Rumsfeld: ˜It Is Not A War on Terror

In a new interview posted on, conservative columnist Cal Thomas asks outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “With what you know now, what might you have done differently in Iraq?” Rumsfeld offers a remarkable response:

I don’t think I would have called it the war on terror. I don’t mean to be critical of those who have. Certainly, I have used the phrase frequently. Why do I say that? Because the word ‘war’ conjures up World War II more than it does the Cold War. It creates a level of expectation of victory and an ending within 30 or 60 minutes of a soap opera. It isn’t going to happen that way. Furthermore, it is not a ‘war on terror.’ Terror is a weapon of choice for extremists who are trying to destabilize regimes and (through) a small group of clerics, impose their dark vision on all the people they can control. So ‘war on terror’ is a problem for me.

Rumsfeld not only used the phrase ‘war on the terror’; he repeatedly criticized anyone who questioned the validity of it.

— “[T]here has been comment in the press of late about whether or not we’re even engaged in a war on terror, or whether our purpose might be better explained in a different manner. Let there be no mistake, we are a nation at war, against terrorist enemies who are seeking our surrender or our retreat. It is a war.” [8/2/05]


— “I would like to say that Iraq is really one of the battle grounds in the global war on terror.” [4/24/06]

— “Iraq is the central front of the global war on terror.” [12/16/05]

— Q: My argument is that we are fighting the war on terror in Iraq. Back me up a little bit on that, Mr. Secretary. RUMSFELD: Well, you’re absolutely right. [8/3/04]

— “[Iraq is] part of the global war on terror; let there be no doubt.” [9/10/03]

— Q: Do you feel that the Administration by turning its attention onto Iraq would be leaving the job undone a bit too soon?RUMSFELD: Oh, no. Indeed that’s part of the global war on terrorism, Iraq. [12/4/02]

Rumsfeld’s outgoing memo on Iraq — which calls for a “major adjustment” in strategy — makes no mention of the one thing he would have “done differently” on Iraq.

Salon’s War Room has more.