by MARCO SIMONELLI
Friday October 19, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was at the Whiteman AF Base, 50 miles from Kansas City, to personally thank all the soldiers in their efforts against terrorism. Whiteman is the base from where the B2s, the stealth bombers, take off to participate in the air strike missions over Afghanistan after 18 hours of flight. The base hosts about 15,000 military personnel, but only two thousand of them, with their families, were at the meeting.
“Thank you for all you are doing” were the first words the Secretary pronounced to the soldiers gathered on one of the launch routes of the base. A fighter jacket on, wearing his stainless steel smile, a B2 bomber at his back, the Secretary of Defense spoke for half an hour, recalling that each American generation had to face a challenge, but they always succeeded it. This time, the war against terrorism, is about two choices, he said, we have to face as a nation: change our style of life or change the terrorist style of life. “We choose the second,” Rumsfeld continued, in an explosion of enthusiasm of all two thousand standing in front of him. After the speech the Secretary answered a round of questions, first from the soldiers and then from the press. “When could we say to have won this war?” someone asked. A simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer but moreover emphasizes the fears for a war against an invisible enemy like terrorists. “We could call it victory when the USA style of life will be protected and ensured.” Rumsfeld answered, “when we can behave again like Americans.” He didn’t offered comments about American troops on Afghan territory for security reasons. He partially agreed, though, with a journalist that asked him about cuts on military expenses that could directly influence the B2 and its future presence in the Air Force. Especially this long-range action seemed to highlight the aspects of the B2 as an extremely expensive aircraft to build and to use.
After the briefing with the press, Rumsfeld jumped on the VIP jet that was waiting during all the speech with the engines on, ready to take the secretary to his next destination.