Presentation of the Distinguished Service Award
Remarks at the Presentation of the Distinguished Service Award
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Dean Acheson Auditorium
October 6, 2008
Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte,
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, and
Commanding General U.S. Central Command David Petraeus
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: Ladies and gentlemen, if you would please rise for the arrival of the arrival party. The Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, and General David Petraeus, Commanding General, U.S. Central Command. Please be seated.
It’s now my pleasure to introduce the Secretary of State, Dr. Rice. (Applause.)
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you. Good morning and welcome, everyone. While we have standing room only, I told David Petraeus that we did not charge admission; nonetheless, we’re delighted to have everyone here. It’s a distinct honor to join you for a very special occasion: the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award to General David Petraeus and to Ambassador Ryan Crocker. This is the highest honor that the State Department confers. And I cannot think of two more deserving public servants to receive it.
All of us remember the dire straits of Iraq barely two years ago, the dozens of daily terrorist attacks, the sectarian violence spiraling out of control, the millions of innocent Iraqis who were fleeing their homes, and Iraq itself seemed to be teetering. I saw that Iraq firsthand many times, and I know that many of you saw it day in and day out while serving there. So how can it be that when we go back to Iraq today, one is struck not by the daily carnage, but by the silence, ever so slowly and indeed ever so fragilely, of Iraq returning to normal? How is it that barely two years ago the violence that had plummeted in Iraq – sectarian violence has plummeted in Iraq, terrorist attacks are fewer and farther between, and displaced Iraqis are now returning to their homes? Al-Qaida in Iraq is being battered and broken. The Iraqi economy is springing back to life. The elected regime in Baghdad is growing more effective and expanding its sovereign writ. And Iraq and its fellow Arab nations are rebuilding ties of friendship. And in that regard, it was a wonderful thing to see an Egyptian Foreign Minister in Iraq for the first time in decades, just this past weekend.
In short, we’ve seen the emergence of an increasingly peaceful, increasingly self-sufficiently, and increasingly free Iraq. There are many reasons for this hopeful, but still fragile, turn of events. The courage and resilience and imagination of the Iraqi people is first and foremost among them. The determination and sacrifices of our allies and our coalition partners, the intrepid devotion to duty of our diplomats, of our development professionals, of other civilians who have volunteered by the thousands to serve in Iraq far away from their families and often at great personal risk to themselves. And of course, America’s men and women in uniform, along with their loved ones who continue to selflessly bear the most awful burdens of this fight, who do everything that is asked of them and more, and who do it all with grace and grit and the silent confidence of true bravery.
America’s servicemen and women, both the living and the departed, are heroes for all time and words do no justice to the debt that we owe them. When the history of our mission in Iraq is written, other factors will stand out. The President’s decision last year to change strategies in Iraq, to support a new plan with more troops and more civilians, and to put in charge of our country team two public servants who we are honoring today.
It’s been a very, very long road in Iraq, harder, more difficult, and longer than we would have imagined. Certainly, harder, longer, and more difficult than I personally imagined at its outset. But that road has turned in a positive direction. And the two people that we honor today – and by the way we honor also those of you who are in the audience who have served in Iraq, and I see also the Ambassador from Iraq – these two people have been a very big part of that story.
General Petraeus, an intellectual warrior and a warrior intellectual. Few Americans have done more to revive the lost art of counterinsurgency and to implement those ideas where it matters most. Under General Petraeus’ leadership, U.S. and coalition troops have not only taken the fight to the enemies of Iraq, they have focused on securing the people of Iraq. They have turned adversaries into allies, and they’ve provided the new Iraqi army with the training and support it needs to emerge as an increasingly capable and self-sufficient force. General Petraeus has been behind these efforts, determining military strategy and negotiating patiently and toughly with Iraq’s leaders and with Iraq’s enemies, providing the American people with candid assessments of our effort and, most importantly, taking care of the men and women he leads.
And Ambassador Crocker, a lion of America’s Foreign Service, who has served at the foremost of most of America’s greatest national security challenges during his career, but who has perhaps distinguished himself most in this current role. Ambassador Crocker has done nothing less than transform our diplomatic presence and effort in Iraq. He has helped to attract and inspire the best talent in our Diplomatic Corps to serve in Iraq. He has overseen the significant expansion of Provincial Reconstruction Teams. And more than anyone, he has pushed and encouraged Iraq’s leaders, as well as Iraq’s neighbors, to make the hard but necessary choices that can lead to peace. Ambassador Crocker embodies what we mean by transformational diplomacy and he is an inspiration to each and every one of us.
Of course, as both Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus would be the first to say, they’ve achieved nothing alone and everything together. Indeed, the seamless bond that these men have formed is emblematic of the unity of effort that has defined our entire civil-military partnership in Iraq during these two years. Aside from working out of offices that are no more than 30 feet away from one another, the partnership between Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus will be studied as a model of counterinsurgency for decades to come. These two leaders have set the tone at the top of Baghdad. And Secretary Gates and I have tried to support the spirit of cooperation here in Washington. And it has extended all the way through the ranks, down to the buck private and the junior officer, working shoulder-to-shoulder in PRTs.
Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is certain in this life. And success in Iraq is not a sure thing. But we can now see a glimpse of what success will look like – an Iraq at peace with itself, secure in its region, with a democratic government that can defend itself and sustain itself eventually without international support. This has been our goal all along and now it is emerging, slowly, imperfectly, but it is emerging. And the triumph of peace and freedom in Iraq will be a beacon of hope in the broader Middle East.
So on behalf of President Bush, the men and women of the State Department, and all of the American people, it is my deep honor to present the Distinguished Service Award to General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. May you accept this award as but a small down payment on the vast and enduring gratitude that our entire nation owes to each of you. And may you depart your posts in Iraq – not quite yet, Ryan – confident in knowledge that you have made an immeasurable contribution to the success of Iraq and to the security of our beloved country. (Applause.)
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: It is now my pleasure to introduce the Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: (Via Video Teleconference) Good morning, Madame Secretary. Good morning, General Petraeus. Thank you, Ambassador Kennedy. I’ve been here since Friday experiencing and seeing around the country some of the positive developments to which you, Madame Secretary, just referred. Although you cannot see them on your screens, we do have three very important guests here today: Mrs. Crocker, Christine Crocker; our DCM, Deputy Chief of Mission, Pat Butenis; and General Ray Odierno, the Commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq, who are all here to attend this ceremony.
As Deputy Secretary of State, and as a former United States Ambassador to Iraq, I’m very pleased to read the citation which appears on Secretary Crocker’s – on Ambassador Crocker’s award, and it reads as follows: For your extraordinary achievement in forging unparalleled teamwork and unity of effort by civilian and military organizations while serving as Ambassador to Iraq. Your courage, expertise and dedication contributed to progress on security and stability in Iraq and advancement of critical foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States.
Congratulations. And I’m very pleased to present you with this facsimile of the award. I’m assured that the original – it’s on its way. (Laughter.) Congratulations. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR CROCKER: (Via Video Teleconference.) In the mail. Thanks very much. (Applause.)
Thank you very much, Madame Secretary, Mr. Deputy Secretary. Dave, it’s great to see you again. Just one more VTC. (Laughter.)
This award humbles me. It’s well beyond my merits. I accept it on behalf of all of my colleagues, those who have stepped up to do America’s most important work in the world’s hardest places. You will increasingly define our service in the years ahead. All of you were and are individual volunteers, and your stepping forward does great credit to the service you represent.
I would also like to thank you, Madame Secretary, and you, Mr Deputy Secretary, for the personal efforts you have made to see that the best in our business come forward for Iraq. You have made phone calls. You have personally recruited the finest officers in our business for this important work. And you have looked after them on their onward assignments. So in this, as in so many other respects, it has been a team effort.
Our service will also be redefined through our interaction with our military comrades. Since the end of the Cold War, our challenges have been increasingly political-military in nature. The lines are blurred in a way they weren’t for the decades between World War II and the end of the Cold War. Nowhere are these challenges and the need for unity of effort greater than in Iraq.
It has been my very good fortune to face these challenges with the greatest military commander of his generation, Dave Petraeus. Before either of us ever got to Iraq, we committed ourselves to that full unity of effort and were on the phone forming our joint strategic assessment team to lay the groundwork for what became our joint campaign plan. Eighteen months later, after innumerable joint working groups, fusion cells, a joint interagency task force, we have now come full circle. Because next week, another great military commander, General Ray Odierno, and I will assemble here in Baghdad our own combined joint campaign plan review team to renew this process.
Coordinated civil-military action in Iraq is ongoing all the time at every level. Two days ago, Mr. Deputy Secretary, we heard Arab, Turkmen, Kurdish, and Christian members of the Kirkuk Provincial Council unite in their praise of the Brigade Combat Team Commander and the Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader for their combined efforts on behalf of the people of Kirkuk.
Dave, to you, I’d just say, again, no ambassador could have had a better military wingman than I was privileged to have with you. Our association will continue. This is our first VTC and – as you approach your new responsibilities, but it certainly will not be our last. And I look forward, again, to working with you in your new capacity.
Madame Secretary, finally, I’d like to thank you for inviting my sister-in-law, Cindy Hall, and her daughter Cameron to be present today in Washington. They have supported Christine and I through this and numerous previous deployments, and it reminds us all, individually and collectively, just how important the home front is. So thanks to Cindy and Cameron. Thanks to all of you, my colleagues. And thanks to my colleagues who wear the uniforms of our great military for what truly is a total partnership. Thank you again for this honor, this recognition. (Applause.)
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: Madame Secretary, General Petraeus, it is now my pleasure to read the citation.
To General David Petraeus: For your extraordinary contributions in forming a civil-military partnership to advance our critical U.S. foreign policy objectives while serving as Commander, Multi-National Force - Iraq, February 10, 2007 through September 16, 2008. (Applause.)
GENERAL PETRAEUS: Well, Madame Secretary, I must say this is truly an utter surprise. I came here, Ryan, by the way, with comments prepared – I want you to see them right here – for the State Department’s program on civil-military partnership – (laughter) – which you and I were going to address as exhibits A and B. They’re very good remarks, I might add. I – they start off with talking about how we began the planning and we did the joint strategic assessment, how we then did the joint campaign plan, then how we executed it together, including, by the way, a mention of the Campaign Assessment and Synchronization Board, which we all knew and loved and tried to be out of town for whenever it was scheduled. (Laughter.) I might add that it’s a sign of incredible desperation in Washington that people used to actually want to come to Iraq to attend these joint campaign assessment boards when we were desperately trying to escape and evade them. But it went on. It did talk about, of course, our favorites, which were the fusion cells. There’s always room for one more, as everyone who has served in Iraq knows. And then it does indeed talk about transformational diplomacy.
The truth is, though, that what I intended to talk about is what Ryan highlighted, what the Secretary and Deputy Secretary underscored, and that is the importance, the imperative of unity of effort in endeavors such as the one in Iraq. And indeed, as Ambassador Crocker highlighted, and I would echo what he said in reverse, that no soldier could be so privileged as to have such a great diplomatic partner, and it was a great honor for me to be his military wingman.
But in such endeavors, again, there has to be absolute unity of purpose, unity of effort, even if there cannot be and will not be unity of command. And we did set out to achieve that from the very first phone call that we had together while Ryan was still serving in Pakistan, and then in all the subsequent efforts that I have just described to you here.
I would note that as he described the wonderful soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that we had serving with us there in uniform and the civilians of the Department of Defense, I would talk in turn about the tremendous quality of the diplomatic contingent that was there. I know that on occasion there had to be some encouragement to volunteer for Iraq, but volunteers they all were. And I’m happy to report that the Secretary shared with me on the way down the hallway that all spots for Iraq are already taken for this coming year. So I’m sorry, we can’t recruit any more of you. (Laughter.)
I do want to ask, however, that everyone who has served in Iraq since the very beginning of 2003, and this would include former Ambassador Negroponte with whom I was privileged to serve as a MNSTC-I commander, that all of you stand up, please, so that we can see how many, in fact, have answered that particular call. And I see Ambassador Ries. Ambassador Samir Sumaida'ie, you can stand up too, please. (Applause.)
As Ryan noted, this is an award that is not won by an individual, not won by someone who is the leader; it’s won by the team. And so I also accept this on behalf of the military side of that team, those great soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines who have sacrificed so much, and also on behalf of the families who have endured the separations so that those great young men and women in uniform could serve in places like Iraq.
In my final letter to our troopers, I said that I could not envision any greater privilege than having served with them for that final 19 months as the MNF-I commander. And I would also say that I could not imagine any greater privilege than having served with those from this Department who have contributed to the effort in Iraq, and first and foremost among them has to be our great Ambassador, Ryan Crocker.
Thank you all very much. Thank you again, Madame Secretary. And thanks to all of you for what you do for our country. Thank you. (Applause.)