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Homeland Security

05 August 2005

Rumsfeld Says Free Nations Cannot Wait for Terrorist Attacks

Viewing London attacks as retaliation is "nonsense," secretary says

By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The only way to defeat terrorism is to go after the terrorists where they are, and not wait to be attacked, says U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"And that's exactly what our global coalition has done, and what our troops are doing today in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere around the globe," Rumsfeld said in a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council August 4.

The struggle to defeat terrorism had required President Bush to fashion the largest coalition in recent history, some 90 nations working together, sharing intelligence and cooperating, the secretary said.

"In the near term, we're confronting terrorists, capturing or killing them, and depriving them of their sanctuaries.  Ultimately, success will depend on advancing the cause of freedom and democracy as an alternative to the grim vision of the terrorists," he said.

Rumsfeld added that once Iraq is fully in the hands of the Iraqi people, a government elected under a new constitution, and Iraqi security and military forces capable of providing security, the U.S.-led coalition forces can turn responsibility over to them.

"This war of ideas is at the heart of the war on terror; a conflict between a totalitarian ideology of the extremists, and the now-tested vision of free societies," he noted.  "The fanaticism of these enemies can only be defeated if we successfully employ all elements of national power: military to be sure, but more diplomatic, financial, intelligence-sharing and law enforcement."

The defense secretary rejected some critics' claims that terrorists attacked London recently because of British participation in the coalition in Iraq.

"They seem to cling to the discredited theory that the recent attacks in London and elsewhere, for example, are really in retaliation for the war in Iraq or for the so-called occupation of Afghanistan.  That is nonsense," he said.

"The United States and its allies did not provoke the terrorists; the terrorists attacked America," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld reminded the World Affairs Council audience that on September 11, 2001, there were no U.S. or coalition forces in Afghanistan or Iraq.  He said there was no war in Iraq or Afghanistan when terrorists attacked U.S. personnel at the Beirut barracks in 1983, the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia in 1996, U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, or aboard the USS Cole in a Yemeni port in 2000.

And Rumsfeld said no one should make the mistake of thinking that acquiescing to terrorist demands by withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan would end the threat of future terrorist threats.

"Terrorists do not seek a negotiated settlement with the West or with the moderate Muslim nations, and they're not appeased by concessions," he said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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