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Town Hall Meeting in Kuwait
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Kuwait, Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  My goodness.  What a group this is.  Impressive gathering.  General Steve Whitcomb, thank you so much for your kind words.  Sergeant Major Kellman, it's good to see you again.  I appreciate your able leadership as well.  First, I want to say thank you to each of you, to your families for your superb service to our country.  You are doing noble work, it's vitally important work and your country is deeply grateful.

Today's December 8th.  Sixty three years ago today our nation declared war on an enemy that had launched a sneak attack on the United States and killed thousands of people.  I remember the day well.  I doubt that many of you do.  Some six decades later, America faces another global conflict.  And as it was in 1941, a new generation of Americans has been asked to come to freedom's defense.  In recent times, we've witnessed the advance of freedom in nearly every region of the world.  In the joy of the reunited Germans dancing atop the crumbling Berlin Wall, after it was torn down.  If you think about, in today's papers, the passionate debate that's taking place over free elections in Ukraine.  And certainly, in the determination of the women who braved violence and cast their ballots in Afghanistan in what was the first ever democratic presidential election in the country's history.

Think of it, yesterday, December 7th, the inauguration of the first popularly elected president in Afghan's history.  I was there to see that historic event and I'll never forget it.  And all of you who serve in our military in all the coalition countries that assisted in Afghanistan will look back in five or ten or fifteen or twenty years and know that you were a part of something enormously important.  Twenty-five million Afghan people liberated, voting, tears in their eyes, yesterday at the inauguration of Hamid Karzai.  And as you consider your service in Iraq, think also of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have volunteered to risk their lives, as you have to come to the defense of their newly liberated nation -- a nation that was liberated by the coalition countries at the risk of their lives.

These pivotal moments in history would not have been possible, had it not been for the determination and the daring of America's founders.  And the generations of Americans who have advanced those freedoms at home and helped to nurture those freedoms abroad.  Now that duty falls to you or more correctly, and I think importantly, you have each volunteered to accept that duty and I know that you are up to the task.

Now I've been told something about who's here today.  Some of you are en route out, some of you are en route in, some of you are en route back in for the second time, I understand.  I'm told that the Task Force Liberty includes the Rainbow Division that broke [Cheers] I was told right.  That's the division that broke through the Siegfried Line in World War II and liberated Dachau.  And I believe it was a division that, decades later, came to the World Trade site within hours of the September 11th attacks.

The Swamp Fox Artillerymen, [Late Cheers] they're a little slow on the draw.  I understand you folks are flexible enough to become experts in military police-style convoy security.  Congratulations.  And the 699th Maintenance “Mad Max” Shop, is that right?  Oh, good, it's an echo.  I understand you folks have up-armored some 6,000 vehicles and we appreciate that a great deal.  And two maneuver brigades from the guard and many others, as well -- Active, Guard, Reserve, even some sailors and airmen and Marines and civilians here as permanent party, all working with the same commitment.  And for those nearing the end of your time in theater, know that you've done a superb job and I wish you the best, as you return home.  And welcome to any of you who've been here before, like the Red Legs of the 42nd Division Artillery from Massachusetts.  And America's fortunate to have some old pros back in the field.

You know, there are those who see the violence-taking place in Iraq and there is violence, let there be no doubt.  The beheadings, the slaughtering of innocent men, women, the bombings and they say we can't prevail.  I see that violence and say we must win.  Think of a world -- just think of a world in which the butchers and the murderers are allowed to prevail.  Think of what would happen if Iraq were to, again, be run by the extremists.

On this day, 63 years ago, Franklin Roosevelt ended his address on December 8, 1941 to the Congress by vowing that no matter how long it may take, we will not only defend ourselves to the utmost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.  In today's global conflict, the stakes are as high.  As before, it falls to you and to our country to win this test of wills and to see it through to victory.  I ask you all to remember this in the difficult, in the trying moments that you'll face.  There's perhaps no greater calling in life than doing what you are doing: serving on freedom's front lines.

You know there are doubters and those who say it can't be done.  Well, there have always been doubters who have said it couldn't be done.  Think of Afghanistan only three years ago.  It was described after a few weeks as a quagmire.  People were aware that the Soviet Union had some 200,000 troops in Afghanistan and they lost after decades and thousands of lives.  Well, it's not a quagmire, it's a democracy.  It's a democracy of 25 million liberated Afghans and it's a democracy, thanks to many of you here and all across the globe who didn't listen to the doubters and believed it was possible and understood the important fact that the great sweep of human history is for freedom and freedom is on our side.

There is no finer legacy to bestow on future generations than being a part of the world's forward strategy for freedom and contributing to a safer and a more peaceful world and you are doing just that.  And for that I thank you.  God bless you all.  I am confident that I'll have other chances to say this, but just know this for a fact -- there is nothing more important for you than to understand how deeply grateful the American people are to you for what you do, indeed, for what you volunteer to do and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  God bless you all.

 

For a complete transcript, including questions and answers, please visit:

 

http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2004/tr20041208-secdef1761.html