Rumsfeld Praises Role of Free Press in U.S., Iraq,
Washington -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the emergence of a free
press in Iraq and Afghanistan is an important current event in both countries,
but one which is under-reported by the media.
Speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors April 22, Rumsfeld told
the audience that the United States was founded "on the notion that an unchecked
government is a major obstacle to human freedom." American leaders, he said,
must be "challenged, internally through the complex constitutional system of
checks and balances, and externally by a free and energetic press."
Continuing in this vein, the defense secretary noted that the U.S. political
system "needs information to be self-correcting. While excesses and imbalances
will inevitably exist for a time, fortunately they tend not to last.
Ultimately," he said, "truth prevails."
Turning to the war on terrorism, Rumsfeld said he frequently notices "a
non-trivial difference between what is reported and the facts on the ground." He
said satellite television channels al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyah, both widely
watched in the Middle East, "are routinely telling the world lies about
coalition actions." But he said this "will be corrected over time." The newly
free people of Afghanistan and Iraq, the official added, "are starting to thirst
for the truth," even "after decades of being fed lies by dictatorial regimes and
the controlled press."
Rumsfeld noted that more than 200 newspapers have appeared in Iraq since its
liberation a year ago. As for Afghanistan, the capital of Kabul is home to 100
newspapers less than two-and-a-half years after liberation from the Taliban. By
contrast, he said, "Just a few years ago your contemporaries in Iraq and
Afghanistan were jailed and tortured and killed if they had the courage to
report the news as they saw it."
Rumsfeld encouraged the newspaper editors to tell the whole story about what is
happening in Afghanistan and Iraq -- not just the daily fighting, bombing and
killing. "The vast majority of the Iraqi people are not rioting, they're not
looting, they're not shooting." For every bomb blast, he said, many bombs are
defused before exploding because Iraqis tell coalition soldiers where to find
"For every building that's damaged by mortar fire, there are many schools and
hospitals and clinics that are being built and repaired. And for every Iraqi
soldier who was reluctant to fight in the past few weeks, there are tens of
thousands of Iraqi security officials who are fighting every day for the Iraqi
people, and there have been over 300 Iraqi security forces that have been killed
in recent months."
Turning to the work of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, he
said, "The courageous men and women who are deployed in those countries, uniform
and civilian, are helping the people of those nations to get on a path to
self-government and to self-reliance. They do not make headlines, but they are
making a difference.
"For the whole story on Iraq, Americans deserve to know about them as well,"
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: