Rumsfeld Steels War College Class for Long Struggle Against Terrorists
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
CARLISLE BARRACKS, Pa., Mar. 27, 2006 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told senior officers at the Army War College here today that the American people must stay resolved in fighting terrorism.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld speaks to students and faculty at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pa. The institution educates future senior leaders of the Army and joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational communities. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"It's up to us, military and civilian, to commit ourselves to patiently supporting history's great and necessary task, aware that the enemy will not simply go away," he said. "We must recognize this and steel ourselves for the long struggle ahead."
Rumsfeld told the class members, most of whom have led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, that they can take pride in what they've already done and continue to accomplish in fighting terrorism and keeping the United States secure.
He noted that 50 million people live in freedom because of their actions, that Afghan women are enjoying opportunities they once only dreamed of, and that Afghans and Iraqis are working with the coalition to build a better future, even in the face of violence.
"All of you who served there are going to be able to look back in 20 or 30 years and have great pride at what you've accomplished and the sacrifice that you have made and your families have made and the contribution you have made to a better world," Rumsfeld said. "And we are very much in your debt, and we thank you for it, and I would like to express my appreciation."
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, opened many Americans' eyes to the true nature of the terrorist threat, Rumsfeld said. "The enemy we face may be the most brutal in our history," he told the group. "They currently lack only the means -- not the desire -- to kill, murder millions of innocent people with weapons vastly more powerful than boarding passes and box cutters."
Yet even today, there's still a misunderstanding about terrorism in some circles, he said. Some people view terrorists as criminals, not combatants. "Some seem to think that the years before Sept. the 11th were decades of peace," forgetting that terrorists attacked and killed Americans more than 20 times in the past 20 years, Rumsfeld noted.
"During those decades, the West was ambivalent about how to counter extremists' ideology and that type of aggression," he said. "And, as a result, terrorists became increasingly emboldened. We should have learned the timeless truth that weakness is provocative."
The 80-nation coalition formed after the Sept. 11 attacks to fight global terrorism is showing progress, he said. Rumsfeld reported solid successes taking place in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
"The extremists see these changes and are desperate to prevent that progress," he said. "And one suspects that the terrorists preferred the battle before Sept. 11, when they were often the only ones on the offensive."
Yet despite this progress, some Americans want to return to a defensive strategy that failed before Sept. 11 and will fail again today, Rumsfeld said. "They say a retreat from Iraq would provide an American escape from the violence," he told the group. "However, we know that any reprieve would be short lived. To terrorists, the West would remain the great Satan. The war that the terrorists began would continue, and free people would continue to be their targets."
Terrorists' acts aren't reactions to particular U.S. policies, as some assert, the secretary said. Their violence began long before operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, and won't stop until freedom-loving people confront and win out over their ideology. "We must recognize this and steel ourselves for the long struggle ahead," Rumsfeld told the group.
He described a visit earlier in the day to Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11th as its passengers struggled to take control of the plane from terrorist hijackers.
"Those passengers rest peacefully today," Rumsfeld said. "And our soldiers, sailors, airman and Marines, whom many of you will command, are doing everything possible to keep other Americans from again having to experience the heartbreak and terror of a Sept. 11."
In doing so, Rumsfeld said, they are helping "to prevent another day when parents have to tell their children through held-back tears that their mother or father will not be coming home."