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American Forces Press Service

Rumsfeld Compares Korea, Iraq Missions at Town Hall Meeting

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea, Oct. 21, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today told an enthusiastic group of almost 1,000 servicemembers serving in Korea that just as they and the troops who served before them have brought freedom to the South Koreans, U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq are helping to bring freedom to Iraqis.

And just as some people may question today why the United States needs to put U.S. troops in harm's way in Iraq, others also questioned 50 years ago why it was necessary to do so in South Korea, Rumsfeld told a packed field house of troops during a town hall meeting at Yongsan Garrison here.

Speaking to a hooting, howling and cheering group of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and family members from bases throughout South Korea, Rumsfeld noted the tremendous strides South Korea has made during the past five decades.

But South Korea's path to peace and prosperity wasn't without cost, Rumsfeld told the crowd. Almost 4,000 American troops died in what he called "some of the toughest combat in our history."

And as U.S. forces endured "repeated setbacks and difficulties," the secretary said, "a great many people questioned whether the fight in Korea was worth it." Some questioned whether young Americans "should face death and injury so many thousands of miles from home for a result that seemed uncertain at best," he said.

These doubts resonate today as the United States once again commits its men and women to fight another, more elusive enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

"Some people still question the seriousness of the threat posed by our enemy," Rumsfeld said.

Yet the terrorists' intentions are clear, and deadly for those who stand in their way or choose to live by another, less extreme and more accepting view of the world, he said.

"That is why our country is on the offensive," the secretary said. "That is why our forces are on the attack. And ... that is why our goal as a country is nothing short of victory -- unapologetic, unyielding, unconditional."

The prosperity of South Korea, a peaceful country with a solid democratic government and an economy that's ranked 10th in the world, makes it "so clear" why the sacrifices of Americans 50 years ago was worth it, Rumsfeld said.

He told the troops he believes the future also will validate the importance of the commitment the United States and coalition are making in Iraq today.

Army Maj. Bob Hines, commander of Headquarters Company, 8th U.S. Army, asked Rumsfeld during the question-and-answer session how insurgents can be prevented from resuming their violence after U.S. forces have achieved victory and withdrawn their troops from Iraq.

Rumsfeld noted strong progress in training Iraq's security forces, which he called key in countering the insurgent threat. But just as important, he said, is helping Iraq move forward in the political process.

Once Iraq has its own government, parliament and constitution, terrorists who commit acts of violence "will not be attacking America, ... the coalition (or) a foreign occupier," Rumsfeld said. Rather, they "will be attacking the Iraqi people," he said, "and the Iraqi people don't like it."

Ultimately, Iraqis will secure their country and defeat that insurgency, Rumsfeld said. "At some point, the people in that country are increasingly going to tip against insurgencies and have the courage to support the government," he said. "And I believe that that, in fact, is what will prevent terrorists and insurgents from succeeding in that country."

After that happens, and when history of this era is written, Rumsfeld told the group, he's "confident it will be recorded as one of the finest hours" for the U.S. military. "Future generations of Americans will remember you and thank you for the proud history that you are making," he said.

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