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Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Thank you very much.  Mr. Chairman and ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.  It is good to be with you for this 50th annual meeting of the Association, with so many Army leaders, soldiers and supporters -- patriots all.

General Sullivan, thank you so much for your kind words and for your leadership of this important organization.  It's good to see you, and I thank you for your service.

I just left the table here with Secretary Les Brownlee and Chief of Staff General Pete Schoomaker.  You two and your team are doing an absolutely superb job of leading the Army as it meets the tough challenges of the 21st century.  We appreciate your experience, your wisdom, your energy, your toughness as you tackle your vitally important posts.

General Sullivan mentioned my meeting here some 20 years ago.  I remember it well, meeting with this Association.  I also remember that the following year, the organization wisely presented the George Catlett Marshall Medal to my friend, Paul Nitze.

As many of you may know, Paul Nitze died last week. 

As one of the key architects of the strategy that defended America through the long struggle against the Soviet empire, his keen intellect helped to give the hope of freedom to literally millions of people trapped behind the Iron Curtain.  And through his long and distinguished public career and his dedicated service to the country, he remained a model of honor and integrity.  We will certainly miss him.

General Sullivan mentioned who the recipient of the George Catlett Marshall Medal is this year -- the American soldier.  That is an inspired choice.  There could be no better, and I congratulate you for it.  To the soldiers.

I never cease to be amazed at these young men and women -- active, Guard and Reserve alike.  They're a very special group of truly selfless volunteers.  Our country is so fortunate that they have stepped forward and said, "Send me."  And certainly to all of the soldiers here and across the world, please know that we are deeply in your debt.

When I spoke to this organization in 1984, I did mention the growing threat of terrorism.  I was concerned even two decades ago about what I had seen when I was serving as President Reagan's Middle East envoy.  You'll recall 241 of our service people were killed in Beirut, Lebanon.  I was afraid that the threat was underestimated, and I worried that the effect of a single attack could have a serious effect on even the behavior of great nations.

Seven weeks ago, we observed the third anniversary of September 11th, the day that awakened our country to a new world.  Three years into the global war on terror, some still ask, "Is our country safer today?"  And it's a fair question.  And the answer is yes -- we are safer today, without question.

It's been said that the global struggle against extremism will be a task for a generation, that it could go on for years, as did the Cold War; and I'm afraid that's true.

The Cold War was a great victory, a victory for freedom, but that 50-year struggle between the free world and the Soviet empire was marked by setbacks and failures all along the way, as well as some successes.

There were times when the Soviets seemed to have the upper hand.  I remember when "euro-communism" was in vogue, when the West was considering withdrawing from the Cold War.  I was Ambassador to NATO in the early 1970s, and I recall having to fly back to Washington in a hurry to testify before the United States Senate against an amendment that would have begun pulling U.S. forces out of Europe at the height of the Cold War.  Many Americans and many of our allies were exhausted, and they favored withdrawing from the struggle.

The West's strategies varied.  They varied from coexistence to containment to deَtente to confrontation.  Our alliances wavered.  In NATO, there were frequent disputes over diplomatic policy, serious disputes over weapon deployments, and arguments over military strategies.

In the 1960s, France pulled out of the military command in NATO, and they tossed NATO out of France.  In America, columnists questioned U.S. policies.  There were vocal showings of support for communist Soviet Union, marches against the U.S. military buildup, even instances where American citizens saw their own government unfairly challenged as warmongers.

Clearly, many did not fully comprehend the challenge posed by the Soviet Union's appetite for empire.  But our nation, over a long period and with our allies, demonstrated impressive perseverance and resolve.  We dared to confront what many thought might be an unbeatable foe, and eventually the Soviet regime collapsed.

It seems that that's a lesson that needs to be relearned from generation to generation -- the lesson that weakness can be provocative, that it can entice others into adventures they otherwise would have avoided, that a refusal to confront gathering dangers can increase rather than reduce future peril.  And that while there are risks to acting to be sure -- and there are risks to acting -- there are also risks to failing to act, and that ultimately victory comes from those who are steadfast.

It's with those lessons in mind that the President and a truly historic coalition of more than 90 nations have sought to confront a new and perhaps even more dangerous enemy -- an enemy without a country, an enemy without a conscience -- one that seeks no armistice, no truce with us or with the civilized world.  From the outset of the conflict, it was clear that our coalition had to go on the offense against the terrorists:  the need to pursue terrorists and regimes that provide them comfort and aid, to establish relationships with new allies and bolster international coalitions to prosecute the war, and the need to work with moderate Muslim leadership to undermine the terrorists' ideological foundation.

Al Qaeda was a growing danger long before September 11th, 2001.  Osama bin Laden was safe and sheltered in Afghanistan.  His network was dispersed all across the world.

Today, a bit more than three years later, a large fraction of al Qaeda's key leaders have been detained or killed; and I suspect that Osama bin Laden spends a major portion of each of his days just avoiding being caught.

Once controlled by extremists, Afghanistan today is led by President Hamid Karzai, who's helping to lead the world in support of moderates against the extremists.  Soccer stadiums in Kabul, once used for public executions under the Taliban only a few years ago, today are used for soccer.

Three years ago in Iraq, Saddam Hussein and his sons brutally ruled an important nation in the heart of the Middle East.  Saddam was attempting to regularly kill American and British air crews that were enforcing the southern and northern no-fly zones.  He ignored more than a dozen U.N. Security Council resolutions.  He was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers.

And last December, Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. Special Operations Forces and by the 4th Infantry Division.  He's no longer killing tens of thousands of innocent people.  He's in a cell -- a prisoner awaiting trial by the Iraqis.  His sons are dead after refusing to surrender to the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne.

Some 112,000 trained and equipped Iraqis today now provide security for their fellow citizens.  Under the new Iraqi leadership, Iraq is determined to fight the terrorists and to build over time a peaceful society.

Interestingly, NATO is now leading ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, in Afghanistan.  It's also helping to train Iraqi security forces near Baghdad.  For NATO to be operating outside of the NATO treaty area, outside of Europe, for the first time in the history of that alliance, is a truly historic move.

Here at home, the demands of the global war on terror have given an even greater impetus to the need to transform our armed forces.  The armed forces, as you know, are faced with an increasingly complex array of missions.  With the leadership of Les Brownlee and Pete Schoomaker, and using the President's emergency powers, the size of the active duty Army has increased by about 30,000 troops, and is being reorganized into more agile, more lethal, and more readily deployable brigades -- brigades with the protection, firepower and logistics assets necessary to sustain them.  And we're currently increasing the number of these new, more capable Army brigades from 33 to 43 or possibly 48, over the coming two-and-a-half to three or three-and-a- half years.

In addition, the Army is restructuring and retraining the active component and the reserve components to achieve a more appropriate 21st century balance to get a distribution of skill sets between the active force and the reserve components to fit this new century -- to improve total force responsiveness -- and so that Reservists and Guardsmen will be called somewhat less often, possibly for shorter periods of time, and with somewhat more predictability.

The ability of the armed services -- the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard -- to work together is increasing.  It has to increase.  Jointness has to become the rule and not an occasional luxury.  Communications and intelligence activities have been improved, and we have significantly expanded the capabilities and the missions of the Special Operation Forces.  And they are doing a truly outstanding job for our country, let there be no doubt.

Since the global war on terror began, our coalition has worked to undercut the extremists' efforts.  Our world is, I suppose it's fair to say, divided between regions where freedom and democracy have been nurtured, and areas of the world where people are subjected to tyranny.

And if one were to look down from Mars on the globe, we would see that it is those countries with political and economic freedom that are providing the most for their people; and those countries that have repressive systems, centralized systems, tyrannical systems that are denying their people the opportunities available elsewhere in the world.

In Afghanistan, over 8 million people voted in this month's election.  They were hoping to get 6 million people registered; 8 million voted.  People dressed in their best clothes.  They got up at 3:00 in the morning and they walked miles in the cold to go vote.  A long line of women stayed in line, even after some explosives went off about a hundred yards from their polling place.

Iraq now has an interim constitution that includes a bill of rights and an independent judiciary.  There are municipal councils in almost every major city in Iraq, most towns and most villages, and provincial councils for all of the 18 provinces.  The Iraqis are now among those in the world who are allowed to say and write and watch and listen to whatever they want and whenever they want, and it's clear that governments and the people in the Middle East are taking note.

I flew over much of Iraq a week and a half ago, I guess, coming in from the south, went to the west, went in towards Baghdad, went north, and it's a different country than one sees.  It is different in different parts of the country, to be sure, but it is a very different one from what the people here in the United States see.  The schools are open with new books.  The clinics are open.  There's a stock market.  The economy's strong.  The oil listings are back up where they were.  The electricity is at or better than where it was.  It is not burning and smoking in a way that one believes it to be by watching television.  I don't talk to anybody who comes out of there who isn't struck by the contrast between what they experienced on the ground and the good things being done by the young men and women in the Army and in the Air Force and in the Navy and in the Marine Corps for the people of that country.

It's also clear that the people in the Middle East are taking note of what's happening in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

Now, there have been setbacks in Afghanistan and Iraq, to be sure.  And on a bad day, Iraq is not a pretty picture.  But the road from tyranny to freedom has never been peaceful, it's never been tranquil, it's never been without bumps.  It's always been difficult and dangerous everywhere.  It was tough for the United States.  It was tough for Germany and Japan and Italy.  And the idea that the path from a repressive system to a free democratic system is or could be easy is fanciful.  It isn't easy.  It's hard.  It's tough.

But these enemies cannot defeat the coalition in a conventional battle, let alone in a war.  But of course they don't seek conventional war.  Their weapons are terror and chaos.  They want the world to believe that the coalition cannot win; that the free Iraqi and the free Afghan governments cannot win; and that the fight is not worth it; that the effort will be too hard, that the losses will be too great, and that it's simply too ugly for an era of 24-hour news, seven days a week.  They attack any sort of hope or progress in an effort to try to undermine morale -- the morale of the Afghans, the morale of the Iraqis, the morale of the coalition countries, and -- let there be no doubt -- the morale of the American people.  They're convinced that if they can win the battle of perceptions -- and they are superb at managing perceptions, much better than free societies are, that's for sure.  But they're convinced that if they can win that battle of perceptions, managing the media and affecting people's thinking -- that we will lose our will and toss in the towel.

Well, they're wrong.  Failure in Afghanistan or in Iraq would exact a perfectly terrible toll in this world.  It would embolden the extremists.  It would make the world a vastly more dangerous place.  It would turn it all over to those who would lead the world into a dark, dark place.

Our 26th president, the Commander-in-Chief, Theodore Roosevelt, wrote in his autobiography that, "The worst of all fears is the fear of living."  He was correct, and we cannot allow the terrorists, the extremists, to win this struggle and destroy the way of life of free people.

From Baghdad to Kabul, Madrid, Bali, the Philippines, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the call has been sounded, and the outcome of this struggle will determine the nature of our world for some decades to come.  These enemies will not be wished away.

Those who behead innocent people on television, those who seek to enslave others, have shown that they were perfectly willing to do literally anything to achieve their goals.  The deaths of the innocent people that they kill are not incidental in this war.  Indeed, innocent men, women and children are in fact the target in this war, and the extremists will willingly kill hundreds and thousands more.

The world has gasped, if you will, at the brutality of the extremists:  the hundreds of children in Russia who were killed or wounded on their very first day of school; the commuters blown up in the trains in Madrid on their way to work; innocents murdered in the nightclub in Bali; the cutting off of heads on television.  Should these terrorists acquire the world's most lethal weapons -- and they are seeking them, to be sure -- the lives of tens of thousands could be at stake.

There have been losses, and they have been borne heavily by the United States Army -- active, Reserve, and Guard alike.

Every loss is deeply felt.

Today, as before, the hard work of history falls to our country, to the U.S. armed forces, and certainly to the United States Army.  Our people have been entrusted with the gift of freedom, and it is for each generation to safeguard and to defend that freedom.  And as the brave men and women in uniform face these new challenges, they can know that the great sweep of human history is for freedom, and that that is on our side.

The Afghans are making it, thanks to the U.S. military, thanks to the coalition forces, and most of all, thanks to the Afghan people, who are reaching out for freedom courageously.

And the Iraqi people have a good crack at making it as well.  And I believe they will make it, and I believe it will be because I have so much confidence in the American people winning that test of wills which we face.

So I thank you all.  May God bless the men and women of the United States Army and our great country.  Thank you.