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Rumsfeld Salutes Servicemembers' Inaugural Support

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2005 – The Jan. 20 presidential inauguration represented "a celebration of democracy," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told members of the Joint Task Force Armed Forces Inaugural Committee here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld autographs photos for, left to right, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Donna Lou Morgan, Army Sgt. Mary Tambagan and Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Merna Jones at the Cohen Building in downtown Washington, D.C., Jan. 21. The secretary personally thanked the Joint Task Force Armed Forces Inaugural Committee's about 700 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard members for their efforts. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Rumsfeld personally thanked about 700 sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard members gathered in the Cohen Building's auditorium for making President Bush's second inauguration "a wonderful success and a safe one."

The defense secretary noted that the U.S. military has been involved in presidential inaugurations since George Washington was elected as the nation's first president and military commander in chief in 1789.

America is "the world's oldest democracy," Rumsfeld observed, noting that "the idea of self-government" and individual freedom has "spread across the globe."

Freedom is a "powerful" concept, the secretary said, noting President Bush had talked about freedom in his inaugural address.

Rumsfeld said North Korea literally lives in darkness because of a lack of freedom. North Korea's dictatorial government "is so harmful and so repressive," he said, that routine famines have adversely affected public health.

"They had to lower the height (requirement) to get into the North Korean military to 4 feet 10 inches," the secretary said, "because so many of their people are undernourished and didn't get enough food as youngsters."

The Afghan people, Rumsfeld recalled, had once lived under an oppressive government run by the Taliban. Today the Taliban are gone, the secretary noted, and in October the Afghans elected Hamid Karzai as their president. The Afghans are "on a path of freedom and democracy," Rumsfeld said. And, "it's the men and women in this room," and others in uniform "that make freedom possible."

Iraq today is at the crossroads between choosing tyranny or freedom, Rumsfeld said, but added he's betting the Iraqis will choose a free political system as the Afghans did.

The Iraqis have "a very good chance of making it," the secretary said, noting Iraq will hold countrywide elections Jan. 30 to select national assembly members to develop an Iraqi constitution. Few believed, Rumsfeld pointed out, that the Afghans would establish a democratic government after the fall of the Taliban, but they did.

It's up to the Iraqis to choose their destiny, Rumsfeld acknowledged. "You can't do it for another country; they have to do it for themselves," he said.

Rumsfeld said America and its allies can help to create an "environment that's sufficiently hospitable" so that Iraqis can establish a new government "that's respectful for all of the diverse elements in that country."

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Biographies:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

Related Sites:
Joint Task Force Armed Forces Inaugural Committee



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