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No Retreat, No Return to Past in War on Terror, Rumsfeld Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2004 – The United States and the world cannot retreat from the threats that emerged following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said to the National Press Club here today.

"There are those who might be tempted to think that if we would only pull back, if our country would only withdraw from this global struggle against extremists and let events abroad run their course, then somehow the combat, the conflict, the ugliness on our TV screens and newspapers would go away, and that we could return to that more comforting time that preceded the Sept. 11 attacks," Rumsfeld said.

But the world before Sept. 11 was not all that safe, the secretary said, and actions since that day have made the world safer. Rumsfeld said Sept. 10, 2001, was "not the last day of world innocence," but "the last day of America's lack of understanding of a worldwide extremist movement determined to terrorize, to defeat, to destroy civilized people everywhere."

Rumsfeld said the signs were apparent before the attacks in New York and Washington. He pointed out that the first al Qaeda attack against the World Trade Center was in 1993. He spoke of the attacks against U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He talked of the attacks against U.S. embassies in East Africa. All these, and others in other parts of the world, were signs that the world was facing a different type of enemy, he said.

And stopping them requires a different response from responses in the past, Rumsfeld said. The United States, he explained, is in a war, and the tactics have to change.

"There were people who thought that terrorism was a law enforcement problem, and what you do is you sit around with your finger in your ear and you wait 'til you get hit, and then, like when somebody steals a car, you run out and find the person, throw them in the jug and punish them for it," he said. "This is not about that. This is about something entirely different. And it isn't a matter of throwing someone in the jug for stealing a car and punishing them."

He said that while law enforcement has a role in the war on terrorism, the fundamental task is to "go and find and stop the terrorist networks from killing another 3,000 people."

The secretary said he does not know how long the coalition will be needed in Iraq. He said the coalition is working with the Iraqi interim government to train Iraqis to provide for their own security. The secretary said the coalition has no desire to stay in Iraq one second longer than is necessary. He said the coalition has fully trained and equipped 95,000 Iraqis in the army, National Guard, Border Patrol and police. He said that number should rise to 145,000 by the end of the year. Another 50,000 Iraqis have volunteered for the security forces and will undergo training later.

Turning to the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Rumsfeld said 11 panels have investigated and studied the problem and the Defense Department has acted. He said 45 people have been referred to court-martial with some already pleading guilty. Forty-two individuals have been referred for nonjudicial punishment, and 12 general officer letters of reprimand have been issued. Twenty-three soldiers have been separated from the service.

"Has it been harmful to our country? Yes," Rumsfeld said. "Is it something that has to be corrected? Yes. Is it something that shouldn't have happened in the first place? Yes. Does it rank up there with chopping someone's head off on television?" The audience said, "No."

Rumsfeld spoke about the need for nations to unite against terrorism. He said the enemies' ruthless attacks in Indonesia, Turkey, Spain and now Russia emphasize the need for cooperation. "For all of the enemy's ruthlessness we have an enormous advantage," Rumsfeld said. "I mean the people in the 85 or 90 nations across the globe that are cooperating in this effort, in this struggle against extremism. And the advantage is that the great sweep of human history is for freedom. And that is on our side."

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

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