Rumsfeld Reflects on Terrorism During 9/11 Anniversary
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2006 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld talked about the nature of terrorism as part of Radio Day at the Pentagon today, the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Sept. 11, 2001, was the greatest loss of American life from a single attack in U.S. history, he said. The death toll that day was nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
But the purpose of terrorism isn’t to kill, but to terrorize, Rumsfeld told Charlie Brennan of St. Louis’ KMOX.
Fear causes people to alter their behavior, the secretary said. “As free people, what we are about is being free,” he said. “It is the ability to go where you want and say what you want and think what you wish to think.”
Inherent in that freedom is the knowledge that when families send their children off to school, they will come home safely, Rumsfeld said.
“For a terrorist to win, we have to be terrorized and we have to alter our behavior,” he said. “And we will not be terrorized.
“Terrorists want to frighten you into doing what they want you to do,” Rumsfeld said. “The greatest thing about our country is we haven’t been frightened.”
For example, Americans still fly in airplanes, he said. “We are wiser and more careful, to be sure, but we are doing what we have to do,” he said.
The U.S. military is going after terrorists because defense alone does not win wars. “A terrorist can attack at any time, at any place, using any technique,” Rumsfeld said. “It is not physically possible to defend at every location, at every moment of the day or night, against every conceivable technique. You have to go out and find them and go after them.”
Rumsfeld talked about his experiences in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and recalled the bravery and compassion he witnessed. He remembered an image he saw when he walked through the smoke to where the fire was blazing and people were coming out of the building. “There was a woman, probably 35 years old, who was injured and couldn’t walk but who said, ‘I can help. I can hold an IV,’” he said.
The secretary said he expects the war on terror to last a long time, noting that al Qaeda was at war with the west for years before Sept. 11. The al Qaeda murderers launched attacks on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and first struck the World Trade Center in 1993.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks, al Qaeda launched attacks in other countries, including Indonesia, Spain and England, Rumsfeld said. The group and like-minded terrorists are trying to destabilize moderate Muslim governments in the world and replace them with a fundamentalist dictatorship, he said.
They won’t be successful, Rumsfeld said, but overcoming them won’t happen overnight. “Is it going to take time?” he asked. “You bet.”
The United States is much better off today than five years ago and better able to defend itself, Rumsfeld said. “We’ve got 80 or 90 nations who are together in a coalition and sharing information,” he said.
Nations around the world are arresting terrorists “every day of the week” and stopping them from carrying out attacks. “Some people take it for granted that the United States hasn’t been attacked in the last five years,” he said. “We don’t take it for granted. It’s an exceptional accomplishment that we haven’t been attacked.”
Rumsfeld said U.S. opponents shouldn’t read too much into the debate going on in America today. “In a democracy, you are always going to have people expressing different views,” he said. “Politics is politics, and Washington is filled with politics.
“In an election period, it becomes particularly noticeable. We’re now in the heat of the elections. In the next eight weeks this will be past us, and people will be less political,” he said. “I certainly hope so anyway. It does make it difficult.”