(Editor's note: Donald Rumsfeld, in his first interview since announcingin early November his resignation as secretary of defense, discussed hisconduct of the Iraq War and other world defense issues with Cal Thomas, themost widely syndicated political columnist in the U.S. Secretary Rumsfeld'slast day in office is Dec. 15. His successor, Robert Gates, is scheduled tobe sworn is as the new secretary of defense on Dec. 18.)
Cal Thomas: We meet on the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.People compare wars - Vietnam to Iraq - but there were lessons that came outof World War II. If you were to compare the public's attitude during WorldWar II and the public's attitude over Iraq, how would they compare?
Secretary Rumsfeld: It's dramatic. In World War II, the attack on PearlHarbor was stunning, but it followed a long series of (events) in Europe,and even in Asia, that were not stunning to the American people. The threatthat was anticipated on the West Coast was real and palpable. Themobilization of the country, and declaring war, moved us to the next step.The large number of people who went to serve from almost every community inthe nation, was an example of the extent to which people were engaged.
I can remember having a victory garden. I can remember buying war bonds for$18.75. If you held them long enough, they'd be worth $25. You could buythem in coupons until you had a whole (book); I remember collecting paper,collecting old rubber; collecting hangers and metal to be recycled into warmaterials. We were all engaged.
Furthermore, the movie industry was mobilized to support the war. They(filmmakers) wanted us to win, which was an important factor. The situationtoday, the success that has been achieved in not having another attack onthis country in the last five years, has allowed the perception of a threatto diminish, even though the threat has clearly not diminished and, indeed,is real and lethal and dangerous to the safety of the American people.
The fact that it's the first war of the 21st century and notably differentfrom World War I and World War II, is also a problem in the sense that it isunfamiliar ground. There are not big armies, navies and air forcescontesting against each other with visible results and unambiguous outcomes.We have, without question, the finest military on the face of the Earth and,indeed, in the history of the world. We can't lose a battle. And we haven't,and we won't.
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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