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Rumsfeld Praises U.S. Forces, Progress in Iraq

By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2004 – In a series of radio interviews Nov. 30, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld praised America's fighting forces and their families for the sacrifices they are making to defend freedom. He predicted that elections in Iraq will proceed on schedule and strengthen the newly formed Iraqi government, and expressed optimism about the future of freedom and democracy there.

Rumsfeld told radio host Steve Gill of WTN Radio in Nashville, Tenn., that U.S. forces are "doing a superb job in Iraq and around the world" and called their heroism "spectacular."

"In Fallujah," Rumsfeld said, "they have killed or captured a large number of extremists who have been killing Iraqi people and trying to attack coalition forces" and "they've just done a wonderful job."

Rumsfeld also praised the Defense Department's "America Supports You" project, saying, "It is so important that the men and women in uniform who are putting their lives at risk to defend and preserve the freedom of the American people and people around the world are supported." America Supports You, Rumsfeld said, "is focused on the power of saying, 'Thank you,' and not just to the troops, but also their families."

Regarding the prospects for successful elections in Iraq, Rumsfeld was upbeat. We just saw an election in Afghanistan, he said, where, for the first time in the history of that nation, the people elected a president.

"Everyone said, 'It won't happen; people in Afghanistan aren't ready for democracy. The Taliban and al Qaeda will prevent it, and the elections won't be secure,'" Rumsfeld said.

Yet "here we are," he added. The inauguration is taking place next week. The election was successful. Millions and millions of people registered; millions and millions of people voted. And that's an enormous success story."

Rumsfeld stressed the importance of success in the global war on terror, saying the Osama bin Ladens, Ayman Zawahiris and Abu Musab al-Zarqawis -- all terrorist leaders -- of the world must be defeated.

Unlike extremists and suicide bombers of other eras, Rumsfeld said, "These people aren't killing themselves. They aren't strapping bombs on themselves and running out and killing a bunch of innocent people. They're sending other people to do that, and they're preserving their lives and continuing to try to overthrow moderate regimes around the world that do not subscribe to their extremist views.

"These are the people who are beheading people on television. Were they to win, the world would enter a very dark period," he said.

The Iraqi elections and progress in the global war on terror were also topics of discussion in separate interviews with Marc Bernier of WNDB Radio in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Ivan Scott of WTOP Radio, in Washington.

Rumsfeld told Bernier that the war on terror is making life difficult for terrorists. "The pressure has been put on their flow of funds. The difficulty of moving and having to avoid being caught makes life harder for them. It makes it more difficult to attract people, to retain people, to recruit them."

Rumsfeld said that while the situation varies from country to country and from time to time, "what I do know is there have been literally hundreds of them killed in the last two months, and that's not good for their morale."

He said the United States supports the decision of the Iraqi government to go forward with elections. "The Iraqi people want elections. The overwhelming majority of them are determined to have elections, that there will be elections, that elections will give a strength to the Iraqi government, and that is important for the success of that country," the secretary said. "And the United States of America is determined that those elections go forward."

His response to Washington radio reporter Scott was similar: "No election is perfect," Rumsfeld said. "The Iraqi people want to vote; they want elections; they want to select the people to run that government; and they deserve to have that chance."

Rumsfeld said he was not concerned about the possibility of another strongman in the mold of Saddam Hussein winning election. "The people there know what a vicious dictator is. Sure, there are people who would like to be dictators, but that isn't going to happen. The great sweep of human history is for freedom, and the people there understand that.

"I think Iraq's going to be a wonderful accomplishment," Rumsfeld said.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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