During a press conference last week, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace said that “the recent rise in U.S. troop deaths in Iraq is the ‘wrong metric‘ to use in assessing the effectiveness” of the U.S. military in Iraq. “So it’s not about levels of violence,” he explained. “It’s about progress … in the minds of the Iraqi people.”
Today, Pace made similar remarks. He called the measuring the level of violence in Iraq a “self-defeating approach to tracking results” and added, “What’s most important is do the Iraqi people feel better about today than they did about yesterday, and do they think tomorrow’s going to be better than today?” When asked if he actually knew how the Iraqi people currently feel about the U.S. occupation of Iraq he conceded, “I do not have that in my head.” Watch it:
If Pace did consult the Iraqis about whether they “feel better about today than they did about yesterday,” the answer would be a resounding “no.” As a recent ABC News/BBC News poll found, “The optimism that helped sustain Iraqis during the first few years of the war has dissolved into widespread fear, anger and distress amid unrelenting violence“:
– 39 percent of Iraqis said they feel their lives are “going well,” compared to 71 percent in November 2005.”
– 40 percent of Iraqis said the situation in Iraq will be “somewhat or much better” a year from now, compared to 69 percent in November 2005.
– 26 percent of Iraqis said they feel “very safe” in their neighborhoods, compared to 63 percent in November 2005.
– 82 percent of Iraqis said they “lack confidence” in coalition forces.
– 69 percent of Iraqis said coalition forces make “the security situation worse.”
Whether one measures results in Iraq based on “how the Iraqi people believe they are today,” or on the increasing levels of violence, it is clear the United States is not succeeding in the war.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you give us, now, the latest figures on what’s happening with Iraqi civilian casualties?
And, General Pace, last week, you said that violence was not the right metric to chase to measure success or failure; that it was the attitude of the Iraqi people, whether they believe in their country, believe in their future.
But why isn’t violence what determines the attitude of the Iraqi people? You can’t be very positive about the future if you get blown up when you go outside your house.
PACE: Fair question. And I said it more than last week, I said it in my congressional testimony.
It is certainly a measure. But if you tell the enemy that what’s important to you is the number of bombs that go off, guess what the enemy is going to go do? He’s going to set off more bombs.
So it’s a self-defeating approach to tracking results of what you’re doing.
And I’ll say it again what I said last week: What’s most important is do the Iraqi people feel better about today than they did about yesterday, and do they think tomorrow’s going to be better than today?
PACE: If the answer to those two questions is yes, then we’re on the right path. If the answer to those two questions is no, then we’re not doing it right and we need to adjust our processes.
There are many, many metrics out there. We submit a 90-page report to the Congress every 90 days. So there’s plenty of metrics out there.
I was just trying to make it very specific with regard to if you could only pick one, that I would pick the one that talks about how the Iraqi people believe they are today and how they believe they’re going to be tomorrow.
QUESTION: And do you have new figures, or the latest figures, on what’s happening with the Iraqi civilians?
PACE: I do not have that in my head.