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Rumsfeld attacks war critics; Dems bark back
The Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today accused critics of the Bush administration's Iraq and counterterrorism policies of trying to appease "a new type of fascism."
In unusually explicit terms, Rumsfeld portrayed the administration's critics as suffering from "moral or intellectual confusion" about what threatens the nation's security and accused them of lacking the courage to fight back.
In remarks to several thousand veterans at the American Legion's national convention, Rumsfeld recited what he called the lessons of history, including the failed efforts to appease the Adolf Hitler regime in the 1930s.
"I recount this history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism," he said.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a former Army officer and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview today that "no one has misread history more than" Rumsfeld.
"It's a political rant to cover up his incompetence," said Reed, a longtime critic of Rumsfeld's handling of the war.
Reed said he took particular exception to the implication that critics of Pentagon policies are unpatriotic, citing "scores of patriotic Americans of both parties who are highly critical of his handling of the Department of Defense."
Rumsfeld defended the war in Iraq, saying that while U.S. military tactics have changed as conditions on the ground have changed, the administration's war strategy has remained constant: "to empower the Iraqi people to defend, govern and rebuild their own country."
In arguing against giving up in Iraq, he said people should know from history that wars are never easy.
"You know from experience that in every war — personally — there have been mistakes and setbacks and casualties," he said. "War is," as Clemenceau said, 'A series of catastrophes that results in victory."
Rumsfeld recalled a string of recent terrorist attacks, from 9/11 to bombings in Bali, London and Madrid, and said it should be obvious to anyone that terrorists must be confronted, not appeased.
"But some seem not to have learned history's lessons," he said, adding that part of the problem is that the American news media have tended to emphasize the negative rather than the positive.
He said, for example, that more media attention was given to U.S. soldiers' abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib than to the fact that Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith received the Medal of Honor.
"Can we truly afford to believe somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?" he asked.
"Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths and lies and distortions being told about our troops and about our country," he added.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was addressing the American Legion convention later today, and President Bush is scheduled to speak here later in the week. On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld made separate addresses to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev.
Rumsfeld made similar arguments in Reno about doubters of the administration's approach to fighting terrorism, saying too many in this country want to "blame America first" and ignore the enemy.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company