Rumsfeld: Quitting Is No Option in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2005 Quitting in Iraq before the mission is finished would be an invitation to more terrorist violence against the United States, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
"This is not just a hypothesis," Rumsfeld told an audience at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at its campus here. "The U.S. withdrawal from Somalia emboldened Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. We know this. He said so."
Similarly, a retreat in Iraq would send an unmistakable message to America's enemies and friends alike, the secretary said. It would signal to Iraqis and moderate reformers throughout the region that they can't count on the United States, he said. And to the country's enemies, Rumsfeld said, it would say: "If America will not defend itself against terrorists in Iraq, it will not defend itself against terrorists anywhere."
What's needed in Iraq is "resolve, not retreat (and) courage, not concession," Rumsfeld told the group. "Rather than thinking in terms of an exit strategy, we should be focused on the strategy for success," he said.
President Bush's strategy for success in Iraq, released Nov. 30, focuses on the political, economic and security tracks that are all are moving steadily forward, Rumsfeld said.
Politically, Iraq will hold national elections Dec. 15 to seat a new national government, and Sunnis are increasingly taking part in the political process, he noted. Economically, Iraq's country's stock market "is alive and well" as the country makes other important advances, he said. On the security side, some 214,000 Iraqi security forces are now trained and equipped, working with coalition forces and steadily gaining experience.
While progress continues, the job is not yet done, the secretary told the group. Giving up in Iraq too soon, he said, will derail much of this progress and egg on violent terrorists who behead people, bomb children and attack funerals and wedding receptions, Rumsfeld said.
"This is the kind of brutality and mayhem the terrorists are working to bring to our shores," he said. "And if we do not succeed in our efforts to arm and train Iraqis to help defeat these terrorists in Iraq, this is the kind of mayhem that these terrorists, emboldened by a victory, will bring to our cities again. Let there be no doubt."
Defeating extremists' aspirations in Iraq is essential to protecting Americans lives, Rumsfeld said. "Imagine the world our children would face if we allowed (Ayman al-) Zawahiri, (Abu Musab al-) Zarqawi, bin Laden and others of their ilk to seize power and operate with impunity out of Iraq," he said.
They'd turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was before Sept. 11, 2001: a haven for terrorist recruitment and training and a launch pad for attacks against the United States and its interests, he said.
"Iraq would serve as the new base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East and which would threaten legitimate governments around the world," he said. "This is their plan. They have said so."
Americans would make "a terrible mistake" if they don't listen and learn from terrorists and, as a result, steel their resolve to do what's necessary to keep them from achieving their goals, Rumsfeld said.
"Quitting is not a strategy," he said.