Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday accused critics of the Bush administration's Iraq and counterterrorism policies of trying to appease "a new type of fascism."
In unusually explicit terms, Rumsfeld portrayed the administration's critics as suffering from "moral or intellectual confusion" about what threatens the nation's security and accused them of lacking the courage to fight back.
In remarks to several thousand veterans at the American Legion's national convention, Rumsfeld recited what he called the lessons of history, including the failed efforts to appease the Adolf Hitler regime in the 1930s.
"I recount this history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism," he said.
Rumsfeld spoke to the American Legion as part of a coordinated White House strategy, in advance of the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, to take the offensive against administration critics at a time of doubt about the future of Iraq and growing calls to withdraw U.S. troops.
Rumsfeld recalled a string of recent terrorist attacks, from 9/11 to bombings in Bali, London and Madrid, and said it should be obvious to anyone that terrorists must be confronted, not appeased.
"But some seem not to have learned history's lessons," he said, adding that part of the problem is that the American news media have tended to emphasize the negative rather than the positive.
He said, for example, that more media attention was given to U.S. soldiers' abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib than to the fact that Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith received the Medal of Honor.
"Can we truly afford to believe somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?" he asked.
"Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths and lies and distortions being told about our troops and about our country," he added.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was addressing the American Legion convention later Tuesday, and President Bush is scheduled to speak here later in the week. On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld made separate addresses to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev.
Rumsfeld made similar arguments in Reno about doubters of the administration's approach to fighting terrorism, saying too many in this country want to "blame America first" and ignore the enemy.