WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla) today sent a letter to Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev) regarding Reid’s criticism of Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld’s speech this week to the American Legion in Salt Lake City. Following is a copy of Inhofe’s letter. Senator Inhofe’s Letter:
Dear Senator Reid:
I read comments attributed to you criticizing Secretary Rumsfeld's recent speech to the American Legion in Salt Lake City. His speech appears to have struck a chord with many Americans. In fact, the Secretary received a standing ovation from the thousands of veterans assembled and was interrupted several times for applause.
This prompts me to ask: what exactly in the actual text of Secretary Rumsfeld's remarks upset you so?
For example, Secretary Rumsfeld began his remarks by discussing the founding of the American Legion in 1919. He recalled that "over the next decades, a sentiment took root that contended that if only the growing threats that had begun to emerge in Europe and Asia could be accommodated, then the carnage and the destruction of then-recent memory of World War I could be avoided. It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among Western democracies. When those who warned about a coming crisis, the rise of fascism and nazism, they were ridiculed or ignore."
Do you disagree with this summary of the situation at the time?
The Secretary added: "There was a strange innocence about the world. Someone recently recalled one U.S. senator's reaction in September of 1939 upon hearing that Hitler had invaded Poland to start World War II. He exclaimed: 'Lord, if only I had talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided!'"
Did you find that passage objectionable?
The Secretary then stated: "I recount that history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism. Today -- another enemy, a different kind of enemy -- has made clear its intentions with attacks in places like New York and Washington, D.C., Bali, London, Madrid, Moscow and so many other places. But some seem not to have learned history's lessons."
He then stated: "We need to consider the following questions, I would submit: With the growing lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased? Can folks really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists? Can we afford the luxury of pretending that the threats today are simply law enforcement problems, like robbing a bank or stealing a car; rather than threats of a fundamentally different nature requiring fundamentally different approaches? And can we really afford to return to the destructive view that America, not the enemy, but America, is the source of the world's troubles? These are central questions of our time, and we must face them honestly."
What, if anything, troubled you about these rhetorical questions?
Noting the recently thwarted terrorist plot to bomb airlines coming to the United States from Britain, Secretary Rumsfeld then said that plot "should remind us that this enemy is serious, lethal, and relentless."
Do you disagree with that?
He said: "This is still not well recognized or fully understood. It seems that in some quarters there's more of a focus on dividing our country than acting with unity against the gathering threats."
The Secretary cited some examples pointing to "a strange time in our country," such as:
"When a database search of America's leading newspapers turns up literally 10 times as many mentions of one of the soldiers who has been punished for misconduct -- 10 times more -- than the mentions of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the Global War on Terror;
"Or when a senior editor at Newsweek disparagingly refers to the brave volunteers in our armed forces -- the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, the Coast Guard -- as a 'mercenary army';
"And it's a time when Amnesty International refers to the military facility at Guantanamo Bay -- which holds terrorists who have vowed to kill Americans and which is arguably the best run and most scrutinized detention facility in the history of warfare -- as 'the gulag of our times.'
He added: "Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths and distortions that are being told about our troops and about our country. America is not what's wrong with the world."
What in those statements did you find objectionable?
Finally, Secretary Rumsfeld stated: "The consequences are too severe -- the struggle too important -- to have the luxury of returning to that old mentality of 'Blame America First.'"
Do you disagree with this sentiment?
The Secretary's entire speech can be found on the Department of Defense's website at www.defenselink.mil/speeches. After reading it, I hope you will feel free to let me know exactly what passage caused you such concern.
For my part, I found his remarks to be an elevated, thoughtful, and important contribution to our national debate.
James M. Inhofe
United States Senate