Rumsfeld: Turkish Abductions Won't Deter Coalition
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 27, 2004 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld condemned tactics used by the militants holding three Turkish civilians in Iraq hostage as "bullying," and said they're failing to sidetrack Turkey and other coalition partners from their stand against terrorism.
"I've been impressed at the courage they've shown," Rumsfeld said of the coalition partners. His response came the day after militants loyal to fugitive terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has ties to al Qaeda, threatened to behead three Turkish hostages unless Turkish companies stop doing business with U.S. forces in Iraq.
The abductions occurred just before the opening of NATO's Istanbul Summit, during which the alliance is expected to announce plans to equip and train Iraqi security forces. They also came days before the June 30 transfer of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government.
Acknowledging that the terrorists are targeting so-called "soft targets" from coalition countries, Rumsfeld said their brutal tactics aren't working.
"Their goal is to terrorize people and alter their behavior and to try to do what they did in Spain -- to change an outcome of something," Rumsfeld said, referring to Spain's election upset and decision to withdraw troops from Iraq after the March 11 train bombings in Madrid.
But Rumsfeld said "we've seen country after country stand up and say they are not going to be dissuaded," even in the face of terrorist kidnappings and beheadings of their citizens.
"There may from time to time be some country that decides it's going to change its approach, but I think overwhelmingly that people understand it is not wise to allow yourself to be terrorized," the secretary said. "It is not wise to acquiesce to threats and bullying and intimidation. Once you start down that road, it's a dead end."
Rumsfeld said these terrorist acts, being carried out by what he called "clusters of extremists that represent a relatively small minority of the world population," represent "a struggle against the entire rest of the world."
"And that's why this 90-nation coalition is doing what it's doing to try to track down and stop them," he said.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said efforts have intensified to capture Zarqawi, the suspected perpetrator. "We are working very hard to bring him and his organization down the best we can, and there is a major effort under way to do that," Myers said. So far, coalition air strikes have missed Zarqawi, but the coalition has captured some of his key lieutenants, "and that's helpful," Myers said.
Rumsfeld said considering the tactics used by Zarqawi and his loyalists not unlike those used by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein "tells you a lot about them." He said it also tells a lot about "the importance of stopping them, finding them, tracking them down, squeezing down their finances, and making it more difficult for them to organize, and to the extent we can, capturing them and stopping them from doing what they are doing."
Rumsfeld noted the difficulty of preventing all acts of terrorism. "Terrorists have the ability to strike any time using any technique," particularly against vulnerable people, Rumsfeld said, as evidenced by the Turkish hostage-takings. "And there are people in the world who do it, in Saudi Arabia, in Turkey, in Bali, in Madrid, in the United States, in Iraq and in Afghanistan," he said.
"And that is why you have such a broad coalition of countries that recognize that the extremist radicals in this world have to be defeated and can't be allowed to win," he added.