- The Washington Times - Monday, August 28, 2006

FALLON NAVAL AIR STATION, Nev. (AP) — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that he is deeply troubled by the success of terrorist groups in “manipulating the media” to influence Westerners.

“That’s the thing that keeps me up at night,” he said during a question-and-answer session with about 200 naval aviators and other U.S. Navy personnel at this flight training base for Navy and Marine pilots.

Mr. Rumsfeld was asked whether the criticism he draws as Pentagon chief and a leading advocate of the war in Iraq is an impediment to performing his job. He said that it was not and that he knows from history that wars are normally unpopular with many Americans. “I expect that,” he said. “I understand that.”

“What bothers me the most is how clever the enemy is,” he continued, launching an extensive broadside at Islamist groups, which he said are trying to undermine Western support for the war on terror.

“They are actively manipulating the media in this country” by, for example, falsely blaming U.S. troops for civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

“They can lie with impunity,” he said, while U.S. troops are held to a high standard of conduct.

Mr. Rumsfeld often complains about what he calls the terrorists’ success in convincing Westerners that the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a crusade against Islam. In his remarks at Fallon, he did not offer any new examples of press manipulation; he emphasized, however, its negative effect on Americans in an era of 24-hour news.

“The enemy is so much better at communicating,” he added. “I wish we were better at countering that because the constant drumbeat of things they say — all of which are not true — is harmful. It’s cumulative. And it does weaken people’s will and lessen their determination, and raise questions in their minds as to whether the cost is worth it,” he said, alluding to Americans and other Westerners.

Mr. Rumsfeld flew to Fallon yesterday from Fairbanks, Alaska, where he spent the weekend meeting with families of soldiers deployed in Iraq. He also visited a missile defense site at Fort Greely and met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov to discuss Iraq and other issues.

Later yesterday, he was to depart for Reno to speak at a Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention.

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