Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) on Thursday rejected as "nonsense" the notion that recent terrorist attacks in London were retaliation for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"Some people seem confused about the motivations and intentions of terrorists and about our coalition's defense of the still young democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq," Rumsfeld said in a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

"They seem to cling to the discredited theory that the recent attacks in London and elsewhere, for example, are really in retaliation for the war in Iraq or for the so-called occupation of Afghanistan," he added. "That is nonsense."

Rumsfeld also paid tribute to the 21 Marines killed this week in Iraq, including the 14 killed Wednesday by a single roadside bomb near the city of Haditha in western Iraq.

"Patriots, they were determined to stop the terrorists from reclaiming Iraq and from launching more attacks on our people," he said. "Our nation needed them, called on them in battle, and mourns them now in death."

Rumsfeld spoke broadly about President Bush's rationale for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan -- "the only way to defeat terrorism is to go after them where they are" -- but said little about the administration's plan for turning over the security mission in Iraq to the Iraqis. He did suggest that the goal is within reach.

"Once Iraq is safely in the hands of the Iraqi people, and a government that they elected under a new constitution ... , our troops will be able to ... come home with the honor they will have earned," he said, without elaborating.