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Redeploying Forces Now Would Embolden Terrorists, Rumsfeld Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MOSUL, Iraq, Dec. 24, 2005 – Withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq now would mean victory for terror and lead to attacks on American interests abroad and at home, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told soldiers here today.

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Task Force Freedom Command Sgt. Maj. Ricky Pring passes out phone cards donated by Wal-Mart to soldiers at the dining facility at Forward Operating Base Courage in Mosul, Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld brought the cards during a Christmas Eve visit to the base. Photo by Jim Garamone

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Rumsfeld spoke at a dining facility and served Christmas Eve dinner to troops of Multinational Force Northwest at Forward Operating Base Courage here.

The secretary said withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq prematurely would lead to attacks on American interests abroad and in the homeland. "The terrorists - emboldened by their victory - would attack us elsewhere in this region and at home in the United States," he said.

He said the war on terror is a test of wills. "Generations before you have persevered and prevailed," he said. "And they too, were engaged in a test of wills." Freedom ultimately prevails, he added, "through the dedication and perseverance of those wearing America's uniform."

The secretary said the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. "It's to alter peoples' behavior," he said. "It's to make free people something other than free people. It's to alter our behavior in such a way as to inflict their dark vision upon us."

Rumsfeld noted the Iraqis are America's allies in the fight against terror. The Iraqi security forces are growing in numbers and capabilities, he said, and millions of Iraqis showed they wanted freedom by voting in the Dec. 15 election. The secretary pointed out that the Iraqi economy grew by 4 percent in 2004 and is expected to increase by double digits this year. The Iraqi people show their hope by starting new businesses and erecting new buildings, he added.

The secretary noted that the holiday season is a time of reflection. "It's also a time when you can reflect on what a very special place the United States of America is," he said. "In the long war against terrorists and violent extremists ... what makes out country so special is our free way of life. And that, of course, is precisely what the enemies of freedom are trying to deny us."

Though serving away from home is particularly difficult this time, of year, Rumsfeld told the servicemembers they're making history in Iraq. "In this holiday season, there is no better gift that you can offer your children than what you are giving today," he said.

Rumsfeld said that in the future, when their children and grandchildren ask what they did when Iraq moved from a tyranny to a democracy, they can say with pride that they helped make history.

He spoke of those Americans who have been killed in the war on terror. "Their mission is in your hands," he said. "And that mission is to offer once-dark corners what Abraham Lincoln called a 'new birth of freedom.'"

The secretary ended with a personal note. "I have lived a long life," he said. "It's hard to think of anything I've ever done that is as important or gives me as much pleasure as working with each of you. Doing what you are doing, you are so professional, you are well-trained, you are well-led and you have set an example in the world that will be remembered."

He told the soldiers that when they read or hear things that doubt the future, "know that there have always been doubts expressed. There have always been those who suggested that the cause could not be successful, that the cause would be lost. In fact, it was the people who persevered who proved them wrong. The great sweep of human history is for freedom. And we're on the side of freedom."

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Command Sgt. Maj. Ricky Pring, sergeant major for Task Force Freedom, receives calling cards donated by Wal-Mart from a Defense Department special assistant. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld brought the cards to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and senior noncommissioned officers distributed the cards -- each of which had 800 minutes of calling -- to servicemembers. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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