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Rumsfeld Defends Stepped-Up Campaign Against Iraq Insurgents - 2003-11-19

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has defended the use of heavy weapons by coalition troops as they step up their campaign against insurgent forces in Iraq.

In recent days, U.S. military commanders in Iraq have used warplanes, attack helicopters, tanks and artillery to pound suspected insurgent targets, hoping to break the back of the anti-coalition opposition.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells reporters at the Pentagon U.S. commanders are simply adjusting their tactics as circumstances on the ground change and as their intelligence information improves.

"They're finding targets that are appropriate and they're, needless to say, anxious to attack any targets of opposition that exist in the country," he said.

Some Iraqi civilians have complained the coalition is using what they charge is excessive force.

U.S. commanders have dismissed such charges. For his part, Mr. Rumsfeld says the use of heavy weapons such as 900 kilogram bombs against some targets is merited.

"That means you've got a target that merits it and that means, as I say, that intelligence comes along that enables you to use capabilities that you can't use, for example, if you're driving down the street and an improvised explosive device goes off," he said.

He says some of the targets so far have included buildings used by anti-coalition forces to make explosive devices, which have regularly claimed the lives of American soldiers.

Nearly 300 U.S. troops have died as a result of hostile action in Iraq, more than half since the end of major combat operations last May. Sixteen have been the victims this month of home-made bombs.