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Rumsfeld calls war a historic challenge

He likens critics to Hitler appeasers

SALT LAKE CITY -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld compared critics of the Bush administration to those who sought to appease Nazis before World War II, warning yesterday that the United States faces ``a new type of fascism."

Rumsfeld, speaking before the American Legion convention, delivered some of his most explicit and extended attacks yet on the administration's critics, provoking criticism from furious Democrats who accused him of ``campaigning on fear."

By comparing US foreign policy with World War II and the Cold War, Rumsfeld sought to portray skeptics of the Bush's foreign policy as being on the wrong side of history. Rumsfeld again ridiculed American officials who, before World War II, wished to negotiate with Adolf Hitler.

``I recount that history because, once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism," Rumsfeld said. ``But some seem not to have learned history's lessons. . . . Can we truly afford to believe that, somehow or some way, vicious extremists could be appeased?"

His use of the word ``appease" was notable, tying administration critics to the failed efforts of the pre-Churchill British government to mollify Hitler.

Rumsfeld defended the Iraq war in speeches to the American Legion yesterday and the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday, and in meetings with service members this week. In each speech, Rumsfeld has acknowledged the reality of debate in a free society. But he has said media reports have been manipulated by Iraqi insurgents or Al Qaeda terrorists .

``The struggle we are in is too important -- the consequences too severe -- to have the luxury of returning to the `blame America first' mentality," Rumsfeld told the American Legion.

Rumsfeld's comments drew sharp rebukes from Democrats, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, whose father, Joseph P. Kennedy, was criticized by Rumsfeld in a speech Monday. The elder Kennedy, who served as a US ambassador to Britain before World War II, resigned that post because he opposed British and US war preparations.

``Secretary Rumsfeld is the last person who should preach the lessons of history after ignoring them for the last six years," Kennedy said in a statement. ``As a result of his failures, Americans are less safe."

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