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July 4th, is Independence Day in the United States, a time when Americans celebrate the blessings of freedom. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld paid tribute to those who fought to win America's independence:

"As we celebrate our liberty, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the challenges that our country faced in its early years."

In 1782, after seven years of war with Britain, the United States of America were only loosely united. Rivalries and border disputes among the states threatened to erupt into armed conflict. Trade barriers, conflicting regulations, and a lack of a stable currency caused economic crisis. War veterans demanded back pay and sometimes threatened violence. As Mr. Rumsfeld said, it took eight years for the American people to agree on a constitution that would strike a balance between individual liberty and stable, effective government:

"That history is worth remembering as we consider the difficulties the Afghans and Iraqis face today. The transition to democracy is never easy."

James Madison, one of the framers of the U.S. Constitution, said that Americans have "staked the future of all our political institutions on the capacity of mankind for self-government." President George W. Bush says that freedom for all people remains a cornerstone of American policy:

"Our greatest security comes from the advance of human liberty. Because free nations do not support terrorism. Free nations do not attack their neighbors. Free nations do not threaten the world with weapons of mass terror. Americans believe that freedom is the deepest need and hope of any human heart."

From Cuba to North Korea, from Burma to Zimbabwe, wherever people struggle for freedom, they will find a friend in the United States.