The moment for military action against Iraq is almost here, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday as he traveled to Europe to push forward the American case against Saddam Hussein.
Rumsfeld’s trip coincided with an ever-increasing buildup of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf area. In a few days, there will be 150,000 American troops in the region — enough to launch at least the first stage of an invasion.
“This is a critical time,” Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him from Washington. “Anyone who looks at what’s taking place can see that momentum is building with respect to efforts to get Iraq to disarm.”
The defense secretary’s comments echoed President Bush’s statement Thursday that “the game is over” for Saddam.
Later in the day, at the Aviano air base in northern Italy, Rumsfeld praised American service members and their families who had gathered to hear him speak.
“You are what stands between freedom and fear,” the defense secretary said, “between our people and an evil that must not be allowed to win. The hopes of mankind depend on your success.”
“Shortly after Sept. 11,” Rumsfeld added, “President Bush made a promise to the nation: We will not waver, we will not tire, will not falter and will not fail. You are the ones delivering on that promise.”