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Task Force Freedom (Troop Dinner)
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, December 24, 2005

Thank you very much.

General Rodriguez, thank you so much and Merry Christmas and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, all of you.

I am here on Christmas Eve to be able to personally tell you folks how grateful we are for your service for the country.

This is, of course, a season when everyone reflects on things that are important -- family and friends, your colleagues, and those no longer with us.  It's also a time I think when you can reflect on what a very special place the United States of America is.

In this “long war” against terrorists and violent extremists -- and it will be a long war, let there be no doubt about it -- what makes our country so special -- is our free way of life and that, of course, is precisely what the enemies of freedom are trying to deny us.

Put simply, the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize.  People think that terrorists, the purpose is to kill people, but it isn't.  It's to terrorize.  It's to alter people's behavior.  It's to make free people be something other than free people.  It's to try to alter our behavior in a way that will inflict their dark vision upon us.

And let there be no doubt: if the United States were to withdraw from Iraq today, the terrorists -- emboldened by their victory -- would attack us elsewhere in the region, and at home in the United States.

We will win this war.  It's a test of wills, and let there be no doubt that is what it is.  It is not a competition between big armies, big navies, or big air forces.  Generations before you have persevered and prevailed and they too, were engaged in a test of wills.  Their success wrote the history that made America what it is today.  And had they not persevered, there either would not be an America or the world would be a totally different place.

In this fight, the vast majority of the Iraqis stand on the side of freedom.  Think of what they've done:

  • Millions of Iraqis have braved the threats of violence, of assassination, and flocked to the polling sites -- many of them waving purple index fingers as a symbol of their defiance.
  • The Iraqi Security Forces -- each one of them a volunteer -- just as each one in this hall is a volunteer, are taking on greater and greater responsibility.  You know that.  You're working with them.  You're assisting them.
  • Hopeful Iraqis are starting businesses, opening schools and clinics, farming.  Flying up here this evening we came over those fields and saw people out there working and tending herds and planting, hopefully looking to their future.
  • The overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people say that things are going well in their lives, and that they look forward to their future as free people.

You folks have helped to liberate 25 million human beings.  People that did not have hope before.  It's a mission that matters to all of us -- the defeat of terrorists who threaten our country and who threaten free people everywhere.

In the struggle between freedom and tyranny, freedom ultimately prevails.  It prevails because of the dedication and the perseverance of those wearing America's uniforms.

The task has fallen to you to keep America that very special place that millions of people around the world look to in times of turmoil and tragedy.  In this holiday season there is no better gift that you can offer your families than what you are giving them today.

One day some years out you'll have children.  One of them will come home with a textbook and there will be a chapter on Iraq and it will talk about the Saddam Hussein regime and hundreds and thousands of dead people killed by that regime in mass graves.  And it will talk about the struggles, the victories that were achieved over Saddam Hussein, that regime, and the struggles that have helped Iraq along its path to democracy, ushering in a new chapter, a new hopeful era not just in Iraq but in the Middle East.

Each of you will be able to look down at your children or your grandchildren and say that you were there.  That you helped to make that possible, which you have done.  And you helped to bring freedom to literally millions of human beings -- men, women, and children that you see on the streets.  In fact someone here was awarded a medal today for saving the life of one of those children.

You'll look back with a great deal of pride on the history that you've made and you are making history.  That is what you're doing, and it is a proud history indeed.

The folks who have preceded you and been engaged in these battles in Afghanistan, here in Iraq, and elsewhere around the world are in our thoughts and prayers.  And those that have been lost, we think of as well.  And certainly their mission is in your hands.  That mission is to offer once dark corners what Abraham Lincoln called “a new birth of freedom.”  For Iraq, to be sure; for Afghanistan, to be sure; for this region; and also for people around the world who hope for freedom and strive for freedom.

No one more than you deserves the Christmas wish of “tidings and joy,” for that's what you have selflessly given to 25 million Iraqis.  May you have a very happy holiday, this day, and may you continue to live in freedom and peace in the decades ahead in a world that you have helped make better and a world that is grateful to you for that.

I've lived a long life and as I think about it, it's hard to think of anything I've ever done that is as important or gives me as much pleasures as working with each of you doing what you're doing.  You do it so well, you are so professional.  You're well trained, you're well led, and you have set an example in the world that will be remembered.

When you read things or hear things that express a doubt about the future here in Iraq or in Afghanistan, know that there have always been doubts expressed.  There have always been those who suggested that the cause could not be successful; that the cause would be lost; and in fact it was the people that persevered that proved them wrong.

The great sweep of human history is for freedom, and you're on the side of freedom, and you and our country will prevail.  God bless you all, thank you.

Now we've got a choice here.  We could just eat and I could walk around and meet some of you folks and take a picture and shake your hands; I can go back and serve you some more lobster or steak; or I could answer some questions if some of you have questions -- correction.  I'll respond to questions.  I'll answer the ones I know the answers to and I'll ask General Rodriguez to answer the tough ones.

Does anyone have a question that's burning a hole in their pocket?

Not a one.

All right, thank you again, I'm delighted to be with you, I'm proud to be with you, and I'm proud to be working with you.  Thank you.