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Terrorist Acts Uncover More About Terrorists

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, June 4, 2004 – Noting various recent terrorist attacks around the world, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today that while each is a tragedy, each also uncovers more about the terrorists.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks to sailors and Marines aboard amphibious assault ship USS Essex at Changi Naval Base, Singapore, June 4, 2004. Rumsfeld is in the Southeastern Asian republic to attend the International Institute of Scientific Studies Conference, meet with regional leaders and visit with U.S. troops. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison Jr., USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

His comments came during a town hall meeting on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, following a re-enlistment ceremony for 30 sailors and two Marines. The secretary is in Singapore meeting with officials and to participate in the annual "Shangri-la Dialog" conference of Pacific nations.

"Each time (a terrorist attack) occurs, people are discovered, people are captured, people are killed, pocket litter is found, computers are found, information is gathered that enables people to go out and stop still additional terror attacks," the secretary said.

"I think that the fact that there is not a lot of publicity about what is happening out here may be kind of misleading, because there is pressure being put on terrorists in this part of the world every day by the close cooperation we have, for example, with our wonderful friends here in Singapore, but also with many, many other countries in this region."

When an officer asked the secretary when naval forces in the Pacific might start "hunting some terrorists in this theater," Rumsfeld replied he hopes it will be soon. "I know that the only way that we're going to deal with this problem is to recognize that it's truly global (and) that we have to bring all elements of national power to bear on it. You simply cannot wait for another attack and expect to defend against it. We have to go out and find those terrorist networks and the people financing them, and the countries that are providing safe haven for them."

Rumsfeld pointed out that the U.S. armed forces were organized to fight armies, navies and air forces. "These terrorists don't have armies, navies or air forces. They don't even have countries. They have very little to defend," he said.

"Therefore, they have to be found through intelligence gathering. We have to put pressure on them in terms of their ability to move money, their ability to move between countries, their ability to communicate with each other, and we have to do counterterrorism techniques that are increasingly more sophisticated, sharing intelligence as we've done."

One town hall attendee asked whether the publicity surrounding the Abu Ghraib prison scandal has overshadowed progress being made in Iraq. Rumsfeld said anyone who has seen the pictures of the prisoner abuses "has to just be stunned and heartbroken that Americans would do that to people who are in our custody, in our charge and who are our responsibility." He termed as "inexcusable" the abuses depicted in the widely published photographs.

"It's perfectly proper to report things that aren't going well, things that are unfortunate, such as that," he said. But he noted a disparity exists between reporting such things and not reporting successes as widely, and that no one should be surprised at the ups and downs that are part of any nation moving from totalitarian dictatorship to democracy.

"What we're seeing in (Afghanistan and Iraq) is not terribly different than what we've seen in other countries that have tried to navigate from a vicious dictatorship, if you will, to a freer system," he said. He pointed out that the transition wasn't smooth in Japan and Germany after World War II. When the United States was working to attain its independence, the path was bumpy, he added, with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution separated by 13 years, with riots and people being killed in the interim.

The people on the ground in Iraq, he said, are assessing progress and noting the good things, but the difficulties and ugliness are what people in the United States and around the world are seeing and hearing about. "They're basing that on testing what's taking place there against how they'd like it to be, what a perfect world might look like, what smooth transition might be," he said.

"But there has never been a smooth transition, so it seems to me our expectations have to be recast, and be realistic. It's a tough, ugly business to get from a dictatorship to a freer system, and our task is to help them do it. The president of the United States is determined to do that, the coalition is determined to do that, and I believe we will be successful in doing that."

The hunt for Osama bin Laden was on the mind of one questioner. Rumsfeld dismissed reports that surface about supposed near-misses in capturing the al Qaeda terrorist group's leader.

"Close doesn't count," he said. "If he is alive and well out there, my guess is he's very busy trying to avoid being caught. I doubt that he's doing much communicating except by courier, and only occasionally. He is under pressure, but where he is, we don't know. If we knew, we'd go find him."

Rumsfeld noted that deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein hid near his so- called "spider hole" for months, with troops hunting for him passing nearby every day. "The only way we ever found him is finally somebody put enough pressure on enough people to find out that somebody had an idea where somebody might know somebody who might know somebody who would know where he might have been," eventually leading to someone who took U.S. soldiers right to the spot.

"Even standing over the spot, you couldn't tell that he was down there, or that there was even a hole," Rumsfeld pointed out. "So it is like finding a needle in a haystack, and it will not come by just a discovery process. It'll only come by successful interrogations and tracking people who have some connection one way or another. And our folks are working their heads off trying to do that."

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

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