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08 August 2004

Cost of Freedom for Iraq Similar to Bringing Democracy to Others, August 6, 2004

(Progress made against terrorists despite violence, fear)

(This byliner was originally published in the August 6 edition of the Chicago Tribune and is in the public domain. No republication restrictions. The author is the U.S. Secretary of Defense.)
(begin byliner)

Why Americans Must Fight for Freedom

By Donald Rumsfeld
U.S. Secretary of Defense

Several months ago, I was in South Korea. At the time, a debate was under way in the Korean parliament about whether the country should send troops to Iraq.

A young Korean reporter asked me why Koreans should send their young men and women halfway around the globe to be killed or wounded in Iraq.

It was a fair question, one an American could have asked during the Korean War. That day, I had visited a war memorial in Korea that bore the names of every American soldier killed in the war. On it was the name of a close friend of mine from New Trier High School, a wrestling teammate named Dick O'Keefe, who was killed on the last day of the Korean War.

I asked the reporter: "Why should Americans have sent their young people to Korea?"

We were on an upper floor of a building in Seoul, and I asked the reporter to look out of the window. I said, "There's the answer."

The city was filled with lights and cars and energy and people, a robust economy that's just an economic miracle, and freedom. And I told the reporter that I kept a satellite photo, taken at night, of the Korean peninsula on a table in my office. North of the Demilitarized Zone, there is nothing but darkness, with one little pinprick of light in Pyongyang, the capital.

In the south, the country is bathed in light, beacons of prosperity and freedom that 33,000 Americans and thousands of others gave their lives to protect.

Korea's freedom was won at a terrible cost. But it was worth it. Just as it was worth it to liberate Germany, Japan and Italy.

In the past three years, a global coalition ended the brutal regimes of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Because of our broad coalition's efforts, 50 million people have been liberated, and their governments are now allies in the global war on terror.

In Iraq, courageous leaders have stepped forward to lead their country and crack down on insurgents. Their economy is growing, their currency is strong and they've opened a stock market. More than 2,600 schools have been rehabilitated.

They have gone from zero to more than 200,000 Iraqi security force members. We have a good team helping the Iraqis develop their security forces, training them, equipping them and helping them set up a chain of command so they can assume responsibility for their country.

In Afghanistan, there are some 13,000 soldiers in the Afghan national army, and more than 21,000 Afghan national police. Construction of a major road is well under way linking major Afghan cities to help unify the country and bolster the economy. Afghans have approved a new constitution that protects the rights of all Afghans. Presidential elections are scheduled to be held Oct. 9. Despite the violence aimed at discouraging citizens, and particularly women, from registering to vote, more than 8 million people have already done so, including nearly 4 million women. Under the Taliban, women had virtually no rights at all.

In a democratic country such as the United States, we have vigorous debates over important public policy issues -- none more heated than a decision to go to war. But this should not distract us from the mission at hand or the importance of achieving victory.

On Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 U.S. citizens were killed by extremists determined to frighten and intimidate our people and civilized societies. The danger is that if the extremists gain the opportunity, the number of casualties would be far higher. Terrorists are continuing to plot attacks against the American people and against other civilized societies.

This is a different kind of enemy and a different kind of world. And we must think and act differently in this new century. The extremists think nothing of cutting off innocent people's heads to try to intimidate civilized people. They have murdered citizens from many countries -- South Korea, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and others -- hoping to strike fear in the hearts of free people.

The phenomenon of ideological extremism -- of which terrorism is the weapon of choice -- stands in the way of global political progress and economic prosperity, threatens the stability of the international order and clouds the future of civil society. Because it cannot be appeased, it must be confronted on many fronts by all civil societies.

Terrorists cannot defeat our coalition on the battlefield; they can only win if we give up or decide the effort is not worth the cost.

But if we stay the course, I have no doubt of our ultimate victory.

(end byliner)


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