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Rumsfeld to Troops: You Protect America From Further Terrorist Attacks

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2003 – America's service members stand between safety and an evil that must not be allowed to win, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told U.S. troops this morning at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

The secretary said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks could pale in comparison to what terrorists could do if they get hold of weapons of mass destruction.

"Your task, our task, is to disrupt terrorists and terrorist networks and states that harbor terrorists, and do everything humanly possible to see that they do not get their hands on those powerful weapons," Rumsfeld said. "You're what stands between freedom and fear, between the safety of our people and an evil that cannot be appeased, it cannot be ignored, and it must not be allowed to win.

"The hopes of mankind depend on your success," he told the troops. "You're doing a magnificent job, and it is appreciated by all of us."

Rumsfeld spoke to them about the sacrifices they and others are making by being far from home and loved ones. "It's never easy to be far from home, no matter what the mission," he said. "It's tough on you, and it can be tough on your families as well."

After his brief remarks, Rumsfeld took questions from the group. Service members asked about subjects ranging from the political situation in Turkey, where many American airmen have been stationed, to what is being done to protect Israel from possible Iraqi attack. Others asked about deployment schedules, the fielding of the Joint Strike Fighter and the smallpox vaccine.

The secretary answered questions using his characteristic humor to allay troops' concerns. But he also warned them there are other threats on the horizon after Iraq, specifically North Korea.

"We recognize that we still live in a dangerous world. We live in an untidy world. We live in a new security environment. And we can live in that world; we can. We can do it," he said. "We can't do it without paying attention. We can't do it without a terrific armed force that we have here. We can't do it without working closely with our allies, because we do live in a world that's increasingly independent. But we can do it, and by golly, we will."

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