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Media Availability with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at an American World War II Cemetery in The Netherlands

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
June 12, 2009 12:00 PM EDT

                 THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

 

                SEC. GATES:  I've just finished a tour of this incredible cemetery, which illustrates the long history between the United States and the Netherlands and the trials we have endured together.

 

                Last week I visited the American cemetery in Manila.  These places are inspiring and beautiful, fitting tributes to the Americans who lost their lives on foreign shores fighting tyranny and oppression.  They're also humbling reminders of the great sacrifice the United States and our allies have made and the terrible human cost we have paid together in the defense of the ideals given their birthright on this continent and their renewal on battlefields across Europe and the Pacific.

 

                Last week was the 65th anniversary of D-Day.  In paying homage to those who died on the beaches of Normandy, President Obama spoke of the clarity of purpose with which World War II was waged.

 

                Today we're engaged in another war waged with clarity of purpose, similarly, one that once again has required great sacrifice by the United States, the Netherlands, and all members of the coalition in trying to help a proud people rebuild their nation after decades of war.  It is a mission whose importance should not and cannot be underestimated, for it is critical to the security of both Europe and the United States.

 

                Over the next few days, the United States and our partners will discuss what remains to be done.  I am confident that we will summon the will and the courage to do whatever it takes in Afghanistan, just as we have in the past on battlefields that necessitated memorials like this one.

 

                I'll take one question from the Dutch and one question from the Americans.  Do our Dutch colleagues have a question?

 

                Q     (Inaudible.)

 

                SEC. GATES:  A question?

 

                Q     What does this mean to visit this in the Netherlands?  I'm really sorry, everybody.  (Laughs.)  What does it really mean for you to see all these graves here?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, it's a solemn reminder of the sacrifices that mainly young men and women have made over the generations to try and preserve freedom or to recapture -- (inaudible).  This is the third overseas cemetery I've visited.  I visited the Manila cemetery last week and Normandy two years ago.  And as I sign the papers to send American soldiers to fight again for somebody else's freedom, these cemeteries remind me of the long line of patriots who have made the supreme sacrifice in the cause of liberty.

 

                Q     Mr. Secretary, what do you hope to achieve in meetings today and also in Brussels?

 

                SEC. GATES:  I think we basically will be taking stock here in the Netherlands of the situation in Regional Command South.  We'll get a briefing this afternoon by the Dutch commander of RC South.  And we'll be -- I'm sure I'll be talking about the new troops that we're sending in and where they're going and what their role will be.

 

                And the other point that I will be emphasizing is the continuing high importance of our partners staying with us and keeping us truly an international coalition battling the Taliban in Afghanistan.  And at the ministerial, we have several different meetings with different subjects that won't all be on Afghanistan.  The defense planning committee will meet and others.  But I'm sure the focus will be on Afghanistan.  We'll (probably ?) be talking about proposals for the new command arrangements.

 

                Thank you all very much.

 

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