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The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations/Commercial Club of Chicago
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Chicago, IL, Friday, August 06, 2004

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Your Eminence, Lester, thank you so much; and Andy; and members of the Council and the Commonwealth Club -- Commercial Club of Chicago.

I look out at this group of obviously intelligent, successful, wise people and think that it's a Friday afternoon in August -- (laughter) -- and it's glorious weather, and I wonder what are you doing here.  (Laughter.)  But I thank you for being here.

It is very good to see so many old friends, folks from high school and college and business.  So I don't get back here very often.  I seem to find myself in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan -- maybe if you changed the name of Chicago to Chicagostan I could get here more often.  (Laughter.)  But it's -- as we meet today, there are a lot of very brave men and women, folks from this state and across the country, who are serving our country so well and who are doing important work.  And all are volunteers.  Each single one of them raised their hand and said "Send me," and certainly we ought to always recognize and appreciate their service.

I want to talk a bit about the extremists, the enemies that we are facing in this global struggle between civilized nations and extremism, and also touch on a few other issues of importance.

Everyone in this room knows that our free system is rooted in trust -- in each other, in our personal lives, in our free political system, our free economic system.  It is that trust which is the glue of our society that enemies hope to shatter.  And it is the freedom that that trust gives us that they hope to deny us.

This, I suppose, is not really a new phenomenon.  Although our enemies today are different in many respects, in one sense they do follow the path of the dictators, the fascists, the communists, who have challenged our way of life over past decades, and over which, with our allies and friends throughout the world, we've prevailed.

When the Cold War ended, some thought it was the end of history and believed that we would not be challenged again, but of course on September 11th the world found that we had not reached the dawn of global peace after all.  And today we face a different kind of enemy in a very different world.  So we need to think and act differently.

As we've seen, extremists are willing to cut off people's heads and they're willing to kill thousands of innocent men, women and children.  We saw the videos of what Saddam Hussein did to his people, where they chopped off heads and chopped off hands and pushed people off the tops of three- and four-story buildings.  The extremists that we're dealing with today have murdered people from countries all across the globe, seeking to strike fear into the hearts of all of us; in short, hoping to terrorize.  People tend to think of terrorism as an event, where someone is killed or a building is blown up or an explosive device occurs, but that's really not it.  Terrorism, the purpose of that is to terrorize, as Lenin said.  It's to alter behavior.  It's to change one's behavior.

In Afghanistan under Taliban rule, women were forbidden to wear colored shoes, to sing, to walk unaccompanied, to go to a male doctor, to be a doctor, to study.  In short, they had no rights.  These Taliban and the al Qaeda follow an ideology of oppression, of hatred and subjugation of women.

On September 11th they killed 3,000 citizens -- from many countries, of all faiths.  And were they to acquire the lethal weapons that they are seeking -- and let there be no doubt about that -- they could kill 10 times or 100 times that many.

Despite all that's been done to thwart terrorist plots -- and a great deal has been done -- and to strengthen security, the extremists, since they are on the offensive, have an enormous advantage.  A terrorist needs to be lucky only occasionally, and the defenders have to be skillful all the time to prevent such an act.  Terrorists can attack at any time, at any place, using any conceivable technique, and it is physically impossible to defend in every location at every moment of the day or night against all of the various techniques that terrorists can use.

So the only way to win the struggle -- the war, the insurgency; call it what you wish -- is to be on the offense.  It's to put pressure on the terrorists where they are, before they strike.  We can either change the way they live, or they're going to change the way we live.  And they strike at that thing that we are, namely free people.

They have a strategy.  They're determined to terrorize peaceful democratic governments and their people.  They know what they're doing.  And we see it, of course, in Afghanistan today, we see it in Iraq, and we see it with terrorist attacks all across the globe, from Asia to Europe.

They hope to intimidate the coalition countries, to drive out our allies and to impose their rule.  And they are conducting a reign of terror against those who represent hope -- the mayors, the city councilmen, women who register to vote in Afghanistan, volunteers who are standing in line to join the Iraqi security forces, police chiefs, coalition troops.

They're targeting oil pipelines, electricity grids, other essential infrastructure, to try to show that the new government's progress -- and slow that progress and to cripple it.

And they're striking at U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, trying to undermine America's morale and to weaken support here at home, as has happened in other conflicts.

The rise of a free, self-governing Afghanistan and Iraq will deny terrorists a base of operations, discredit their extremist ideology and give momentum to reformers across the region, and they are determined to try to prevent that.

In Afghanistan, there are now some 13,000 soldiers in the Afghan National Army, and over 21,000 in the Afghan National Police.  Construction is underway, and a good deal has been completed of the major road that connects the cities of that country and is critically important to their economy.

Interestingly, despite a campaign of intimidation -- (brief audio break) -- people have already registered to vote for the coming election in Afghanistan.  We were hoping there'd be 3 million that would brave that and actually get there and register.  And the U.N. was looking for a number slightly above that at 4 million, so that it could be considered a legitimate election.  But they're now up at 8.4 million.  Clearly, it's a booming success.  The people of that country want elections and they want to participate in it.  And they don't have a lot of experience with that.

And this is all happening despite the intimidation by the Taliban that operates just outside the borders, and the al Qaeda.  The al Qaeda, of course, are housed, in some instances, in Iran.  And the Taliban have -- using that border area along Pakistan -- are able to move back and forth.  Not too long ago, they stopped a bus, inspected everybody's belongings; found women who'd registered to vote and killed them.  A very pointed, targeted effort.

In Iraq, courageous leaders have stepped forward to lead their new government and to prepare for elections next year.  The economy is growing.  The currency's been steady.  They opened a stock market.  They pulled together an Olympic team.  The schools are open.  The Iraqi security forces have gone from zero to something in the neighborhood of 110,000 that are trained and equipped properly, and something like 206,000 that are recruited and in the process of being trained and equipped.  Every day the Iraqi security forces take on more and more responsibility for protecting their own people.

There have been some reports to the effect that they have not been too effective; that they didn't face down some opposition at one point.  I think it's important to point out that if you've armed Iraqi police with small arms and they're up against folks with AK-47s and heavy weapons, that it doesn't -- it wouldn't make a lot of sense for them to stand there and attempt to take them on.  And in fact, the Iraqi security forces are doing an excellent job.  They're -- more and more the U.S. patrols and the coalition patrols are not solo patrols, they're doing joint patrols with Iraqi forces.  Increasingly we'll see Iraqi forces conducting their own patrols with U.S. people behind and coalition forces behind ready to assist as necessary. 

Millions of women in Iraq are gaining new freedoms -- two of them are here; I just went down and said hello.  I think you spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations at a breakfast this morning.  We welcome you.

The progress is, of course, mixed in with a lot of bad news, and we have to recognize that.  People are being killed.  People are being wounded.  There have been something in excess of 500 Iraqi security forces (sic) that have been killed.  So it isn't like they're sitting in their barracks not doing anything.  They're out there trying to help build a free country.

There are neighbors that don't want a free Iraq, an Iraq that's respectful of all the diverse religious and ethnic groups in that country.  There are neighbors that don't -- prefer not to have a secular system in that country that's at peace with its neighbors and that is not a haven for -- not on the terrorist list, for example.  So we have this contrast of things going well -- very well -- and things going not well.

And how will it evolve?  How will it shake out?

If one had the impression that one gets from the television and the media, I think that you would have to be discouraged.  And you can't see the steady drumbeat of problems on the front page of the paper and on the television, day after day, and not feel that it's a very tough situation.  And it is a tough situation; it's a tough part of the world.

On the other hand, if one looks at what's happened and the distance they've come and the progress that's been made, one has to be hopeful.  And if you go back and read and think about other conflicts and how difficult they were and how discouraging they were -- for not just months but years in some instances -- and the number of lives lost -- and yet, the steadiness of purpose prevailed and people persisted and people ended up successful.

There are questions.  People ask, for example, are we safer today than we were on September 11th, 2001?  The answer is yes.  There's no question about it.  We have an 80- or 90-nation coalition, probably the largest coalition in the history of the world, that's working together, sharing intelligence, putting pressure on terrorists, making it more difficult for them to move between countries, to raise money, to recruit people, to retain people, to communicate with each other.  And that's a good thing.  And a lot of operations have been disrupted.

But reality is that new recruits step forward, and money still flows, and not enough countries have changed their laws to make it difficult for terrorists to operate.  With increased military, intelligence and law enforcement cooperation, the coalition countries are attacking those financial structures -- in some instances non-governmental organizations that do 10, 20, 30 percent good works, and then support terrorism with the remaining of their money.  It's not easy to sort that out and separate the good from the bad and know what to do about it.

Some people ask do we have enough troops to do the job in Iraq?  And the answer is, there's no magic formula, there's no template, there's no rule book that you can go back and look at for that.  The fact of the matter is we have -- the president has said, and we have in fact put in the number of troops that the military commanders -- first General Franks, and more recently General Abizaid and General Casey -- have asked for.  And the balance is this, if you think about it.  In Afghanistan, the Soviet Union probably had 300,000 folks in that country, and they lost.  We had several thousand troops in that country and we won.  Now, why is that?  Well, for one thing, we're not occupiers.  Our country doesn't go to another country because they want to take it over.  And that message gets out; eventually that messages gets out.

In the case of Iraq, we currently have 123,000 folks there, and it is -- you can't see a day go by that you don't say, "Gee, the border's porous with Iran or with Syria, and if we had a few more, might not that help?"  And the military commanders on the ground say:  No, we want the effort to go into building the Iraqi forces.  We do not want to become an occupier; we do not want physical presence all over that country which creates greater resistance than exists today.  We want to have enough so that we can train and equip and support the Iraqi forces, build them up and transfer the responsibility to them.  And I am persuaded they're right, but the debate goes on.

Obviously, if you had more troops, that means you have to have more support, combat support forces.  That means you have to have more force protection.  And that means you have a heavier and heavier footprint and you have greater and greater vulnerability to explosive devices of various types, and mortars; and instead, the effort is trying to balance it.  And that's what's been taking place and that's what's contributed to that debate.

The other question, of course, that people ask is, is it worth it?  Is it worth it, I suppose, in money, they mean; is it worth it in lives; is it worth it in lives not lived; is it worth it in lives lived differently, with limbs off?  The answer is, it is worth it.

I'm trying to think when it was -- I mentioned in an article today in the Tribune that I was in Korea, and I can't remember when it was; it was four, five, six months ago.  And we were in a hotel, it was night, and there was a function.  And a woman, a Korean woman reporter -- probably, I don't know, 45 years old, too young to remember the war, said -- they were having a debate in the Korean Parliament, the South Korean Parliament that very day about, oh, my goodness, why should we send our troops halfway across the world to Iraq to participate?

And I looked at her, and I looked out the window.  And of course, here's this -- many of you have been to South Korea, but they've got energy and they've got a successful economy, they've got a vibrant democracy, and they're trading all across the globe.  And I've got a picture on my desk in the Pentagon of the Korean peninsula with the Demilitarized Zone from a satellite at night, and the light in South Korea at night is just all -- you can see the electricity, and the North is black.  Nothing except one pinprick of light in Pyongyang, the capital; that's all.

The same people, same resources, same geography, same opportunities.  And one's a free system, and the one in the North is a vicious dictatorship.  They have lowered the height to get into the North Korean military to four feet, 10 inches, and under a hundred pounds for adults, because of malnutrition.

And I thought about that when this woman asked me that question, and I said, "Think of that!  Think of millions of human beings living a different life, starving, in jails, in concentration camps."  They have concentration camps as big as the city of Austin, Texas, in North Korea.

And I told this woman, "You bet it's worth it."  I mean, why was it worth it for our people to go over to Korea 50 years ago?  And the answer is, because freedom is important, and terrorism and intimidation and accommodation to terrorism is dangerous.  It's dangerous to everything we believe in.

            For all of the enemy's cunning and ruthlessness, we have an enormous advantage.  And that is our way of life.  It is the example for the world -- these free systems.  They're the ones that are providing more for more people -- free political systems and free economic systems.  And the great sweep of human desire for freedom is on our side.

And the 25 million Afghan people have a good crack at building a free system.  It isn't certain, but they have a very good crack at it.  And the 25 million Iraqi people have a good crack at building a free system as well, as amazing as that would be, given where they've been.  And if they're successful -- and I believe they will be -- if they are, it will make an enormous difference in this world.  To put in that part of the world and to see built a free political system and a free economic system at peace with their neighbors, not on the terrorist list, respectful of all of the elements in that country, it would have to have an effect on those neighbors.  It would have to.  And I think it will.

Thank you.  (Applause.)

Now, I'd be delighted to answer some questions.

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