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Wolfowitz Evokes Reagan's Words in Praising U.S. Forces

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz., July 23, 2004 – The men and women fighting the global war on terror are ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a packed house at the theater here July 22.

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Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz greets airmen at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., during his visit July 22 to conduct a Town Hall meeting. Photo by Airman Teri Smith, USAF

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

At a town hall meeting, Wolfowitz said the late President Ronald Reagan often pointed out that the men and women who make up the armed forces grew up next door.

"He would frequently ask, 'Where do we find such people?' Wolfowitz said. "And he would answer his own question: 'We find them where we got you where we always find them in hours of need on main streets and farms of America.'"

Wolfowitz said the same is true today. "We have ordinary Americans everywhere in the world doing truly extraordinary things," he said. "As a result of their efforts, in less than three years, we have removed two regimes that supported terrorism, and we have liberated 50 million people almost all of them Muslims from tyrannical rulers who terrorized them.

"Today, both Iraq and Afghanistan are on the road to freedom and representative government," he continued. "A new Afghan constitution has been adopted that gives equal rights to men and women. The new Iraqi transitional constitution contains assurances of equal rights and other fundamentals of democracy, including separation of powers, a bill of rights and civilian control of the military."

Both countries, he noted, now are heading toward free elections. "They are becoming examples for the Middle East and the Muslim world, and they are becoming America's newest allies against terrorism," he added.

Much remains to be done in both countries, he acknowledged, but the Iraqi and Afghan people are stepping up "with courage and determination" to do their part. Wolfowitz told of a young Iraqi man who calls himself "The Mesopotamian." He started a Web site with his new freedom, and Wolfowitz quoted a passage from one of the man's recent postings.

"The liberation is real; there is no turning back," Wolfowitz said, quoting from the Web site. "If the terrorist obsessed by the devil is willing to explode himself to kill the innocent, we, filled with the light of love and the love of life, are even more capable of sacrifice. The enemy is desperate. He is striking left and right beheading, slaughtering, murdering blind to the rage of a wounded, dying beast. But we shall overcome. This I know with every fiber of my being. And thank you, America."

More than 200,000 Iraqis are now on duty or in training in Iraq's security forces, Wolfowitz noted, pointing out that a year ago there were no such forces. And despite terrorist attacks meant to punish security forces and recruits and to deter others from joining, Iraqis continue to line up to do their part in providing for their country's security.

"A few weeks ago, a suicide bomber attacked volunteers who were lining up outside the recruiting station in Baghdad and killed quite a number of people and wounded many more," Wolfowitz said. "But the very next day, long lines of recruits appeared outside that same recruiting station."

During a recent trip to Iraq, Wolfowitz said, his translator in Mosul was an Iraqi woman whose sister had been killed by insurgents because she worked with the Americans. "I asked her why she continued to work with us," he said, "and she said, 'Because my father told me you must never retreat in the face of evil, and the enemy that we are fighting is truly evil.'"

In a question-and-answer session with the assembled airmen, Wolfowitz was asked what would constitute total victory in Iraq, allowing American forces to return home. He replied that there won't be anything resembling the ceremony aboard the USS Missouri that brought World War II to an official end.

"I think the measure of success is when Iraqis are bearing most or all of the fight," he said. "Though it's hard to predict, I think that we're on a very fast track toward having that happen. My shorthand for victory in Iraq is Iraqi self-government and Iraqi self-defense."

One impediment to the development of Iraq's security forces has been the lack of an Iraqi chain of command. Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who led the 101st Airborne Division in combat and peacekeeping operations in Iraq, is working to build that chain of command as he heads the development effort. Wolfowitz expressed optimism, calling Petraeus "absolutely the right guy for the job."

Luke Air Force Base, located in Glendale, Ariz., west of Phoenix, is home for Air Education and Training Command's 56th Fighter Wing. The wing trains pilots and maintainers for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, graduating more than 900 pilots and 900 crew chiefs each year.

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Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz

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