Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
sought Wednesday to downplay the significance of an internal memorandum he wrote
last week questioning U.S. progress in the global war on terrorism.
The memorandum to senior Pentagon officials, first reported by the newspaper USA
Today, provoked immediate interest because it appeared to contrast sharply
with the Bush administration's generally positive assessments of progress
in the war on terrorism.
But speaking to reporters after a Congressional appearance, Mr. Rumsfeld
said the document was intended not as a progress report itself, but rather
as an effort to prompt fresh thinking within the Defense Department. "Sometimes
one needs to say to a big institution, hey, wait a minute, let's lift our eyes
up and look out across the horizon and say, are there questions we ought to
be asking ourselves, are there things we ought to think about ways to do differently?"
The memorandum, released Wednesday to reporters, said the United States has
had what it termed "mixed results" in fighting al-Qaida. It also predicted
what was described as a "long, hard [struggle]" for U.S. led forces in both
Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition, Mr. Rumsfeld wrote that it was his impression "that we have
not yet made any truly bold moves" in combating terrorism.
The document went on to raise several questions. In one, Mr. Rumsfeld asked
if the Pentagon needed to come up with new ways to organize, train, equip and
focus to deal with terrorists. In another, he questioned whether perhaps a
new anti-terror institution was needed.
One of the recipients of the memo, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the
military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, also downplayed its significance. "What you're
seeing in this memo, I think, is the way we do business. Our boss [Mr. Rumsfeld]
is challenging us with a lot of questions on, you know, are we changing ourselves
to deal with this 21st century threat environment we find ourselves in," he
On another matter, Mr. Rumsfeld rejected suggestions that a top military
intelligence official should step down while authorities investigate his controversial
comments suggesting the war on terrorism is a clash between Christianity and
Islam, a notion repeatedly rejected by the Bush administration.
Mr. Rumsfeld had previously praised Army Lieutenant General William Boykin,
who has apologized for his comments and promised not to speak to religious