Rumsfeld: War's Sacrifices Tragic, But Necessary
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 26, 2006 Every U.S. servicemember lost in the global war on terror is a tragedy, but as the United States honors them this Memorial Day, it's important to recognize that some things are worth fighting for, and even dying for, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last night on CNN's "Larry King Live."
Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld answers questions during an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live" at the Pentagon, May 25. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"War is the last choice of anyone with any sense at all," Rumsfeld said. "It is a terrible, terrible thing."
But sometimes it represents the only real choice, he said. "If we tossed in the towel every time we had a problem in this country, we wouldn't have a country," he said. "We wouldn't have won the Revolutionary War."
Rumsfeld noted the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have given their lives for the country throughout its history, and the enduring importance of their sacrifices.
"The reality is that there are things worth fighting for. Thee are things worth dying for," the secretary said. "And the people in each generation, each successive generation in our country's history, have come to that conclusion. And ... thank goodness they have, (or) ... we wouldn't have the country we have today."
Today's military, with the "best-trained, the best-equipped, the best-led, the most professional troops on the face of the earth," is following in the footsteps of their forebears, he said.
"They're the best military that's ever existed. ... We are deeply in debt to the young men and women (in Operations Iraq Freedom and Enduring Freedom) that are doing such a superb job and are so professional," he said.
The troops recognize what's at stake and believe in the cause they're fighting for, Rumsfeld said.
"We're facing a global struggle against violent extremists. It happens that the current battlefield is in Iraq and Afghanistan. But if it's not there, it's somewhere else," he said. "And the closer it gets to the United States, the less advantageous it is for us."
Rumsfeld said he's touched, during visits to military hospitals, by the commitment he sees in wounded troops as well as their families.
"They're so proud of what they're doing. They're convinced that what's being done is the right thing and that they're making progress," he said. "Their families are standing by them and supportive of them. It's inspirational to be with them." It can also be "heartbreaking," he acknowledged.
Rumsfeld told King he feels privileged to be associated with members of the armed forces who have volunteered to put their nation above themselves. "Do I feel privileged to be able to work with these wonderful young men and women who are defending our country and securing our freedom, our ability to say what we want and go where we want the opportunities people have in this country?" he said. "You bet I do feel privileged."
He added that he's proud to be associated with their cause. "I think I'm very fortunate to be able to be involved in something as important as what's going on in the world today and to be doing it with people that I respect and enjoy being with," he said.