Saying 'Terrorism is Terrorism,' Rice Pledges Support to Spain
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 14, 2004 It isn't clear who was behind the brutal attack in Spain that killed 200 and wounded more than 1,400 people, but National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said today that in the global war on terrorism, this is just more evidence of the lengths to which terrorists will go to try to intimidate free people.
In an appearance today on NBC's "Meet the Press" with commentator Tim Russert, Rice said Spanish authorities still suspect the Basque terrorist group ETA in the bombings, but acknowledge it might have been foreign terrorists such as al Qaeda.
"We have offered to do everything that we can to help the Spanish authorities determine who was behind this attack," Rice noted. "But I'd just like to say one thing to the Spanish people: terrorism is terrorism in the view of the United States and this president. And we stand with them at this terrible time when once again we have seen what brutal killers will do in the name of a cause. They will take innocent lives. They will do so without any warning, and they will do so in places as varied as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Spain and the United States. It simply doesn't matter to them.
"They will try and attack those who they believe might defeat them," she noted. "That is a part of their game. But they will not win, and we will not falter."
Rice said the world can't afford to be intimidated by terrorists and sit back and let them grow and continue. "If we don't bother them, they won't bother us -- that's simply a notion that cannot be tolerated after 9/11," she said.
Terrorists began to think they were on the road to victory because of inadequate responses to a progression of terrorist activities that got stronger since the early 1980s, Rice said. "And now they recognize that they have a United States of America and a coalition that is taking them on," she noted. "They've committed acts of war against us. We have no choice but to take them on wherever they may be."
Russert quoted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as saying that more terrorists seem to be created faster than they're being arrested or killed. Rice said the United States and its allies have to deal with several layers of terrorists, starting with organizations like al Qaeda. "We've rounded up two thirds of (al Qaeda's) known leadership -- people like Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Abu Zubeida, who used to be their field generals, are now in custody," Rice noted. "Others of them have been killed. We are hurting that organization."
But Rice said to be successful, it's also necessary to break up terrorists' financing and their support networks.
Rice said the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were meant to decapitate the United States by attacking the Pentagon and going after the Capitol and the White House. "That's an act of war!" she said emphatically. The United States, she said, has to go after terrorists in their strongholds because, as an open society, the nation can't defeat terrorism by sitting at home trying to defend.
"We are succeeding, because slowly but surely their world is getting smaller -- not larger," she said. "They don't have Afghanistan as a base of operations. They will not have Iraq as a base of operations. They will not have Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, countries that now have joined in an aggressive way in the fight against terrorism. They will not have Libya. They will not have Sudan. It's only through a policy that is aggressive and tough that we are ultimately going to defeat them," Rice said.
In the final analysis, Rice said, the United States has to work with those who want to change attitudes in the Middle East. "It's obviously a place where hatred and ideologies of hatred are flourishing because of lack of opportunity and the freedom deficit," she said.
Though al Qaeda's capabilities have been damaged, Rice said, the organization still can launch spectacular attacks like the one in Madrid. "They are going to win skirmishes in the war on terrorism," she said. "They are going to, from time to time, pull off an attack. We know that. We know that even though we are safer -- much safer -- in the United States, we are not yet safe.
"But they are not going to win the war, and they are losing many of their most important assets," she continued. "Not only (have they lost) parts of their leadership, but their world is getting smaller."
She said places where terrorists can operate with impunity are shrinking, because the United States and its global coalition fight them daily through law enforcement and through intelligence.
"We also fight them on the ground for territory, where we can take regimes that were once supporters of terrorism, regimes that were once problems for weapons of mass destruction, and make those places that are on the road to democratic development," Rice said. "The terrorists are losing."
Everyone looks forward to the day that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is captured or killed, but the war on terrorism isn't just about one man, Rice noted. For example, she said there are others, like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is operating in and around Iraq.
"There is an awful lot floating around about Osama bin Laden and where he might be caught, or where he might not be caught, that isn't backed up by sound intelligence," Rice said. "People should stop speculating. We're on the hunt for him. We're working with our allies in Afghanistan, and with Pakistan in Pakistan, to try to find him and to try to find his associates. That is a daily, hourly activity and task.
"We will find him when we find him," she noted. "And the best news is that he is on the run because we have real allies now in the war on terrorism that we did not have prior to Sept. 11."