View Full Version : Rumsfeld makes emotional defense of war on Iraq

02-07-2004, 04:18 PM
Rumsfeld makes emotional defense of war on Iraq
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MUNICH, Germany (AFP) - US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made an emotional defense of the US-led war on Iraq (news - web sites) but acknowledged that it has taken a toll on the US image in the world.

"I know in my heart and my brain that America ain't what's wrong in the world," he told an audience of defense and foreign policy luminaries here that included some the fiercest European opponents of the war.

Rumsfeld spoke shortly after German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told the same audience that events in Iraq had proven Germany's anti-war position to be right.

But Fischer said that everyone would be losers if the US coalition in Iraq were to fail now.

Despite his "deep skepticism," the German minister said that Berlin would not stand in the way of deeper NATO (news - web sites) involvement in Iraq but it would send no troops of its own.

The debate came at the annual Munich security conference in this southern German city.

Rumsfeld defended the war in emotional terms as an action to free a brutalized people from a tyrant who passed up a final opportunity to fully disarm under the terms of UN Security Council resolutions.

At one point, he appeared to choke up on the podium as he recounted seeing the name of a high school friend on a memorial to US dead in the 1950-53 Korean war.

He recalled being questioned later by a South Korean journalist who asked why Koreans should go all the way to Iraq to risk death.

"That would have been a fair question for an American journalist to ask. Why in the world should an American go halfway around the world to Korea to be wounded or die?"

"We were in a building that looked out over the city of Seoul. I said, 'I'll tell you why. Look out that window.' And out that window you could see life, and cars and energy," he said.

Rumsfeld skirted questions about the US failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a key rationale for the US invasion.

Asked about the intelligence failures, Rumsfeld said it was a question of critical importance that would be looked at by a commission named Friday by President George W. Bush (news - web sites).

But he argued that preemptive military action had to be weighed in a world in which terrorists and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction raised the prospects of thousands of people being killed in attacks.

"If someone is going to throw a snowball, you may not want to have a preemptive attack," he said. "You can afford to take the blow, and live with it and do something after the fact."

"As you go upscale from snowball to weapons of mass destruction, at some point where the risk gets high enough it's not going to be a snowball in your face," he said.

"It could be a biological weapon that is going to kill tens of thousands of human beings. Then you have to ask yourself if you have an obligation to take the blow and do something afterwards."

Rumsfeld acknowledged an assertion that the US image in the world had been hurt but blamed it on media coverage, which he called "shocking, absolutely shocking."

"To think what was going on in Iraq a year ago with people being tortured, rape rooms, mass graves, gross corruption, a country that had used chemical weapons on its own people, used them on their neighbors, defiant to the United Nations (news - web sites) through 17 security council resolutions," he said.

"And look at the way it was treated in the press. There were prominent people who represent countries in this room who opined that they didn't think it made a hell of a lot of difference who won," he said.

Fischer defended Germany's decision not to join the US-coalition.

"It was a political decision not to join the coalition because we were not and we are still not convinced of the validity of the reasons for war," he said.

But he said the allies must look forward and work together.

"The forces of violence and terror must not win the upper hand," he said.