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Rumsfeld memo consistent with public statements

From Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington Bureau

Rumsfeld at a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday.

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The Pentagon insists a memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Iraq does not reflect any divergence from his public statements. CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports (October 22)
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War Against Terror
Donald Rumsfeld

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to his top deputies asking tough questions about the war on terrorism was mostly consistent with his public statements.

In the memo, Rumsfeld acknowledged U.S. forces would be in Iraq and Afghanistan a long time. "It will be a long, hard slog," he wrote. (Full story)

Rumsfeld has not characterized it that way in public, but Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has used similar words.

"It's hard work. It is hard slogging," Myers testified September 9 before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We have made tremendous progress. And we're winning."

Rumsfeld has refused, however, to put a timeline on how long U.S. troops would be in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We're committed to staying -- as long as necessary with as many forces as necessary to successfully complete the mission," Rumsfeld said just Tuesday.

In the memo, Rumsfeld also wrote "we are having mixed results" with al Qaeda and "slower progress" tracking down the Taliban.

Rumsfeld has consistently portrayed the war against terror and the situation in Iraq as a mixed picture.

"It seems to me there's a mixture of good news and bad news, it's probably fairly accurate," Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

As for not having "metrics" to measure success in the war on terrorism, this is also something Rumsfeld has addressed publicly.

"It's important to have metrics, it's also important to have the right metrics and not be misled by metrics -- as has happened in some other conflicts," Rumsfeld told a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing September 24.

"So we're working on that, and it's difficult to do but we're hard at it."

And Rumsfeld's lament in the memo that "we have not yet made truly bold moves" is a common theme of Rumsfeld's speeches in which he stresses the Pentagon's need to transform and the difficulty of changing a huge bureaucracy.

According to his spokesman, Larry DiRita, the memo was Rumsfeld's way of lighting a fire under his top deputies to come up with better ideas for moving ahead.

"It's what he does. He injects urgency, he asks questions, and he gets people thinking about things and that's what this memo, hopefully, will do. It appears to have had that effect," DiRita said.

The memo was first published in Wednesday's USA Today, but DiRita disputed the newspaper's characterization of it as a "grim outlook" on the situation.

"The secretary is not saying anything like what the memo's been characterized," DiRita said.

"What he's doing is elevating the perspective of the leadership of this department and asking: 'I don't know the answers to these questions, but they're on my mind and I want them on your mind too.' "

DiRita said the memo was meant to remind Pentagon leaders "to look up and look beyond the treetops."

Rumsfeld said at a news conference after briefing senators on Iraq that he elevated certain issues "to force people to think about it in the broadest possible terms."

Critics jumped on the memo. "I think Secretary Rumsfeld's comments are an illustration of the concern that they have about the failure of their policies in Iraq so far," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota.

But Democratic Rep. Jim Turner of Texas, who was among a half-dozen members of Congress just back from Iraq who met with Rumsfeld Wednesday morning and were shown the memo, said he thought it had been "mischaracterized."

"This is a document that's designed to provoke longer-range thinking on the part of the leadership here. It's the kind of questions that I'm glad to see that are being asked in the administration," Turner said.

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