Rumsfeld Says Russian Tragedy Shows Need to Fight Terrorism
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 7, 2004 The tragedy that left more than 300 people dead in Russia last week shows the civilized world must stay on the offensive against terrorism, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
In a Pentagon news briefing, Rumsfeld said there are "no free passes" to avoid terrorism in this world, and countries must work together to fight the threat.
At least 335 people, many of them children, were killed Sept. 3 after terrorists had taken hundreds of hostages at a school in Beslan, Russia, Sept 1. Armed men stormed the building on the first day of school, when many parents had accompanied their children to meet teachers.
"Last week the people of Russia and, indeed, the people of the entire world once again saw vividly the extremes to which terrorists are prepared to go to achieve their ends," Rumsfeld said. "Those who choose violence and terror obviously think nothing of taking the lives of even the most innocent among us."
Civilized people everywhere can only express sympathy and solidarity with the Russian people, he added.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers also offered his condolences to "those families that have been devastated by the recent horrible terrorist incident in Russia."
"This event emphasizes the importance of winning the global war on terror," Myers added.
Staying on the offensive has high costs, Rumsfeld said, noting the U.S. military will soon likely suffer its 1,000th death among servicemembers in Iraq.
"We certainly honor the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in uniform who has served in Iraq and who is currently serving there," he said. "And, needless to say, we mourn with the families with those lost."
He added that to U.S. officials, "a single loss of life is large, and it's a life that's not going to be lived."
Still, the secretary noted, the "civilized world" suffered its 1,000th casualty at the hands of terrorists "a long time ago." Civilian casualties have been mounting for many years, he said. The hundreds killed last week in Russia, and even the thousands killed on Sept. 11, 2001, are relatively recent additions to the high toll terrorism has taken from the world.
"What we saw in Russia was another instance in a long line of instances," Rumsfeld said, citing the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983, the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
"Sept. 11 was not the beginning of terrorism," Rumsfeld said. "And the war in Iraq has not created terrorism."
As the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, now is an appropriate time to "honor the fallen and to reflect on how far we have come and to determine what more might be done," he said.
He listed accomplishments in the war on terrorism:
- The Taliban regime is no longer in power in Afghanistan.
- Osama bin Laden is "clearly on the run."
- Saddam Hussein is in jail, "soon to be on trial."
- His sons, Uday and Qusay, are dead.
- The people of Iraq are forming a representative government "that will not threaten their people or their region or the world."
- The United States and the United Kingdom have shut down the clandestine network that had provided nuclear technologies to Libya, Iran, North Korea and possibly other nations.
- Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi has given up his nuclear weapons program.
- "And Pakistan, which once supported the Taliban, is today our strong ally against terrorism," Rumsfeld said.
He said enemies have underestimated the United States and its allies and "failed to understand the character of our people, and they certainly misread our commander in chief."
The deaths at the Russian school are just another example of the extremes to which terrorists will go, Rumsfeld said. "This is a global struggle between extremists and people who want to be left alone to lead free lives."