WMDs Raise Stakes as Anti-Terror War Continues
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 23, 2002 The fact that terrorist states and networks are striving to acquire weapons of mass destruction has heightened the stakes in the global war on terrorism, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
Rumsfeld and Polish Minister of National Defense Jerzy Szmajdzinski met with reporters outside the Pentagon. Reporters quizzed the U.S. defense secretary about news stories that al Qaeda may try to smuggle into the United States a so-called dirty bomb -- a weapon of mass destruction that dispenses radiological waste.
"There are people on this earth who are perfectly willing to go about the world trying to kill thousands -- and more than thousands -- of innocent men, women and children," Rumsfeld said. He remarked that U.S. and allied intelligence and law enforcement agencies "are addressing the full range of potential threats that come across the radar screen every day."
Regarding his meeting with Szmajdzinski, Rumsfeld noted that Poland "is a valued and helpful member of NATO, as well as a partner in Operation Enduring Freedom."
The Polish military also garnered thanks from Rumsfeld for its role in clearing land mines in and around Bagram airport, near Kabul, Afghanistan, and its assistance in maritime interdiction operations.
Rumsfeld said he and Szmajdzinski had a good discussion, talking about NATO, NATO enlargement, NATO's relationships with Russia and Ukraine, and U.S.-Polish relations.
Szmajdzinski said through an interpreter that his talks with Rumsfeld "were really very good," noting that they talked about military cooperation and the war on terrorism.
"We are convinced that both of our countries can play an important role in the discussion about the new capabilities of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," Szmajdzinski said. He noted that decisions regarding such capabilities would be made during an upcoming NATO summit meeting in November in Prague, Czech Republic. He also mentioned that an informal NATO ministerial meeting would be held in September in Warsaw.
Going back to the question of terrorists and "dirty bombs," Rumsfeld noted that "free people all over the world live in a time when weapons of mass destruction exist, their power and range grow from year to year and we know that there are a number of terrorist states that are on the (U.S.) State (Department) terrorist list and have been for many years that have those weapons.
"We also know that those states have relationships with global terrorist networks," he continued, "and, what that means is that the impetus, the urgency of the global war on terrorism is underlined and punctuated with each of those various threats that occur from day to day."
Rumsfeld said the United States and its allies have "an important responsibility" as a free people to defeat global terrorists. However, "our margin for error as people has been shrinking."
With large oceans east and west and friendly nations to the north and the south, "over the centuries the United States could be fairly relaxed," Rumsfeld said, adding, "Today, with the power and reach of those weapons one cannot be relaxed."
Americans, Rumsfeld said, need to be attentive in the face of possible terrorist threats on the homeland.
"We need to, as the president has said, exist in a state of heightened awareness and we need to take the steps that are appropriate to see that we do everything humanly possible to put pressure on terrorists all across the globe and that we find ways to root out the individuals and the networks and the countries that harbor them," he said.
Rumsfeld said Americans know about terrorists who "are willing to wrap explosives around themselves and blow up shopping malls" in the Middle East. Other terrorists, he added, have "put explosives in their shoes" in an attempt to destroy airplanes.
And, "we've seen that they're willing to fly airplanes into buildings, tall buildings, and kill thousands of people," Rumsfeld added.
Turning to the anti-terrorism war overseas, Rumsfeld said the United States appreciates the assistance provided by the Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
"There is no question but that any number of Central Asian countries have been very cooperative and helpful in the global war on terrorism," he said. "We have valued that support and cooperation.
"I do intend to go back and visit Afghanistan and some of the neighboring countries in the period ahead. And, I suppose we'll be announcing something at some point on that, and I look forward to it."