Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Donald Rumsfelds Town Hall Speech

Yes I was AWOL for some time here. My own unit is being mobilized for an OIF rotation so I've been kept busy. I won't have to go with them as I have hit my 24 month cap and my wife needs me a bit more than the Army does right now. But on with my ramblings...

I got an email oh ten or so days ago with the draft text of Defense Secratary Rumsfelds remarks for a Town Hall speech he gave at the Pentagon on March 18th, on the two year anniversary of our liberation of Iraq. Here it is:

Good morning. Thank you for coming.

March 19th will mark two years to the day since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I'd like to take a few moments to talk about all of the things that have changed in Iraq since that day, and about the great sweep of freedom moving across that region, and what it means to our country.
But first, let me say that the positive changes underway could not have taken place without the hard work and dedication of America's men and women in uniform, their families, and the efforts of all of you who have devoted your lives to our nation's defense. I want you to know that we are grateful -- and your country is grateful -- for your able service.

A few weeks ago, a Staff Sergeant with the 1st Cavalry Division received the Silver Star for heroism for rescuing his trapped comrades from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle. At his medal ceremony in Baghdad, William Thomas Payne, of Benford, Oklahoma, asked his commanding officer if he might depart from tradition. He wanted the medal to be pinned on him by his proud dad, a civilian DoD employee, who was also on duty in Iraq.

The story is a useful reminder of the many civilian and military personnel who are risking their lives every day to help build a more peaceful future in Iraq, and to eliminate a threat to the civilized world.

Those folks are doing important and noble work. Indeed, when one thinks of Iraq today, compared to what it was just two short years ago, the changes are truly remarkable. Think of what the Coalition faced back then:

* Saddam Hussein and his vicious sons ruled a regime that had twice invaded its neighbors, a regime that paid rewards to the families of suicide bombers;

* Had defied 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions;
* Regularly fired at U.S. and British aircraft and crews; and that
* Looted his country of billions, building lavish palaces while Iraqis suffered starvation.

The many opponents of the regime were forced to whisper their dissent, ever fearful of the midnight "knock on the door" from Saddam's secret police. Other Iraqis who had received "knocks on their door" were among some 400,000 men, women and children callously tossed into the hundreds of mass graves discovered across that country.

In Iraq two years ago, a dangerous threat had gathered. And that threat was confronted. Through an unprecedented combination of speed, precision and flexibility, U.S. forces, with Coalition support, seized Baghdad, having marched farther and faster than any armed force in military history.

And they did this while:

* Avoiding massive civilian casualties;
* Averting a refugee crisis; and
* Preventing Iraq from firing Scud missiles at neighboring countries to ignite a region-wide war.

Since the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Coalition has engaged in a test of wills with a savage enemy determined to derail Iraq's progress. The extremists have beheaded aid workers and children. They have attacked symbols of hope. And they tried to make Iraq's election day one of bloodshed and terror.

But if their goal was to force the Coalition into retreat, their mission failed. In the words of President Bush, "the enemy sought to test America's resolve -- and found it firm."

The same can be said of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi security forces successfully protected five thousand polling places. Millions of Iraqi voters marched defiantly past signs that threatened, "You vote, you die."

And day by day, the Iraqi people are building a future that safeguards the liberty that their citizens deserve and on which the world's security increasingly depends.

History teaches that political and economic freedom go hand in hand. Today, unleashed from Baathist control:

* The Iraqi economy is growing;
* Property values are rising;
* Refugees are returning; and
* Foreign investment is increasing.

Indeed, today, in the heart of the Middle East, Iraq is a country offering freedom and opportunity in place of what was a cauldron of tyranny and terror.

In the last two years, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Ukraine and the streets of Lebanon and elsewhere, we have seen again and again that the great sweep of human history is for freedom -- and we are on history's side.

We know that freedom and opportunity are the surest antidotes to extremism.
Extremist ideologies suffer when governments such as Afghanistan's protect women and imprison terrorists, rather than protecting terrorists and imprisoning women.

Extremist ideologies suffer when millions of Iraqis vote in defiance of the dictates of Zarqawi and bin Laden. And the enemy's extremist ideology will meet its end when the wider Middle East sheds itself of tyranny and violence and carves out a future of tolerance.

As we join the Iraqi people in remembering this important anniversary, we might also take a moment to remember another. Sixty years ago this month, American forces fought on the island of Iwo Jima in one of the last and bloodiest battles of the Second World War.

During a month of brutal fighting, some twenty-five thousand Americans were killed or wounded. Those who fought in that conflict not only contributed to a great military victory, they helped to unleash a wave of freedom that transformed tyrannies to democracies, and enemies into friends.

Today, America's men and women in uniform stand on the shoulders of those heroes who fought at Iwo Jima and the other great battles for freedom in World War II. And just as surely, tomorrow's heroes will stand on the shoulders of those who have freed the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, and those who are dealing crippling blows to the extremists who still threaten our Nation.

One day the history of Operation Iraqi Freedom will be written. Though early chapters of that history might tell of that struggle's great hardships -- and it has been hard -- its final chapters will record historic achievements -- the demise of a leading terrorist state and the spread of freedom throughout the region.

All of us in this building, gathered in this room, or listening across the world carry on our mission in memory of all those who have given their lives to the cause of freedom, to the wounded who demonstrate great courage every day, and to all of their families who support our Servicemen and women with their love and support.

And we promise them this: our commitment to their unfinished work.

May God bless them all.


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