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Rumsfeld, Myers Salute Success in Iraq, Warn Terror Threat Remains

By Staff Sgt. Michelle L. Thomas, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today lauded the accomplishments of those who willingly put their lives at risk so that all Americans can live in peace and freedom.

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Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers makes his opening statements during a joint press conference with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon Dec. 23. Both men commented on how pleased they were that Time magazine named the American armed forces the 2003 "Person of the Year." Photo by R. D. Ward.

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In the past year alone, Rumsfeld said, America's military men and women have rescued two nations, liberated some 50 million people, captured Saddam Hussein and helped to capture or kill nearly two-thirds of the known senior al Qaeda operatives.

"At this time last year, a vicious dictator ruled Iraq," the secretary said. "He was a man who took pleasure in having dozens of people thrown off the tops of several-story buildings to their death, whose security apparatus tortured innocent men women and children and who murdered literally hundreds of thousands of people over his time in office and piled their bodies in mass graves.

"Today, Saddam Hussein has been removed from power," Rumsfeld continued. "The man who terrorized a nation and who sought to terrorize the world was found cowering in a hole in the ground. Instead of a palace he now spends his time in a prison cell waiting for justice for his crimes and the Iraqi people face a future not of fear but of freedom."

Yet this is not the time to let down our guard, Rumsfeld stressed. Noting that the nation's threat level is at Code Orange (high), he said the nation remains engaged in a dangerous and difficult war.

"The global war on terror is not something that is going to end precipitously," he said. "It is a war where we have no choice but to go after the terrorists where they are. Terror is not something you can defend against in your homeland and think that they're not going to bother you. They did bother us they killed 3,000 people."

The only way to deal with terrorists, Rumsfeld said, is to hunt them down and capture or kill them before they kill more innocent Americans.

"That is what the men and women of the armed forces are doing this day and every day," he said. "We are grateful for their courage, proud of their service and appreciate the time they sacrifice away from their loved ones so that all Americans can live in freedom."

Rumsfeld said Time magazine's naming the men and women of America's armed forces the 2003 "Person of the Year" is "well-deserved recognition of their remarkable achievements."

Myers said he is "delighted" Time chose to recognize America's service members. "The three soldiers on the cover represent every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman serving in our armed forces," the chairman said. "Whether they are active duty, whether they are reserve, whether they're part of the National Guard, today's service members are indeed America's best."

Myers also praised the men and women in uniform involved in the homeland defense mission dubbed Operation Noble Eagle. This mission, he said, headed by Northern Command, takes on an added sense of urgency this week with the increase in the terror alert.

"We're taking this threat very seriously and (we've) put in place several added security measures," Myers said. Since 9/11, the military has responded to potential air threats more than 1,600 times, he noted.

"Americans may see similar security precautions over the holidays," Myers said. "They may see additional air patrols over select cities and facilities, an increased air defense posture here in Washington, D.C., and combat aircraft could be put on a higher alert at different air bases throughout the country. We have dedicated people and resources to protect our citizens, and we are taking some of those precautions today."

(Air National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Michelle L. Thomas is on active duty working for DefendAmerica.mil.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDuring the Dec. 23 Pentagon press briefing, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld takes a moment to comment on the recently imposed Code Orange terror alert issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Photo by R. D. Ward.  
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