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Rumsfeld Praises Troops, Cites Iraq War As 'Necessary, Just'

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today praised American troops deployed overseas to disarm and oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, noting that their efforts support a just cause.

"It is essential to world peace and our security that we act against the regime of Saddam Hussein," Rumsfeld said in a taped message to service members, as U.S. and coalition forces continue the military campaign against the dictator's regime.

"Know that this war is necessary, it is just, and that you have the resources and commitment you need to achieve victory," the secretary declared.

Rumsfeld pointed out that Saddam brushed off President Bush's Monday evening ultimatum for the dictator to leave Iraq within 48 hours or face war.

"In rejecting the president's ultimatum, the Iraqi regime has chosen war over peaceful disarmament," Rumsfeld said.

"Saddam Hussein's regime will be now removed from power and the Iraqi people will be liberated," he declared.

American service men and women "will deliver on the president's pledge" to disarm Hussein's regime and oust the dictator, Rumsfeld said.

If Saddam isn't stopped now, the secretary pointed out, the dictator could provide his weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, who likely would attack the United States again.

"The result could be the deaths not of 3,000 people, as on September 11th, but 30,000 or 300,000 or more innocent people," Rumsfeld emphasized, noting that the mission of U.S. troops arrayed against Iraq "is to prevent that from happening."

U.S. troops "are the best trained, strongest, and most capable military in the world," the secretary said, adding that he and other senior leaders "have full confidence in your ability, your courage and your dedication to our country."

America's troops won't face danger alone, as they "will fight alongside the forces of such stalwart friends as Australia, Great Britain and many others," the U.S. defense leader said.

The president made the right decision to oust Saddam, Rumsfeld reiterated, noting that all diplomatic avenues to peacefully disarm the dictator had come to naught.

"We are at the point at which the risk of not acting is too great to wait longer," he emphasized.

Rumsfeld said the troops have the support of their commander in chief, of Congress and of the American people.

"I thank you for all you do for our country. May God bless you, and keep you, and guide you in the days ahead," he concluded.

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Secretary's Message to the Troops on Operation Iraqi Freedom

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