War on Terror 'Mission of a Generation,' Rumsfeld Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2004 The war on terror will be the mission of a generation, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the Heritage Foundation here today.
Rumsfeld said Americans cannot expect the war on terror to be easy or short.
The secretary said that since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have known they have a mission to perform. "The global war on terror, like the Cold War before it, will be the work of a generation," Rumsfeld said. "Terrorists will strike at will."
Defeating terrorism will mean not just killing or capturing leaders and enemy, but "we also have to wage a war of ideas to win the allegiance of a new generation that needs to see that freedom is a vastly better choice than terrorism and hatred."
Rumsfeld told the foundation that American troops are doing their jobs well in the war of terror, and that they are performing "with compassion, and skill, and courage, and we are so fortunate to have them doing what they're doing for our country and defending our freedom."
Rumsfeld said many members of the Iraqi security forces are also performing well. He said more than 300 Iraqi security members have been killed in defense of their country. While some members of the security forces have not done as well as others, Rumsfeld said, more than 200,000 Iraqis are in those forces now, and they are getting better equipped and better trained every day. "They are on a path to be able to take over the security responsibilities in that country," he said.
Former regime members and foreign fighters are engaged in an active campaign of intimidation and fear against those Iraqis who want a free, democratic nation, he said. "Just hours ago, the head of the Iraqi Governing Council Izzidine Salim was assassinated by enemies of freedom," Rumsfeld said. "The governing council, however, has not been defeated. It has not been defeated, and we must not allow terrorists or regime remnants to determine the fate of 25 million Iraqis."
Rumsfeld said he does not know precisely what will happen over the coming weeks. On June 30, the coalition will turn over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government, but coalition forces will not start streaming home after that date, Rumsfeld said. The Iraqi government will not be ready to assume security responsibilities by then. "There will likely be a president, a prime minister and a couple of dozen cabinet ministers, and a mixture of political leaders and technocrats," the secretary said.
That government will hold power for six months, or until elections are held for a transitional national assembly. The assembly will serve for about a year, and its main task will be to write an Iraqi constitution that will be voted on by the Iraqi people. "All of this should be thought of as the infancy of a nation," Rumsfeld said.
History shows this process has always been difficult, the secretary said. The Iraqis will face a "sharp learning curve" with some real bumps in the road, he added.
Coalition countries can advise, but Iraqis will choose what they follow, he said. "Is it possible that (Iraq) could revert to mayhem? Perhaps. But it's more likely that a set of serious, capable and educated men and women will find ways to make things work."
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