September 1, 2006
What Rumsfeld Said
Regarding the article "White House fires back at McCain's comment on Iraq," (Nation, Aug. 24), it is important to note that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has, from the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, attempted to strike a balance in his comments on the situation in that country.
The secretary has properly noted the accomplishments of the U.S. military and the progress made by the Iraqi people — accomplishments often overshadowed by the reports of violence that have come to dominate the 24-hour news cycle — while at the same time reminding the public and the press just how difficult and unprecedented the task is, and will be, for some time.
Regarding the term "dead enders," the secretary was specifically referring to remnants of the former regime who — harboring delusions of returning to power and privilege — were fighting the coalition and terrorizing other Iraqis along with foreign jihadists and thousands of criminals released from jail prior to the war.
On April 9, 2003, when the liberation of Baghdad by coalition forces was causing euphoria in many quarters, the secretary offered this assessment: "There is no question that there are difficult and very dangerous days ahead and that the fighting will continue for some period."
On the effort in Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld has also said:
"This is a tough business, and wars are unpredictable and there [are] lots of difficulties." ? March 25, 2003;
"If some analysts want to say its going to be a cakewalk, and it turns out not to be a cakewalk, the fact of the matter is we have said repeatedly [that] we can't say how long it will last. We do not know. It is not knowable." ? March 25, 2003;
"I'm realistic. I'm not going to suggest it's easy. It's hard. It's very difficult. The biggest concern I have is that [the Iraqi] people are undoubtedly starved by 35 years of political repression and economic repression." ? October 10, 2003;
"It's a tough, hard slog...What we're doing in Afghanistan and Iraq is difficult work, it's dangerous work." ? October 27, 2003.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs,
Department of Defense,