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Wednesday, August 30, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


Rumsfeld: Bush critics similar to Nazi appeasers

Los Angeles Times

SALT LAKE CITY — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared critics of the Bush administration to those who sought to appease the Nazis before World War II, warning Tuesday that the United States is confronting "a new type of fascism."

Rumsfeld, speaking before the American Legion convention, delivered some of his most explicit and extended attacks yet on the administration's critics, provoking criticism from furious Democrats who accused him of "campaigning on fear."

By comparing U.S. foreign policy with World War II and the Cold War, Rumsfeld sought to portray skeptics of Bush's foreign policy as being on the wrong side of history. Rumsfeld again ridiculed U.S. officials who, before World War II, wished to negotiate with Adolf Hitler.

"I recount that history because, once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism," Rumsfeld said. "But some seem not to have learned history's lessons."

He continued: "Can we truly afford to believe that, somehow or some way, vicious extremists could be appeased?"

His use of the word "appease" was particularly notable, clearly tying administration critics to the failed efforts of the pre-Churchill British government to mollify Hitler.

Rumsfeld has become one of the Bush administration's most divisive figures, and demands for his resignation have become a litmus test in congressional races around the country.

Nevertheless, Rumsfeld aggressively defended the war and his leadership of it in speeches to the American Legion on Tuesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars a day earlier and in other meetings with service members this week.

In each speech, Rumsfeld has acknowledged the reality of debate in a free society. But he has attacked the news media, charging that reports have been manipulated by Iraqi insurgents or al-Qaida terrorists. He has suggested that negative news stories and criticism of the war sap the nation's will to fight in Iraq.

"The struggle we are in is too important — the consequences too severe — to have the luxury of returning to the 'blame America first' mentality," Rumsfeld told the American Legion. "Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America — not the enemy — is the real source of the world's troubles?"

Rumsfeld's view of Bush administration critics contrasted with that of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who in a speech to the same Legion convention later Tuesday took a softer tone.

"If we quit before the job is done, the cost of failure will be severe, indeed immeasurable," Rice said.

Rumsfeld's speech drew sharp complaints from Democrats.

"It's a political rant to cover up his incompetence," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a former Army officer and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., renewed his call for Rumsfeld to be replaced.

"Secretary Rumsfeld's reckless comments show why America is not as safe as it can or should be five years after 9/11," Reid said. "If there's one person who has failed to learn the lessons of history it's Donald Rumsfeld."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company



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