U.S. Troops Proud of Terror War Mission, Making Great Progress
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 17, 2004 The United States cannot defend against every terrorist threat, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a Philadelphia radio audience March 16.
"The only way to deal with it is to go after the terrorist in the terrorists' havens where they exist," Rumsfeld said. It is better to deal with terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq than in the United States, he said.
Rumsfeld spoke as part of Radio Day at the Pentagon. The event brought together civilian and military leaders with radio stations around the country.
Rumsfeld said the United States is making great progress in the war on terror. U.S. service members, particularly those in Afghanistan and Iraq, are courageous and they are proud of what they are doing, he said. Those service members have liberated more than 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the circumstances in these countries are getting better every day, he added.
Defense officials have said that if Iraq and Afghanistan can transition to democracies that respect the rights of all citizens and the rule of law, they will serve as an example to other nations of the region.
Rumsfeld told the radio audience that in the run-up to war, all members of the coalition were certain Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. "The president would ask: How will the military handle it when Saddam Hussein uses chemical weapons on our troops?" he said.
The coalition forces that moved into Iraq last year lived in their chemical protection suits. They also found thousands of Iraqi chemical protection suits. Saddam used chemical weapons in the past.
There was unanimity that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld said. "I think we'll eventually know the ground truth on this, and there's no question but that he had those capabilities and used them on his neighbors and on his own people," he said. "So the question is what happened to them?"
Rumsfeld said the Iraq Survey Group has 1,200 people sorting out the truth about Saddam's weapons programs. He asked why Saddam would defy 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions if he had no chemical weapons.
"It was Saddam Hussein who chose war," the secretary said. "He could have done what Libya is doing right now and opened up his country and said, 'Come in, see that we're willing to turn over, (and) what we have,' but he didn't. He defied the United Nations, and he made a poor choice."