Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has delivered a strong warning to insurgents in Iraq, putting them on notice that areas of the country under their control will be retaken by force if necessary. In a speech to coincide with the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks, he again voiced strong resolve to stay the course in Iraq, while acknowledging he has no idea how long American troops will have to remain there.
This week has been a particularly deadly one for American forces in Iraq. "The truth is, is that war is ugly and it takes lives," he said.
The normally conservative Financial Times newspaper Friday urged the United States to consider establishing a timetable for withdrawal. But speaking on the eve of the nine-eleven anniversary, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld denounced such suggestions as amounting to a retreat in the war on terrorism.
"The extremists are determined to destroy states," he said. "They are determined to destroy free systems, they are determined to take their violence and spread it across this globe and we can't let them do it and the Financial Times is wrong."
But a year-and-a-half after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the war goes on, with Sunni areas of the country still in the hands of insurgents. American-led troops have not moved on their own against them. At the same time, the coalition has not handed military responsibility over to Iraqis because tens of thousands of recruits are not yet fully trained and equipped for duty. "I have not said when we'll be out of Iraq because I don't know," he said.
The defense secretary compared abuse of Iraqis by American reservists at Abu Ghraib prison, to the abuses the world has witnessed at the hands of terrorists.
"Is it something that shouldn't have happened in the first place? Yes. Does it rank up there with chopping someone's head off on television? It doesn't," he said.
He pointed out there have been more than 40 Congressional briefings on Abu Ghraib prison abuse and the fact that 45 people have now been referred for courts martial in denying calls for another investigation outside the Pentagon chain of command.