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Rummy Lauds Graduating Cadets

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, right, talks with Cadet First Capt. Grace H. Chung of Congers, N.Y., after he gave the graduation address and Chung became a second lieutenant in the United States Army, Saturday, May 29, 2004, after the graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
AP
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told graduating cadets Saturday they will help win a global fight against terror still in its early stages.

The defense secretary received sustained applause from the families of 935 cadets graduating from the U.S. Military Academy - a marked contrast to the critical outcry the Rumsfeld has weathered since the prisoner treatment scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Rumsfeld didn't mention of Abu Ghraib in his speech, in which he urged the new officers to rely on the "moral clarity" learned at West Point.

"History may well call upon you at a critical time, at a critical moment, and you will be ready," Rumsfeld said.

Speaking under sunny skies in West Point's football stadium, the secretary focused his speech on the struggle against terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere. He told cadets the world has changed drastically since they came to the academy in 2000, and that the Army is changing too. He said the military is becoming faster and more flexible, though the fight ahead will be difficult.

"We are closer to the beginning of this struggle, this global insurgency, than to its end," said Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld repeatedly lauded the military and evoked the line of heroes who graduated from West Point, from U.S. Grant to K.C. Hughes, a 2001 graduate he said was awarded the bronze star after being wounded while fighting heroically in Iraq.

"The civilized world will win the global war against terror because of people like Lt. Hughes, and because of those of you here today," he said.

The new lieutenants could be posted to Iraq or Afghanistan in a year. As mothers and fathers tearfully congratulated the new officers afterward, a number of them said they were anxious to go.

"We're just ready to get out there and do our job," said 2nd Lt. Brandon Carlson of Mattoon Ky.

Critics have called for Rumsfeld's resignation after pictures emerged showing smiling soldiers posing with naked Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. Earlier this week, 2000 Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore called for the resignation of Rumsfeld and other top security officials in the Bush administration.

President Bush has made clear he wants Rumsfeld to stay. Rumsfeld told soldiers In Iraq earlier this month that "we'll get through this tough period."