War In Iraq Was 'The Right Thing to Do,' Secretary Says
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 14, 2004 On the one-year anniversary of the war in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told television viewers today he stands behind the president's decision to go to war, although weapons of mass destruction, one of the justifications for the invasion, have not been found.
Rumsfeld, appearing on the CBS program "Face The Nation" with Bob Schieffer, said that he still believes the war with Iraq was "the right thing to do," and that he's glad "it is done."
The secretary told Schieffer the U.S.-led coalition helped liberate 25 million Iraqi people from a vicious regime and decades of repression, death squads, mass graves and mass killings.
He said Iraq was a country that used chemical weapons on its own people and fired ballistic missiles into several neighboring countries. "It's a good thing they're gone," he said of Saddam Hussein and his regime.
Rumsfeld said the United States and United Nations offered Iraqi leader Saddam several opportunities to comply with U.N. resolutions and avoid war, but "he chose war."
"There were 17 U.N. resolutions, there was unanimous agreement that he had filed a fraudulent declaration," Rumsfeld said. "The final opportunity was given with the last resolution, and he didn't take it."
The secretary said other countries with nuclear weapons knew the right thing to do. "(Saddam) didn't do what Kazakhstan did, he didn't do what South Africa did, and he didn't do what Ukraine did. He didn't say, 'Come in and look, and see what we have.' He was engaged in active deception. We'll ultimately know a great deal about what took place," he said.
Later Sunday during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on "CNN Late Edition," the secretary again defended his stance on the war.
Although no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found, the secretary noted that Iraq is a country the size of California, and that biological and chemical weapons could have been hidden just about any place.
"You could have hidden enough biological weapons in the hole that we found Saddam Hussein in to kill tens of thousands of people," Rumsfeld said. "So it's not as though we have certainty today." The secretary there is a team of about 1,200 people still is in Iraq trying to determine "what really took place."
Despite violence including this weekend's deadly attacks in which six U.S. soldiers were killed, U.S. efforts in the Middle East over the past year have been worth the risks, Rumsfeld said. The war, he added, is putting pressure on terrorists in both Afghanistan and Iraq, is an "advance for freedom" and is "clearly making the world a safer place."
Rumsfeld offered condolences to the families of those killed by terrorist bombs March 11 in Madrid, Spain, calling the attack that left some 200 dead a "tragic event." The secretary said that although he has no intelligence that would give "clarity" as to who or what organization was responsible for the attack, he did say that there seem to be growing connections among terrorist organizations.