Rumsfeld: World Stage Not a Court of Law
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2003 The world stage isn't a court of law, and the United States isn't trying to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Saddam Hussein is a threat, but to convince reasonable people of this, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
"In our country, in courts of law it has been customary to seek evidence that could prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That approach, of course, is appropriate when the objective is to protect the rights of the accused," Rumsfeld said during a Pentagon media briefing. "But in an age of weapons of mass destruction and weapons that can kill tens of thousands of innocent people, our goal has to be to take all reasonable steps to protect the lives of our citizens. That is a quite different task."
He urged people to consider what the world knew before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Even in hindsight, no proverbial smoking gun existed that would have enabled U.S. leaders to prevent the attacks.
"You get the smoking gun after the planes have crashed," Rumsfeld said. U.S. leaders have said repeatedly they hope never to have another smoking gun -- because that means an attack has already occurred.
The secretary said the public's and other countries' "fixation" with finding a smoking gun "is a misunderstanding of what we're doing, and what's going on in the world, and what the nature of the threat is."
Rumsfeld also responded to public statements by Saddam Hussein that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever and no ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network. A reporter asked what he thought of such statements.
"And Abraham Lincoln was short," Rumsfeld replied.
"How does one respond to that?" he continued. "I mean, he said that Secretary (of State Colin) Powell's words tomorrow (to the U.N. Security Council) are going to be lies. He says that the photographs that will be shown will be doctored.
"It's just a continuous pattern," Rumsfeld said. "This is a case of the local liar coming up again and people repeating what he said and forgetting to say that he rarely tells the truth."
In Iraq today, U.N. weapons inspectors have reported finding another empty chemical warhead. Inspectors found 12 such rockets in a storage area south of Baghdad Jan. 16. Iraq turned over four more a few days later and claimed they'd been forgotten.