World Affairs Council of Philadelphia

U.S. Department of Defense Speeches, May 25, 2005 | Go to article overview

World Affairs Council of Philadelphia


Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Philadelphia, PA, Wednesday, May 25, 2005.

Thank you Justin for that kind introduction.

Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here--finally. I do apologize for my not making an earlier scheduled visit, but was kept away.

The World Affairs Council has played a useful role in encouraging an exchange of ideas and I congratulate you for your contributions to the national dialogue on so many of the important issues of the day.

I appreciate this opportunity to return to Philadelphia, the birthplace of the ideals of liberty for which so many generations of Americans have risked their lives.

It has been three-and-a-half years since violent extremists launched their attacks on those ideals by murdering thousands of innocent people here in our country.

The evil that led those extremists to topple the World Trade Center towers and to attack the Pentagon is difficult to comprehend. But the motivations behind their plot are not--their goal, very simply, is to cripple the United States, to try to intimidate the civilized world, and to inspire and cultivate a new wave of fanatics.

We're here today about 200 miles from the a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where those brave souls rose up against their captors and, in so doing, gave their own lives rather than allow the terrorists to kill any more of their fellow Americans.

In many ways, those passengers were foot soldiers in a war that had been declared on us, on our country, and on our way of life years before.

In discussing the way ahead in the global struggle against violent extremism, it is useful to consider some of the unique challenges of this era.

This is the first war in history being conducted in the 21st Century--an era of:

* Global satellite television networks;

* 24-hour news outlets with live coverage of terrorist attacks, disasters, and combat operations;

* A global Internet with universal access and no inhibitions;

* E-mail, cell phones, and digital cameras, wielded by everyone and anyone; and

* A seemingly casual regard for classified information, resulting in a near-continuous hemorrhage of classified documents to the detriment of our country.

We see almost daily that, "a lie can make its way halfway around the world while the truth is still getting its boots on," as Mark Twain is reported to have said.

Operating in this challenging and dramatically new environment is an Executive Branch organized largely during the Industrial Age and arranged along the lines of Congressional Committees and Subcommittee structures. In short, the Federal Government is poorly equipped to cope with multiple issues arriving from every quarter, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We continue to be held to peacetime constraints and regulations imposed during the Cold War, in a different age, and in anticipation of notably different adversaries--adversaries that had governments, armies, and territories to defend, unlike our adversaries today.

Today we confront an enemy unburdened by bureaucracy or regulation--or any legal, moral or structural constraints. The enemy is not easily described. It is not a nation, not a religion, nor even one particular organization.

Rather it is a shifting network of violent and fanatical adherents to violent extremist ideologies--a movement that uses terrorism as the weapon of choice.

* They combine medieval views with modern tools and technology;

* They operate within both hostile and friendly nation-states--and even in our own country;

* They will accept no armistice with the civilized world;

* They will negotiate no separate peace;

* They are unlikely to ever give up; and

* Symbolized by beheadings, they seek to impose a dark, joyless vision upon the future of our world.

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