Troop Talk at The National Training Center
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Fort Irwin, California, Monday, August 29, 2005.
You know it’s worth noting that there seems to be some confusion and misunderstanding, at least in certain circles in the United States, about America’s place in the world, about the nature of this Global War on Terror that our country is fighting today.
When you consider some of the things that we’ve been hearing, it suggests that we may have arrived at a rather unusual place:
--A place where, in some cases, U.S. military action in response to a terrorist attack seems as likely to be called “inhumane” as the terrorist attacks against innocent men, women and children;
--Where some devote -- I’ve seen some papers that have devoted five to ten times as many editorials to illegal mistreatment of prisoners by a few, actual and alleged, than to the terrorists’ beheading of innocent citizens;
--Where tens of thousands of Iraqi corpses are found in Saddam Hussein’s mass graves in Iraq, yet a prominent political figure in Washington says that Saddam’s torture chambers have been reopened under new management;
--Where polls showing concern with the war’s progress are given frequent press mention, but polls showing growing Muslim support for democracy and growing rejection of extremism and terrorism are given at best only passing reference;
--Where some folks, with an indignation, inaccurately allege that American troops are killing innocent civilians, and flushing a Koran down a toilet -- which didn’t happen -- but shy away from using the word “terrorist” because of its pejorative connotations.
And then there are the anxious assertions that we have recently heard in Washington:
--We’re losing the Iraq War, they say;
--That we should withdraw precipitously; and
--That the situation is worse than Vietnam.
This same kind of talk was prevalent throughout the Cold War. We were told we couldn’t confront the Soviet Empire successfully, we were told we couldn’t win, we were told that maybe America, not the Soviet Union, was the real problem.
It seems to me that, that kind of thinking needs to be challenged, it needs to be raised, and talked about and discussed. So let’s be clear:
The United States is not losing the war -- the global war against terrorists -- nor are we losing the war in Afghanistan or Iraq;
We must not -- and we will not -- retreat.
The challenge we face is clear, but admittedly difficult: If our enemies obtain the even more lethal weapons that they seek, this war could well escalate to considerably larger numbers than the casualties we saw on September 11th.
It’s time that we remind the world what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. They need to remember who we are -- the United States of America -- and who we are not:
That our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have defended generations of Americans from the deadly designs of dictators, terrorists, fascists, Nazis, and Communists, and that they’re doing so today, and that they will be doing so as long as there is an America.
There are some who are asking why America is fighting this war half a world away, in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
Tell them it’s because you are standing on the front lines to protect and safeguard their freedoms.
Tell them that America is not what’s wrong with the world. It is the terrorists, the beheaders, the hostage takers, the assassins -- the people being pursued and fought every day in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere -- they are what’s wrong with the world.
Some may ask what are goal is, what our mission is.
Tell them the mission is not to think it is possible to only defend, to cower behind illusory defenses. Or to wait for danger to return to our shores. Your mission is to go on offense. To go on the attack.
And that is exactly what the U.S. and Coalition forces are doing in Afghanistan and in Iraq: they are engaging the terrorists where they live for the simple reason that we do not have to deal with them where Americans live.
Some may ask specifically what our goal is in this war.
Well, you can tell them it is victory. Unapologetic and unyielding victory.
And we can tell them one more thing. That Americans know and appreciate the cost of war, its pain, that every loss of life, every wounded soldier, weighs on our souls and in our hearts. That we value human life, that we’re proud that we value human life, and we do not consider that a weakness. Indeed we consider it a strength.
You might remind them of what one sailor wrote to his son upon hearing of the Japanese surrender which ended World War II, some 60 years ago this month. He wrote:
“When you grow a little older, you may think war to be a great adventure.
Take it from me -- it’s the most horrible thing ever done by man.”
And it is. And that’s why it will always and must be always, the last choice.
But today, as in World War II, America confronts a lethal enemy as the only means to secure our freedom and peace. Americans fight today so that their children and their children’s children might have those same freedoms that we have all been privileged to enjoy.