Rumsfeld Addresses 'Growing Confusion' Over War on Terror
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Oct. 12, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld suggested to military men and women at a town hall meeting here Oct. 11 how they might answer questions stemming from "growing confusion and some misunderstanding" about the global war on terror.
Speaking to a group of airmen from the 6th Air Mobility Wing and other servicemembers from U.S. Central Command and U.S. Southern Command, Rumsfeld noted that the troops might be getting questions from others about what America is trying to accomplish in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Well, you can tell those who ask such questions that you and your friends across the world are standing on the front lines to protect them and to safeguard their freedoms, as well as your own," he said.
"And you can tell them something else: that America is not what's wrong with this world," he added. "What's wrong with this world are the terrorists, the 'beheaders,' the hostage-takers, the assassins -- the people our forces are fighting every day in a number of locations -- they're what's wrong with the world. And our country's finest men and women are out there meeting them every day."
Rumsfeld said it is not the mission of the U.S. military to "cower behind illusory defenses" because "defenses don't work." The only defense, he said, is to go on the offensive, to stop terrorists before they attack America.
"Your mission is to be on the offense; it's to go on the attack," he said. "And that's what our forces are doing: they're engaging the enemy where they live so that they do not attack us where we live."
America has one goal in the war on global terrorism: "It's victory -- unconditional, unapologetic and unyielding," Rumsfeld said.
The secretary acknowledged war is "costly in its pain and the tragedies."
"Every loss of life and every injury weighs on our hearts and on the hearts of America," he said.
For America's fighting men and women to prevail against the enemy they battle on foreign shores is the only way to secure this country's freedom in the future, Rumsfeld said. "You fight today so that our children and their children might not have to experience the heartbreak of something like Sept. 11," he said. "And the men and women in uniform -- you and your associates all across the globe -- are displaying resolute courage, the kind of courage that's defined our country through the generations."
In a question-and-answer session, an Air Force captain suggested part of the military's perception problem stems from the tone of civilian media reports. The man's question elicited loud applause from the crowd. Rumsfeld agreed, but said it's servicemembers' responsibility to speak up about what they believe.
Rumsfeld said today's servicemembers will look back on their achievements with enormous pride. Yet, he said, "one asks why is it that the public impression is so different from the reality."
The antidote to media bias toward bad news is to flood the world with good news through e-mails and other communications home, Rumsfeld said. He said American servicemembers deployed overseas are sending "e- mails that are in direct conflict with what's being presented in the aggregate, in the United States and in the rest of the world."
These e-mails, he said, present the American people with "a balance of what's happening, as opposed to an imbalance that they're receiving through normal channels."
However, the secretary added, a free media is part of living in a democracy. Democracy isn't perfect, he said, but other forms of government "are so much worse."
"And if that's true," he said, "if democracy is the best by definition, it means that people, citizens with imperfect information, given sufficient information over time, find their way to right decisions on big issues. And they do."
Rumsfeld also spoke of the spate of natural disasters striking recently around the world. U.S. military forces provided assistance in the American South after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, and American troops are currently providing disaster aid in hurricane stricken Guatemala and in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Pakistan.
"In the past year, our country and other parts of the world have ... suffered a number of natural disasters that have affected millions of people in thousands of communities," Rumsfeld said. "These disasters have caused a great deal of harm and a lot of death and dislocation, but they've also shown the truly heartfelt compassion and professionalism of the men and women in the United States military."