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War on Terror: Year Six
April 20, 2002
By Scott Sloan

Secretary Rumsfeld, looking tan and fit after his vacation in Northern New Mexico, addresses reporters in the Pentagon briefing room.

It is November 2006 and the United States has opened a new military initiative in the War Against Terrorism. Operation Divine Truth in the next phase in the bombing campaign of terrorist bases, centered around alleged Al-Qaeda cells in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, Outer Mongolia and North Korea. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld strides purposefully to the rostrum to take questions from reporters. Reporters note that the secretary is looking very tan and fit after his vacation at his sprawling ranch in Northern New Mexico.

REPORTER: Secretary Rumsfeld, the bombing campaign in Afghanistan is now entering its sixth year and has expanded to seven different countries. Are we any closer to capturing or killing Osama bin Laden or the other top Al-Qaeda members? And if not, how long do you think it will take?

RUMSFELD: It will take as long as it takes, Brit. The terrorist cells are on the run and it's obvious that the bombing campaign has been a huge success so far. The main thing we need to do now is maintain focus on our primary target - the remaining terrorist network. We are pretty sure they have been rebuilding their connections for yet another attack on American soil similar to the attacks of 9/11. I would like to remind you that your job as members of the press is to alert Americans that there still is a significant threat out there.

REPORTER: Once the bombing campaign is over and the process of nation building has begun, what assurances can you give to the American people that anti-American sentiment will not fester somewhere in a corner or a cave of one of these countries that will give rise to a fresh generation of Islamic terror?

RUMSFELD: Well., Ann, there is no guarantee that once the campaign is over, we can be sure that radicals in the area won't try to fan the flames of hatred and terror. The only real alternative is to keep up the pressure on bin Laden and his henchmen by continuing to do what we've been doing since this war started.

REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, when we-

RUMSFELD: Let me just add, if I may, that it's hard for any of that to happen while their caves are being bombed. [Laughter] I'm sorry Matt, what was your question?

REPORTER: Thank you Mr. Secretary. When we detonated the nuclear device in northern Pakistan last spring, many pundits felt that that would be the definitive end of the War on Terror. We're now nearly six months past Operation Nativity but there has been no signals of surrender from the enemy. Would you characterize the operation as a failure?

RUMSFELD: Oh no. No, no not at all, Matt. Remember as the president has stated, this is a different kind of a war. This is not like when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and the Japanese government surrendered. In this case, the enemy is a lot more slippery than that.

REPORTER: If I may ask a follow up, Mr. Secretary, many in the media thought that the explosion of an 8 megaton nuclear device would have wiped out the remaining terrorist cells once and for all.

RUMSFELD: Well, we don't know that - ahh - we can't know that for sure. Operation Nativity certainly set back the cause of terror, but then you get into the practical problems of using nuclear force. We cannot actually send advisers or troops into the area to verify that the Al-Qaeda leadership is not somehow still intact and functioning because - because -

REPORTER: The radiation level is still too high?

RUMSFELD: Yes, that's correct.

REPORTER: Turning to a political question, now, Mr. Secretary,

RUMSFELD: Oh, boy, you know how much I love those! [Laughter]

REPORTER: How is the Pentagon involved in the investigation of the rogue family members of 9/11 victims?

RUMSFELD: We are not. The Justice Department's investigation of those families ties with the Clinton and Gore presidential campaigns is ongoing. I think Attorney General Ashcroft has been the target of the most vicious and partisan criticism I've seen in all my years here in Washington. Those families were give chances time and time again to take a monetary settlement but they have instead chosen to dishonor the memories of their loved ones with wild and irresponsible accusations. But, ah, this is no time to criticize the attorney general's actions.

REPORTER: How is President Cheney's health?

RUMSFELD: The president's health is good. I know that the episode he suffered during the joint session speech looked - rather alarming to the general public. But the defibrillator worked exactly like it was supposed to.

REPORTER: Has Vice President North been kept abreast of all the movement of troops?

RUMSFELD: Yes.

REPORTER: And has been kept in the loop regarding future plans?

RUMSFELD: Yes. Vice President North has been fully engaged in both policy discussion and planning. That's all the time I have right now. Thank you all very much.


Scott Sloan is a poet, journalist and musician who lives in Taos, NM. He likes to take his family shopping at the funky resale store directly across the road from Big Rummy's house.

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