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June 7, 2004
Rumsfeld, Filtered

Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech to a security conference in Singapore yesterday which was reported by the Chicago Sun-Times as critical of the US stance on the war on terror. The headline of the Sun-Times reads, "Rumsfeld fears U.S. losing long-term fight against terror," and the text of the article by Robert Burns supports the header:

The United States and its allies are winning some battles in the terrorism war but may be losing the broader struggle against Islamic extremism that is terrorism's source, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Saturday.

The troubling unknown, he said, is whether the extremists -- whom he termed ''zealots and despots'' bent on destroying the global system of nation-states -- are turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them.

''It's quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this,'' Rumsfeld said at an international security conference. His remarks showed a level of concern about the long-term direction of the U.S.-led global fight against terrorism that Rumsfeld rarely addresses in public.

Sounds pretty damning; as Burns notes directly afterwards, Rummy usually sounds off supportively in public about US efforts, praising the troops and the overall plan. Unsurprisingly so, since Rumsfeld himself is one of its chief architects. So why would Rumsfeld decide to criticize the administration, of which he is a key member, by going overseas to complain at an international security conference?

The short answer: he didn't. Rumsfeld didn't complain about the US effort -- he said that the international effort was incoherent, as this report in the Singapore-based Straits Times makes clear:

UNITED States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed accusations that Washington had a go-it-alone attitude as he called for the region to 'collectively' go on the offensive in the war against terrorism. 'Despite a great deal of progress, the reality is that today we remain closer to the beginning of this struggle than to its end,' he said, warning of more attacks. ...

Echoing a point made by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong when opening the meeting on Friday, Mr Rumsfeld conceded that the anti-terror coalition did not have a 'coherent approach' to tackling all challenges posed by terrorism.

Some religious schools, for instance, were drilling 'young folk' in the doctrine of hatred and techniques of suicide bombing instead of 'productive' skills in mathematics and science.

'I'm certain we have not been successful, as the Prime Minister mentioned... the civilised world doesn't have an answer to that question,' Mr Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld specifically mentions those countries which cooperate at the higher levels of government but where children and poorer classes continue to be indoctrinated into rabid anti-Americanism and radical jihadism. The Sun-Times cherry-picked Rumsfeld's words, twisted the context, and while never quite misquoting him delivered a completely different meaning to what he said. Rumsfeld, far from questioning US strategy, instead questioned the resolve and desire of some so-called "partners" in the anti-terror effort to truly stamp out its root causes.

Up to now, I never thought that the Sun-Times had a particularly egregious record in media bias. I guess they've stepped up to the Maureen Dowd/Dana Milbank threshold on this story.

UPDATE: Cori Dauber at RantingProfs has an even better dissection of Rumsfeld's remarks. And you can read them yourself, verbatim, at DefenseLINK.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 7, 2004 2:54 PM

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