By Kathleen T. Rhem
MANAGUA, Nicaragua, Oct. 3, 2006 – People who value freedom must stand up and defend it, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today. Rumsfeld is in Nicaragua to attend the seventh conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas. He met earlier today with Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos and held a news conference with Nicaraguan Defense Minister Avil Ramirez.
"If you believe in freedom, and if you enjoy being able to get up in the morning, go where you want, work where you want and say what you want, send your children off to school with reasonable confidence that they'll come home, then you have to defend a free way of life," Rumsfeld said during the news conference.
Rumsfeld's comments on the war on terrorism were in response to a question from a Nicaraguan journalist who asked if the U.S. was considering changing its defense policies in response to international criticism. He said some parties will always disagree with choices U.S. leaders make.
"Now you can debate exactly how it should be done, or whether it should be done," he said. "But that fundamental issue is what's facing free people everywhere in the world. And simply because someone doesn't like that, in my view, is not a reason to pretend, to stick your head in the sand and pretend that that's not the case."
He said the goals of Muslim extremists are clear and posted around the Internet: Terrorists want to overthrow moderate Muslim leaders and replace them with extremists, build a supreme Muslim kingdom across most of the world, and to have a small group of extremist clerics making up the rules for everyone else.
"And if people don't behave the way (the clerics) want, then they cut off people's heads," Rumsfeld said.
He was careful to characterize the struggle with extremism not as a fight against Islam, but a fight between moderates and extremists within Islam.
"I ... believe there is this struggle within the Muslim faith between this very small number of violent extremists and the overwhelming majority of the Muslims in the world, hundreds of millions of them," Rumsfeld said. "Overwhelmingly they do not support the violent extremists who go around cutting off peoples' heads, blowing up buildings, killing thousands of human beings."
He said free people have a choice between defending their way of life or doing nothing. "They're attacking the ability of a people to be free, and you have got a choice," he said. "You can acquiesce and let them win, or you can decide that you're not going to acquiesce and not let them win."