- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday condemned the terror attacks on a Russian school that killed more than 335 people, most of them children, and said it underscored how the war on terrorism is a global struggle.

“We saw vividly the extremes to which terrorists are willing to go to achieve their ends,” Mr. Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon press conference.

He said that the civilized world must stay on the offensive against terrorists.

“There really are no free passes in this struggle, this war,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “No free passes for countries, no free passes for individuals.”

Turning to Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld said U.S. and Iraqi forces are winning the conflict, despite a surge in casualties and the fact that the struggle has gone on far longer than had been expected.

“Our enemies have underestimated our country, our coalition … certainly our commander in chief,” he said.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, blamed the recent spike in attacks on U.S. soldiers and Iraqis, especially by suicide bombers, on the fact that “the enemy is becoming more sophisticated.”

“A single loss of life is large and it’s a life that’s not going to be lived,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

He noted that the death toll of victims of terrorism — including the some 3,000 lost on September 11 — was far greater than the number of U.S. military lives lost in the Iraq war.

Mr. Rumsfeld blamed “a combination of terrorists, former regime elements and criminals” for the continuing violence in Iraq.

In the single deadliest attack against American troops in four months, seven U.S. Marines and three Iraqi soldiers were killed Monday when a car bomb exploded near their convoy on the outskirts of Fallujah, west of Baghdad. Six American soldiers later were killed in attacks in and around Baghdad, the U.S. military said yesterday.

Mr. Rumsfeld defended the U.S. plan of operation in Iraq against criticism that the war plan was flawed and that the United States and its coalition partners had severely underestimated the enemy.

“No war plan survives the first contact with the enemy,” he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the terror attacks in Russia underscored that there are people in many parts of the world “determined to alter the behavior of the rest of the world.”

“This is a global struggle between extremists and people who want to be left alone to live free lives,” the Pentagon chief said.

Residents of the southern Russian city of Beslan held a third day of funerals yesterday for the victims of a hostage-taking at the school by Chechens and other Islamist militants.

Mr. Rumsfeld said there was no information that the al Qaeda terror network was involved specifically with the Russian school hostage-taking and deaths.

“I don’t know. I didn’t suggest it. I didn’t suggest that they were not,” he said.

“Civilized people can only express sympathy and solidarity with the Russian people,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

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