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Secretary of Defense Message to Troops on Why We Fight in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2004 – More than 15 months ago, a global coalition ended the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein and
liberated the people of Iraq.

As in all conflicts, this has come at a cost in lives. Some of your comrades made the ultimate sacrifice. For your sacrifices, our country and the President are deeply grateful.

In a free, democratic country we have vigorous debates over important public policy issues none more heated than a decision to go to war. But this should not distract us from the mission at hand or lessen the magnitude of your accomplishments.

The threat we face must be confronted. And you are doing so exceedingly well. Indeed it has been an historic demonstration of skill and military power.

On September 11, 3,000 citizens were killed by extremists determined to frighten and intimidate our people and civilized societies. The future danger is that, if the extremists gain the potential, the number of casualties would be far higher. Terrorists are continuing to plot attacks against the American people and against other civilized societies. This is a different kind of enemy and a different kind of world. And we must think and act differently in this new century.

These extremists think nothing of cutting off innocent people's heads to try to intimidate great nations. They have murdered citizens from many countries South Korea, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and others hoping to strike fear in the hearts of free people.

Theirs is an ideology of oppression and subjugation of women. They seek to create radical systems that impose their views on others. And they will accept no armistice with those who choose free systems.

They see the governments of the Middle East, the United States and our stalwart allies all as targets.

Consider the background. In the span of 20 years, Hussein's Iraq invaded two neighbors, Iran and Kuwait, and launched ballistic missiles at two more. He employed poison gas against soldiers in Iran and against Kurdish villagers in his own country.

The United Nations and the U.S. Congress shared the view that Saddam's regime was a threat to the region and the world. Indeed, in 1998, our Congress passed a resolution calling for the removal of the regime. And over the years the U.N. passed 17 resolutions condemning Saddam's regime and calling on him to tell the UN about his weapons programs. He ignored every one.

Information gathered since the defeat of Saddam's regime last year confirms that his last declaration to the United Nations about his weapons programs was falsified. The U.N. resolutions had called for "serious consequences" should Saddam not comply. He did not.

The President issued a final ultimatum to Saddam to relinquish power to avoid war. Saddam chose war instead.

By your skill and courage, you have put a brutal dictator in the dock to be tried by the Iraqi people and restored freedom to 25 million people. By helping to repair infrastructure, rebuild schools, encourage democratic institutions and delivering educational and medical supplies, you have shown America's true character and given Iraq a chance at a new start.

But most importantly, your fight and ultimate victory against the forces of terror and extremism in Iraq and the Middle East will have made America safer and more secure.

You are accomplishing something noble and historic and future generations of Americans will remember and thank you for it.

Donald H. Rumsfeld

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