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Town Hall Meeting with Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England in Bahrain

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England
January 22, 2007

            MR. ENGLAND:  I'm going to put my Navy hat on for just a minute and tell you that one of the highlights of my career, of course, was five Navy wins over Army in the football game every year.  So now I have to put my other hat back on as the deputy secretary.  Although I have tell you that the other year when Fran Harvey and I became deputy secretary and the secretary of the Army, he said to me, "Now, Gordon, from here on in you have to be neutral at the Army-Navy game.  No more favorites."  He said, "You have to sit on both sides."   

 

            I said, "Okay, Fran, I'll do it." I said, "But I'm going to sit the first half of the game on the Army side, the second half on the Navy side, because I want to make sure I'm on the winning side at the end of the game."  Otherwise, I was completely unbiased. 

 

            You reminded, me Pat.  First of all, I want to congratulate, Admiral, who's going to come back to Washington.  You're vice chief of Naval Operations.  So congratulations to you, Admiral.  (Applause.) You have a great, great leader here and we need you now in Washington, D.C.  I'm looking forward to Pat coming back and working with us in Washington, D.C.   

 

            He did remind me -- I will share with you a short happening from 2001, because of 9/10/01 -- so the day before 9/11 -- that day I was with the president of the United States.  We were at the Navy Yard and we had the prime minister of Australia at the Navy Yard and it was one of these beautiful, wonderful days and it was sunny and the breeze was blowing and the flags were flying and bands were playing.  And Prime Minister John Howard was introduced by the president.  I had the honor of introducing the president of the United States and the president introduced the prime minister.  And we gave the prime minister a bell that day from the USS Canberra.  So a bell, you know, named in honor of the Australians and it was on our ship and he was given the bell. So it was a wonderful day -- bands playing, cannons, everything. 

 

            And that was on 9/10.  And then very next morning, 9/11, we had the attack.  We had the attack in New York.  We had the attack in the Pentagon and we had the airplane went down in Pennsylvania.  Then that night, on 9/11, we had a meeting in the Pentagon -- and I remember this well, because the president came to the Pentagon that evening, at 6:15 in the evening, and the Pentagon was still burning and CNO and I were not sure at the point how many people had been wounded and killed, because we were still trying to account for people, because you know, people were traveling and all those sorts of things.  

 

            And you could still smell the smoke in the building and you could sort of feel it, you know, in the air.  You could sort of feel it on your hands.  And the president came and met in the conference room right next to Secretary Rumsfeld's office.  And he came and he said, "Get ready."  He said, "Get ready."  He said, "This is going to be a long war."  He said, "And this is not going to be like removing a mole."  He said, "This is like removing a cancer."  He said, "This isn't going to be quick.  It's going to be long, take a long, long time."  He said, "It's not just the military."  He said, "It's going to be military and it's going to be diplomatic and it's going to be economic."  He said, "But the military's going to have to do their role, because it won't succeed without the military." 

 

            And he went around the room and he said to everybody, he said, "Never forget."  He said, "Never forget what happened today."  He said, "People will forget."  He said, "I want the American people to go on with their lives."  He said, "I will never forget and none of you can ever forget, because we are charged with the defense and the security of the United States of America and of our friends and allies."  He said, "So never forget." 

 

            And so that was 9/11 -- 9/10 was this beautiful day.  Normal day like we all sort of lived our lives up to that point.  It changed in an instant of the next morning and you cannot turn this clock back. You cannot put Pandora back in the box.  You know, people would like to go back to the way life was before the morning of 9/11, but you can't do it.  I mean, as much as people want to go back, you can't do it. 

 

            This is not a war of our choosing.  People tend to forget America was attacked on 9/11 and we lost about 3,000 people that day.  We've lost just a few more than that in this whole war, and Iraq is just a little bit more than that number today, including our accidents. People are dying of accidents in Iraq.  In one day we lost 3,000 civilians. 

 

            So it all changed that day for all of us and it changed for our nation, it changed for a lot of people in the world.  And since then, the military did exactly what the president asked.  The military has performed magnificently.  And we have at any given time about 400,000 people deployed, including all of you right here in Bahrain, deployed around the world doing what the nation needs our military to do, which is to protect the freedom and liberty of our people. 

 

            And we are blessed as a nation -- we are blessed as a nation because for 230 years every generation of Americans has stepped forward to protect and defend their country.  And I was born in 1937, so this year I'm going to be 70 years old, which is sort of amazing to me, by the way.  So I could probably be almost everybody's father, and in a lot of cases maybe even the grandfather of a lot of you here. 

 

            But I was born in 1937.  So in 1941 I was four years old.  So I was four years old when America was attacked in 1941.  And had it not been for that generation of Americans who fought at that time, I would not have lived the life I've lived -- and neither would any of you have lived the life you lived or your parents.  

 

            And then not long after the war was over, you know, America and the world expected a period of peace, because we had fought hard in the Second World War, but the next thing you knew, we were in Korea. And once again, Americans went forward in the Korean War.  At that time we actually thought it was the Korean War.  It turned out it was not actually the war, it was the beginning of another war, which was the Cold War.  And that war lasted until the wall came down in 1989. So it was a long war -- almost 40 years we fought that war against communism and finally did win that war after 40 long years. 

 

            And again, during that period, if people had not stepped forward to protect and defend our country, none of us would have had the life we've lived. 

 

            And then of course, on 9/11 we started a third -ism from my lifetime -- it was fascism, communism and now terrorism or extremism, but it's still the third -ism.  And it's not lost on me that I was four years old in December of 1941 and my granddaughter was four years old when 9/11 of '01, and so it's the same obligation going forward of this generation as with prior generations.  And that's what this is all about. 

 

            Now what we do -- our military and our civilians in the Department of Defense -- is that we protect freedom and liberty for the next generation.  We do it for ourselves, but you know, we're sort  of going to make it ourselves.  This is about a long-term struggle.  I mean, this is about next generation.  This is about your kids and your grandkids, because as the president said, this is a long struggle. 

 

            And I will tell you, as bad as you may hear the news every day, we're actually gaining a lot in this war against extremism. 

 

            The moderate governments -- right here in Bahrain, by the way -- a very moderate government.  I just had lunch with His Majesty the King. But right here there's parliaments and people participate in the government.  I mean, it's an amazing way forward in this part of the world.  And by the way, change is extraordinarily hard to bring about. So in my judgment, the king has done just a wonderful role in terms of leadership and literally changing the dynamics -- not just in this country, but literally in this region.  And the region is starting to change, and this is a hugely important part of the world for the United States. 

 

            Syria and Iran, obviously the belligerent nations in this part of the world, and that gets a lot of attention of countries of this region and also the United States of America.  This is a hugely important place for us.  Having our Fifth Fleet here in Bahrain, it turns out, is good for Bahrain to have our Fifth Fleet here, but it's also terrific for the United States of America to have this permanent facility right here in the Middle East in Bahrain. 

 

            And we are blessed to have all of you here serving.  I always came by when I was secretary of the Navy, during both my tours.  This is probably at least my fourth or fifth visit here to Bahrain.  I always stop by.  By the way, the last time I was here -- as I recall -- we were shoveling the first shovel of dirt to build this facility we're all sitting in.  So the last time I was here, just a couple of years ago, we were all just thinking about this facility.  And I'm pleased that it's in place and I'm pleased that it contributes to your way of life and to your well-being here in the area. 

 

            So I always come by, first of all, to see the people of Bahrain, but mainly to come by and thank all of you who serve America, who every day leave your families and spend you time here doing your part to protect and defend America. 

 

            So I thank you.  I thank you.  I thank your families.  And God bless you for your great service to America.   

 

            And with that, I'm just going to take a few questions or comments or whatever.  Or you can let me off easy.  Anybody?  Okay, here we go. (Laughter.) 

 

            Q     (Off mike.) 

 

            MR. ENGLAND:  So, Pat, you're going to let me off easy today, huh? 

 

            MR.     :  (Off mike.) 

 

            MR. ENGLAND:  I know they won't do that with you.  They're used to you.  I probably intimidate everybody.  When I was secretary of the Navy, everybody ganged up on me, right -- but you're probably being nice to me now.

 

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