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Women in Military Service for America Memorial
By Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Arlington, VA, Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Brigadier General Wilma Vaught,USAF (Ret.), President of WIMSA: It is an honor to introduce Dr. Paul Wolfowitz. You know, he really needs no introduction because he’s on the front page of the paper most everyday. So we all ought to know who he is. He’s the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

And as a matter of fact, when I saw you last, I think you were in Iraq. So I’m glad to see that you’re back safely and I just want you to know that I understand that you were over on the Hill testifying earlier today. This is a friendly audience here so you’re probably pleased to know that.

And you know, he used to be the Dean of International Relations at Johns Hopkins [University] over in Baltimore. But he’s never stayed put very long in any place. He’s now on his third or fourth tour, I think, at the Pentagon – third. So he’s no stranger to the Department of Defense. He’s been the Ambassador to Indonesia. And when you read through his bio, you find that he has served just about everywhere in the world.

So when you think of all the titles he has, you know you can really make this a long introduction if you went through all of them. But I won’t. I just will say he is famous with us, as this is the third event at least -- unless he slipped in here at some other events and I didn’t know it -- but I know he’s been here. This is three times, and we’re very grateful, sir, thank you.

Dr. Wolfowitz ...[Applause]

Wolfowitz: Thank you, General Vaught. It’s nice to be with a friendly crowd. I must say, I think I feel more relieved to be safely back from the Hill then safely back from Iraq. [Laughter]

And it is wonderful to be in this amazing memorial. And I want to thank you for what you’ve done to make this happen and to keep it going. My only suggestion is maybe you should get a new speechwriter. The definition of a diplomat is someone who gives a woman thirty roses on her fortieth birthday. And I think you just flipped it around.

But it’s really nice to be here, and this is a very special place, and I’d like to extend my thanks to everyone who put this amazing collection together. I’ve only gotten down to sort of the first part of it, and just any one piece of this is so moving.

This is close to the anniversary of a very special day that I think Americans and the whole world are going to remember for the rest of our lives and probably many generations beyond.

Before I say a few words about where we are on the global war on terrorism, let me just say a few words about these remarkable quilts. In the Talmud, it is written that those who passed away still live among us, and the good deeds that they’ve done are in the hearts of those who cherish their memories. And obviously there are a great many hearts that are cherishing those memories. These quilts will help to keep their memories alive for a long time.

So it’s marvelous work, and I think the quilts illustrate how profoundly the American people -- and people all over the world -- were moved by the attacks of September 11th. In the aftermath people came together through this traditional art form to share their grief, to express sympathy for victims and their families, and to show their unity and resolve.

You will find similar sentiments today at the Pentagon. Our building has been repaired in record time. Someone said that the Pentagon construction site was probably the only construction site in America where, at any hour of any day, you would find everybody working, because they were fighting terrorism in their own way. And I think it’s something of the spirit of this country. My guess is half of those workers were immigrants themselves. But what a spirit they had. It’s been rebuilt even strong than before. It includes a new chapel and a memorial built on the very spot where American Airlines 77 crashed on that terrible day. On Thursday, we’ll be dedicating four stained glass windows in memory of the 184 innocent victims of that attack.

Every day, people from all walks of life pass through the September 11th memorial at the Pentagon, and many of them record their thoughts in a book that is kept there for that purpose. There are messages of sympathy from people of every state and many foreign countries.

Recently one young man wrote, "I plan to dedicate my life so this doesn’t happen again."

Another visitor -- the Minister of Defense from India -- wrote that his country "is firmly with the United States in this fight. Freedom and democracy are worth defending at any cost." And he concluded, "Together we shall prevail."

And a third message was scrawled in a child’s hand. It reads simply, "Dear Daddy, I love you and miss you so very much. I wish you were still here. Love, your daughter, Jennifer."

We must never lose site of what this global war on terrorism is all about. Children who lost their parents in an act of mass murder … young Americans signing up to serve their country … and the coalition of freedom-loving nations that understands the stakes in this war.

As the President said on Sunday, "We have carried the fight to the enemy. We are rolling back the terrorist threat to civilization, not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power." And he added, "We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our streets, in our own cities."

The fight is mainly born by brave men and women in uniform who answered our country’s call. Those service members and their families know what’s at stake. Only a few weeks after September 11, our magnificent Armed Forces launched Operation Enduring Freedom against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Their success -- in what some people might have thought was an impossible mission -- their spectacular success brought freedom to an oppressed people and badly damaged the terrorists’ leadership and their ability to operate.

This year in Iraq, the U.S. military advanced further and faster than any equivalent force in history, and they overthrew one of the most brutal regimes of the last century -- a regime that invaded its neighbors, that employed weapons of mass destruction against its own people, that harbored and encouraged and rewarded terrorists, and that -- by pretty reasonable estimates -- was responsible for the death of one million human beings.

Those achievements have demonstrated that America is prepared to lead the fight for the security and peace of the civilized world. But that fight is far from over. The battle for the peace in Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror.

As the President indicated, our strategy has three objectives: To destroy the terrorists. To enlist the support of other nations for a free Iraq. And to help Iraqis assume responsibility for their own defense and their own future.

In this challenging effort, the generosity and inherit decency of our troops are among our greatest assets. But those troops need our support. They need to know that their countrymen and women appreciate what they are doing and the sacrifices they are making and support them. They are heroes. I think our country knows they are heroes. You can’t tell them often enough, though, that they are heroes and that we’re grateful.

As we pause this week to remember the events that led America to launch the global war on terror, I would ask all of you to keep the members of our Armed Forces in your minds and prayers as well. They deserve our help and our support.

With that, let me close by thanking the staff and members of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial for hosting this event and for hosting this extraordinary display.

I want to thank all of you -- particularly the people who made these quilts -- for helping to keep the memory of those heroes. They were heroes, too, for helping to keep their memory alive. I think all Americans would agree the events of that day must never, ever be forgotten.

Thank you very much. [Applause]