Members of the Committee.
I am joined today by:
· General Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
· General John Abizaid, Commander of U.S. Central Command; and
· General George Casey, Commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq.
These general officers are doing an outstanding job and our nation is truly
fortunate to have their able service. And I am grateful and proud to be
serving with them.
after World War II ended -- a leading news magazine published an article about
post-war reconstruction efforts in Germany. It was entitled: “Americans are
Losing the Victory in Europe.”
“Never has American prestige in Europe been lower. People never tire of
telling you of the ignorance and rowdy-ism of American troops, of our
misunderstanding of European conditions.”
The year was
1946. But consider how different 1946 looks to us today. In retrospect, it
was not a time to despair but to build as they did.
Now it has
been one year since the turnover of sovereignty to the liberated Iraqi
people. And just as Europe was a central battlefield -- ideological and
military -- in the war against Communist aggression, so too the Middle East
and Central Asia are the centers of gravity in today’s struggle against
And I know
the American people still have the same determination and resolve. They know
today as then that these struggles are not won on defense, they are won on
The task is
to help more people understand the nature of this struggle we are in. Violent
extremists have made clear their intentions: It is to kill as many Westerners
and moderate Muslims as possible.
access to money, and to weapons -- and they are seeking even more dangerous
weapons. They are surveying and targeting landmarks in our country.
They have to
be stopped. And together with the world we must find ways to encourage any
would-be recruits to choose a better path.
actions to liberate Afghanistan and Iraq have:
Eliminated two state sponsors of terrorism;
Most certainly contributed to Libya’s decision to open
its nuclear weapons programs to international inspection and renounce
Encouraged democratic movements in regions that have long
been breeding grounds for violent anti-Western extremism.
It is not
surprising that there are questions about the situation in Iraq today. That
has always been the case in a time of war. It was true in Washington’s time,
and Lincoln’s time, and Roosevelt’s to be sure.
questions I hear are something like this:
Is the effort underway in Iraq worth the cost and the
How are the Coalition and the new Iraqi government really
When will Iraqi security forces be able to assume full
responsibility for securing their country? and
What happens next, and should Congress set a timetable to
comment on each of these questions.
First, whether the effort underway in Iraq is worth the
It was not
long ago, there was relatively little disagreement -- either here at home, or
in the United Nations -- as to the danger the former Iraqi regime posed to the
region and the world.
question then was how long the United Nations should wait for Iraq to comply
with the 17 Security Council Resolutions it had defied.
By contrast it is important to note what success will mean.
Specifically, a free, democratic and peaceful Iraq:
· Will not provide aid to violent extremists;
· It will not plot the assassination of American presidents;
· It will not invade or fire missiles at its neighbors; and
· It will not use chemical weapons on its neighbors or its own
Let there be no doubt: If the Coalition were to leave before the Iraqi
security forces are able to assume responsibility -- which we must not do --
we would one day again have to confront another Iraqi regime -- perhaps even
more dangerous than the last -- in a region plunged into darkness, rather than
bathed in the light of freedom.
Americans ask: how are we doing in Iraq?
President’s strategy is clear -- to empower the democratically elected Iraqi
To aggressively go after the insurgents and terrorists --
and that is exactly what their forces are doing with solid success;
To pursue an inclusive constitutional political process;
To improve public services and, with the help of the
international community, improve the quality of life for the Iraqi people;
To enable Iraq’s security forces to take charge of their
Each of these
strategies depends on the others. Success will require patience and progress
on each of the four.
what has been accomplished in Iraq in 12 months time -- not 12 years, but 12 months:
More than 8 million people defied terrorists’ threats and
voted in the January election;
Duly elected Iraqi leaders, are drafting a Constitution
to be voted on by the Iraqi people by October 15, 2005. Under their new
Constitution, a permanent government will be elected on December 15, 2005;
Iraqis are building an economy and it is growing -- with
a stock market and a stable currency;
While the insurgency remains dangerous in parts of Iraq,
Coalition and Iraqi operations are disrupting terrorist sanctuaries, such as
Fallujah, and keeping them on the run;
U.S. forces are capturing or killing hundreds of violent
extremists on a daily basis and confiscating literally mountains of weapons.
officers here today are leading the troops that are contributing to these
achievements. They are prepared to provide a detailed report on the progress
of Iraq’s security forces.
The number of U.S. troops in Iraq has moved from the Iraqi election high of
160,000 to less than 140,000 currently. But their priorities have shifted --
from conducting security operations to a heavier focus on training, equipping,
and assisting the Iraqi forces.
In the past,
the performance of Iraqi security forces has been criticized for being mixed.
But consider that:
Two years ago, few Iraqi forces had critical equipment
such as radios, vehicles or body armor. Today, the vast majority of Iraqi
security forces have this equipment;
The Iraqis had an inexperienced military chain of command
and weak ministries of Defense and Interior. Today, both are improving, but
they have a way to go;
They had weak unit cohesion and insufficient mid-level
leadership. Today, leaders at all levels are stepping forward;
A year ago, six Iraqi Army battalions were in training.
Today, dozens of trained battalions are capable of conducting anti-insurgent
operations with Coalition support;
Large sections of the country, including much of the
north and south, are relatively peaceful and essentially under the control
of Iraqi security forces; and
Responsibility for what had been one of the most
dangerous neighborhoods in Baghdad was recently turned over to the Iraqi
security forces, and has been relatively free of serious violence.
Finally, the question is asked: when can the Coalition
leave? And should Congress establish a deadline to withdraw?
Some in Congress have suggested that deadlines be set for withdrawal. That
would be a terrible mistake. It would throw a lifeline to terrorists who in
recent months have suffered significant losses in casualties, been denied
havens, and suffered weakened popular support.
Let me be clear: the United States made a commitment to finish the job and we
must do so. Timing in war is never predictable -- there are no guarantees. We
can and will prevail, but only if we persevere. Any who say we have lost or
are losing are flat wrong. We are not.
Coalition military personnel are in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi
government and consistent with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546. The
objectives of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis and the Coalition are the
same: a peaceful and prosperous Iraq with a representative government. Even
today, that is a radical notion in the Middle East. And the fact that that is
a new approach is going to result in occasional confusion, resistance, and
difficulties. We understand that.
Iraq was a violent place long before its liberation, and there may undoubtedly
be some violence in Iraq after Coalition forces depart. But success in this
effort cannot be defined as domestic tranquility. Rather, success will be when
there is a free Iraq, where Iraqis are the guarantors of their own security,
with minimal Coalition involvement. And that will be a truly historic
The amount of time this will take is not knowable.
The timing must be condition based. It will depend on:
· The extent to which various ethnic factions reconcile -- and they are
now doing so in impressive ways;
· The level of support from the international community -- and it is
growing. The U.N. and NATO, for example, are increasing their commitments. And the international conference on Iraq that recently took place in Brussels
elicited strong political statements of support for the emerging Iraqi
· And the timing will also depend on Iraq’s neighbors, whose behavior
continues to be unhelpful.
Insurgents continue to come into Iraq from Syria and Iran. Nations that serve
as conduits for mass murderers are not friends of the Iraqi people, or of the
United States, or of the civilized world.
One final point. Someone recently asked me about the differences between my
current tenure as Secretary of Defense and my previous tenure some 30 years
ago. One thing that has remained the same is the tendency in some quarters to
blame America for the world’s troubles.
Well, I’m not one who wakes up every morning seeking ways to suggest that
America is what’s wrong with the world. The people who are going on television
chopping off people’s heads or using disabled children as suicide bombers --
they are what’s wrong with the world. The violent extremists that killed 3000
innocent men, women and children on September 11th are what’s wrong
with the world.
In every war, there are individuals who commit wrongdoing. And there are
mistakes, setbacks, and hardships.
noted historian and author, David McCullough, recalled the year 1776 as “the
most important year in the most important conflict in our history.” He said:
“If it had
been covered by the media and the country had seen how horrible the conditions
were ... and what a very serious soup we were in, I think that would have been
Similarly in 1864, many -- including President Lincoln himself -- believed he
would lose the upcoming election due in part to the slew of criticisms he
received for his prosecution of the Civil War. Speaking to an Ohio regiment,
President Lincoln said:
"I wish it might be more generally and universally understood what the country
is now engaged in. There may be mistakes made sometimes; and things may be
done wrong, while the officers of the Government do all they can to prevent
mistakes. But I beg of you, as citizens of this great Republic, not to let
your minds be carried off from the great work we have before us."
That was sound advice then -- and it is wise counsel today.
Today’s servicemen and women, like the generations before them, are performing
noble work. Though some pundits and observers -- non-participants -- have
criticized the American military with irresponsible comparisons and purple
rhetoric, those of us who work with the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces
Our fellow citizens in uniform serve with great compassion and professionalism
amid danger and provocation. We should not allow the actions of a few to
distract us from the mission we face. Or from the necessity to succeed.
To all U.S. military personnel, to their families who sacrifice while
Guardsmen and Reservists are deployed in battle, I offer my fullest
And one day, all those who have made sacrifices on behalf of this cause -- and
the American people who support their important work -- will find a place of
honor in our country’s history and they will have won the appreciation and
respect that they have richly earned.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.