Rumsfeld: Terrorists Continue to Kill, But Also Continue to Fail
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
TAORMINA, Italy, Feb. 10, 2006 Terrorists have racked up failure after failure in their efforts to keep democracy from taking root in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
The secretary spoke at a news conference wrapping up two days of informal meetings among NATO defense ministers.
"The terrorists tried to stop them from having an election in January (2005), and they failed," Rumsfeld said. "They tried to stop them from drafting a constitution, and they failed. They tried to stop them from having a referendum on the constitution, and they failed. They tried to stop them from having an election in December, and they failed.
"Look at that from the perspective of the terrorists," he continued. "It doesn't say they can't go out and kill people; they can. It doesn't take a genius to strap on a suicide vest and blow up a building."
While terrorists continue their violence, they're failing to stop Iraq's progress, the secretary said. "Iraq is on a path to being a country that's respectful of all the people in that country, that would be at peace with its neighbors and have those amazing resources that they have - water and oil and intelligent people, energetic people." Rumsfeld said. "They have an opportunity to change the circumstance in that part of the world."
Rumsfeld acknowledged that Iran and Syria have been involved in activities harmful to U.S. and Iraqi government objectives and to the region as a whole. "Thus far we've not been successful in discouraging these activities," he said.
"I think they're making a mistake, although I can certainly understand that from their standpoint, having a free and sovereign and democratic Iraq on their borders probably is not very encouraging to their kind of government," the secretary said. "So I can understand their resistance to that, but we intend to be successful, and I believe we will be."
Rumsfeld noted President Bush's belief that as democracy spreads, the world becomes better.
"The president of the United States believes that the natural state of humankind is to prefer to be free and to have a voice in guiding and directing the course of public affairs where they live," he said. "He also observes correctly that the democracies of the world tend not to go to war with each other. He also observes correctly that those nations with free political systems and free economic systems tend to be the countries where the people have the greatest opportunity and the greatest prosperity, and it's not an accident."
Rumsfeld called the Korean peninsula the "classic example" of those beliefs, referring to a nighttime satellite photo that hangs in his office in which South Korea is brightly lit and North Korea has a mere pinprick of light around its capital.
"The same people (are) in the north and the south. The same resources (are) in the north and the south," the secretary said. "Yet, in the south, there is energy and vitality because they have a free economic and a free political system. They're the 12th-largest economy on the face of the Earth.
"And in the north, the people are starving. They're letting people in their military who are 4 feet, 10 inches tall because of the malnutrition for so many years of their lives - people who weigh less than 100 pounds. It's a tragedy to see the circumstances of the people of North Korea."
Time will tell how things will play out in the Middle East, the secretary said, but added that he's encouraged by progress so far in Afghanistan and Iraq. An opportunity exists for people in that part of the world to have a much better life, he said. "And that would be a good thing."