TOP US MILITARY OFFICER PACE RESIGNS
Sunday, 10 June , 2007
Reporter: Michael Rowland
ELIZABETH JACKSON: The war in Iraq has
claimed another prominent scalp in Washington, with the resignation of America's top General, Peter Pace.
General Pace, the Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, won't seek another two-year term, fearing a divisive senate confirmation hearing focusing on why the war
has gone so bad.
The news came as the US death toll in Iraq reached yet another grim milestone, as our Washington
Correspondent, Michael Rowland, reports.
(Sound of medical crews talking)
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Medical crews scramble
to treat the victims of the suicide bombing of a Shi'ite mosque near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
At least 13 people died on Friday in one of a string of attacks across the
country that left close to 50 dead and dozens wounded.
At the same time the US
death toll in Iraq was passing the 3,500 mark, after a soldier was killed
in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.
It's been a particularly
deadly few months for American troops as they confront insurgents more directly as part of the new Baghdad security crackdown.
The continuing violence has also proved to be politically
fatal for America's top military figure,
the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace.
In a surprise announcement, Defence Secretary Robert
Gates said General Pace, who's been in the job for less than two years, will leave the Pentagon when his term expires in September.
GATES: It had been my intention from early in my tenure to recommend to the President that General Pace be renominated for
another two-year term as chairman.
However, after consultations over the course of several weeks, with both Republican
and Democratic senators, I concluded that because General Pace has served as chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff for the last six years, the focus of his confirmation process would've been on the past rather than the future, and
further that there was the very real prospect, the process would be quite contentious.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: In other words,
Democrats would turn the confirmation hearing General Pace has played a key role during those six years, in first planning
the invasion of Iraq and then presiding
over the bloodbath that followed.
With Americans turning against the war, Robert Gates says a divisive confirmation
hearing for the top General is something the nation can do without.
ROBERT GATES: I am disappointed that circumstances
make this kind of a decision necessary. I wish it were not necessary to make a decision like this, but I think it's a realistic
appraisal of where we are.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: It was the same realistic appraisal that prompted President Bush to sack
former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld just after last year's congressional elections - a poll that turned into a national
referendum on the war.
Mr Rumsfeld had become a lightning rod for public anger on the war, and Democrats were keen
to hold General Pace to account for his role in the conflict.
By removing the veteran marine, the Bush administration
has avoided at least one congressional battle on the war, but many more loom in the months ahead, with Democratic leaders
determined to pursue their quest for troop withdrawal plans.
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