WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. military has now killed Afghan children on two separate occasions: six in one town last Friday and nine in another location on Saturday. At a press briefing yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent condolences but stuck fast to the policy of targeting rebels, whether they be in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Here are excerpts of what Rumsfeld had to say to reporters. Appearing along with him was General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
” . . . to use the phrase ‘targeted killing’ I think is a misunderstanding of the fact that we’re in a war where, obviously, the people who don’t surrender, who are terrorists trying to kill innocent Iraqis and coalition forces, are people we want to stop. We would be happy to capture them, we’d be happy to have them surrender, and if they don’t, we’d be happy to kill them. And that’s what’s going on. But the implication or the connotation of ‘targeted killing’ I think is unfortunate because it suggests an appetite to do that, which is not the case. The goal is to stop terrorists from killing innocent men, women, and children, Iraqis, and coalition forces. It seems like a perfectly logical thing to me.”
Of course Hillary’s visit to Iraq came up. When a reporter asked Rumsfeld to respond to Senator Clinton’s charge that the Bush administration’s “planning on Iraq seems to be driven by the political schedule,” the defense secretary replied:
“I’m not going to get into politics. We don’t discuss them. We don’t deal with that. The commanders in the field are doing that which they believe is appropriate. And they are the ones that are making those decisions. And I don’t doubt for a minute that you could find some colonel or some major somewhere who wants to say something, but the truth is to the contrary.”
This is what Rummy had to say about quitting Iraq:
“Any implication that a transfer of sovereignty means U.S. forces leave is just false. The security circumstance on the ground is what will determine the numbers and the types and the length of time that they’re there.
General Myers had this to say about winning the war:
“I would say we are winning. I mean, clearly we’re winning. . . . We’re going to win. That’s it. And it’s not going to be easy. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.”
When asked if the army had killed Mullah Wazir, the target of one of the attacks that left children dead, Myers replied:
“No. My next statement is it’s unclear whether or not he was the one that was killed in the strike. The commander of Joint Task Force 180, General Austin, has started an
investigation into that to determine the facts and the circumstances. He’s been to the village. Team members have been to the village. We’re talking to the village leaders. We provided various things to the villagers to try to help with their grief. Nothing can do that, of course, when you lose nine children, but General Austin himself personally and other team members have been in that village working with the villagers to meet some of their needs after this incident. But we do not know at this time, and we’ll have to—it will have to be determined.”
Additional Reporting: Ashley Glacel