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Rumsfeld Urges Caution in Pressuring Iraqi Government, Praises Troops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2006 – While acknowledging the importance of the Iraqis forming their new unity government, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last evening it's important not to apply too much pressure to speed up the process.

"The Iraqis are going to form a government," Rumsfeld said on ABC's Sean Hannity Show two days before Iraqi Freedom Day, the third anniversary of the fall of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein's regime.

The secretary disagreed with suggestions by some that President Bush should put more pressure on the Iraqis to move the process forward. "There's a risk in being too heavy-handed and too visible in mandating what should take place in what is a sovereign country," Rumsfeld said. "The risk of that is that you're going to end up with a government that doesn't have the support of the Iraqi people, ... a government that's imposed on them on a timetable and with certain stipulations."

Bush's stipulations have been clear, Rumsfeld said. "It's that they have a government that's respectful of all the elements in that country and that's at peace with its neighbors," he said. "And they're going to get a government, in my view."

The war in Iraq, as part of the larger war on terror, represents a struggle between a relatively small number of violent extremists and the much larger, peace-loving Muslim population, he said. Recognizing that they can't win against the United States militarily, the extremists "operate in the shadows" to inflict terror.

U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces are fighting back and making it more difficult for terrorists to accomplish their goals, not just in Iraq, but around the world, he said. "The task is to put pressure on them all across the world and make everything more difficult for them--make it harder to raise money, harder to recruit, harder to move weapons, harder to talk to each other," the secretary said. "And that's what we're doing."

The only way extremists can succeed is by convincing free people that winning the war on terror isn't worth the time, money, effort and lives it will take. "Well, it is worth the effort, because terrorists are against free people behaving as free people," Rumsfeld said. "And that's the very essence of what America is."

Rumsfeld offered high praise for the U.S. servicemembers who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice in the war on terror. He said he gets inspired every time he visits Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to meet with wounded troops.

"These folks are so proud of their service and are so professional and talented in what they've done for the country," he said. "And they're up. They're anxious to get back to their units. They're strong."

Many of these servicemembers might not have survived their wounds in past years, he said. "The medical care today is so good and the speed that they're taken off the battlefield and their recovery is just miraculous," he said.

When he visits wounded troops, Rumsfeld said he's amazed to see how their families rally behind them and share their commitment. "I'm always struck that I leave there feeling how fortunate we are as a country to have, not just the soldiers and sailors and airmen and the Marines, but their families and their loved ones, be so supportive and so strong and so proud of our country and so willing to defend freedom," he said.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld


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