Saturday, October 06, 2007

General Pace Retires, Admiral Mullen Sworn In

“We have an enemy who has declared war on us. We are in a war. They want to stop us from living the way we want to live our lives." Marine Corps General Peter Pace said during his sun-splashed retirement ceremony Monday on the parade field at Fort Myer, Virginia. “We will prevail, there’s no doubt about that.”

Gen. Pace, who ends a 40-year career that began as a rifle platoon leader in the Vietnam War and ended as the first Marine to be CJCS, addressed a standing-room-only crowd that included President Bush, Vice President Cheney, SECDEF Robert Gates, Gates’ predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, the service secretaries and the JCS.

Pace deliberately blurred the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although it is the Iraq war that appears to provoke the most national anger and most of the calls for the withdrawal of troops. His comments aimed at acknowledging both that anger and what officials have said is the fragile depth of the nation’s ground forces, which are wearing thin from the strain of fighting the two wars — a situation that some critics say has significantly weakened the military’s ability to respond elsewhere around the world if called upon.

The officer sworn in Monday to replace Pace, US Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, expressed a similar desire to rebuild during his own remarks. “I’m ... eager to work closely with our service chiefs, our combatant commanders, as together we develop and execute a strategy to support our national interests in the Middle East; we reset, reconstitute and revitalize our armed forces, especially our ground forces; and we properly balance our risks around the globe,” Mullen said. “The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will one day end. We must be ready for who and what comes after.”

Getting to such a point, Pace said, will require thoughtful dialogue, not partisan bickering. While he didn’t mention Congress, the fights over war funding and calls for immediate withdrawal from Iraq that have marked the past year on Capitol Hill were clearly on his mind as he spoke his parting speech "What worries me is that in some instances right now we have individuals who are more interested in making somebody else look bad than they are in finding the right solution,” he said. “They are more interested in letting their personal venom come forward instead of talking about how do we get from where we are to where we need to be.”

Adm. Mullen said “We owe it to the American people and to all of you, our men and women in uniform and your families, to provide you with clear direction,” after being sworn in, as members of every branch of the armed services looked on. With honor guards and a flyover by fighter jets, it was a day of high ceremony for Mullen and the chairman he replaced, Gen. Pace.

Mullen was SECDEF Robert Gates’ choice to replace Pace, who had been vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs when the Iraq invasion was launched in 2003. Gates said he decided to replace rather than reappoint Pace because he feared the escalating debate over the Iraq war, particularly between the president and a frustrated Congress, would have triggered a bitter confirmation process that could have undermined the country.

A Marine still occupies the second biggest chair in the armed forces, the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff is now General James E. Cartwright formerly Commander, United States Strategic Command.

Source: Marine Corps Times

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