Rumsfeld makes surprise visit to attack site
MOSUL, Iraq – U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on a surprise Christmas Eve visit with the troops three days after the devastating attack on a U.S. military dining hall here, told soldiers he remained confident of defeating the insurgency and stabilizing Iraq, while noting that to some “it looks bleak.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind, this is achievable,” Rumsfeld, who flew here under tight security, told a couple of hundred 1st Brigade soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division at their commander’s headquarters. He promised them that later in life they will look back and feel pride at having contributed to a mission of historic importance.
“When it looks bleak, when one worries about how it’s going to come out, when one reads and hears the naysayers and the doubters who say it can’t be done, and that we’re in a quagmire here,” one should recall that there have been such doubters “throughout every conflict in the history of the world,” he said.
Hoping to bring holiday cheer to the wounded soldiers and demonstrate compassion for the troops’ sacrifices, Rumsfeld landed in pre-dawn darkness and immediately headed for a combat surgical hospital where many of the victims were treated after Tuesday’s lunchtime attack. The most seriously wounded have been transferred to a U.S. military hospital in Germany.
During a brief stop at the 67th Combat Surgical Hospital, Rumsfeld presented a Purple Heart medal to Sgt. Chris Scott, who was wounded a day earlier. Rumsfeld also thanked the hospital’s staff for their work in treating the dozens of wounded from Tuesday’s attack at the mess hall, located near the base’s airfield.
Out of concern for security, Rumsfeld’s aides went to unusual lengths to keep his visit a secret prior to his arrival, with only a few reporters and one TV crew accompanying him on an overnight flight from Washington.
In an interview aboard the C-17 cargo plane that brought him to Mosul, Rumsfeld said he’d been planning to visit U.S. troops here long before Tuesday’s deadly attack, believed to have been carried out by a suicide bomber.