AFIS – Despite media reports to the contrary, “the situation in Iraq is not doom and gloom,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here Oct. 30. While the task in Iraq is “difficult, dangerous and complicated,” he said, “there has also been impressive progress across a range of coalition activities.” The U.S.-led coalition’s “remarkable” achievements “dwarf any previous historical experience,” Rumsfeld assured about 250 government officials, business and civic leaders gathered at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for Empower America’s 10th anniversary celebration.
Four of the group’s co-directors # William J. Bennett, Jack F. Kemp, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and Vin Weber # presented Empower America’s Freedom Award to Rumsfeld for his distinguished public service. Rumsfeld lauded Empower America for 10 years of “promoting and perpetuating the principles and ideals upon which America was founded.”
What’s been accomplished in Iraq to date is “impressive and it deserves recognition,” Rumsfeld told Empower America’s members and guests. “I think our country has a great deal to be proud of, and certainly, the men and women in uniform who have done such a superb job, have a great deal to be proud of,” he said, drawing applause.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Rumsfeld said, 46 million people have been liberated from tyranny and dictatorship. Thousands of terrorists have been captured or killed, including two-thirds of al Qaeda’s senior operatives and 43 of Iraq’s 55 most-wanted.
He compared the progress to date in Iraq to that in post-World War II Germany. The coalition set up municipal councils throughout Iraq in two months. It took eight months in post-war Germany. The coalition set up an Iraqi cabinet of ministers in four months. It took 14 months in post-war Germany.
It took two months to set up an independent Iraqi Central bank. It took three years in post-war Germany. It took five months to begin circulating new Iraqi dinars. Establishing a new currency in post-war Germany took three years.
The coalition set up a new Iraqi police force in two months, compared to 14 months in post-war Germany. Coalition officials began training a new Iraq Army within three months, and the first battalion was ready in less than five months. It took 10 years in postwar Germany.
“In less than six months, the coalition has gone from zero Iraqis providing security for the people of Iraq, to 100,000 Iraqis in the border patrols, site protection, police, civil defense and the Iraqi army.”
“Progress has been so swift,” he said, “that Iraq is now the second-largest contributor to coalition security forces in the country. And it will not be long before Iraq passes the United States and becomes the largest.”
Yet, the progress has been ignored as the media focused on terrorist bombings and sabotage, Rumsfeld said. The American public heard little about the achievements of the brave military and civilians serving in Iraq. Some have seen defense officials’ efforts to present a more balanced picture as putting “an optimistic face on a difficult security situation.”
“Not so,” Rumsfeld said. “Every time we’ve discussed progress in Iraq, we’ve made clear that the situation in the country remains dangerous – and it does; that the road ahead will be bumpy – and it will; and that there will be setbacks as long as there are terrorists, (and) there will be coalition and Iraqi forces killed and wounded.”
The difficult security situation, he stressed, makes the progress to date “even more remarkable.”
“Not only has the coalition managed to outpace the progress in post-war Germany, Japan, Bosnia or Kosovo, but they have done it under fire. They have done it not in a pacified country; they have done it while fighting regime remnants, terrorists and criminals – some 110,000 who were let loose on the people of the country by Saddam Hussein.”
As a result, Rumsfeld said, the Iraqi people are taking back their country, assuming greater responsibility for governance and security.