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War in Iraq:
U.S. Central Command

With SGM Lewis Matson
Central Command Spokesman

Thursday, April 10, 2003; 8 p.m. ET

In dramatic pictures broadcast throughout the world U.S. tanks rolled into the center of Iraq's capital city Thursday to a tumultuous welcome from jubilant residents. The White House and U.S. military leaders proclaimed an end to Hussein's control of Baghdad, stopping just short of declaring victory in the campaign to oust the Iraqi president and destroy his regime.

U.S. Central Command spokesman SGM Lewis Matson was online to discuss Iraq, the military operation in the region and Central Command’s role the campaign.

Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) is one of nine Unified Combatant Commands assigned operational control of U.S. combat forces.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

The transcript follows.

SGM Lewis Matson: Sgt. Maj. Matson here from U.S. Central Command, glad to answer questions from the perspective of the military's effort. Sometimes questions pertain to issues handled by the State Dept or Dept of Defense -- I'll try to help. My focus is of course the soldiers, Marines who have done such a great job on the ground. Here to answer your questions tonight.

Arlington, Va.: I must say, I am amazed we were able to take Baghdad without the huge loss of life that had been expected.

Now that we are there, what happens? Do we have the troops in place to police the city? I can only assume as I type this that there are experts en route to take care of water, electricity, and other necessities. Correct?

Again thank you.

SGM Lewis Matson: Yes, we have accomplished a lot. But, please, everyone needs to understand -- we have a lot to go. It is clear there are a lot of Iraqis who are very grateful for what we have done.

As for "policing" -- we have two divisions there who can help with stability and security -- the 101st and the 82nd. They have tremendous capability there, especially with their recent experience in Afghanistan, and of course the Marines have tremendous capabilities there as well.

We also are moving in civil affairs experts right away -- we certainly want to restore power, water, right away and I think this will happen soon.

Chicago, Ill.: How do we address embarrassment, shame and anger among Arab people who clearly see the Iraqi conflict differently than Americans?

SGM Lewis Matson: Yes, this certainly is an important issue. We had thought we were doing the right thing by embedding media from around the world, including the Middle Eastern countries. I also am disappointed that they have not presented balanced presentations -- they are of course "satisfying" their audience much as American media does. I hope we can get things stabilized and the Iraqis will be the ones who make the statements in Arab news media. They, as the Kuwaitis, must answer the question, "Are they glad we came?"

Arlington, Va.: What proportion of our ground combat units currently in Iraq are reservists?

SGM Lewis Matson: This is a tough one off the top of my head -- we do have a number of Reserve units there. My son is a Marine Reservist and he is with the Marines in Baghdad right now. Let me see if I can look this up while we are talking.

Piscataway, N.J.: Welcome!
It is an honor for you to be answering our questions.
In 1991 the United States in the Gulf War revolutionized the art of war. Today in 2003 do you believe that the United States again has revolutionized warfare?

SGM Lewis Matson: Thank you.

There is no question we have "proved" something here. We have spent a decade on "combined arms", "battlespace dominance," etc. We have spent a good amount of effort integrating air and ground -- not an easy task considering the air guys are moving at such a high rate of speed. We have some improvements to make; we clearly still have a friendly fire problem -- but, think about it -- we have executed combined arms, armor, infantry tactics quick well. The Marines in particular have been terrific.

Woodbridge, Va.: Thank you for remembering the Reservists. My husband is part of the 299th Engineers and the media doesn't seem to want to cover the "support staff," unless something really momentous happens concerning them. They are as important as the active guys. I pray for the missing members of that maintenance group from Texas.

SGM Lewis Matson: Yes, the Reserve effort has been significant. Working here at CENTCOM I can tell you the building is half Reservists and no one can tell who is who. Your husband is with the 299th Engineers -- can you tell me who he is attached to? Which division? I can probably look up his location and let you know where he is.

Arlington, Va.: In your opinion, what do you think anti-war protesters thought about yesterday's dramatic scenes showing Iraqis cheering and welcoming the Coalition with open arms?

SGM Lewis Matson: This is a tough one. Obviously there were a lot of Arabs who were disappointed still -- it did not matter that the Iraqis were happy.

The anti-war protestors -- I know it has been said before but I will say it again, they of course have this right in countries where they have freedom of speech -- so again -- they just don't get it. No one in Iraq had the right they have.

Also remember -- we have a "long way" to go here -- we have a lot of paid-off Baath party leaders still ahead of us. We have to stay on course and finish this, provide the grounds to build a new government, see a future for the Iraqi people... and then ask the anti-war protestors what they think. The facts are, sometimes to have to sacrifice a little to get freedom. By and large, Americans understand that.

I'm also anti-war --- I also know we did something great for the Iraqi people.

There are many countries who also "get it" -- mostly countries who came out from under oppression.

Arlington, Va.: I assume that it was CentCom's decision not to release any details regarding the capture and subsequent treatment of Pvt. Lynch and her comrades. What was the rationale for this decision?

SGM Lewis Matson: Actually I do not know the reason -- we may be trying to guard certain information in hopes of finding the others who are still there. We still have some desperate work ahead -- we need to find the other captives and I hope they are alive. They have done something good for the Iraqi people -- I want them alive.

Let's wait and see how this plays out.

San Francisco, Calif.: The worst thing about this war in Iraq was the many "friendly fire" deaths. This happened in earlier wars but there should be better ways to prevent our servicemen from killing other of our servicemen by accident day after day. Were "friendly fire" deaths in Iraq avoidable? What can be done to lessen the number of "friendly fire" incidents in the future?

SGM Lewis Matson: Clearly we thought we had come a long way in our efforts to solve this.

Yet we still have "issues."

I spent a good bit of time out at Fort Hood in tank land where air and ground spend a lot of time synching to avoid friendly fire. But obviously we have to keep at it.

The efforts of coordinating air and ground are critical. Our number one job is to have overwhelming firepower. Well, I think we have that, we just have to add some more control measures. We have to keep working at this.

To "end" it -- we have to keep up the joint air-ground training. Tank and F15s, A-10s, have to talk together, have to train together -- I'm sure we'll be scheduling even more time for this, and adding Coalition to it as well.

Harrisburg, Pa.: No war goes as planned, as this war was no exception. The key often are the contingencies that were in place and how well the military adjusted to the situations they faced. How well do you believe our forces adjusted to contingency plans?

SGM Lewis Matson: One of the key aspects of the plan is its ability to remain fluid, its ability to change to circumstances. It was developed more as a chess game -- if he does this, I'll do that.

The commanders now have that freedom -- we watched them adjust on the fly -- I was very impressed with the way they did this. They key to making this work was the effort of the 101st and 82nd to follow behind Armor and secure the towns that had been passed over -- they did tremendous work here securing Najv, Karbala, Samawah and Nassariyah, as well as the Marines up through the center -- the 1st Regimental Combat Team took an important job of securing the right center up toward Al Kut -- this was critical but got very little attention.

Los Angeles, Calif.: Hello,
What would happen if a 2,000-pound bomb -- or any bomb, for that matter -- were dropped, accidentally or otherwise, on a building housing chemical or other WMD?
Thank you.

SGM Lewis Matson: Big "issue" -- we certainly don't want that to happen, and it is also possible.

Some of the material will be incinerated, some will not. I think so far we have been lucky. But the teams were also prepared, everyone wore protective gear for the entire effort all the way to Baghdad.

The critical effort right now -- find it, get it all under control, get it destroyed. The Middle East will be free of this threat coming out of Iraq. Like many, I hope it doesn't make its way to any other country but the other countries certainly don't want to take any chances.

Washington, D.C.: Are you worried about the legal repercussions of your involvement in a war that violates international law?

SGM Lewis Matson: Well your question belongs with the State Dept and of course the U.N., however, it is irresistible.

You have apparently forgotten the 100,000 in Iraq who have had no voice. You ask a question about law as if you understand something -- but who stands up for those who have no rights? Isn't it the legal system? Where is the legal system for the Iraqis?

Right now we have a Coalition of countries supporting the effort. Many of these are nations who understand "illegal" obviously much differently than you do. Nations such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Nations such as Albania, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Georgia, Macedonia, Iceland. And of course there are the eastern European countries who are members of the Coalition -- Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary. So your idea of illegal is clearly divergent from these countries -- your question might be better turned around -- Have you never understood "law" or the rights of man yourself?? What will you do for the helpless innocent people who have no voice? Who will be the advocate for those have none? --Right now -- the United States -- we will defend the innocent. The Albanians were glad we came.

Gaithersburg, Md.: What role , if any, do you see the Hospital Ship Comfort playing in Post war Iraq? Does the ship move from a war supporting mission to a humanitarian mission or will that role be played by the Fleet Hospitals?

SGM Lewis Matson: Good question -- I'm unfamiliar with any change in role. We still have an important mission ahead. We still have a lot of work. We need the ship to remain on station in case of need. Again, soldiers, Marines, in harm's way, on behalf of the Iraqi people -- let's bring all of them back alive.

One thing to remember -- our battlefield medical efforts are extremely significant and having that hospital ship around is a part of that. In previous wars, more died from wounds because we did not have battlefield medics and an immediately available care system. That hospital may save one life -- that will make its deployment all worth it.

I'm not aware of the Comfort being scheduled for a change in mission following cessation of hostilities. Our efforts will be to get the hospitals up and running everywhere -- that one hospital in Baghdad -- they have been tremendous -- they have lived up to the medical creed -- they have stayed and cared for the wounded. They deserve honor when this is over.

Estero, Fla.: SGM,

Are we prepared to react should Turkey begin sending troops into northern Iraq?

SGM Lewis Matson: The northern sector -- right now we have a good, clear, relationship with the Kurdish forces. The special ops guys have established this relationship. We expect this to work. The end goal is to stabilize the north, as in the south, and bring the country together. This will take effort on the part of the people. Right now, we all, and all nations, need to support every effort to bring all the Iraqi factions together.

Bethesda, Md.: Regarding the laws of armed conflict...
As a lawyer who is familiar with this field, I must say I was disappointed that the military did not come out more quickly and forcefully to clearly state that those who feign surrender, wear civilian clothes during attacks, or shelter themselves in schools or hospitals or ambulances, have (1) given up any claim to being treated as POW's, and (2) committed grave war crimes.

As such, those guys should NOT be treated as POWs. They should NOT be put in with the Iraqi's who surrender or otherwise obey the laws of war. They should be segregated, statements should be taken from witnesses, and they should be teed up for war crimes trials.

Any of that going on, to your knowledge?

And -- thanks for all you guys have done!

SGM Lewis Matson: Excellent points.

I am not an expert on this area. I would say it is coming down to decisions by the commanders as to what to do. We have made no provision for separate POW camps. We have made no provision for separating out those who covert to guerilla warfare.

The greatest problem with this, that most people do not realize (as I am sure you do), is it puts the soldier in a very awkward decision-circle as he can no longer readily identify the enemy. He has to guard against fear of all civilians.

Fortunately most towns and cities so far - the civilians are very supportive of us. We still have some hiding out, as we had yesterday in Najav. We clearly have to maintain stability and count on the efforts of the civilians themselves to help us. We need them to come forward and identify the "bad guys". I am aware of a lot of help -- right now Karbala and Najav, Nassariyah are looking really good -- the civilians have helped us identify the bad guys.

San Jose, Calif.: Why is it taking so long to get the water and electricity flowing again in Basra?

SGM Lewis Matson: Good question. We all want it back on. The Brits will work on this. I look forward every night to COL Lockwood answering questions. He is at the British desk in Qatar. He is usually on TV sometime after midnight our time. I watch for his answers on British efforts in Basra.

College Park, Md.: Hi. Thanks for answering our questions.

Before the coalition soldiers and people of Iraq pulled down that large statue in Baghdad, an American flag was put on it. Also, at least a few times, I saw on the news that our soldiers would raise an American flag after eliminating resistance in a city. This seems a little offensive to me. Is there a reason why our soldiers keep doing that?

SGM Lewis Matson: Hey, soldiers are just like most Americans -- they want to show the flag. Go to a hockey game -- people want to show their pride in our country. We know what we have and we're proud of it.

In this case, since we are being accused of invading, it is not a good idea. We have shown great restraint.

Something you need to remember -- when you are deployed to a foreign land you have a much greater appreciation of your country. I have been deployed on many missions. Every time I return here I cry. This nation means a lot to me. My flag means a lot to me. When I have accomplished my mission, under difficult circumstances, yes, I celebrate, and the reason why I did it -- to liberate oppressed people. This was true in Bosnia, Panama, Kosovo, the first Gulf War. We tried in Somalia but I'm not sure anyone can save them.

But when you are in a place that does not have what we have here, you have a much greater appreciation of America, and yes, the flag is a symbol of that. Having been deployed to palaces that have nothing, I have the flag hanging from my house.

One of the funniest things I saw -- when we first took the Presidential palace, two commanders from one of the tank units brought out a flag --the University of Georgia flag -- and shouted "Go Bulldogs" -- I thought that was great.

Bethesda, Md.: Thanks for being available to answer questions!

First, congrats to all the men and women in uniform who have risked (and in some cases, given) their lives for the United States. The reports from the embedded media have consistently portrayed a highly professional, well-trained, dedicated fighting force!

Second, a question -- how soon can we expect the civil affairs experts to move? I realize that fighting is still going on, but we have to move fast on the humanitarian front -- if we go too slow, we risk "winning the war but losing the peace."

Keep up the good work! And thank you.

SGM Lewis Matson: Civil Affairs is already on the ground. We're going to work them to death. We are probably going to have to build more civil affairs units. They have simply become critical. Absolutely critical.

I am sure they are following along behind the armor and saying to themselves, "...no, don't, don't destroy that bridge.....yes. YES, the bridge is intact !! "

But right now, we need a thousand civil engineers, getting all the systems back up.

If you noticed -- our precision effort -- we avoided all the infrastructure. We protected the Hadithah dam in the north.

Alexandria, Va.: Do we have any idea where Saddam Hussein might be? Is it possible that we are keeping information secret so he doesn't move? I just realized typing this that even if my suspicions are correct you can't tell me. Oh well. Thank you.

SGM Lewis Matson: Yes...we're watching....

We do want him. We want his entire staff.

We have gained a lot of friends in Baghdad -- I suspect we will get some help with this. But one thing for sure -- the Iraqi people do not want him back.

Arlington, Va.: Given the increased capability of air-to-ground munitions, missiles, and armor, what do you see as the role of artillery on the battlefield today?

SGM Lewis Matson: Very good question -- but we saw -- we still need artillery. The ability to fire 155mm rounds 18 miles out in front -- still quite necessary.

Also, the force of the 155mm -- it is simply too much.

I'm very glad for Shinseki's transformation approach, but I'm also an armor guy.

My view -- we need to continue with what we have -- armor, combined arms, battlespace dominance, air-ground ops. I am glad for the A-10s --- powerful powerful air platform. Infantry tactics. We've shown we have created, developed, trained, built, a fairly good military here. I wouldn't call it perfect but it's pretty damn good.

Artillery -- still very necessary. Remember -- air does have some significant weather limitations.

Great Falls, Va.: When do you plan to start sifting through the pile of rubble where you dropped that four bunker busters that we hope hit Saddam? Or do you plan to do so?

SGM Lewis Matson: ...We still have much work ahead in Baghdad. We still have many areas of town to secure. We'll get to that neighborhood but we are more concerned about the remaining T-55 tanks and artillery hiding under trees, next to homes, next to mosques. We need to get these tanks and then we can back up and secure other areas.

We have a good bit of work ahead. Now is the time to stay on course. In relentless pursuit of Iraqi military, all levels. Once we end their military, then we'll get the pile of rubble.

Fairfax, Va.: Thank you for accepting questions. My brother is a JAG lawyer for the Marines who was sent to Kuwait. When I tell people that he was sent overseas, they always ask why lawyers were sent to Kuwait and Iraq. I'm not sure of the answer. What role do the lawyers play? What other support personnel are there that we don't hear about in the media?

SGM Lewis Matson: Lawyers play a critical role.
Lawyers, surgeons, security experts, and a few others, are on the commanders personal staff.

Every division commander, Navy task force, has a legal staff.

He advises the commander on, yes, legal issues, such as, what status a prisoner should be held in, under what conditions -- of course the military police handle prisoners, but lawyers observe and assist.

We also have a system of justice -- soldiers can be charged with committing a crime, and prosecuted, defended, accordingly.

If you recall in Afghanistan, a soldier hit a prisoner with his weapon -- he was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and reduced in rank.

We have a very specific legal system.... and I think it works.

Harrisonburg, Va.: It is my impression that the US tends to forecast future wars based on the successes and failures of conflicts we've taken part in. What do you think are the biggest lessons learned thus far Operation Iraqi Freedom? You have already mentioned the "issue" of friendly fire. What about avoiding the kind of anarchy that we've seen spread in cities like Basra and Baghdad? Do you think that the military is capable of making the transition from one regime to another more seamless the next time around? Thank you.

SGM Lewis Matson: lessons learned -- I would say first -- this is a validation of our training efforts at combined arms. We have shown that armor, infantry tactics, artillery, etc. are important and work. We have shown that our urban combat training is critical.

Notice how we have taken down the cities in the south with urban combat techniques.

Notice how we moved across land, adapted to locations of enemy -- they acted as if we had to hit them where they were -- we just drove around them. They had to come up out of their positions, and we of course took them out.

Air has played a more important role in this war than the Gulf War -- yes, I said that. Air has been... amazing. I know what they targets were. I know what they hit. I know how many missions, etc. They have been terrific. Air has been -- right on target.

So, where are we going? Not sure except to improve. I would say we have validated everything we have been doing. We have also validated "transformation" -- the need to develop platforms which can be moved in 48 hours. The ability to move a brigade on 48 hours notice -- we still have to improve on this.

Anarchy -- right now we have to count on the goodness of the Iraqi people. We have to count on the religious base. We hope tomorrow morning around Iraq will be the time for religious leaders to call for forgiveness and national reconciliation and healing. We hope. We must have national reconciliation.

Arlington, Va.: What do you consider to be the best way for those of us civilians in the US who do not personally know any of the troops abroad to express our admiration and support to them?

SGM Lewis Matson: I would say, just hang on -- when they come home -- make sure they have time with their families.

I will tell you from personal experience they will be very appreciative of America. They will be very happy for a working infrastructure, for grocery stores, for green grass, for trees, for everything we have here. They will also just be glad for some quiet.

They will also need some "help" -- they will be dealing with images in their minds -- there will be soldiers and Marines who made difficult difficult choices. You have seen how they did NOT return fire into civilians and had to wait to take on "combatants". There will be moments when they will wish they had pulled the trigger, and when they wish they had not.

We have to help them understand they had a tough tough job and that we are glad they did it.

I above all hope for the future of the Iraqi people. All any people ever ask for is a future and a hope. We hope the people of Iraq now have a future and a hope. Your service members will hope for a future for Iraq -- they will always want to believe they did not fight in vain, that they fought to liberate the oppressed.

...but above all, they will be coming home to America, a country they will love even more.

Arlington, Va.: Does CentCom have any estimates of Iraqi casualties (military and civilian) to date?

SGM Lewis Matson: Iraqi casualty estimates -- no we do not have those. We do not even have estimates of the numbers of Iraqis killed by Iraqis in this war. The images of Iraqis killed -- we do not know if they were killed by our precision bombs or their unprecision bombs. I suspect the Iraqi military was responsible for more civilian deaths than we were.

Military deaths -- again we do not know.

But no military has ever been more precise about its use of weaponry than we have.

We also have not taken the time to "stop" -- our goal -- get to Baghdad and collapse the regime to stop the killing every where. We still have work to do.

Arlington, Va.: Lots of interesting questions about international law, but have our troops been informed that under Sharia (Islamic law) those captured in battle may be killed, exchanged, or enslaved, at the option of the commander of the capturing force?

SGM Lewis Matson: Unfortunately there are many nations out there who somehow skipped the Geneva conventions established as a result of horrific methods in war.

I know only this -- in the last war, we took 60,000 prisoners, and returned them all back to Iraq...and they gained weight from the food we gave them.

So far we have taken 7,000 prisoners. Again, they are properly cared for, given medical care. We will free them according to the decisions of the interim government.

Vienna, Va.: There were many critics -- Vice President Cheney called them "retired military embedded in TV studios" -- who opined that we hadn't massed a large enough force for the mission. It now appears that a smaller force was able to move faster and require less support than a larger, conventional force. Why were the armed services able to accomplish so much more with such a small force compared to past wars?

SGM Lewis Matson: Remember -- every time we do this we're doing something new.

Some of our advantages -- most of the units train under similar conditions as Iraq. The 3rd Infantry Division has had a Brigade training in the Kuwaiti desert for quite some time. Every division trains at Fort Irwin, California at the National Training Center... in the desert. The 4th Infantry Division trains at Fort Hood, Texas -- heat and desert are familiar factors.

We also train to move -- under 4ID I packed up and moved until we got it right. We train to move, jump, encircle, flank, feint... and 3rd Infantry Division executed all of this.

I will tell you, I'm much like those retired military -- I wanted more forces. Why? Probably the "Risk" mentality -- remember the board game Risk? You put 50 armies on east Africa to take Madagascar?? even if you didn't need them? I'd rather have had more armor in. Why? More is always better.

Bottom line -- we proved our armor, infantry, artillery, air...

Also, we executed movement under fire -- right out of the manuals. We executed overwhelming firepower...and we did it at, maybe, 75 percent capability.

I would say if we had come up against an Iraqi division that had stood its ground, then you would have seen the real capability of American combined arms.

The Marines -- they have been just plain tough -- again they executed their training. They laid down fire, lanes of fire -- the Iraqis simply realized we were too good.

Also -- the M1A1 Abrams tank -- not much can stop it. The M2 Bradley -- not much can stop it. The armor is designed to take a direct hit. A brigade of M1s and Bradleys... .not much can stop it. They could have driven around Iraq on tour and come back to fight.

Washington, D.C.: From the look of these questions, it seems everyone supports you 100 percent. That's quite remarkable.

Any thoughts on whether the US is being a bully, going around the world beating up on weak armies, installing our own regimes, and generally causing the world to turn against us (Iraqi's partying in the streets excluded)?

SGM Lewis Matson: There is clearly a perception here...but the facts don't add up. Where have we stayed? (where would we want to stay?)

Americans have gone to Europe, liberated Europe, and we came not as conquerors, but as liberators. If you recall World War II -- the greatest fear of the civilians was the simple squad of Soviet or German or Japanese soldiers. They never knew what such a squad would do.

But an American squad, brought liberation, freedom, handing out gum, candy. We never came to "kill." The American trigger has always been pulled carefully, and certainly with plenty of warning.

Here in Iraq the same is true -- we will leave -- they will establish a new country. The age of Saddam is over. We hope they can establish a new country and they will do so remembering the treachery of the past. They will develop a constitution which protects rights, because they have seen so much destruction of rights. Perhaps their constitution will ensure the success of their people, promote domestic tranquility, protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness....

Aright now -- I hope the Iraqis succeed... and thank us, and every one else will just have to be proven wrong.

Norfolk, Va.: As someone who has a loved one in the 82nd, I was interested in your response concerning "policing" after the end of the war concerning them? Do you believe they will involved in peacekeeping and if so, for what time frame? I know this may be hard to answer at this point, but I've appreciated all your answers this far and was wondering if you might have an answer for this one. Thanks!

SGM Lewis Matson: The 82nd and 101st are providing a critical role securing those cities.

The 3ID -- bypassed those cities to take the fight to whatever "armor" would have stood up to them. Once beyond the cities we needed the 82nd and 101st to come in, conduct urban tactics and secure the cities, shut down the paramilitary -- they did it -- very very critical effort. And there is more to do.

Being jump qualified, I was hoping for a true jump mission for the 82nd, but again commanders are working, using a flexible plan, playing chess, and there has not been the need for the great jump.

Peacekeeping -- the critical role now will be the development of a true police force in service of the people. All we want here in America is "peace enforcement" form our police. We do not want police who view citizens as enemies.

Iraq must build such a police force. This will take time. During that time, we will not let it disintegrate. Now is the time to watch other nations step forward to assist. Some of these nations are great at this. We have had excellent help from the Germans, Italians, etc., in Afghanistan. I hope we will get more help from the Coalition -- watch this come together. And as it happens, the 82nd et. al. will come home.....

and when they do...welcome them home.

Re: Anti War: I'm anti-war. Ask me about how free Afghanistan, or Serbia, or Vietnam, or Korea, or any of the other places we've "liberated" are.

Don't you think a better policy would be to defend ourselves if we are attacked, rather than attack sovereign countries?

SGM Lewis Matson: If you will do some looking around -- there are now 150 publications in Afghanistan. There is radio and TV in many cities around Afghanistan. People are creating their own businesses in Kabul. --There were none of these just a year ago -- they are signs this nation is coming out from under 20 years of war. Women are beginning to take off the bhurka. In one year, we've made Afghanistan a far better place.

As for the other countries --

Back up 20 years, 30 years, 40 years -- tell me the world was a safer place? Americans have improved the world. I hope we continue at it.

Nanjing, China: Some Iraqis see your action as invading, based on the view of religion not from the view of supporting the dictator. This will of course bring about more conflict. How do you see this? Does it really exist?

SGM Lewis Matson: I'm more worried about the other Arab countries. Al Jazeera has led them into hatred.

What I hope for -- the Iraqis will come forward and thank us. Then every one will have to listen to them.

The Kuwaitis were glad we were there.

SGM Lewis Matson: Glad to be here to answer questions. I have to get back to work. We have ongoing operations.

We look forward to an end to this, the establishment of a process for a new country, a rebuilding process, and a great future for the Iraqi people.

And of course our soldiers and Marines, Airmen and Sailors, coming home... and going to the beach.

Take care. I'll be back if Washington Post calls.

-Sgt. Maj. Lewis Matson
US Central Command

© 2003 The Washington Post Company