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Rumsfeld: Americans Will Stay the Course in Terror War

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Sept. 25, 2003 – The American people understand the war on terrorism will be long and expensive, but they will stay the course, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at the Defense Worldwide Combating Terrorism Conference here recently.

The secretary said it is a function of leadership to sustain the drive to defeat terrorism, but he said the American people are capable of that type of consistency.

"If you think about it, the American people have supported fire departments for decade after decade after decade," he said. "There are still fires, and they still have to pay the taxes for the firemen, and the firemen still have to go out and fight fires, and firemen still get killed and people still get killed in fires."

He noted Americans are willing to pay the price to maintain fire departments and police departments, because to not do so would invite disaster. The same reasoning applies to the global war on terror, he said. Americans want to live freely, he added, and they are willing to pay the price to do so.

The secretary spoke about the international coalition against terrorism and its importance to the fight. "We can't do it alone," Rumsfeld told the anti-terrorism experts. He said the terrorists who struck the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, killed innocent men, women and children from many nations and all religions.

"In response, a vast coalition of some 90 nations has come together, and is currently dealing with this problem," he said. "It's an amazing coalition, and it's a considerable accomplishment and a necessary one because of the fact that this is not something that a single nation can deal with by itself."

Rumsfeld said that since the attack, dangerous regimes have been removed in Afghanistan and Iraq. In both engagements, the key was joint operations among the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Coast Guard on the battlefield.

"But the global war on terror is joint in another important sense," he said. "It employs all elements of national power military, financial, economic, diplomatic, law enforcement. And this means that most federal agencies must cooperate closely with each other, but also with many, many nations across the globe. This is not something that one department or one agency or, indeed, one country can do much about."

He said the threat of terrorism has pushed countries to cooperate. The United States is sharing intelligence information with many nations. Law enforcement personnel are developing closer ties that allow for the use of actionable intelligence. The nations are clamping down on funding for terrorist groups and on nations that sponsor those groups, Rumsfeld said.

But even with this, more attacks will be attempted, he said, and these could be far more serious than the attacks of Sept. 11.

"In this new century, we're dealing with a growing number of nations some terrorist states that possess or may soon possess weapons of mass destruction," the secretary said. These weapons possess the capability to kill not just the 3,000 killed on Sept. 11, but potentially hundreds of thousands, he said.

Rumsfeld asked the audience to think about the chaos caused by the anthrax letters posted in October 2001. He asked them to imagine what the response would be if the agent wasn't anthrax, which is not communicable, but instead a disease that is, such as smallpox.

He cited a Johns Hopkins study that supposed a terrorist launched a biological attack in three U.S. cities. The study concluded that in a few months the disease would spread to 25 states and 15 countries. "That's the kind of threat the world could face in the 21st century," he said.

He said the United States cannot simply hunker down and defend against such attacks. He said to truly defeat such an enemy, the United States must take the fight to the enemy.

"We really have two choices: We can either deal with the threats in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world the Horn of Africa, Asia or we can wait and eventually deal with them at home," he said. "There is no easy, comfortable middle ground."

Rumsfeld pointed to the audience and said "the fate of the freedom-loving people of the world rests on how well you respond to the new and emerging dangers."

"We do have to win this global war on terror," the secretary said. "Not just with smart bombs and fast tanks, but with innovative thinking and by something even more difficult: by unprecedented interagency cooperation and international cooperation at a level that most of us have never experienced."

Rumsfeld spoke about a conversation he had shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks with Sultan Kaboos of Oman. He noted the sultan said the attacks, as tragic as they were, could be the event that wakes up the people of the world "to recognize what needs to be done to take the steps to make sure there is no Sept. 11 using a weapon of mass destruction."

"In that sense, Rumsfeld said, "it could save tens of thousands of lives. We pray that he's right."

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