Rumsfeld, Pace Praise Troops for Successful Iraqi Elections
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff used today's Pentagon briefing as a forum to publicly thank U.S. servicemembers for their role in the successful Iraqi elections and ongoing progress in the global war on terror.
Both Rumsfeld and Marine Gen. Peter Pace expressed optimism that millions of Iraqis put their fears aside and went to the polls Jan. 30 to take part in their country's national elections.
Rumsfeld said he believes the widespread participation "sent a strong message to extremists" and is likely to embolden Iraqis who now realize that so many of their countrymen share their dreams of democracy.
This, the secretary said, will likely increase their support for the new Iraqi government, regardless of who wins, versus the insurgency committed to weakening it.
Rumsfeld said the elections also helped establish "a better understanding of America and its role in the world" in helping spread democracy where oppression reigned.
"The U.S. and our coalition partners have brought freedom to 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan," the secretary said. "What is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq will one day be seen as historic victories for the war against extremists."
But none of these achievements would have been possible, Rumsfeld said, if not "for the courage and bravery of American men and women in uniform and the sacrifices they have made for freedom."
He expressed special appreciation to those who have lost a loved one or friend in the global war on terror, as well as those wounded in combat, along with their families who are helping them through the healing process.
"The sacrifices that you and your loved ones have made have historic meaning," Rumsfeld told them. "We are already seeing the importance of those contributions. You have helped bring a new beginning to those in some of the most violent regions of the world. You have helped them turn away from extremism that fuel attacks on civilized people.
"And one day," Rumsfeld continued, "the people of Afghanistan and Iraq will find a way to say thank you, as I do. And each of you and your loved ones will look back with pride at what has been achieved because of those sacrifices."
"Ours is a safer world and a better world because the service of the men and women in uniform," he concluded.
Pace echoed Rumsfeld's sentiments. He called the Afghan and Iraqi elections, as well as the president's Feb. 2 State of the Union address, when a women whose father had been killed by Saddam Hussein embraced the mother of a fallen soldier, among the "very, very special days" of his tenure as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
"It gives me immense pride to stand here in uniform to represent the hundreds of thousands of U.S. servicemen and women who are serving today, who can take pride in our part in facilitating the opportunity for the millions of people in Afghanistan and Iraq to vote," he said.
"Along with the secretary, I would like to thank all those who are in uniform who are serving and are sacrificing, and to their families and their employers," Pace said. Together, he said, they are helping ensure "that people around the world can live freely and pick their own form of government."