The situation in Iraq would be much worse "if not for the American heroes that are out on the street every day in Baghdad and across (Iraq)," the commander of combat troops in Iraq said today.
"In the debate over the events happening in Iraq, I think that some people have lost sight of the daily acts of heroism that our servicemembers perform here in the name of service to our nation and to freedom," said Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq. Chiarelli, who gives up command Dec. 14, spoke to reporters in the Pentagon via a satellite connection from Baghdad.
He said he believes Americans see only the negative side of operations in Iraq because coverage of the daily violence -- which he admitted is "much higher than any of us want it to be" -- gets in the way of seeing the progress U.S. servicemembers are making.
"I will tell you that if it were not for the soldiers, the Marines, the sailors and the airmen who look the devil in the eye every single day that they conduct ... mission after mission to go out and, first of all, do their best to keep the sectarian violence down and, second of all, the promotion of a democratic Iraq, things would be a lot worse," Chiarelli said. "I believe that with all my heart."
As an example of a U.S. military member's heroism, Chiarelli told of recently signing a posthumous award for a soldier who threw himself on a grenade to save four other people in his vehicle.
"This is just one example of the daily acts of heroism, courage and selfless service our servicemembers perform for each other and for their Iraqi counterparts," Chiarelli said, adding that he is extremely proud of the service of U.S. military members in Iraq.
"It's hard to leave knowing that much work still needs to be done," he said. "But the performance of these servicemembers on the ground is what has made me feel so honored to have been their commander this last year, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for that opportunity."