Rumsfeld to U.S. Troops: We Appreciate Your Sacrifices
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 1, 2004 As the United States prepares to celebrate and relax over the Independence Day weekend, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has a message for American troops:
"We are grateful, and I know the American people are deeply grateful (for your service)," the secretary said today in an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
Rumsfeld said he believes the July Fourth holiday will remind the American public "of our independence and of the freedoms that we value and how important the people in uniform are to the protection of those freedoms and to the defense of freedom."
He extended his words of praise to all coalition forces serving in Iraq and elsewhere. "God bless the people in the coalition -- our folks in uniform and the other countries."
He noted that many of them place their lives on the line every day in the course of their duties. And yet, their spirits remain high and they're confident they're doing the right thing, he said.
The secretary said Iraqi leaders also are grateful for the work of the American service members.
He explained that he had met with the Iraqi foreign and defense ministers during the NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey, during the previous week. "They stood there and expressed their appreciation for what the American (troops) are doing for their country," Rumsfeld said. "And it's a heartfelt appreciation."
Iraqi leaders are anxious for U.S. and other coalition troops to stay in that country, Rumsfeld said. "They've asked us to stay," he said. "They've asked us to assist them in trying to assure security in the country as they begin to move towards a democratic system, fashion a constitution, have elections, and do all those things that Afghanistan's now doing."
He noted that Afghanistan is about a year and a half to two years ahead of Iraq in its journey toward democracy. He also said that the coalition troops in Iraq know they're making a difference.
"They see so much more than we read in our newspapers or see on our television here," Rumsfeld said. "We tend to see only the negative. But the fact is the people out there have a chance to see the progress that's being made."