Gerry J. Gilmore
November 1, 2006 – Terrorists operating in Iraq are staging attacks that garner negative press coverage so that the American people become soured on the war, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told two radio talk show hosts yesterday. "You know, they're very good at manipulating the American press and managing the news in a way that advantages them and tries to break the will of the American people," Rumsfeld told Bill LuMaye during a telephone interview on WPTF in Raleigh, N.C. "And they're good at it. They know what they're doing. They consciously plan their attacks to achieve that end."
Rumsfeld said the terrorists' efforts to affect American will have shifted what he called the war on terror "center of gravity" away from the battlefield.
"The military always talks about the center of gravity of a conflict, and logically one would think it would be in Afghanistan or Iraq or in the struggle against the violent extremists," he said. "But in fact, because they are so calculating in attempting to break the will and to terrorize people and to alter our behavior, the center of gravity of this conflict very much is back in the United States. And they're very good at attempting to alter our behavior."
The struggle in Iraq won't be solved solely on the battlefield, the secretary said, but will require progress on the political, economic and governance fronts as well.
Citing "good progress" in Iraq, Rumsfeld noted that Iraq's political leaders are shouldering difficult challenges. "You've got to give them a lot of respect for having the courage to take those positions and to put their lives at risk, these Iraqi political leaders," he said. "And we wish them well."
Rumsfeld told Cincinnati-based radio host Bill Cunningham during an interview on WLW that the troops he's spoken to in Iraq display high morale, but are aware of the debate taking place at home.
"They know that the enemy is trying to influence the American people and to try to weaken their will to prevail and to persist and to show perseverance in this conflict," he said. "So I suppose the only thing I'd say is God bless them for their courage and their intelligence and their contribution that they're making to our country."
Rumsfeld said it would be a tragedy if violent extremists were to take over Iraq. The terrorists would turn Iraq into a haven and base of operations, the secretary told Cunningham, from which to destabilize the Middle East and launch new attacks against America and its allies.
"So I think that most people who look at the situation understand how important prevailing in that conflict is," he said, "and how tragic it would be were people to decide that it wasn't worth the cost or it wasn't worth the time."
The terrorsists, he told Cunninghamn, won't give up. "These people are determined, and they're going to keep after us," he said. "And our only task is to see that they don't prevail."