Rumsfeld Arrives for NATO Defense Ministers Meeting
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
NICE, France, Feb. 9, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived here this morning to take part in a meeting of NATO defense ministers.
In the wake of successful elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, the secretary is expected to ask NATO allies to take on greater roles in any combination of funds, equipment, troops and training -- in both countries. He also is expected to try to put an end to "national caveats" restrictions some countries place on their deployed troops that hinder multinational operations and to urge alliance officials to use the momentum of recent military realignments to streamline and transform NATO's nonmilitary functions.
Shortly after arriving, Rumsfeld visited the USS O'Bannon, a destroyer anchored off the coast. He presented various awards and qualification pins to O'Bannon sailors and thanked the crew for its service.
"I know that every one of you is a volunteer," he said. "Each of you put your hand up and said you wanted to serve our country some of you many years ago, some of you quite recently. But in every case, you've become a key part of history."
Rumsfeld told the sailors that in years to come, they'll be able to look back on their service and know they were part of liberating 50 million people who had lived under brutal, repressive regimes.
He noted that Afghanistan's people recently chose the first popularly elected president in the country's 5,000-year history, and they now enjoy freedom. "I was there in Kabul for the inauguration, and I will never forget it in my entire life," the secretary said. "It was one of the most memorable moments."
Iraq's successful national-assembly election on Jan. 30 has made it a different country from the one that Saddam Hussein ruled for more than three decades, Rumsfeld said. "Instead of talking about killing people, instead of talking about invading neighbors, instead of a country that used chemical weapons against its own people and against its neighbors, what's being done today in Iraq is politics.
"People are talking. They're discussing. They're wondering who got the most votes," he continued. "They're wondering who ought to be the president, who ought to be the deputy presidents, and who might be prime minister and who should be the ministers of the various departments and agencies of that government. They're discussing how they can reach out to the Sunnis, who didn't participate fully in the election, to make sure that they have a single country."
Rumsfeld acknowledged it's impossible to predict whether everything will turn out well in Iraq, and he expressed the belief that more people will be killed in what he described as "a bumpy road, a tough road" ahead. But he reminded the sailors that no country ever has moved smoothly from an oppressive or authoritarian regime to democracy.
"Even Thomas Jefferson said you cannot expect to go from despotism to democracy on a featherbed," the secretary said. "Our country didn't go on a featherbed, so it's always tough, so expect it to be tough. But I am hopeful."
The world needs moderate Muslim leadership to help in the struggle against extremism, the secretary said. He cited such leadership now in place in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and said he expects moderates to emerge as the leaders in the new Iraq.
"In my lifetime alone," Rumsfeld said, "we've seen the rise and the fall of fascism. We've seen the rise and the fall of communism. And I hope and pray that I live long enough to see not just the rise, but also the fall, of extremism."
Noting the crew has been away from home for two months of a six-month cruise, the secretary thanked the sailors for their service and told them they're doing important work. "It's noble work, it's needed, and it's successful, and I thank each of you for that."