29 September 2003
Helping Iraqis Help Themselves is U.S. Goal, Rumsfeld Says
Op-ed column by the U.S. secretary of defense
(This byliner by Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. secretary of defense, was published in the Wall Street Journal September 29 and is in the public domain. No republication restrictions.)
Help Iraq to Help Itself
By Donald H. Rumsfeld
If you are like most Americans, the news you see on television and read in the press from Iraq seems grim -- stories of firefights, car bombs, battles with terrorists. It is true that Coalition troops are serving in difficult and dangerous circumstances. But what is also true, and seems to be much less often reported, is that the Coalition has -- in less than five months -- racked up a series of achievements in both security and civil reconstruction that may be without precedent.
I recently visited our forces in Tikrit, Mosul, Baghdad and Babylon. Their spirits are good, because they know their mission is important and they know they are making progress. Many recently got access to satellite television from the U.S. -- and their first glimpse of the news coverage back home. Some expressed amazement at how few of their accomplishments are reflected in the news on Iraq. As one soldier we met in Baghdad put it, "We rebuild a lot of bridges and it's not news -- but one bridge gets blown up and it's a front-page story."
Their successes deserve to be told. Consider just a few of their accomplishments:
-- Today, in Iraq, virtually all major hospitals and universities have been re-opened, and hundreds of secondary schools -- until a few months ago used as weapons caches -- have been rebuilt and were ready for the start of the fall semester.
-- 56,000 Iraqis have been armed and trained in just a few months, and are contributing to the security and defense of their country. Today, a new Iraqi Army is being trained and more than 40,000 Iraqi police are conducting joint patrols with Coalition forces. By contrast, it took 14 months to establish a police force in post-war Germany -- and 10 years to begin training a new German Army.
-- As security improves, so does commerce: 5,000 small businesses have opened since liberation on May 1. An independent Iraqi Central Bank was established and a new currency announced in just two months -- accomplishments that took three years in postwar Germany.
-- The Iraqi Governing Council has been formed and has appointed a cabinet of ministers -- something that took 14 months in Germany.
-- In major cities and most towns and villages, municipal councils have been formed and are making decisions about local matters -- something that took eight months in Germany.
-- The Coalition has completed 6,000 civil affairs projects -- with many more under way.
All this, and more, has taken place in less than five months. The speed and breadth of what Ambassador Paul Bremer (and his predecessor Gen. Jay Garner), Gen. John Abizaid and Gen. Rick Sanchez, and the Coalition team, both military and civilian, have accomplished is more than impressive -- it may be without historical parallel. Yet much of the world does not know about this progress, because the focus remains on the security situation -- which is difficult, but improving. Baath remnants and foreign terrorists are opposing the Coalition, to be sure. But the Coalition is dealing with them.
This does not mean dangers don't exist. The road ahead will not be smooth. There will be setbacks. Regime loyalists and foreign terrorists are working against the Coalition. Increasingly they do so by targeting Coalition successes. Yet the Iraqi people are providing intelligence for our forces every day. Division commanders consistently report an increase in the number of Iraqis coming forward with actionable intelligence. With Iraqi help, the Coalition has now captured or killed 43 of Iraq's 55 most wanted, as well as thousands of other Baath loyalists and terrorists, and seized large caches of weapons. As Iraqis see Coalition forces act, their confidence grows -- and they are providing more information.
In Baghdad, a reporter asked why we don't just "flood the zone" -- double or treble the number of American troops in the country? We could do that, but it would be a mistake.
First, as Gens. Abizaid and Sanchez have stated, they do not believe they need more American troops -- if they did, they would ask and they would get them. The division commanders in Iraq have said that, far from needing more forces, additional troops could complicate their mission -- because it would require more force protection, more combat support, and create pressure to adopt a defensive posture (guarding buildings, power lines, etc.), when their intention is to remain on the offense against the terrorists and Baath party remnants.
That is why, at the end of May, Gen. Jim Mattis, the Marine division commander in the south central area, decided to send home 15,000 of his 23,000 troops. As he recently explained: "If at any point I had needed more troops, I could have asked for them. But I have not needed them. The enemy over there, once we get the intelligence on them, [is] remarkably easy to destroy. My way of thinking: If we needed more people on our side, enlist more Iraqis."
That is precisely what Coalition forces are doing -- training tens of thousands of Iraqis to serve as police, border guards, a new facilities protection service, a new Iraqi National Army, and an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. Iraqis are eager to participate in their own security. The commanders in Iraq report that they are exceeding recruitment goals for these forces.
The Coalition is not in Iraq to stay. Our goal is to help Iraqis so they can take responsibility for the governance and security of their country, and foreign forces can leave. That is why the president has asked for $20 billion to help the Iraqis get on a path to self-government and self-reliance. He's requested $15 billion to speed repairs to Iraq's dilapidated infrastructure so Iraq can begin generating income through oil production and foreign investments. And he's requested another $5 billion to help the Iraqis assume the responsibility for the security of their own country. The goal is not for the U.S. to rebuild Iraq. Rather, it is to help the Iraqis get on a path where they can pay to rebuild their own country. The money the president is requesting is a critical element in the Coalition's exit strategy. Because the sooner we help Iraqis to defend their own people the faster Coalition forces can leave and they can get about the task of fashioning truly Iraqi solutions to their future.
In Baghdad, I met with members of the Governing Council. One message came through loud and clear: They are grateful for what Coalition forces are doing for their country. But they do not want more American troops -- they want to take on more responsibility for security and governance of the country. The goal is to help them do so. Those advocating sending more Americans forces -- against the expressed wishes of both our military commanders and Iraq's interim leaders -- need to consider whether doing so would truly advance our objective of transferring governing responsibility to the Iraqi people.
Iraqis will have to overcome the physical and psychological effects of living three decades under a Stalinist system. But the ingredients for success are there. Iraq has oil, water and vast wheat and barley fields. It has biblical sites, and great potential for tourism. It has an educated, intelligent and industrious population. We should resist the urge to do for the Iraqis what would be better done by the Iraqis. We can help -- but only if we balance the size of our presence to meet the military challenge, while putting increasing responsibility in Iraqi hands.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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