Speaking to a largely hostile audience gathered at Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), Feith—the third-highest official at the Department of Defense—addressed issues from civil liberties to the Middle East.
In the speech, Feith said the United States must make an effort to delegitimize terrorism by making it an evil as reviled as slavery.
“To defeat our enemies in this war, we will have to do more than disrupt and attack—we’ll have to counter their ideology,” he said.
Feith said that the attacks of Sept. 11 exposed the costs of international terrorism.
“To protect ourselves physically, we might be compelled to change fundamentally the way we live,” Feith said.
In addressing Iraq and Afghanistan, Feith said he hopes “tolerance and compromise” will lead to the creation of more democratic societies in the Middle East.
Some audience members flashed peace signs and chanted “1,500 dead because of what you did” in unison during the speech, referring to the latest death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Feith dismissed allegations that the United States is forcefully imposing democracy on Middle Eastern countries.
“It’s inherently self-contradictory to talk about ramming democracy down someone’s throat,” he said. “We’d like to see people in the area choosing to democratize their countries.”
Feith has been accused by some of allegedly misusing pre-war intelligence developed by the Office of Special Plans (OSP), an agency he oversaw. The Pentagon has denied the charges.
But at the event, Feith stood by his agency’s analysis, stating that the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee proved that there was no “systematic pressure” by his agency on the White House to go to war.
“In fact, that report gave [the OSP] a completely clean bill of health,” he said.
But Feith did identify what he called an “inordinate focus on the WMD issue” as one flaw in pre-war intelligence.
“In retrospect, one thinks it might have been better to have a more balanced discussion of all of the elements,” he said.
After an audience member asked why the issue of North Korea had lost momentum, Feith affirmed the administration’s desire to pressure the communist regime into six-party talks on nuclear proliferation.