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Despite Not Finding WMDs, Rumsfeld Says World Safer Without Saddam

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2004 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Oct. 3 he's "surprised" that the coalition has not found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but remains convinced that going to war was the right thing.

"I believe they were there, and I'm surprised that we have not found them yet," Rumsfeld said on Fox News Channel's "The Big Story Weekend with Rita Cosby" show. "There is no question on the part of anybody that Saddam Hussein had them, used them on his own people, used them on his neighbors, had a desire to have them, (and) had an intention to have them."

Rumsfeld said it's still unclear what happened to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. "He has either hidden them so well or moved them somewhere else or decided to destroy them so that he did not have them in the event of a conflict, but kept the capability of developing them rapidly," the secretary said.

The truth, he said, will probably unfold "as the months and years go by."

Despite the failure of the coalition to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Rumsfeld said the intelligence community -- not only in the United States, but also in Western Europe and the United Nations -- shared "the general view" that they existed.

He said U.S. soldiers' use of chemical-protective gear during their March 2003 march to Baghdad reflected the U.S. military's sincere belief that the troops could be attacked by Iraqi troops using these weapons. "Why do people do that?" Rumsfeld said of wearing the "clumsy, hot, awkward" suits. "They do it because it's safer."

But Rumsfeld said he has no doubt that the world is "a lot better off" without Saddam. "Let there be no doubt about it," he said. "The Iraqi people are a lot better off. That region is a lot better off."

The war in Iraq "has the potential of setting that country -- an important, potentially wealthy country with an intelligent population -- on a path toward democracy" that spills over to the entire region, he said.

Rumsfeld said it's likely that 20, 30, even 40 years into the future, historians will look back on Operation Iraqi Freedom and call it "the beginning of more democratic lives and neighbors in the region and more opportunities for people."

"I believe the great sweep of human history is for freedom, and that's on our side," the secretary noted.

He acknowledged that the sweep won't be without bumps in the road and said he's concerned about the "distinct possibility" that extremists will increase their terrorist activities between now and the Afghan elections Oct. 9 and the Iraqi elections in January. "You can't read the intelligence that we all read and analyze it and not be concerned," he said.

Overall, Rumsfeld said, the United States is "a lot safer today than we were on Sept. 11, 2001." He said steps taken by local, state and federal officials and stepped-up security at airports and port facilities are helping shore up homeland security.

"But perfectly safe is not possible," he said.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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