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American Forces Press Service

Rumsfeld: How Would Terrorists Explain Failures to al Qaeda?

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pointed to this week's open congressional hearings involving the two top generals in Iraq as an opportunity for the world to watch democracy in action. Had the tides been turned, he said, terrorists would have had some "awkward" explanations to make.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, were here this week to brief President Bush, the National Security Council and Pentagon leaders about operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the president's request, Abizaid and Casey also briefed the Senate and House of Representatives, whose members "were able to ask our military leaders probing questions in a very public process," Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters today.

The secretary hailed the open forum as an opportunity to demonstrate the democratic process, but wondered aloud how the hearings might have gone if it had been al Qaeda leaders questioning the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"If they were called to account for the state of their strategy, consider what might have been asked of them," Rumsfeld said. He proposed several lines of questioning, including:

  • Why did they fail to stop millions of Afghans and Iraqis from voting in free elections?
  • Why had Iraqi Sunnis, natural allies of the insurgents, decided, "albeit belatedly, to energetically embrace the political process, registering (to vote) in large numbers?"
  • Why had the terrorists failed to prevent nearly 200,000 Iraqis and 75,000 Afghans from joining their countries' security forces despite efforts to prevent them from doing so?
  • And why had the vast majority of Afghans and Iraqis "rejected the terrorists' twisted ideology" to support efforts to build new societies?

Rumsfeld acknowledged that line of questioning "could be awkward," because "by every one of those measurements, the enemy is losing."

On the other hand, democratic progress remains steady in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the result of "patience, the adaptability, the resilience and the grit" of the coalition and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, the secretary said.

"Today, these two countries are joining a growing list of free nations that are fighting terrorism," he said, noting that the world is watching.

"Millions of their neighbors haven taken notice of the reforms under way in these rising and predominantly Muslim democracies," Rumsfeld said. "These are important achievements."

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