Mr. Rumsfeld Goes to Baghdad
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 30, 2003 Perhaps symbolizing the importance of special operations forces to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived in Baghdad on an MC-130 from the Air Force's 919th Special Operations Wing today.
Less than a month after the fall of Baghdad, Rumsfeld flew from Kuwait to Basra and then the capital city.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Wallace, 5th Corps commander and 3rd Infantry Division commander, Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, at Baghdad International Airport on April 30, 2003, following the secretary's arrival in Baghdad. Rumsfeld came to Baghdad Inter-
national Airport to tour the city and speak with the troops. Baghdad International Airport is a primary base of operations for U.S. troops, cargo and humanitarian airlift for Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby)
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"When one looks back on this effort, I think and pray, indeed, that what would be significant is that a large number of human beings intelligent and energetic have been liberated, and that they are out from under the heel of a truly brutal, vicious regime," he said in Basra.
He said the coalition victory is not only important for the Iraqi people, it is good for the region and the world.
Rumsfeld received a briefing from the Maj. Gen. Robin V. Brims, commander of the British 1st Armored Division, at the Basra airport. He told the secretary that the coalition effort worked "exceptionally well." He said U.S. forces demonstrated "fantastic capabilities" and that the British allies were very impressed.
Binns paid tribute to the U.S. Marine Corps for its role in the liberation. He said he regards the Marine drive from Kuwait to Baghdad and beyond, "a military feat of real significance."
In Baghdad, Rumsfeld met with coalition leaders at the Saddam Hussein's Abu Gharib Palace. He also recorded a message that was broadcast to the Iraqi people via the Commando Solo II aircraft.
He told the Iraqi people he was "delighted to be able to witness the liberation of Iraq." He said the coalition has the same goals as the Iraqi people: a free, safe country "where the wealth belongs to the Iraqi people."
Rumsfeld toured a power plant where Iraqi civilians are working with U.S. military engineers to re-establish the electrical, water and sewage systems in Iraq.
The secretary also met with retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. Garner said the press missed an important part of the story in Iraq.
"When I was in Washington planning this, I imagined all sorts of disasters," he said. Instead, he pointed out, the coalition attack on Iraq was probably the only "merciful" attack in history.
Coalition planners came up with an operation that protected the nation's infrastructure. Garner said he had plans for how to put the country back together if Saddam Hussein had carried out what he feared fires in the oil fields, massive flooding from Saddam blasting the dams, and millions of refugees, to name just a few.
None of this happened because of the plan and the execution of that plan, Garner said. "There's not much infrastructure problems here other than connecting stuff back together," he said. "I think the American people ought to be proud. This has never happened before in history."
Garner said the plan spared then victims of the regime and put Iraq in a place to be able to chart a new future. "You ought to be beating your chest every morning," Garner said. "Ought to look in the mirror, suck in our bellies and say 'Damn, we're Americans,' and smile."