Rumsfeld Says Democracy Worth Effort in Middle East
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2004 Iraq and Afghanistan's transition to democracy will be a long and hard effort, but it is worth the pain and sacrifice of so many, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Marines and sailors at Yuma, Ariz., Aug. 26.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld shakes hands with Marine
Maj. John H. Cane at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Aug. 26. The
secretary spoke about the war on terror and thanked the assembled Marines and
sailors for their service. Marine Corps photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rumsfeld spoke at the Marine Corps Air Station. He thanked the Marines and sailors for their willingness to serve in the global war on terrorism and said they would look on their service in this fight the same way their grandfathers looked at their service in World War II.
Many scoffed at the United States after World War II for trying to mold Germany, Italy and Japan into democracies, Rumsfeld told the Marines and sailors. But through persistence and example that change was made, and now those three countries are among the world's staunchest democratic allies, he said. "It will not be an easy transition to democracy in Afghanistan or Iraq," he said. "It think it was Thomas Jefferson who said of our own transition that one should not expect to be transported to democracy in a featherbed. It is a tough thing to do."
The secretary said the global war on terror is a "brutal reality of our times." While many Americans believe the war on terror began Sept. 11, 2001, it really started many years before. He pointed to the al Qaeda bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the attacks against Air Force personnel in Saudi Arabia, the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa and the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. It wasn't until Sept. 11 that Americans treated the conflict as a war and not as a law enforcement function, he said.
During the same era, Saddam Hussein dispatched a squad of killers to assassinate a former U.S. president, Rumsfeld said. "The Iraqis were firing almost daily at U.S. aircraft that were enforcing the no-fly zones, and Saddam Hussein was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers to encourage still others to go out and kill innocent men, women and children," he said.
Americans must understand this is a war unlike any the United States has fought, the secretary said. "We must not make the mistake of thinking the absence of a traditional war or traditional conflict means that we're at peace, because we most certainly are not," the secretary said.
Americans also must understand that the United States must fight these enemies where they live. The idea that terrorism will simply go away is wrong, he said. "It will not go away," the secretary said. "Indeed, it will increase out vulnerability by inviting still more terrorist attacks."
Rumsfeld told the Marines and sailors they have helped liberate 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan from cruel regimes. He thanked the coalition members who have contributed forces to those efforts.
He told the servicemembers that during his recent trip to Afghanistan he was impressed by the energy and attitude of the Afghan people. "The third anniversary of Sept. 11 is coming up soon," he said. "None of us will ever forget that day.
"I just returned from Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership planned and launched their attacks," he continued. "They did it with the support of the Taliban government. Now, despite a continuing campaign of violence and intensive intimidation, Afghanistan has more than nine and a half million people ready to vote and more than 40 percent of them (are) women."
He said Afghans obviously are eager for the presidential elections in October.
Once again, Rumsfeld told the Marines and sailors they are doing a great job. "You are an all-volunteer military," he said. "You said you'd like to serve. Your countrymen are proud of you, and they thank you for all you do."