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Massachusetts Newspaper Editorial Cites Robert Gates' 2001 Ubben Lecture

December 10, 2006

December 10, 2006, Greencastle, Ind. - "When the United States invaded Iraq shortly after September 11, 2001 in pursuit of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the terrorist organization's Taliban protectors, the world cheered practically as one. Those cheers died quickly," notes an editorial in today's edition of Massachusett's Berkshire Eagle. "In a speech in December of that year, Robert Gates, who will soon replace Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, told his DePauw University audience that the eventual end of the effort in Afghanistan 'will bring a very tough issue to the fore for the administration: whether to turn its attention to other countries harboring terrorist groups, above all, Iraq.'" Audio Link  [Download Audio: "Robert Gates at DePauw 12/3/2001" 426KB]

The piece continues, "That effort has not ended, of course, because the U.S. turned its attention prematurely to Iraq, a country that, Mr. Gates' assertion to the contrary, didn't harbor terrorist groups until destabilized by the U.S. Mr. Gates is only one of many public officials who wrongly thought that Iraq harbored terrorists under Saddam Hussein and would now like to forget he harbored those beliefs."

The text notes, "Mr. Gates spoke before his university audience as the former director of the CIA, and in his book From the Shadows, published a decade ago, he wrote proudly of his agency's role in funneling billions of dollars in supplies and weapons to the mujahideen, who successfully resisted the Soviet army. That Cold War era effort, however, effectively destabilized Afghanistan and paved the way for the Taliban to assume dominance. Some of those 10-year-old weapons are still being used by America's enemies today. In focusing on America's struggle with his collapsing enemy, the CIA helped upset the dynamic in Afghanistan, fatefully so."

The editorial concludes, "It has been five years since the Bush administration turned away from Afghanistan to Iraq, to the detriment of both nations and to the credibility of the United States as a moral force for good on the world stage. In addressing Iraq, Mr. Gates should also attempt to right old wrongs in Afghanistan, to whatever limited extent is possible."

Read the complete essay at the newspaper's Web site.

Robert Gates visited DePauw University on December 3, 2001 as a guest of the Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture Series. A summary of his speech, including photos and multimedia clips, can be accessed in this previous story.

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