Rumsfeld Warns of Nexus of Rogue States, Terror Networks
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2002 The gravest danger facing the United States is a rogue regime giving weapons of mass destruction to terrorist organizations, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Feb. 3.
Speaking on ABC television's "This Week," Rumsfeld agreed with President Bush's characterization of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as "an axis of evil." He said the United States has solid proof that the three are engaged in developing chemical, nuclear, biological or radiological weapons.
"And we do know that those countries have relationships with terrorist networks," he said. "It's that nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorist networks that the president was citing as being different for today, and something that we really have to think very carefully about what we do as a people, and as a world, and as a society, given that nexus."
Rumsfeld backed up earlier statements he made that if terror networks get these weapons and attack America, then the casualty count could be tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. He said the United States and the world cannot sit idly by with the danger "that eventually it's reasonable to expect that terrorist nations will provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorist networks."
He said intelligence gathered shows that Al-Qaeda terrorists were actively seeking chemical and biological weapons.
He said President Bush will use his own judgment about Iran, Iraq and North Korea, "and he will watch and take the appropriate steps to provide for the protection of the American people, our deployed forces and our friends and allies."
Rumsfeld also said the Iranian government has let Al Qaeda terrorists escape over its border with Afghanistan. He acknowledged that border is porous, but noted Iran has not tried to seal it as has Pakistan with its equally porous border to the east.
"We have any number of reports that Iran has been permissive and allowed transit through their country of Al Qaeda," Rumsfeld said. "We have any number of reports, more recently, that they have been supplying arms in Afghanistan to various elements in the country."
Rumsfeld also addressed the problem of the Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees under U.S. control. He said everyone in the U.S. government agrees they are not prisoners of war.
He said even with this decision, the United States will continue to treat the detainees humanely as detailed in the Geneva Conventions. He said the only decision is whether this treatment should be done as a matter of law or of policy.
"A lot of people are quite concerned that we don't do anything that would blur the distinction between noncombatants and combatants," Rumsfeld said. "If you think about it, the reason the Geneva Convention is there is because we wanted to protect lawful combatants."