to contribute more.
We want these troops not merely to supply additional military manpower and to relieve the pressure on our own forces. More importantly, their presence will demonstrate to the Iraqis and to the world that the transformation of Iraq is of importance, not only to the U.S., but to the entire international community.
The other critical item that General Abizaid wants more of is actionable intelligence. And the key to getting more intelligence is cooperation from Iraqis. That cooperation has been increasing substantially. One example of that cooperation was the Iraqi who turned in the Hussein brothers. That event itself has led to a large increase in the amount of intelligence that Iraqis are bringing to us—indeed such a large increase that we now have the challenge of sorting out the wheat from the chaff.
As many of our commanders have told me and told the Congress, in Iraq, it is now mostly a battle for intelligence. And, as General Mattis has said, "any victory we get is brought to us by the Iraqi people." Such victories are all a matter of building trust. And here are some examples of how the Marines of the 1st Division did it.
One of the division chaplains suggested that his Marines bring cold water to the Iraqis they encounter, because when it’s 115 degrees, it’s hard to hate someone who’s giving you cold water. The troops employ what they call "wave tactics"—when they see Iraqis, they wave. And when the Marines are talking to people, they take off their sunglasses. It’s quite common for young children to run quite a ways to meet up with the Marines, and take their hands as they patrol the streets. A young corporal or lieutenant gets credit for this next idea—when Marines see an Iraqi funeral procession, as the body passes by, they stop and present arms to show their respect. This practice has spread throughout the country, because it’s working.
In these ways, and many more, our troops are breaking through the walls of that ghastly prison Hussein built, and they are earning the trust of the people they have liberated. And, I would add, they’re gaining valuable intelligence, one of the sure keys to winning this fight.
A Varying Picture, Region by Region
While many Iraqis may still remain in the grip of fear conditioned by the old regime, our troops, our coalition allies and the new national and local Iraqi councils continue to make other significant progress in lessening its iron hold.
The Governing Council of Iraq is easily the most representative body of governance ever formed in that nation, and is rapidly gaining real powers and responsibilities, such as appointing ministers, representing Iraq to the international community, and beginning the process of drafting the first-ever Iraqi constitution.
This transfer of power to the Iraqi people is taking place at the local level as well. Over 90% of Iraqi towns and provinces now have their own governing councils, including the holy Shiite cities of Najaf and Karbala.
Those military commanders I talked with in Iraq who also have experience in the Balkans all said that, in Iraq, we are far ahead of where we were in Bosnia and Kosovo at comparable times, and in some cases, we are ahead of where those places are today.
Lieutenant General Ric Sanchez, the outstanding new commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7 and a veteran of Kosovo, told me that things are happening in Iraq after three months that hadn’t happened after 12 months in Kosovo. I asked him to elaborate, and off the top of his head, he jotted down a list of 10 things. Included on the General’s list of developments are these:
- The judicial system is functioning at a rudimentary level. Investigative judges are working and misdemeanor trials are ongoing with convictions.
- The political infrastructure is functioning. Neighborhood, district and city councils have been stood up. Over 90% of major cities have city councils and there is a National Level Interim Governing Council.
- The police force is at more than 50% of the requirement. Police are conducting joint and unilateral effective operations.
- Schools were immediately stood back up. At all levels the school year was salvaged.
- The medical system is operating.
- Local economies are bustling, including oil, agriculture and small business.
- Public Services—electrical, water, sewage—are nearly up to pre war levels.
- Recruiting and training for new Iraq security forces is underway – and, as already noted, we have gone from zero to 55,000 in just four months..
In fact, despite the terrorism, the entire south and north are impressively stable, and the center is improving day by day. The public food distribution is up and running. We planned for a food crisis, but there isn’t one. Hospitals nation-wide are open. Doctors and nurses are at work. Medical supply convoys are escorted to and from the warehouses. We planned for a health crisis, but there isn’t one.
Oil production has continued to increase, and recently it has averaged between 1.5 and 2 million barrels per day.
We planned for the possibility of massive destruction of this resource of the Iraqi people, but our military plan helped preserve the oil fields for the Iraqis.
The school year has been salvaged. Schools nationwide have reopened and final exams are complete. There are local town councils in most major cities and major districts of Baghdad, and they are functioning free of Baathist influence.
There is no humanitarian crisis. There is no refugee crisis. There is no health crisis. There has been minimal war damage to infrastructure. There has been no environmental catastrophe, either from oil well fires, or from dam breaks.
However, Saddam’s legacy of destruction and decay is another story entirely.
South: In the South, the Marines made wonderful progress. General Mattis has told us how effective his battalion commanders—typically lieutenant colonels—have been as the hub of activity in the cities. They have stressed creating a supportive environment, by parking their tanks out of sight, and getting in among the people to win their trust and confidence. In one example I mentioned earlier, the Marines gave out chilled water to demonstrators at political rallies. Whenever the Marines have rebuilt a school—and in Karbala alone there are nine such schools—they present a brass bell with the inscription: "To the children of Iraq from the First Marine Division."
Our Army Civil Affairs teams are equally impressive. They have created functioning local governing councils free from Baathist influence. The governor of Karbala captured this development best when he told me: "We Shi’a have theological ties to Iran, but we refuse to be followers of any country outside Iraq. I want to stress, we aspire to independence and democracy. We want to heal the wounds from the past regime’s atrocities. We want to build factories, bring in the internet, practice our religious rites in freedom, and have good relations with our neighbors and the world. The Marines in Karbala – Commanded by LtCol Lopez – work day and night with our Governing Council to provide security and services."
Of course, the peace in the South was recently shaken by the bombing at the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf. While this attack was a particularly heinous and outrageous act, even by the standards of Middle Eastern terrorism, it is not representative of greater instability in the South any more than September 11th was a symbol of instability in the United States. It was what it appeared to be—the desperate act of evil men.
Yet as the funeral marches for Shaik al-Hakim illustrate, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were able to come out together without incident to pay respects to this spiritual leader. Despite the large numbers of people, and the intense emotion aroused by the bombing, the funeral processions were generally peaceful overall.
North: Stability in the north is another success story. General Dave Petraeus and his troops of the 101st Airborne arrived in Mosul on 22 April and over the next 30 days they put together this impressive list of accomplishments:
- Met with community leaders;
- Agreed on an election plan;
- Established an elected interim city council;
- Re-opened hospitals, schools, banks and businesses;
- Set up a Civil-Military Operations Center (CMOC);
- Repaired the strategic bridge on the Mosul-Irbil road;
- Fixed the benzene and propane shortages;
- Opened the airport to humanitarian assistance flights;
- Signed the Makhmur harvest accords between Kurds and Arabs;
- Completed the wheat harvest;
- Re-opened the border with Syria so trade could resume;
- Set up the new Mosul newspaper;
- Paid government workers;
- Re-established train service;
- Established Task Force Neighborhood and Task Force Graffiti and helped clean up the city; Task Force Pothole employs Iraqis and improves the roads;
- Conducted joint police patrols;
- Began training a new police force;
- Diplomatically removed Peshmerga forces from disputed areas to back above the green line;
- Average 300 day, 300 night, and 90 joint sector security patrols (U.S. with local police); and have established air and ground quick reaction forces to respond to Baathist attacks.
- They are currently supporting 10 major CPA funded reconstruction projects.
General Petraeus said they have invested in water, electricity, roads, schools, hospitals, banks, agriculture, summer youth leagues, community swimming pools, orphanages, and kids’ amusement park projects. He believes there are reasons for continued optimism in the north. They include: the quality of interim government leadership; citizen trust and confidence in Coalition forces; a good university and school system; functioning food and fuel distribution systems; access to trade with Turkey and Syria; relatively good infrastructure; natural resources (water, oil, farm land); growth of small businesses; educated, hard-working, entrepreneurial populace; and as the locals have said, there is a "thirst for democracy."
Center and Northeast (4th Infantry Division): General Ray Odierno has a more difficult security challenge in the predominately Sunni areas and in areas close to the Iranian border. He understands the nature of the Baathist and foreign terrorist threat and how that interacts with and affects his civil-military programs. He said they have incredible tactical intelligence on the Baathist cells and are making solid progress in defeating this threat. Operations like Operation Peninsula Shield, Operation Sidewinder, and Operation Soda Mountain have been effective in rooting out Baathists and foreign terrorists. He said as we capture or kill the foot soldiers, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the mid-level Baathist financiers to organize, recruit and maintain an effective force.
As Odierno deals more and more effectively with the Baathist forces, he too has been able to complete an impressive array of civil-military projects in his area of responsibility. In Kirkuk, the northern part of his area of responsibility, Gen Odierno’s troops have established Battalion Commander "safe houses" to more effectively interact with the population. They have stood up and are training a police force.
My meeting in July with the Kirkuk Interim Governing Council members was one of the most heartening of all. Many of the 18 members spoke of their gratitude to President Bush and our troops for their liberation. The word "liberation" was used repeatedly by the members. An Arab member spoke eloquently of the need to return Kurdish property to their rightful owners. "All Iraqis were victims of the last regime," he said. Others spoke of American troops working with us "in a nice way to help solve our problems," that "doors are always open to us" and that "we found out the Americans are our brothers who came as liberators not as conquerors."
One member said: "Please tell President Bush thank you for his courageous decision to liberate Iraq. Many American soldiers have volunteered their lives [for liberation]." The Turcoman member asked that I convey to President Bush the Turcoman communities’ thanks for liberation. Another member commended the "tireless efforts of General Odierno and his army" in helping the Iraqi people. And finally, a member, speaking English, asked me when the U.S. government was going to "confront Arab television for their incitement to kill Americans?"
That council member’s question suggests something else we don’t hear reported enough: the vast majority of the Iraqi people are with us.
This fundamental truth was reflected in the statement issued on the occasion of the Najaf attack by the Iraqi Governing Council: "This type of criminal act will only make our people more determined to move forward in building a new Iraq so that security and prosperity will prevail.
Iraqi People are With Us
The people of Iraq are not only looking ahead to the day when they have their own representative government, they are taking active steps to make that happen now. There are some who still ask the question: Is democracy possible in Iraq? There are even some who doubt that democracy could ever take root in the Arab world. But, the people of northern Iraq, beyond the reach of Saddam Hussein and his regime, over the course of more than a decade demonstrated an impressive ability to manage longstanding differences and develop relatively free and prospering societies.
The mayor of Karbala expressed his personal gratitude, telling us they would never forget that America saved us and delivered us from the regime." He added: "We want to establish a national government and maintain relations with America."
My meetings with Iraqis convinced me that they are looking to do the same thing. We attended a meeting of the Mosul city council, which was instructive in debunking the myth that Arabs, Kurds, Turcomen, Assyrian Christians and Yezidi cannot live and work together. The mayor of Mosul—who is a Sunni Arab and former Army commander who spent a year in prison and whose brother and cousin were murdered by the regime—said life under the old regime "was like living in a prison." He described the regime as "a ruthless gang that mistreated all Iraqis." Now that that regime has been removed, he and his council can turn their attention to more ordinary problems. Investment and jobs, he said, are their top priorities. He credited the wisdom of General Patraeus in improving the security situation. He added that jobs and investment will follow.
When I asked the mayor if ethnic differences will prevent people from working together, the Turcoman assistant mayor immediately said: "We have never had ethnic problems in the past. Saddam created them. We have always considered ourselves members of the same family. It never crossed our minds that the next person is different." To that, the mayor added: "What caused this great [ethnic] gap was Saddam. Throughout our history we have had no problems. This has happened only in our recent history. We consider ourselves one garden with many flowers of different colors."
Even though the enemy targets our success, we will win the peace. But, we won’t win it alone. We don’t need American troops to guard every mile of electrical cable. The real center of gravity will come from the Iraqi people themselves—they know who and where the criminals are. And they have the most at stake—their future.
When inevitable challenges and controversies arise, we should remind ourselves that most of the people of Iraq are deeply grateful for what our incredibly brave American and coalition forces have done to liberate them from Saddam’s republic of fear.
When we’ve shown Iraqis we mean to stay until the old regime is crushed, and its criminals punished – and that we are equally determined to give their country back to them – they will know they can truly begin to build a society and government of, by and for the Iraqi people.
In many ways, the people of Iraq are like prisoners who endured years of solitary confinement—without light, without peace, without much knowledge of the outside world. They have just emerged into the bright light of hope and fresh air of freedom. It will take time for them to adjust to this new landscape—but, all things considered, they are doing rather well.
Today, we are fighting a war on terror—a war that we will win. As the council member’s question about the incitement to violence he saw on Arab television suggests, however, the larger war we face is the war of ideas—a challenge to be sure, but one that we must also win. It is a struggle over modernity and progress, pluralism and democracy, and real economic development.
When I was in Iraq, General Mattis told us that the two groups who fought most aggressively during major combat operations were the Fedayeen Saddam—homegrown thugs with a cult-like attachment to Saddam—and foreign fighters, principally from other Arab countries.
How do we know this? For one thing, the terrorists themselves tell us. General Mattis and his men found foreign passports on many of the enemy they killed, some of which stated openly that they had come to Iraq for the purpose of fighting jihad.
Today in Iraq, we still face that poisonous mixture of Baath regime loyalists and foreign fighters.
Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, the commander of the Army’s 1st Armored Division, recently described those foreign fighters as "international terrorists or extremists who see this as the Super Bowl."
Foreign terrorists who go to Iraq to kill Americans understand this: if killing Americans leads to our defeat and the restoration of the old regime, they would score an enormous strategic victory for terrorism—and for the forces of oppression and intolerance, rage and despair, hatred and revenge. As the President told members of the American Legion recently: "Terrorists know that a democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East would be a further defeat for their ideology of terror."
Iraqis understand this. Alongside us, they are working hard to fight the forces of anger and hopelessness and to seize this historic opportunity to move their country forward.
When I met with General Abizaid during my trip to Iraq, he placed into larger perspective the battle in Iraq. He said, "The whole difficulty in the global war on terrorism is that this is a phenomenon without borders. And the heart of the problem is in this particular region, and the heart of the region happens to be Iraq. If we can't be successful here, we won't be successful in the global war on terrorism." Success in Iraq, said the general, offers "a chance, when you combine it with initiatives in the Arab/Israeli theater and initiatives elsewhere, to make life better, to bring peace to an area where people are very, very talented and resources are abundant, especially here in Iraq."
Each time terrorists have achieved a tactical success, whether in New York or Bali or Riyadh, or more recently in Najaf and with the UN bombing in Baghdad, they’ve temporarily shaken people, but each time they’ve aroused people.
In fact, the statement released by the Iraqi Governing Council following the Najaf bombing decried "the brutality and descent into insanity of the criminals who target a person while he is worshipping. This type of criminal act will only make our people more determined to move forward in building a new Iraq so that security and prosperity will prevail. The evil hand that struck Ayatollah Bakr al-Hakim and his brilliant record in confronting the buried regime will not be able to prevent the realization of Hakim’s legitimate goals and supreme humanitarian values."
Based on his experience training the new Iraqi police, Bernie Kerik is reported to have said that attempts to frighten the new police force—such as in the bomb blast at the Iraqi police academy in Baghdad that killed one and wounded a dozen others—won’t work. He said, "They’re not going to intimidate them. They are courageous people who have been fighting for 37 years and now they finally have a chance to win."
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America's troops and those of our coalition partners—among whom we would emphasize are the Iraqis themselves—are determined to win. And they will win, if we continue to give them the moral and material support they need to do the job. As the president said recently, our forces are on the offensive. And as Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane said in congressional testimony, "They bring the values of the American people to this conflict. They understand firmness, they understand determination. But they also understand compassion. Those values are on display every day as they switch from dealing with an enemy to taking care of a family."
I’ve seen the troops in Iraq, as have many of you here. And I think you’ll agree that Gen. Keane is absolutely right.
The President on Sunday clearly stated the mission and the stakes involved, exactly as our troops understand them: He said, "We are fighting the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today, so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities."
America’s armed forces will not be deterred from their mission by desperate acts of a dying regime or ideology. And there is no question that America’s commitment to secure a peaceful Iraq—back home—must be at least equal to the commitment of our troops and to the stakes, for it is related to nothing less than our security and that of our children and grandchildren.
We look forward to doing our part to work with the members of Congress to help support our Armed Forces throughout the world who are doing their part to make America and her people more secure. Thank you.