- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday American military and political actions would ensure the United States "continues as a free people" despite living in a dangerous world.

"We're perfectly capable of living in this world," he said during a rapturous and at times raucous reception from about 1,000 Central Command military personnel in an air-conditioned hangar. "We need not be afraid. We can do it."

He added, to roof-raising cheers: "It may be a dangerous world, and it may be an untidy world, but our country and our friends and allies are going to be able to preserve our way of life. [We] still can continue as free people, not climb into holes and hide from others.

"We have made a good start. I'm hopeful. I'm optimistic."

Sandwiched between the some of the war's most familiar vehicles Humvees bristling with antennas, machine guns and rocket launchers the secretary also revealed some of the tactical steps that led to the coalition's rapid victory over Iraqi forces.

He said Gen. Tommy Franks, who stood beside him, had deliberately kept the 4th Armored Division offshore near Turkey rather than move it immediately toward the southern Persian Gulf, so as to fool Saddam Hussein into thinking an attack was not imminent.

He said the Iraqis had been expecting an air bombardment before land engagements.

In reality, Special Forces had secured objectives long in advance, preventing missile strikes against other countries, he said.

This, coupled with propaganda broadcasts and leaflets, led Iraqi troops to withdraw or be defeated before they could detonate bridges, oil-wells and dams, he said.

"The infrastructure of Iraq is largely intact," Mr Rumsfeld said, "and an environmental disaster has been averted."

The secretary said the war was characterized by "compassion and humanity," with casualties kept to a minimum.

Preceded by rock music and a warm-up officer firing up the crowd, Gen. Franks had earlier painted a rosy picture of the coalition's achievements.

"Because of your hard work," he told the Central Command staff, "many Iraqis already have more food, more water, more security, more electricity and better medical care than they had six weeks ago. You know, it was that regime that used hunger and the basic needs of people as tools by way of fear to control Iraq."

He said that "to be sure, there is a great deal of work left to be done."

Neither Gen. Franks nor Mr. Rumsfeld made a direct attack on the war's critics, but the secretary quoted a humorist in Washington who, he said, had sent him a note paraphrasing a famous wartime quote from Winston Churchill: "Never have so many been so wrong about so much."

Mr. Rumsfeld added: "But I would never say that."

He and Gen. Franks spent 15 minutes mobbed by soldiers seeking autographs and photos.

"This was a great morale boost," said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Henley of the Special Security Office, in which role he meets the general daily.

He interpreted the defense secretary's remarks as a warning of American determination to fight terror worldwide.

"It means he's staying focused on what's going on and we're not going to let down, and the world will have to take heed: The troops are there, and we're not afraid to step forward. Whatever the president wants, we'll do."

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