Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq Dishes on the Current Situation


So, General Ray Odierno, commander of all forces in Iraq, how are things going?

Well, Judy Woodruff of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, everything’s just peachy.

Okay, so, the good general doesn’t actually use the word “peachy” in his interview with Woodruff to air tonight, but it sure sounds like he wants us to believe that that’s the case with the pullout of U.S. forces from Iraqi cities, which has been getting a lot of attention this week.

“Well, it’s going fine,” he actually says, according to an official transcript of the interview. “Uh, no problem at all.”

But, general, what about the attacks that killed some 300 Iraqis in the past week (including 41 killed in a single attack yesterday), Woodruff asks? And what of the four American soldiers killed yesterday?

“Well again, we’ll have to work that with the government,” he replies. “I, I would just say that uh as I look at violence all over Iraq, and you’re exactly right, the numbers are high over the last 10 to 12 days. Uh but when I look at security incidents around the country, they’re still very low.”

“To be honest, in June was the lowest amount of overall incidents we’ve had since we’ve been keeping records in Iraq,” he adds. “That said, we had several high profile attacks as you pointed out. Those are concerning and we will continue to go after these small cells who continue to take innocent Iraqi lives for no reasons.”

Woodruff then queries the general about worries that opponents of the current Iraqi government are getting restless over lack of payment.

“We watch this very closely,” he says. “Uh, they have, the government of Iraq have said they have paid them. They have made all the payments.”

Woodruff’s next question is about the readiness of Iraqi forces. She points out that in November, the Pentagon said just 17 of 74 Iraqi battalions were ready to fight rebels.

“We have seen uh great improvement in the leadership,” he says. “We’ve, we’ve seen great improvement in their will and their ability to fight. They still have some problems with logistics, uh we are working on that this year and next year.”

And, those allegations of corruption in the Iraqi military? “Corruption is endemic in Iraq, and it’s probably the major issue that we face today.”

Things don’t sound so bad at all … Or do they?