Donald Rumsfeld laid down the burden of Secretary of Defense this weekend after a 19 gun salute and full military sendoff at the Pentagon. The President of the United States and the Vice President were both in attendance. It was a rare moment of tribute and honor for a man who has borne so much of the burden these last six years.
In President Bush's remarks he touched on the extraordinary accomplishments of this great man:
Vice President Cheney, who worked under Donald Rumsfeld in an earlier time described him in his own remarks, as the "toughest boss he ever had." Before introducing President Bush, the Vice President summed up the feelings of many in the military and we civilians when he said "I believe the record speaks for itself: Don Rumsfeld is the finest Secretary of Defense this nation has ever had."
December 15, 2006
And these changes were not easy, but because of Don Rumsfeld's determination and leadership, America has the best equipped, the best trained, and most experienced armed forces in the history of the world. All in all, not bad for a fellow who calls himself a "broken-down ex-Navy pilot." This man knows how to lead, and he did, and the country is better off for it. (Applause.)
- Under Secretary Rumsfeld's leadership, U.S. and coalition forces launched one of the most innovative military campaigns in the history of modern warfare, sending Special Operations forces into Afghanistan to link up with anti-Taliban fighters, to ride with them on horseback, and to launch a stunning assault against the enemy. In Operation Enduring Freedom we combined the most advanced laser-guided weapons with one of the oldest tools in the military arsenal -- a man with a weapon on a horse.
- In 2003, on my orders, Secretary Rumsfeld led the planning and execution of another historic military campaign, Operation Iraqi Freedom. In this operation, coalition forces drove Saddam Hussein from power in 21 days. And in the years that followed, Don Rumsfeld helped see the Iraqi people through the resumption of sovereignty, two elections, a referendum to approve the most progressive constitution in the Middle East, and the seating of a newly elected government.
- On his watch, the United States military helped the Iraqi people establish a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a watershed event in the story of freedom.
- As he met the challenges of fighting a new and unfamiliar war, Don Rumsfeld kept his eyes on the horizon and on the threats that still await us as this new century unfolds.
- He developed a new defense strategy and a new command structure for our nation's armed forces, with a new northern command to protect the homeland.
- He launched the most significant transformation of the Army in a generation. He led my administration's efforts to transform the NATO Alliance, with a new NATO response force ready to deploy quickly anywhere in the world.
- He helped launch the Proliferation Security Initiative, an unprecedented coalition of more than 80 nations working together to stop shipments of weapons of mass destruction on land, at sea and in the air.
- He undertook the most sweeping transformation of America's global defense posture since the start of the Cold War, repositioning our forces so they can surge quickly to deal with unexpected threats, and setting the stage for our global military presence for the next 50 years.
- He took ballistic missile defense from theory to reality. And because of his leadership, America now has an initial capability to track a ballistic missile headed for our country and destroy it before it harms our people.
- Most importantly, he worked to establish a culture in the Pentagon that rewards innovation and intelligent risk taking, and encourages our military and civilian leaders to challenge established ways of thinking.
- The record of Don Rumsfeld's tenure is clear. There ...has been more profound change at the Department of Defense over the past six years than at any time since the Department's creation in the late 1940s. (Applause.)
In every decision Don Rumsfeld made over the past six years, he always put the troops first, and the troops in the field knew it. A few years ago, the editors at Time Magazine came to his Pentagon office, and Don correctly suspected they were thinking of naming him "Person of the Year." Without hesitation, Don Rumsfeld told them, don't give it to me. Give it to our men and women in uniform -- and that's exactly what Time Magazine did. (Applause.)
Don Rumsfeld's selfless leadership earned him the admiration of our soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines. And we saw how they feel about him this week when he paid a farewell visit to our troops in Iraq.
This nation faces a critical deficit of foresight, leadership and vision. These are all qualities which Donald Rumsfeld provided in ample measure. In his speech, which closed this ceremony, he gave us another taste of that vision:
A transcript of a speech is one thing. It will be analyzed by both friend and foe alike as well as the students of history. But one thing it misses is the emotion of the man, well really, of the men and women who shared this moment. As the Secretary concluded his remarks, he turned to this wartime leader, the Commander in Chief and was escorted by him from the platform.
Remarks of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
White House Transcript
December 15, 2006
...Today I'll break with convention one more time, and instead of the traditional farewell remarks on past achievements, I will focus squarely on the future. I say this with the perspective of one, as the President indicated, who's had the opportunity to lead this Department in two different eras, in two different world conflicts, for two different Presidents -- and, yes, it's true, in two different centuries.
When I last departed this post in 1977, I left cautioning that weakness is provocative, that weakness inevitably entices aggressors into acts that they would otherwise avoid. Then, our country was engaged in a long struggle -- a struggle of uncertain duration against, what seemed at the time, as an ascendant ideology, and clearly an expanding empire.
Few would have believed that 15 years later, the Soviet Union would cease to exist, or that the dissidents then trapped behind the Iron Curtain would lead people out of the dustbin of history and into the family of free nations, which they did. That history did not happen by accident. And it most assuredly was not made by people sitting safely on the sidelines. It occurred only because America and our allies withstood the tough times, the bitter disagreements, and they stayed at the task with conviction that our security was linked to the defense and the advance of human freedom.
This is what history asks of us today. And as I leave the Pentagon for the second -- and I suspect the odds are, the last time -- (laughter) -- I do feel a sense of urgency about the very real challenges ahead. As the President noted seven years ago, he said, we're living in an era of barbarism emboldened by technology. We live a time when our enemies mix an extremist ideology with modern weaponry, and they have the ability to kill thousands, indeed even hundreds of thousands of our people in a single, swift, deadly stroke. We forget that at our peril.
A number of us came here in 2001 with that mission and mandate to prepare this defense establishment to protect the American people from the unconventional and the irregular threats. That mission was given powerful impetus that bright September morning when that mighty building just a few yards away shook, burned, and smoked -- and 125 members of our Pentagon team did not come home.
The attacks of September 11th awakened Americans to the global extremist movement; a movement with networks in nations all around the world, even our own; a movement with tens of thousands of adherents who believe it is their calling to kill Americans and other free people. Ours is a world of unstable dictators, weapon proliferators and rogue regimes. And each of these enemies seeks out our vulnerabilities. And as free people, we have vulnerabilities.
Ours is also a world of many friends and allies -- but sadly, realistically, friends and allies with declining defense investment and declining capabilities -- and I would add, as a result, with increasing vulnerabilities -- all of which requires that the United States of America invest more.
Today, it should be clear that not only is weakness provocative, but the perception of weakness on our part can be provocative, as well. A conclusion by our enemies that the United States lacks the will or the resolve to carry out missions that demand sacrifice and demand patience is every bit as dangerous as an imbalance of conventional military power.
This is a time of great consequence. Our task is to make the right decisions today so that future generations will not have to make much harder decisions tomorrow. It may well be comforting to some to consider graceful exits from the agonies and, indeed, the ugliness of combat. But the enemy thinks differently.
Under the President's leadership, this country made a decision to confront the extremist ideology of hatred that spawned a worldwide movement, and to take the fight to the enemy. The alternative was inaction and defense, a pattern that history has shown only emboldens the enemy.
Our country has taken on a bracing and difficult task -- but let there be no doubt, it is neither hopeless, nor without purpose. Leadership is not about doing what's easy. It's about doing what's right, even when it's hard -- especially when it's hard. President Lincoln once said, "Determine the thing that can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way to do it."
That remains true today. We're in what will be a long struggle. It's new, it's complex, and even after five years, it's still somewhat unfamiliar. That we have been successful -- I would add, fortunate -- to have suffered not one single attack here at home since September 11, 2001, has contributed to a misperception in some quarters that the threat is gone. It is not.
As I leave, I do feel urgency, but I also feel optimism. I know that the American people can summon the same grit that helped our founders forge from a wilderness a new frontier. I know it because I've seen it over my own lifetime. It's the same steel that sent our fathers and grandfathers across oceans to defend free nations from tyrants; that same grit that gave the Americans to endure 40 years of a Cold War under the specter of nuclear annihilation.
So it is with confidence that I say that America's enemies should not confuse the American people's distaste of war, which is real, and which is understandable, with a reluctance to defend our way of life. Enemy after enemy in our history have made that mistake to their regret.
To those in uniform here and abroad who proudly serve, always remember that America's example is a message of hope for hundreds of millions of people all across the globe. America is not what's wrong with this world. Ours is a message that was heard and fought for in places like Berlin, Prague, Riga, Tokyo, Seoul, San Salvador, Vilnius and Warsaw. And that message is even now being whispered in the coffeehouses and the streets of Damascus and Tehran and Pyongyang. The great sweep of human history is for freedom. And America is on freedom's side.
As I end my time here, some ask, what will I remember. Well, I will remember all those courageous folks that I have met deployed in the field; those in the military hospitals that we visited; and I will remember the fallen, and I will particularly remember their families from whom I have drawn inspiration. And I will remember how fortunate I have been to know you, to work with you, to have been inspired by your courage, and by your love of country. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
God bless you. (Applause.)
END 2:16 P.M. EST
Another great moment in history has passed before us.