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Secretary of Defense's Patriot Day Radio Message to the Troops

Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2004 – I value this opportunity to talk to those of you serving in our armed forces, and I want to thank you, personally, for your commitment to our country.

As you know, this week we lost the thousandth servicemember in Iraq. Some ask whether the global war on terror is worth a thousand American lives. It's an understandable question, but the answer should be clear to all who have studied our nation's history.

And I want you to know what I believe the answer is to that question.

First, we need to recognize that we passed the thousandth casualty mark in the global war on terror a long time ago. On September 11th, 2001, alone, we lost over 3,000 men, women and children. Since that time, the extremists have killed many more innocent men, women and children all over the world.

While some may feel we have been at war only since September 11th, the enemies we face have been at war against us for a good deal longer. Terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in 1993. They bombed our airmen in the barracks at Saudi Arabia, they attacked Americans at our embassies in East Africa, and they killed the sailors aboard the USS Cole.

During that same period, Saddam Hussein's regime tried to assassinate a former U.S. president, regularly fired at American and British aircraft that were flying in the Northern and Southern No-Fly zones over Iraq, and Saddam Hussein was, of course, paying the families of suicide terrorist bombers $25,000.

President Bush was faced with a choice to confront a repressive dictator plotting to get his regime out of the international inspection and to amass the world's most lethal weapons or wait until Saddam had succeeded. The president was faced -- as presidents always are -- with the risk of acting versus the risk of failing to act. But after September 11th, our country could no longer accept the risk of failing to act.

Because of your courage and commitment, some 50 million people from Afghanistan and Iraq are now experiencing freedom. Other regimes that also sponsored terror now support our cause.

Because we are eliminating the havens of those who seek to terrorize our nation, our country is safer today. And that is why the important work you are doing is worth the cost, and why it is so deeply appreciated.

Throughout history, brave Americans have come to the defense of our freedom. Today, that task falls to you.

Over my decades of service, I have been fortunate to meet a great many of our servicemen and women. And I always come away impressed impressed by your dedication, by your professionalism, and by your devotion to our country.

With you on the front lines in this global struggle against extremists, this global war on terror, I know we will not falter, or tire, or fail, or yield. Our country is deeply in your debt.

May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

Donald H. Rumsfeld

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