Rumsfeld, Pace Cite Challenges, Progress Against Extremists
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2006 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld used today, the 16th anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, as an opportunity to assess progress that’s taken place in Iraq and the threat extremists continue to impose on free people.
Rumsfeld cited the string of events Saddam provoked in 1990. “Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Kuwait, provoking a crisis that led to Iraqi attacks on Israel and threats to Saudi Arabia and to other nations in the region,” he told Pentagon reporters.
In contrast, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- a man Rumsfeld noted spent some 25 years opposing Saddam -- visited here last week to personally thank the American people for their assistance in helping the Iraqis build a new future, the secretary said.
Maliki told a joint session of Congress that if terrorists are allowed to triumph in Iraq, “then the war on terror will never be won elsewhere,” Rumsfeld said.
“The enemy knows this as well,” the secretary said. “And they are waging a psychological war of attrition -- designing their attacks to gain maximum media coverage and maximum public outcry.”
Their goal, he said, is to get people to give in to extremists. “They want us to believe that perseverance is futile, rather than necessary,” he said, “to focus on our casualties and not on the people causing the casualties, to focus on what might happen if we stay in Iraq, as opposed to the dire consequences were we to leave prematurely.”
The secretary cited solid progress coalition troops are helping bring about in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, they’re helping Iraqi security forces fight terrorists, sectarian gangs and Baathists loyal to Saddam’s regime. In Afghanistan, they’re helping the Afghans fight off Taliban and al Qaeda forces and extending their support as NATO assumes more responsibility in the south.
Rumsfeld said there are differences between how extremists and those promoting freedom operate and are judged. This poses a significant challenge in the age of asymmetric warfare.
“While our side puts its men and women at great risk by taking care to obey all the laws of warfare, the other side deliberately targets civilians and uses them as human shields -- and then orchestrates a public outcry when a response to their violence accidentally kills civilians in their midst,” he said. “While our side is measured by exact standards, the other side is measured by no standards at all and is never held to account.”
Too often, the terrorists’ strategy succeeds in persuading people, he said.
But while terrorists operate with certain advantages, “we have advantages, as well,” the secretary said. “Our strength is the good, common sense of the American people, and the valor and dedication of our armed forces,” he said.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was encouraged by the “incredible morale and patriotism” among U.S. troops he met with during his recent trip to Afghanistan.
“You look them in the eye and they look you straight back, and they're very proud of what they're doing,” Pace said. “And they're proud of their Afghan National Army counterparts. They want to serve side by side with them, and they're very proud to describe the heroism of the Afghan army.”
Pace expressed optimism about NATO’s expanding role in Afghanistan. “As NATO moves more and more troops into Afghanistan, we're going to see more and more opportunity to help, especially the southern sector regain its footing against the Taliban,” he said.