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Rumsfeld Explains U.S. Position to Arab TV Network

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2001 – In a wide-ranging interview with Arab television, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today explained the U.S. position in the war on terrorism and directly addressed many concerns many Muslims have about U.S. actions.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks with Al Jezeera correspondent Hafiz Mirazi in an interview at the Pentagon. Rumsfeld spoke to the Arabic version of CNN on Oct. 16, 2001, to explain U.S. actions in the fight against terrorism. The network, which has an estimated 40 million viewers, is scheduled to air the unedited interview Oct. 17. Photo by Jim Garamone.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Rumsfeld spoke with Hafiz Mirazi, a reporter for the Al Jezeera television network. Based out of Qatar in the Persian Gulf, Al Jezeera reaches 40 million people worldwide. The network has correspondents in Afghanistan and most recently carried taped reports from Osama bin Laden.

The Rumsfeld interview will be seen in its entirety on the network Oct. 17.

Rumsfeld stressed to Al Jezeera that the United States is not targeting any religion or race but is going after terrorists. "This effort is not against Afghanistan's people, it's not against any race or any religion," he said. "It is against terrorism, and terrorists, and the senior people that are harboring terrorists."

He said many Afghans do not support the Al Qaeda network in their country, just as many don't support the ruling Taliban regime. "Indeed there are people in Taliban that don't like having Al Qaeda in the country," he said. The United States wants to see the Al Qaeda network and its Taliban supporters gone. "I think there are a great many people in Afghanistan who feel that way."

He said the military actions in Afghanistan are going well, but said those actions cannot be viewed alone. "I think of the actions as much broader than military," he said. "It is diplomatic, economic, as well as military.

He said such a broad-based program is necessary and must be maintained if the civilized world is to defeat terrorists.

In Afghanistan, he said, the United States is moving in a measured manner. "We have been very careful in selecting targets," he said. The coalition has struck military targets, the command and control capabilities of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and terrorist training camps.

Rumsfeld said the United States takes care to avoid residential areas. "We care a great deal about civilian casualties," he said. "We have to. Think of the thousands of innocent Americans who were killed by the terrorists. What we have done is to exercise great care."

He said the reality in Afghanistan is that a lot of ammunition is being fired on all sides. It is almost inevitable that there might be unintended casualties with all the munitions being fired. Some casualties might be the result of ground fire in the ongoing Afghan civil war or anti-aircraft artillery that's fallen back to Earth.

"There is one instance where we believe a (U.S.) munition went amiss and did, in fact, kill possibly four people and injured several," he said. "And we regret it a great deal."

Al Jezeera asked Rumsfeld for his definition of terrorism. "I think of the word as meaning an act whereby innocent people are involved and killed," he said. "The purpose of terrorism is to terrorize people -- it's to alter behavior. I think of it as a situation where a group of people decide they want to terrorize a person or group or country and the way they do that is to attack innocent people and kill them."

The correspondent then asked Rumsfeld to comment on claims that the attack on the Pentagon was not terrorism because the building is a legitimate target of war.

"It's an irrelevant question," he said. "These people decided it was in their interest to go after a symbol of the United States of America. And they began with the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as illustrative of what they were trying to achieve.

"I think trying to put that into a legitimacy of a war or nonwar target is a stretch."

Rumsfeld also addressed the perception that the United States was a soft target for the terrorists. "If you're an American and you look at what happened at the World Trade Center and here at the Pentagon and you think of the thousands of people who are dead and the many, many thousands of people who lost a parent, it's not that easy to be dismissive," he said.

"What happened is the terrorists were able to use America against America," he continued. "They were able to use our freedom and our free society as a way to damage this free society." He said the United States is an open society. The borders are, for all practical purposes, open.

"We don't spend all of our time carrying pistols or rifles to defend ourselves," he said. "We expect the best of our fellow man. And when a group of people decide that we're wrong and we should not expect the best of our fellow man, then we have to consider what we do about that."

The United States cannot just stand by. For one thing, the weapons potentially available to terrorists are much more powerful than in the past. "It is perfectly possible that those kinds of weapons may be used and it won't be hundreds or thousands of casualties, but hundreds of thousands of people," he said.

He said DoD is obliged under the Constitution to provide for the common defense. "The only way to do that is to let the world know that we're not going to allow our free way of society to be taken from us, to be stolen from us," he said. "We're not going to allow thousands of innocent Americans to be killed and not do anything about it. We intend to find the people that did that --and the kinds of people who believe that's something they want to do -- and stop them."

Rumsfeld also spoke about the terrorist mentality. "I don't know what causes some person to inflate their own opinion of themselves that they begin to think that they are all- powerful and they can go out and kill thousands of their fellow human beings," he said. "That's not a part of any religion, that's not part of any culture. That's a behavior pattern that's strange, that's weird, that's wrong."

He addressed claims that Al Qaeda targeted the United States because America has troops based in Saudi Arabia. He said the U.S. military is only present in nations where it is welcome.

"We're nowhere where we're not wanted," he said. "We seek no one else's land, we occupy no other countries' territory, we try to conquer no other people. Where we are is where people who live there have decided they would like to have us for their protection."

He listed the countries within the Muslim world the United States has aided. "The United States went in and saved Kuwait from a foreign invader -- another Muslim nation," he said. "The United States helped Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia. The United States provided assistance in Somalia -- another Muslim nation. We've been the biggest food provider for Afghanistan well before the latest attack."

Rumsfeld also told al Jezeera that the United States has worked tirelessly to bring peace to the Middle East. The idea that the U.S. role in trying to resolve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is an excuse for a terrorist attack is a "tortured thought," he said. "It is not good thinking."

He said it is important for people in the Muslim world and throughout the world to understand the United States is dealing with terrorism, and "this effort on our part is a matter of self-defense."

"It is not against any religion, it is not against any race, it is not against any country," he said. "That's why we're trying to help the Afghan people and trying to help them rid their country of foreign invaders who are fostering terrorism in that country and bringing great damage and horror to the Afghan people."

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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Al Jezeera, Oct. 16, 2001

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