Cal  Thomas

I asked Rumsfeld about Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's pledge to rebuild the military should he be elected president. "The United States military is the finest in the world," Rumsfeld said. "It is more capable than at any time in our country's history, in terms of the ability to do its job and to put precision weapons on precise targets in an effective way and in a way ... that is able to penetrate long distances on relatively short notice. . Between Sept. 11 and Oct. 7 [2001], the United States military was able to begin a process that resulted in liberating 25 million people, and in a relatively short time and in a highly successful way with a minimum loss of civilian lives."

What about Kerry's pledge to consult more with our allies and the United Nations in the war against terror?

Rumsfeld laughed dismissively: "From the beginning, President Bush and Secretary Powell and all of us set about fashioning a coalition that's probably the largest in the history of the world, with some 80 to 90 nations in the global war on terror. . There are a lot of countries in the world that do not have many capabilities that fit the 21st century, and there are a lot of countries that do not have, for whatever reason, peacekeeping forces. It's an easy thing to say that we ought to have greater international involvement, but to actually make it happen is tough work, and I think the president has done an outstanding job."

Rumsfeld said he is affected when casualty reports come in: "I'm aware of it every day. I look at the notifications of the people being killed or wounded. I spend time at Walter Reed Hospital and Bethesda Hospital, visiting with the wounded, and I'm able to talk with them personally. It is always hard. It is heartbreaking to see someone whose life has changed that dramatically. . They are so brave and so proud of what they're doing and pleased with the role that America is playing in Iraq and Afghanistan. They recognize that it's noble work. . I have the greatest respect for them and their families."

The feeling seems to be mostly mutual, Michael Moore's propaganda film notwithstanding.

Cal Thomas

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Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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