(Also participating was Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority.)
Rumsfeld: [Joined in progress.] Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Well, what a greeting. How many of you have seen that video? Most of you, half of you, a third of you. It is impressive, and I hope that those of you who have not seen it do see it.
General, you're doing a great job. Your leadership team and the troops here. I've heard it in Washington, I've heard it in Baghdad. I've now been here and been able to get fully briefed. I want you to know that what you're doing is enormously important. It is important to the Iraqi people to be sure. You've helped to free some 23 million people. That's an enormous accomplishment. I don't think you'll ever forget it.
I would like to say also that in addition to General Petreus and his group, I'd like you to meet Jerry Bremer. Ambassador Bremer is the Coalition Provisional Authority in this country. Jerry, would you stand up?
He is doing a wonderful job for our country and for the coalition, and if I could be so bold, I'd like you to give him the kind of a greeting you gave me.
(Greeting from troops.) Air Assault! (Applause.)
How about that, Jerry?
Bremer: I say it’s only here with the 101st.
Rumsfeld: That's terrific.
Let me just say a few brief words and then I'll stop and maybe respond to some questions that you might have.
I've been, needless to say, engaged and watching and observing and interested in everything you've been doing. The difficulties of what you're doing are well known. The fact that you've lost some of your colleagues is well known. The accomplishments, however, that you have achieved are less well known and as I just met with the Governor and the Vice Governor of the province and they were enormously complimentary about the contributions that have been made here to schools and hospitals and to universities and to helping with roads and doing so many things that are important to the success of this country and the success of this particular province.
So I hope that as you go forward those accomplishments become as well known as the difficulties because each are important.
We're on a path, I believe, that will ultimately succeed. I'm convinced of it. Ambassador Bremer is convinced of it. General Sanchez is convinced of it. The President of the United States has no doubt at all but that what we're trying to do here is hard, it's difficult, it is a country that for several decades has experienced a totally centralized, vicious, dictatorship where everything was controlled from Baghdad, where private enterprise was banned and everything was nationalized and controlled by the government. They're a people that have not had a great deal of experience with democracy or entrepreneurial activity. So that the path from here to where they're going is a tough one. There have been bumps in the road and there will be bumps in the road going forward.
But when it is successful it will not only be enormously important to the people in this country, and this is an important country, let there be no doubt. These people are intelligent, they're educated, they're industrious, and they can make a big difference in the world. But it will also be important in the region and this is an important region. It's an important region for not just the people here, but for the entire world. And to the extent this country can in a relatively short time be put on a path towards representative government, be put on a path towards reasonably private economic system in a way that it will be hospitable to investment and to enterprise on the part of people here but also on the part of people from outside, the effect will potentially, as a model, be important to the entire region.
So when you go out there and it's 110 or 120 degrees, and when there are difficulties, as there will be, remember how important your work is.
The important thing I would also add is that every one of you is a volunteer. You all asked to do this, and that is impressive and it's appreciated.