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Rumsfeld: Reagan Legacy Present in Iraq Today

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2003 – Former President Ronald Reagan's legacy is present in Iraq today, as many nations freed from the grasp of tyranny now are helping the coalition bring freedom to the Iraqi people, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today.

Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif., Rumsfeld named 19 of the 32 countries that now have military forces in Iraq -- Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine and noted they're all nations Reagan helped to make free.

"Why are so many of these nations many small, most not very wealthy sending their forces, their young men and women put at risk halfway around the world, to help bring freedom to the Iraqi people?" the secretary asked. "I suspect it's because so many of them have just recovered their own freedom, and they're eager, they're proud, to help the Iraqi people recover theirs."

Rumsfeld said the participation of these nations demonstrates that "the seeds of freedom, when planted, can do more than simply take root where they're sown. They can have the power to spread freedom across the globe to other countries."

The secretary quoted from a reply Reagan wrote by hand to Leonid Brezhnev after the Soviet leader wrote to him, accusing the United States of destabilizing the world with its "territorial ambitions and imperialistic designs." Reagan noted that after World War II, the United States had the only undamaged industrial power in the world, a military force at its peak, and a monopoly on the nuclear bomb and the ability to deliver it anywhere in the world.

Reagan wrote that no one could have stopped the United States at that time if world domination was on the nation's agenda. Instead, he wrote, "we used our power and wealth to rebuild the war-ravaged economies of the world, including those nations that had been our enemies."

Freedom took root in Japan, Germany, Italy and across Europe, Rumsfeld said, because of U.S. efforts after the war, and the liberated nations of Europe joined with the United States to form the NATO.

"Together, we stood up to the forces of communist tyranny, and by the end of the 20th century, liberty had spread across the entire continent of Europe and beyond," Rumsfeld said. He noted remarks President Bush had made at the Reagan library, pointing out that in 1941 the world had only about a dozen democracies, and by the end of the 20th century, more than 120 democracies were in place.

"Many of those recently liberated nations are now at the forefront of the effort to help Iraq and Afghan peoples recover their freedoms and maintain them," Rumsfeld said. "And if we are steadfast, free societies can take root in those countries, and we will have still new allies in the battle for freedom and moderation in the Middle East."

Rumsfeld noted that the post-World War II Marshall Plan that Reagan referred to in Brezhnev letter cost about $90 billion in today's dollars. "That $90 billion investment helped transform a region that had been a source of violent war and instability for centuries and turn it into a place of peace and posterity and, I would add, mutually beneficial trade," Rumsfeld said.

He said some American taxpayers might understandably ask why the United States should spend $20 billion to help bring stability, democracy and self-government to Iraq. "The reason, I would submit, is because it's in our interest, and the interest of the Free World," Rumsfeld said. "And I also suspect that that's what Ronald Reagan would say.

"Today, America carries on the mission that animated President Reagan's life and his presidency -- very simply, the defense of human freedom," Rumsfeld continued. "And looking at what has been accomplished in the past two years tyrannies defeated, nations rescued, millions of people liberated I suspect he would approve."

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