Troops Cheer Rumsfeld, Myers at Baghdad Town Hall Meeting
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 13, 2004 Cheers and applause from hundreds of troops greeted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers today when they arrived at Camp Victory in Baghdad for a "town hall meeting."
The secretary and the chairman spoke to the troops as part of a surprise visit to the Iraqi capital.
The secretary said he had just visited the Abu Ghraib prison and received assurances from those in charge that abuses there have ended.
"We've spent the day talking to people and seeing the steps that have been taken to see that those types of abuses to people for whom we have responsibility and custody will not happen again," he said.
The speeches by both men clearly provided a boost to the morale of troops beleaguered by a prisoner-abuse scandal that has led to congressional hearings and backlash anti-American sentiment throughout the Arab world.
Seven soldiers, all reservists assigned to the 372nd Military Police Company, are facing criminal charges resulting from the abuse of detainees while in military custody.
Saying the acts of abuse "betrayed our values and sullied the reputation of the country," Rumsfeld said the abuse does not reflect American values or the values of the troops assembled at the meeting.
"And I know that, and you know that, and your families know that," he added. "And we're proud of you, each of you. We're proud of your service."
The secretary told the troops that despite the controversy the military now faces, they are doing good deeds in Iraq.
"You've built playgrounds and a sports complex; you've improved local health clinics; and you're showing the Iraqi people and, indeed, the people of the world who will look, the character of the country that we're from and the character of the men and women in the armed services."
Myers told the troops that he has never lost confidence in those who wear the uniform.
"I'm confident because you bring the essential goodness of America to our armed forces. I'm confident because you're well trained. I'm confident because you're well led, you're well equipped," he explained. "You understand the importance of what we do day in and day out, whether it's here in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or the Horn of Africa, or the Philippines, or wherever it is in the world that we serve the United States of America."
Rumsfeld reminded the troops that they face a tough road ahead in building a democracy in Iraq, but he added that one day they will look back and be proud of their service. "And you're going to say, 'It was worth it,'" he added.