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Remarks by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell


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Great speech by Secretary Powell. If you can catch it on CSPAN I highly recommend it. He doesn't sound so luke-warm about the administration as some would assert. Comments on Iraq and the decision to pull more troops home from Europe and South Korea.


Following is the transcript of Powell's remarks


Office of the Spokesman

August 16, 2004


Remarks by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell

On Receiving the Dwight David Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award and Citation

At the 105th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

of the United States of America

August 16, 2004

Cincinnati, Ohio

(8:20 p.m. EDT)



SECRETARY POWELL: Hoo-ah! Where are you? (Laughter.) I haven't forgotten. (Laughter.)

Let me just tell you what, it's good to be home, it's good to be with family again. I think I've spoken to Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America at least six or seven times over the last 10 or 12 years, and to be with you is always a source of inspiration. I will leave here this evening as I have left on previous occasions with you -- fired up, knowing what America really is all about, knowing what service is all about, knowing what patriotism is all about. (Applause.)

I thank you for the generous introduction I have received and, Ed, let me extend to you and Sandra my congratulations, along with those of all of your buddies here, for the great service that you have rendered for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America, not just for the past year or three years but for all the years that you have stood up for America's veterans. Thank you, Ed. (Applause.)

I offer my best wishes to John Furgess as he takes over, and I wish he and Alma all the best of success in the year ahead, and I know that they will do an absolutely brilliant job and I'm so pleased to once again be with my friend, Evelyn, Evelyn McCune. She and Don have served VFW and the nation so well. And I remember her coming to my office and I remember her talking about her slogan of "Kindness, Love and Peace", and I offer her my congratulations and also to your incoming President of the Ladies Auxilliary, JoAnne Ott.

And it's a great pleasure to be with one of the best friends the veterans of America have ever had, the Honorable Mr. Principi. My man, Tony Principi. (Applause.) And speaking of great Tony's, my man Tony Orlando has been serving this nation and our veterans for so many years, and I can't tell you what a thrill it was for me to walk in here this evening and see my friend, Tony. Thank you, Tony, again. (Applause.)

You know, this great beloved country of ours has given me the opportunity and the privilege to serve in so many ways, to hold so many titles, to be Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor. But I will always be proudest of one title. I'm a "Veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States of America." (Applause.)

I am deeply grateful to the VFW for honoring me with the Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award. I am glad to have this chance to come to your National Convention here in the great state of Ohio and the great city of Cincinnati to say thank you, not just for the award, but for the VFW's 105 years of devoted service to our men and women in uniform and to our country.

Decade after decade, the VFW and your wonderful Ladies Auxiliary have kept the faith with our troops and with their families. You have advocated for them. You have advocated for a strong defense when others did not. You have been there through thick and thin, not just when it has been popular and easy to do so. I know. I served many years in the Army. I was there in the post-Vietnam period when things were very tough for us. I was there in the early Reagan years when things got better. But it made no difference whether things were better or things were worse. The one thing we could always count on was the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America. (Applause.) I've seen you in action. I've seen what you do. And I thank you.

And, you know, there's so much more that you do that isn't noticed often enough. After I retired from the Army and spent a little time writing a little book and doing some other things, I then got involved with youth programs. I looked around this great nation of ours, with all of its wealth and all of its success, and I found young people that were in need, so I became the founding chairman of an organization called America's Promise, the Alliance for Youth, where we reached out to take care of young people who were in need, young people who wondered if the American Dream was there for them. And we started to create alliances with organizations around America and one of the first organizations to stand up and say, "We want to be a part of this," was the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America. (Applause.)

So I thank you for that, and I thank you not only for what you did for America's Promise, but for all the youth programs that you support to prepare the next generation of America's leaders. You're not just sitting around telling war stories, you're working for the future of this great country. Veterans never stop serving. (Applause.)

It is a special honor for me to receive an award named after General Dwight David Eisenhower, an icon to me, as he was to everybody in this room. He signed my commission as a second lieutenant in 1958. He inspired me ever after, unto this day.

As the great battles of the Second World War raged, General Eisenhower realized that once the guns fell silent, the biggest challenge our country would face would be to build a world of enduring peace. And that is exactly what Eisenhower did as President during the Cold War's first dark decade.

President Eisenhower understood that we and our allies and friends had to stand strong and united on the frontlines of freedom, against communism, even as we demonstrated to the communist leaders a willingness to work with our new foes to prevent mutual nuclear annihilation.

Eisenhower believed that if we upheld our values, if we believed in them, if we provided the shield behind which freedom and democracy could flourish, the day would certainly come when the millions suffering under communist oppression would once again know liberty.

That great day did come, and America's steadfast strength hastened its coming. Your steadfast strength hastened freedom's coming.

I vividly remember addressing your National Convention in Baltimore in 1990 when I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There was still a Cold War, but things were changing. Just the year before, 1989, democratic revolutions had swept across Central and Eastern Europe. The Berlin Wall was torn down by people going to that wall on a cool November evening and banging it apart with axes and hammers and their bare hands. And when they did that, it was the beginning of a new era. The Soviet Union itself, this "Evil Empire" that we worried about, had not yet collapsed, but the end was in sight. Soviet President Gorbachev realized what was happening and he acquiesced in the rebirth of a Europe that was going to be whole, free and at peace. Remarkably, the leader of the Evil Empire that I and so many of you had trained our whole lives to fight, was now working with us to bring peace to troubled regions of the globe.

I'll never forget at that time when I was serving as Chairman but I had just stepped down as National Security Advisor for President Reagan, and I saw these changes taking place. And I tried to convey to my Army buddies when I got back to the Army from the Pentagon and in the Pentagon, I got back from the White House -- tried to give them some sense of what was going on. And I said to them, "You've got to understand, I was over there with Reagan for two years. I watched the meetings he held with President Gorbachev."

I'll never forget the meeting that I held with President Gorbachev, in the Kremlin with Secretary of State Schultz, and Gorbachev was saying, "I'm going to change things in ways you never could have imagined. Watch what I'm going to do." And I looked at him skeptically. I was a soldier. And he finally looked back at me and he realized that I had this skeptical expression on my face, that I didn't believe what he was saying about openness and changing the Soviet Union. And he thought for a moment, he looked up, realized that I wasn't really a politician or a diplomat, I was just a soldier. So he had an idea and he looked back down, and President Gorbachev turned to me, and I'll never forget the expression, the smile that came over his face, and he leaned forward and he said to me, "General, General, I'm very, very sorry. You'll have to find a new enemy." (Laughter and applause.) And I thought to myself, I don't want to, I like this enemy. (Laughter.) Life is very easy. I understand this. You've got your army on the right side of the Iron Curtain, mine is on the left side of the Iron Curtain. Why confuse things? (Laughter.)

But that was not to be. Democracy swept that Iron Curtain away. We were able, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, to bring back so many of our troops from Europe. While I was Chairman and now-Vice President Cheney was Secretary of Defense, we brought back 200,000 troops from Germany. We reduced the size of our forces -- 500,000 -- because the Cold War was over. We didn't need that many troops. Now, Secretary Rumsfeld, as President Bush announced to you earlier today, is making the same kind of historic transformation to take advantage of technology, to take advantage of the new world, to recognize the new threats in the world, to readjust our force structure even more.

But the one thing you can be absolutely sure of, this restructuring will result in an armed force that is just as good as any we have ever seen in our history. He's going to do it the right way. (Applause.)

But at the time of our Convention when we were all together in 1990, yes, we knew the Cold War was about to go away, but that isn't what was on our mind. All eyes were not riveted on the world-changing events in Europe. All eyes were focused on the Persian Gulf. Saddam Hussein's Army had invaded neighboring Kuwait and was terrorizing the people of Kuwait. I'll never forget the day that President George Herbert Walker Bush analyzed the situation and, with a single sentence, predicted what the future would be. He simply said, "This will not stand." And it did not stand. (Applause.)

We and our coalition partners put together a great force under the leadership of General Norm Schwarzkopf and we threw Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and we liberated the Kuwaiti people. Many of you here today served in Operation Desert Storm, that first Persian Gulf War. You can be ever, ever, ever proud of what you did and I will be forever proud of having been your Chairman at that time.

It is now over a decade and a half since I spoke at your Convention in Baltimore. The nations of Central and Eastern Europe are not only free, they are either already members of NATO -- our former enemies have joined our alliance, they're members of the European Union, and if they're not yet members, they aspire to be members of both the European Union and NATO. A still evolving, democratic Russia is working in partnership with us and with other nations to find peaceful solutions to the problems we face in the world, whether it's the Middle East peace problem of the problem of North Korea's nuclear weapons.

But notwithstanding these changes, today, once again, at this Convention, all eyes are on Iraq. Another George Bush is in the White House. And thanks to his leadership and the bravery and skill of our armed forces, Saddam Hussein is now where he belongs, in a jail cell awaiting justice. (Applause.)

Saddam Hussein is no longer gassing civilians and filling mass graves. He can no longer squander Iraq's oil wealth on palaces and weapons while his people go without and the country's infrastructure crumbles. He can no longer pursue his aggressive designs on the region. He can no longer invade his neighbors. The tyrant who terrorized his own people and who aided and abetted terrorists is in no position to obtain, develop, use or proliferate weapons of mass destruction.

We may not have found the stockpiles that the best available pre-war intelligence told us to expect. But the bottom line remains the same, as the President said to you today, and it's a stark bottom line: through 12 years of defying U.N. resolutions, 12 years of sanctions, 12 years of cheating, Saddam Hussein and that evil regime never, ever lost his intention to have and to wield weapons of mass destruction. And he never, ever, gave up his capability to produce them.

A sworn enemy of the United States, Saddam Hussein could have passed on that weapons of mass destruction capability to terrorists. This may be a post-Cold War world, but it is also a post-September 11th world, and in such a world that was a risk, a risk that President Bush could not afford to take, would not take.

Saddam was the kind of tyrant the President knew well, who would stop at nothing unless something stopped him. And we stopped him for good. (Applause.)

President Eisenhower once said: "The history of free men is never really written by chance but by choice; their choice!" That is still true today, though much has changed since President Eisenhower's time.

If fascism and communism were the two great tyrants of the 20th century, terrorism is the tyranny of the 21st century.

No one who has witnessed the horrors of war, as you have and I have, ever wants or chooses to see another war, any kind of war, any regional conflict of the kind that still infects the world. Yet free peoples do not stay free for long if they permit their enemy to strike at a time and place of the enemy's choosing. And that is precisely what terrorists aim to do. They seek to attack us and to attack our allies and to attack our friends at will, all around the world and right here in the United States. They seek to attack us again as they did on September 11, 2001. The past few years also have seen murderous terrorist attacks in places as wide-ranging as Bali and Baghdad, Mombassa and Bogotテ。, Riyadh and Madrid, Casablanca and Karachi. We will answer these attacks.

President Bush is determined to confront the hard realities of terrorism with the same decisiveness that President Eisenhower and other American Presidents met the security challenges of the past. And thanks to President Bush's bold leadership, nations all around the globe have come together in an historic effort to wipe terrorism from the face of the Earth.

It will be a long, hard fight, but we will succeed. (Applause.)

This is a new kind of war. It's not the kind of war that you and I were trained for. Our foe is not located in a single country. There are no clear battlefields to see. There are no frontlines to mass against. Terrorism is a constantly forming and re-forming network of extremist groups. To defeat such an enemy, it will require vigilance and tenacity, patience and international cooperation on an unprecedented scale.

Together with nations on every continent, we and our partners are bringing to bear every tool of statecraft against the terrorists and their networks. We are using diplomatic tools, intelligence and law enforcement tools, financial instruments, and yes, when necessary, military force.

As a result, since September 11th, 2001, more than two-thirds of al-Qaida's top leadership have been killed or captured. More than 3,000 al-Qaida criminals have been detained in over 100 countries. Terrorist cells have been wrapped up in Singapore, in Italy, right here in the United States. The Saudis are going after them with vigor and are more successful with each passing day.

It is becoming harder and harder for terrorists to support and finance their operations, to move about freely, to find sanctuary, to communicate, to plot and to acquire deadly weapons. And as a result of these efforts and terrorist attacks that did not take place, because of these efforts, countless lives have been saved.

And in the process of prosecuting the global war on terrorism, our magnificent young men and women in uniform and their coalition partners have liberated 30 million Afghans and 25 million Iraqis from cruel oppressors. (Applause.) I've been telling audiences for weeks now, and did it again earlier at an editorial board meeting here in Cincinnati, 55 million people, in Afghanistan and Iraq, have been liberated. They are now looking to the future with hope and without fear in their hearts.

In Afghanistan, 9 million people have registered to vote. Nine million people have said we want freedom. (Applause.) I went to Afghanistan earlier this year and they took me to a registration place in a school for women. And these women who had been oppressed and suppressed by the Taliban were standing in line, prepared to prove their citizenship so that they can get their registration card. (Applause.)

In Afghanistan, 3 million refugees -- imagine that -- in the last two and a half years, 3 million Afghans who had been living in Pakistan, who had been living in Iran, had been living everywhere but in Afghanistan, 3 million people voted with their feet to come back to Afghanistan to make new lives for themselves because the United States of America and its coalition partners got rid of the Taliban and freed Afghans to stand for the Afghan people, and now they're getting ready to vote for their own freely elected president in just a few week's time. What an accomplishment. We should be so proud. (Applause.)

Just yesterday, in Iraq, there was a National Conference. I worried about it all last week and through the weekend. Would they actually be able to meet? Mortars are going off. Car bombs are going off. People are trying to stop them, to keep them from meeting. Would these 1,100 Iraqis actually get up, take a look at the situation and go into the international zone to assemble? Would they do it?

They did it. Eleven hundred Afghans (Iraqis) showed up. And when I read my paper this morning to see how the newspapers characterized the event, they said there was a lot of squabbling, there was a lot of noise, there was a lot of disagreement, there was a lot of debate and shouting. I said, "Are you sure it isn't the Congress in Washington?" (Laughter.)

And I called Ambassador Negroponte, our Ambassador over there. I said, "John, what actually happened?" He said, "There was a lot of squabbling, there was a lot of noise, there was a lot of debate and there was a lot of disagreement. Colin, it's called democracy -- and it was wonderful. And they want a country that is free. They want free elections. They want to be represented by their own leaders. They want their armed forces. And we're going to help them get all of that and it will be a success." (Applause.)

I was in Baghdad just a few weeks ago. I spoke to the new leaders. They get up every day wondering whether or not they might be assassinated. But they get up nonetheless and they go to work. They're determined to succeed. They are going to hold these elections. They are going to take the risks that come in the process of creating freedom and democracy in a country that has seen no such thing in history.

I also spent a little bit of time at the end of the day with some of our troops. After an all-day meeting with the Prime Minister and the President of the country and the other ministers and doing what you have to do as Secretary of State, late in the afternoon Ambassador Negroponte and I went out behind his office and several hundreds troops were lined up, mostly Americans but there were Brits there and Aussies and Poles and Ukrainians and all kinds of other nations. That's what makes me mad when people say, "Well, you don't have a coalition." You should have been with me in Baghdad two weeks ago. I'll show you a coalition. Thirty one nations were there. Don't tell me we don't have a coalition. (Applause.)

And what moved me so much was to stand in front of them and to talk to them a little bit, you know, try to warm an audience up a little bit. And I told them that they should be so proud of what they were doing: They were putting their lives at risk, they were working hard to make a new nation free. I told them that 10, 15, 20 years from now when they had gone on to other occupations or retired and they're sitting in their family rooms and rec rooms telling their children and grandchildren about what they did, telling them stories, some of them which, you know, might even be true -- (laughter.). I know you guys. I know what you do. (Laughter.)

I said, "You were the ones," you can tell your grandchildren and children, "you were the ones who went there. You didn't hold back. You didn't quibble. You were active, you were reserve, you were Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard, civilian, every other federal agency you could imagine. You didn't hold back. When your nation called, when the Iraqi people called, you were there, just as veterans have always been there when they were called. And you should take this memory of what you did to bring freedom to this country back home with you and be forever proud of your accomplishment."

I also went to Walter Reed last week to see some of the troops who have been injured. I went to the orthopedic ward and met a number of these wonderful, wonderful, young men and women who have been injured. And you just can't help but be enormously proud of them. One young man who had lost his leg, the only thing he wanted to talk to me about was not his injury, not how it happened, but what he said to me was, "General, how soon do you think they can get me back up on my new leg so I can get back into the Army and get back into the fight?" That's the kind of kids we have. (Applause.) With that kind of spirit, you can be sure we will prevail.

We have a challenge ahead of us with this insurgency. We've got to defeat it. We've also got to do everything we can to build up the Iraqi forces as quickly as possible so that they can take over the burden of the fight. They are taking many more casualties than we are now. They are willing to fight. And when they take casualties, one of those police stations is blown up, the next day you find even more Iraqis volunteering to serve.

So the challenge before us is clear: Defeat the insurgency and get on with the business of reconstructing this country and putting it on a solid, peaceful, democratic foundation. When the world sees that, the world will understand what such a nation can mean for the rest of that region and the rest of the world as a model.

Already, our strong stand against Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction is paying off in other ways. Our resolve was a factor in Libya's decision to renounce its weapons of mass destruction. It took a look around and said this is not a good thing to do and we found a diplomatic solution and they gave up their weapons of mass destruction.

International pressure is also mounting on Iran to reveal the true nature of their nuclear program.

And a democratic Iraq will give momentum to the President's reform efforts throughout the Middle East. We want to help the nations in the Middle East, nations across the globe, to enjoy the twin blessings of freedom and peace.

As a General and as a President, Dwight David Eisenhower understood the use and the limits of military power. He also understood the importance of winning the hearts and minds of people throughout the world. He said that, "Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and co-operation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace."

That is why President Bush's national security advisor is not -- his National Security Strategy -- excuse me -- is not just confined to matters of defense policy or matters of preemption. A major part of the President's National Security Strategy is the promotion of good governance in developing nations. It's strengthening our partnerships with nations around the world. It's building up our alliances. It's taking steps to lift millions of people out of poverty and despair. We are at the forefront of the world's efforts to improve international health and well-being.

The United States has helped to forge a new international consensus on the use of foreign assistance. Experience has shown that foreign assistance works best when it's targeted toward those countries that believe in the rule of law, that govern justly, that adopt sound economic policies and believe in their people and invest in their people.

President Bush has come forward with the most significant initiative on foreign assistance since the Marshall Plan in the late '40s. It's called the Millennium Challenge Corporation. And we're going to be spending up to $5 billion a year by 2006 to invest in those countries, those developing countries that say we understand the rule of law, good governance, the end of corruption, democracy and open markets. And they will find America waiting there with an open hand to help them move down that path.

And we've just identified the first 16 countries to receive this kind of assistance. What has impressed me is how many other countries have come to me, who are not one of the 16, and they said, "Excuse us, Mr. Secretary. What do we have to do to be one of the recipients?" It's easy. Democracy, freedom, the rule of law.

So the President's policy is a comprehensive one. It's a policy that is prepared to use military force when necessary to defend our interests, but it is really a policy that rests on partnership, alliances, helping people, helping people solving the problems of HIV/AIDS, one of the greatest killers on the face of the Earth now: 8,000 men and women and children died today because of AIDS, another 8,000 will die tomorrow, and the President is determined to do something about it. It's not just a health and humanitarian issue, it's a security issue which undercuts nations and their ability to move forward toward peace and freedom.

He's spent $15 billion. He has allocated $15 billion toward this effort. And people who say we're not giving enough ought to know we're giving twice as much as the rest of the world combined, and we should be proud of that. (Applause.)

My friends, in this new century which is so different than the century we left, we face many new challenges. We face problems. I deal with these problems daily, whether they are in the Middle East or in Sudan, other places in the world. But we face so many wonderful opportunities as more and more people look to America for inspiration. As every veteran in this room understands, we can meet the challenges that we face, just as we have always met the challenges that we face, and we can seize those opportunities, but only as long as young Americans are willing to step forward and serve our country and to serve humankind.

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I was privileged to lead such men and women. And today, in the Army, in the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, Coast Guard, you will find the newest generation of such magnificent young Americans.

As Secretary of State, I am also proud to lead another group of dedicated Americans who serve our nation with skill and with passion: the dedicated men and women of the Department of State. They sign up for duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and other high-risk posts around the world. They go on unaccompanied tours. I call them my troops, because that's what they are, just as surely as the men and women who served under my command in the 3rd Armored Division or the 2nd Infantry Division, the 101st, the 4th Infantry Division. My diplomats may not wear a uniform, but they are also serving on the frontline of American diplomacy and on the frontlines of freedom around the world serving this nation so very, very well. (Applause.)

Fellow Veterans, time and again in the past century, and now in this century, fate and destiny have put our country in a position where the world looks to America for leadership and for help.

The world looks to us, often with a mixture of respect and resentment, because we're powerful. We are the world's greatest economic power. We are the world's greatest military power. The world looks to us, too, because our democratic values remain a powerful inspiration to people everywhere.

And how have we used this unrivaled power? We have not sought to conquer anyone. We have never been comfortable with occupation of any land. We do not covet anyone's territory. We do not seek to impose dominion over anyone. Instead, we have sent our wonderful young men and women forth from our shores in harm's way to help others, to protect others, to liberate others. Many of them have lost their lives in our foreign wars, and America has asked for nothing in return except just enough land in which to bury them. (Applause.)

This is a unique nation that we are privileged to be citizens of. It is a unique nation that people look to. We can be proud indeed that successive generations of our sons and daughters have selflessly served as soldiers in foreign wars and gallantly fought for a freer world, a better world, a world of hope, where tyrants and terrorists cannot thrive.

I am deeply grateful to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America for presenting me with the Eisenhower Award. As General Eisenhower once said: "Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends."

This award will be a cherished symbol to me and of the bond that I share with you, my fellow veterans. But it will belong, really, to all those wonderful young men and women that I was privileged to serve with over so many, many years. And your award will remind me always of my duty toward those who proudly wear the uniform -- those brave young men and women who are now serving on the frontlines of freedom throughout the world. Their families pray for their safe return, as do all of us here this evening, just as our families once prayed for our safe return.

And, of course, our hearts go out especially to those loved ones who have given their lives in service to our country. They will never be forgotten. No life given in the name of liberty is ever given in vain. We will forever keep faith with the fallen, for they have kept faith to the very end with our nation's highest ideals.

So may God bless all the men and women serving in our armed forces. May God bless all of our fellow veterans. And may God always continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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