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Town Hall Meeting

Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld,, Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, April 30, 2003

This you for that fine welcome, and also for the absolutely superb job that you folks have done.  The entire world has watched impressed.

 

I have to admit I'm surprised to see you folks at the Baghdad Airport.  The world was told there were no Americans here.  Over and over and over.  But I guess that's the last time we heard from that fellow.

 

I do want to thank each of you for your courage, your dedication to duty, and for volunteering, stepping up to serve your country.

 

What you have accomplished is truly remarkable.  You've rescued a nation, you've liberated a people, you've deposed a cruel dictator, and you've ended his threat to free nations.  You've braved death squads and dust storms, racing across hundreds of miles to reach Baghdad in less than a month.  Some people call that a quagmire.  It was possibly the fastest march on a capitol in modern military history.

 

And unlike many armies in the world, you came not to conquer, not to occupy, but to liberate and the Iraqi people know this.  And when you arrived in Baghdad many of the Iraqi people came to the streets to welcome you.  Pulling down statues of Saddam Hussein, celebrating their newfound freedom, freedom that you helped restore, and what a sight that was.

 

You've unleashed events that will unquestionably shape the course of this country, the fate of the people, and very likely affect the future of this entire region.  Take great pride in your accomplishment.  Not only for what you've done but also for how you've done it.  You've done it well.

 

While your adversary did everything in his power to put civilian lives at risk, you, our coalition partners took such great care to protect the lives of innocent civilians.  Indeed in a real sense, many of the Iraqi people were hostages to that regime.

 

We want the Iraqi people to live in freedom so that they can build a future where Iraqi leaders answer to the Iraqi people instead of killing them, and because of you they will have a chance to do just that.

 

There's still work to be done.  The remnants of that regime needs to be removed from every corner of this country.  We still have to find and deal with the remaining elements of the former regime.  We have to root out and eliminate terrorist networks operating in this country.  We have to help Iraqis restore their basic services.  And we have to help provide conditions of stability and security so that the Iraqi people can form an interim authority an interim government and then ultimately a free Iraqi government based on political freedom, individual liberty, and the rule of law.

 

So while you folks have accomplished a great deal there is still some work to do.  We're grateful for your service, but we're also grateful to your families.  They worry about you.  They endure long separations from you, and they also serve the cause of freedom.  So we are grateful and proud of their service as well as your service.

 

So I thank you for all you've done.  I thank you for what you will be doing.  I thank your families from my heart.  The American people are proud of you and God bless each of you.

 

Thank you very much.

 

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

http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=2545

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