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Donald Rumsfeld: Why I Kept The Pentagon Open On 9/11

Rumsfeld

First Posted: 09/11/11 11:21 AM ET Updated: 11/11/11 05:12 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Then-Defense Department Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he did not close the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to send a message that terrorism could not shut down the seat of American defense.

"It was clear they had hit the seat of economic power in New York and the seat of military power of the United States in Washington," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "And I just made a decision that when the fire marshal said to evacuate the building, I said, 'No, get the non-essential personnel out of there and we'll leave it open.'"

"I don't want the world to think that a group of terrorists could shut down the U.S. Department of Defense," he added.

There were no plans for how to move forward, which Rumsfeld said was one of the hardest parts of dealing with the attacks. "There was no roadmap. There was no guidebook. There was no war plan on the shelf that the Pentagon had thought through, 'This is what you do,'" he said.

Then-President George W. Bush was "very decisive," Rumsfeld said. "He said immediately, 'We're not gonna pound sand. We're not gonna simply indict some people in absentia and fire off a few cruise missiles. We're going to deal with this problem before something this bad or something worse happens to the American people,'" Rumsfeld said of Bush.

Still, he said on BBC on Friday that he urged the president not to call the United States' response a "war" because it implied that the Pentagon could solve the problem alone.

"I think once you say the word 'war,' the implication is it's going to be a battle of bullets and tanks and airplanes," he said. "And what we're engaged in here is much more than that. It's not going to be won by bullets. It's a problem of a competition of ideas, a way to live lives."

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