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Rumsfeld: Resolve, Not Retreat Required in Terror War

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 4, 2005 – Acquiescing to terrorists' demands by retreating from Afghanistan or Iraq wouldn't put an end to future terror attacks and would actually embolden terrorists to continue and even build on existing violence, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said here today.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles on Aug. 4. DoD photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"Terrorists do not seek a negotiated settlement with the West or with the moderate Muslim nations, and they're not appeased by concessions," Rumsfeld told a gathering of about 900 members and guests of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council during a luncheon meeting.

As examples, the secretary pointed out that a car bomb in Saudi Arabia killed 17 troops and wounded 80 more as the United States military was leaving Saudi Arabia, and that al Qaeda members are likely to have begun planning their deadly Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States during the 1990s at the height of the Middle East peace process.

Abandoning efforts under way in Iraq and Afghanistan would amount to giving terrorists the victory they seek while shirking from the principles and values the United States stands for, Rumsfeld said. "These enemies would not be placated by a surrender, by an apology, or by a betrayal of our values, or of our free way of life," he said. "Indeed, I would submit that they would be emboldened."

The only way to fight terrorism, Rumsfeld told the group, is to stand firmly and to forge ahead "with courage, not concession."

"Resolve, not retreat, is what's needed in this war," the secretary said. "It is a test of wills," and one he said the coalition must not abandon. "Our coalition must win this test of wills, vowing that we will not surrender Iraq or Afghanistan to terrorists, that we do not apologize for our countries' meaning in the world, and that we will not betray the principles of freedom that ... define our nation."

Members of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, a group that promotes greater understanding of global issues and their impact on American citizens, applauded throughout the secretary's speech. When a small group of hecklers interrupted Rumsfeld during his address and immediately afterward, the crowd booed them as they were escorted out of the auditorium.

Some have been seduced into thinking there's a better way to stop terrorism or that the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has actually fueled terrorism, Rumsfeld noted.

"Some people seem confused about the motivations and intentions of terrorists and about our coalition's defense of the still-young democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said. "They seem to cling to the discredited theory that the recent attacks in London and elsewhere ... are really in retaliation for the war in Iraq or for the so-called occupation of Afghanistan. That is nonsense.

"The United States and its allies did not provoke the terrorists," Rumsfeld emphasized. "The terrorists attacked America. There was no war in Iraq or Afghanistan when America was attacked on Sept. 11th, and there was no war in Iraq or Afghanistan when terrorists attacked Americans in the Beirut barracks in 1983, in the Khobar Towers (in Saudi Arabia) in 1996, or the African embassies in 1998, or when they attacked the USS Cole in the year 2000."

The only way to stop future attacks, the secretary said, is to take the fight to the enemy, as the global coalition and U.S. troops are doing in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world.

That's critical, he said, because terrorists hold the advantage with their ability to "attack at any place at any time, using any conceivable technique," making them difficult if not impossible to defend against. "It is simply not possible to defend at every location, every minute of the day or night, against every conceivable terrorist technique," Rumsfeld said. "It can't be done." As a result, he said, "the only way to defeat terrorists is to go after them where they are, not to wait ... to be attacked."

More than 90 nations in what's "undoubtedly the largest coalition in the history of mankind" are working together to fight terrorism, Rumsfeld said. "In the near term, we're confronting terrorists and capturing or killing them and depriving them of their sanctuaries," he said.

The fight has been far from easy, the secretary said, noting the tragic loss of U.S. troops, including more than 21 Marines killed in the last few days in Iraq. "Patriots, they were determined to stop the terrorists from reclaiming Iraq and from launching more attacks on our people," Rumsfeld said of the fallen. "Our nation needed them; our nation called on them in battle, and we mourn them now in death. Our country will honor them by completing the mission ... for which they fought so hard and so nobly."

The coalition "will continue to target terrorist networks and their sanctuaries and to support and help and strengthen free governments that willingly join in that fight," the secretary said, citing ongoing progress in Iraq and Afghanistan on both the political and security fronts.

These, he said, are signs that the people are rejecting the brand of violent extremism terrorists have to offer. But the effort is not yet over, he emphasized, acknowledging that terrorists have not yet given up their desperate struggle.

Despite "their headline-grabbing violence," the terrorists in Iraq "are failing" on all fronts, Rumsfeld said. They failed to maintain a terrorist safe haven in Fallujah. They failed to stop the January elections. They've failed to keep recruits from joining the Iraqi security forces. They've failed to force the coalition out of Iraq. And, although they're "desperate to stop the forward march of freedom in the Middle East and beyond, including Central Asia, ... they're failing at that as well," Rumsfeld said.

If anything, the violent attacks on Iraqi citizens "appear to be hardening the Iraqi people's determination to defeat al Qaeda and the insurgents and to succeed in building a free Iraq," he said.

Ultimately, success in Iraq and in the broader war on terror will depend on promoting freedom and democracy as an alternative to what Rumsfeld described as "the grim vision of the terrorists."

"As the citizens of more countries seek to live as free people under free systems, the fanaticism that fuels hostility to such systems and encourages terrorist violence will suffer still further blows," Rumsfeld said. "This will be a tribute to moderate Muslim leaders. It will be a tribute to the millions of moderate Muslims who have courageously supported them. And it will be a tribute to our men and women in uniform, to be sure."

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