U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has derided critics of United States tsunami relief efforts as "selfish whiners who don't have their priorities straight."
In a New Year's Eve press conference, Mr. Rumsfeld lashed out at relatives of tsunami victims who have criticized the U.S. as stingy for offering only $35 million in relief aid. "Stingy? I'll tell you who's stingy-all those world governments who refuse to support our efforts to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States is spending billions of dollars a week fighting an ongoing, worldwide tidal wave of terrorism. What's one actual tidal wave compared to that?"
With the worldwide death toll from Sunday's underwater earthquake and subsequent tidal waves approaching 120,000, Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledged that "some people are pretty upset over this. Sure. But, hey, beaches and coastlines are inherently dangerous places. You have your sharks, your sea urchins, rip tides, whatever. That's why I always do my swimming in a pool."
On Thursday, the United States announced that it was sending two U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle groups to carry relief supplies to devastated areas. Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledged today that the warships and aircraft would be carrying more than just food, water, and medical supplies. "Our primary mission is helping the victims. But our sailors and Marines will keep a sharp eye out for terrorists as well, and if they see any, let's just say they won't be hitting them with bags of rice."
On further questioning, the defense secretary said the carrier groups are in fact "loaded for bear," a colloquial American expression meaning heavily armed. "Look, a lot of the areas where we're sending relief are primarily Moslem. At this point, we've got to assume that some of the folks we're delivering to are not our friends. A starving, wet, diseased, miserable Islamic terrorist is still a terrorist. And we do not tolerate terrorists."
Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters that all tanks and troop transport vehicles sent to tsunami-stricken areas would be fully armored. "I'd like to assure the families of our troops that we're not taking any risks this time," he said, in reference to earlier criticisms that Humvees operating in Iraq do not have adequate armor.