War Will Continue Until Americans Live Without Fear
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2001 Pointing out that the Al Qaeda terrorist network crosses more than 50 countries, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the task is to go after it, and the Taliban, "until Americans can go about their lives without fear."
Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers spoke to the press Oct. 29.
"We didn't start the war, the terrorists started it when they attacked the United States, murdering more than 5,000 innocent Americans," Rumsfeld said. "The Taliban, an illegitimate, unelected group of terrorists started it when they invited the Al Qaeda into Afghanistan and turned their country into a base from which those terrorists could strike out and kill our citizens."
Rumsfeld left no doubt where he believes responsibility for the war belongs. "Let there be no doubt, responsibility for every single casualty in this war, be they innocent Afghan or innocent Americans, rests at the feet of Taliban and Al Qaeda," he said. "Their leaderships are the ones that are hiding in mosques and using Afghan civilians as human shields by placing their armor and artillery in close proximity to civilian schools, hospitals and the like."
As the campaign against terrorism enters its fourth week, coalition forces continue strikes against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets throughout Afghanistan, the secretary said. "Our goal is not to reduce or simply contain terrorist acts, but is to deal with it comprehensively," he said. "We don't intend to stop until we've rooted out terrorist networks and put them out of business. Not just in the case of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but other networks as well."
But Rumsfeld reiterated that eradicating worldwide terrorism wouldn't happen overnight. "It's a marathon, not a sprint," he told reporters. "It will be years, not weeks or months."
Victory will not come without a cost, he said. "[War is] ugly. It causes misery, suffering and death, and we see that everyday," he said. "Brave people give their lives for this cause. Needless to say, innocent bystanders can be caught in crossfire."
Rumsfeld said at every press briefing he and Myers are asked to respond to Taliban accusations about civilian casualties, much of it unsubstantiated propaganda.
"There are instances where there are unintended effects of this conflict and ordnance ends up where it should not," he said. "That's true of every conflict.
"As a nation that lost thousands of innocent civilians on Sept. 11, we understand what it means to lose fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters," Rumsfeld said.
But no nation in history has done more to avoid civilian casualties than the United States, he said. "Every day in the midst of war, Americans risk their lives to deliver humanitarian assistance and alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people," he said. "When the Taliban issue accusations of civilian casualties, they indict themselves."
America's task is to put pressure on Al Qaeda and the Taliban to dry up their finance, continue the arrests and interrogations and to gather every scrap of information and intelligence possible, the secretary said.
"It's to continue to force them to move from cave to cave and tunnel to tunnel," Rumsfeld said. "It's to continue to providing humanitarian assistance. And it's to find and stop the Al Qaeda and Taliban military leadership to keep them from continuing their terrorist acts."