- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday said the U.S. military has the firepower to fight another war before it finishes the search-and-destroy phase of the war in Afghanistan.
His remarks to troops at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., came the day after President Bush again sent signals that he plans to use the military to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.
Asked during a "town meeting" before U.S. Transportation Command personnel if new missions can be tackled while the anti-terrorist operation is being conducted in Afghanistan, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "It is not so manpower-intensive that we're not capable of doing something else at the same time."
Administration officials have been saying for months that Mr. Bush wants Saddam ousted during the president's first term. If left in power, officials argue, Saddam will eventually obtain nuclear weapons that could be used by terrorists to inflict widespread damage to America.
"Today the power and reach of weapons is so great and the nexus between terrorist networks and terrorist nations that have weapons of mass destruction is so close, that our margin for error has suddenly shrunk," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
In a speech Wednesday to future military officers at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Mr. Bush again referred to Iraq as forming an "axis of evil," a term he uses to describe Saddam's regime, Iran and North Korea.
"In their threat to peace, in their mad ambitions, in their destructive potential and in the repression of their own people, these regimes constitute an axis of evil and the world must confront them," the president said.
The administration has downplayed the importance of eliminating Osama bin Laden, after Mr. Bush initially said he wanted the terrorist mastermind "dead or alive" for the September 11 attacks.
Mr. Rumsfeld stuck to the newer message yesterday. He suggested that if bin Laden survived the months of intensive coalition air strikes in Afghanistan he is at best neutralized.
"The one thing we know of certain knowledge is that he is busy," the defense secretary said. "He's on the run. He's hiding. If he's alive, he's hiding."
U.S. officials believe bin Laden remains in eastern Afghanistan or just over the border in Pakistan. Some have a firm belief that he was wounded during the war and is in poor health.
The Arab-language Al Jazeera television news network yesterday showed more excerpts of a video documentary produced by a group that supports bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist organization.
The segments resembled clips broadcast by the Qatar station on Monday. They show bin Laden and his top adviser, Egyptian surgeon Ayman Zawahiri, seated outside, with a backdrop of grass, a stream and mountains.
U.S. officials believe the tape was made months ago and released now to try to reassure al Qaeda followers that the terrorist leader is alive and well.
The fact that supporters would perhaps doctor a tape to make it appear contemporary may show that bin Laden is unable to record one of his trademark videos, or is, in fact, dead, officials said.
In his last tape made in early December and released later that month, bin Laden appeared grayer, thin and shaken, his left arm still. This week's tape showed a healthier-looking bin Laden. Analysts say this is more proof that the tape was made last year, perhaps between the September 11 attacks and the beginning of the war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7.
On Wednesday, Saudi-owned MBC television showed a tape on which al Qaeda spokesman Abu Ghaith for the first time claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks.
"We were able to hit the head of the infidels on his own turf," Ghaith said, according to a report from Agence France-Presse.

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