By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
NAVAL AIR STATION FALLON, Nev., Aug. 28, 2006 – The U.S. military is capable not only of winning the war on terror, but also of fulfilling its other commitments around the world and dealing with unforeseen circumstances, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a group of sailors and Marines here today. "It would be unfortunate if other countries thought because we had 136,000 troops in Iraq today that therefore we are not capable of defending our country or doing anything that we might need to do," Rumsfeld said at a town-hall meeting.
Rumsfeld noted that the U.S. has a large active and reserve force, as well as the Individual Ready Reserve, and has many allies that provide support to the war on terror. No country can do everything at once, he acknowledged, but the United States has proved its readiness by responding to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Pakistan, evacuating American citizens from Lebanon, and sending National Guard troops to fortify the southwestern U.S. border - all while maintaining troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan.
America is fully capable of winning the war on terror as long as it keeps its resolve in the face of a ruthless enemy, Rumsfeld said. The intentions of terrorists groups were made clear once again this month when a plot was uncovered to attack commercial flights between Britain and the United States, he said. Incidents like that serve as a reminder that Americans and people in free countries everywhere should have the same sense of concern and urgency as they did on Sept. 12, 2001, right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, he said. "It should be a powerful reminder to everyone - free people - (the terrorists are) serious, that they're determined, and that they're not going to go away," he said.
The terrorist groups are excellent communicators and manipulate the media to get across their agenda, Rumsfeld said. The terrorists lie with impunity and arte not held to the same standard of near perfection that U.S. forces are, he said. Rumsfeld acknowledged that the terrorists' propaganda threatens to weaken the American people's will and harm the U.S. cause in the war on terror.
"I wish we were better at countering that, because the constant drumbeat of things they say - all of which are not true - is harmful," he said. "It's cumulative, and it does weaken people's will and lessen their determination and raise questions in their minds as to whether the cost is worth it." Rumsfeld noted that naval aviators like those trained here have made great contributions to the war on terror. Weeks after Sept. 11, Navy aircraft conducted air strikes in Afghanistan that helped topple the Taliban regime, he said, and close-air support has saved countless lives in Iraq.
The secretary stopped here after two days in Alaska, where he visited families of the deployed 172nd Stryker Brigade and toured missile defense facilities. Tonight he will address the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev.