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Rice to Australian Troops at Victoria Barracks

Remarks to Australian Troops at Victoria Barracks

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Melbourne, Australia
March 17, 2006


Secretary Rice meets with Australian troops who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or tsunami relief efforts. Melbourne, Australia. March 17, 2006. State Dept. photo.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Minister Brendan. Thank you so much for that wonderful introduction. Thank you to the members of the Australian military forces who are here and the leadership of the forces. General Angus, thank you for welcoming us here.

It's really a delight to be in Australia. I have had, thus far, a wonderful trip. It's great to be in Melbourne and to get to see a little bit different side of Australia. I've seen Canberra. I've seen Sydney. I look forward to coming back often and seeing this great country. It has a great variation in geography and great variation in lifestyle, and I look forward to coming back on many occasions.

But I'm here today and wanted to just drop by if I could to thank you. To thank the -- first of all, the people of Australia for your unfailing friendship to the American people over the entire period now of our alliance. An alliance that goes back now decades, an alliance that is built on friendship, an alliance that is built on common values, an alliance that's built on the same belief that every man and woman born on this earth has the right to the dignity that comes with human freedom, the dignity that comes with democracy, the dignity that comes with liberty. And the Australian people have, indeed, been good friends and good allies. And that is represented by the tremendous friendship and alliance of our military forces, because military forces can't be allies and friends if the peoples are not allies and friends, particularly in great democracies. And we have to nurture this relationship. We have to nurture our relationship among our peoples so that they know that when the men and women of the Australian armed forces go off to fight into harm's way, as they have so often in our history together with American armed forces, that we are doing so on their behalf and on behalf of the defense of freedom.

Now, I'm told that I'm going to meet some of the representatives that have been with us in three great efforts that we've had over the last several years. First of all, the effort in Afghanistan and I want to start there. Because when you invoked the ANZUS Treaty three days after September 11th [2001], I think you can't know what it meant to the American people. Now, on September 11th it was quite a shock. Ours is a country that is protected by great oceans and where our land has really never been attacked from beyond, and certainly anyone who wasn't alive, and that meant all of us, in 1812 to 1815 were quite unaccustomed to the notion that American territory itself might be in danger. And to see the Twin Towers come down, and the Pentagon attack really was a great trauma for the United States, and just like any individual, when a country experiences great trauma it most wants to hear from its friends. And so hearing in the course of the day, a couple of days later, that the ANZUS Treaty had been invoked, it meant that Australia believed that our tragedy was also your tragedy. And in that hour of need and that moment of trauma it was a tremendous boost to the morale of the American people.

You then, of course, went on to fight with us in Afghanistan, to the liberation of the people of Afghanistan who had undergone and had been under the rule of really one of the most terrible regimes of the 20th and 21st centuries. A regime so terrible that they banned music -- something that for someone like me who's a musician it's just unimaginable -- where barbers could be put to death for shaving the beards off men or where women were whipped and executed at a soccer stadium that had been given by the international community to play games. And I remember hearing one of the Taliban spokesman say, "Well, you see, we have to use this stadium for executions so maybe you'll give us another one so that we can play games." That was the nature of that regime and because of that horrible regime terrorists had gathered on the territory of Afghanistan, al-Qaida had made a home there, they'd made their bases there, they'd made their training camps there. And they had to come forth from there to attack the United States and to continue now -- now driven out of Afghanistan, to continue their bloody rein of terror against free men and women in many parts of the world, not just in the United States but, of course, you've felt here in Australian when it hit in Bali, killing many Australians.

But I want to tell you something about a couple of days after that attack. The President asked his National Security cabinet to come up to Camp David to think about what we would do when we were attacked. And we knew that it meant war in Afghanistan; everybody understood that. But I can tell you we rolled out the map of Afghanistan and the color drained from everybody's faces because, of course, Afghanistan had a reputation for being a kind of graveyard for great powers, whether it was the Soviet Union or Great Britain. And you looked around it and on one side was a Pakistan that was given over to extremism and at the time, one of the countries that had supported the Taliban. You looked and there was Iran, and you looked around and you thought, why Afghanistan.

But in fact, because of what you have done and because what our men and women in uniform have done the Afghan people have emerged and they've emerged with hope. And I was just in Afghanistan with President Bush, and it's tough going and it's a very poor place and the Taliban is still trying to fight back. When you look at the spirit of the Afghanistan people, you wonder how that spirit stayed alive for all of those years. And you have to be proud of what we've done to give the Afghan people a chance to have that spirit emerge and in defeating the terrorists in Afghanistan and in giving the Afghan people a chance to build a stable democracy, we not only have given the people of Afghanistan a chance, we've made ourselves more secure. And so thank you for what we've done in Afghanistan.

And then, of course, Australia was with us when we went to Iraq, a place, of course, that also had endured one of the worst dictatorships of the 20th and 21st century -- a dictatorship so brutal that the Olympic team found itself on going over (inaudible) -- Commonwealth Games -- and sportsmen everywhere have a kind of spirit but the Iraqi Olympic team was known for the torture that was practiced upon it by Saddam Hussein's sons. And Iraq was a place where mass graves were rampant and where people were turned against people, sect against sect, where Saddam Hussein had attacked its neighbors and had started wars in the region, and where he continued to fight a war against us, despite the fact that to save himself in 1991, he had signed an armistice that he had never kept.

And so in liberating Iraq from that horrible dictator and liberating the neighborhood from that terrible threat, you again, the Australian armed forces and the American armed forces and, by the way, Australia was one of the four first liberators of Iraq, along with great Britain and Poland and the United States, we gave the Iraqi people a chance. And there's struggle. Everybody can see that they're struggling to come to terms with each other. They're coming to terms with years of history in which they settled their differences by coercion or by force or by brutal repression. And now instead, they're trying to settle their differences through politics and it's hard. Anybody who's been on a democratic journey knows that it's hard. Anybody who's been on a democratic journey knows that it takes time.

But we also know something else about democracy. It is the only system in which differences can be resolved in a dignified manner. And so the Iraqi people are now on that journey. And again, we, together with you, have given them that chance. They have determined enemies. They have determined enemies in the form of al-Qaida, like Zarqawi who wants to plunge them into civil war. But they themselves do not want that future and they've demonstrated that every time, every time people have tried to drive them apart, they try to come together. And so we have to express confidence in them; that they are going to take this opportunity for a better future. They also are coming together from a variety of backgrounds and a variety of experiences and when there is an Iraq that is stable and democratic, it's going to be a very, very different kind of Middle East. And we know that the Middle East is a place that needs to be different than the one that spawned the ideology of hatred that lead people to fly buildings into airplanes on -- airplanes into buildings on September 11th.

Finally, you of course were with us, and we with you, as we provided tsunami relief after one of the worst natural disasters in history. I was recently in Phuket, in Thailand, and I saw some of the evidence of the relief there where there was a school where orphaned children were going to school, children who were going to grow up without parents, but at least they weren't going to grow up without hope because reconstruction efforts were now making it possible for them to have a new life.

And I was just in Indonesia where they still remember in Indonesia, and especially in Aceh, the tremendous impact, the tremendous impact of international aid, not just because it saved them from hunger and from devastation, but because it meant that world cared. And so in that operation, we saw that the armed forces of Australia and the armed forces of the United States are not just there when you have to defend freedom by force of arms, but there when you have to rescue fellow human beings by the force of compassion. And in fact, in many ways, that operation said more to the world than even all that we've done in all of the wars that we fought together to defend freedom. It said that we are a people who believes in freedom, a people who believes in compassion, a people who believes that we're at our best when power and principle and compassion go together.

And so in all of these endeavors, whether in liberating Afghanistan or liberating Iraq or liberating the peoples of Indonesia and Thailand, and Southeast Asia from the fury of Mother Nature, we know that the men and women of Australia and the men and women of the United States in uniform stand for the very best of our countries. You represent us so well. We're so proud and so grateful for your service. And I come to thank Australia from the President -- from President Bush, from the American people, from your compatriots, your American men and women in uniform, for the great friendship, for the honorable service that we've done together and for the defense of freedom. We know that whenever we're on the line, whenever we need a friend that we've got a great friend in Australia.

Thank you very much for having me here. (Applause.)

2006/T8-12

Released on March 17, 2006

ENDS


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