Rumsfeld Calls Number of SAMs in Iraq 'Enormous'
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2003 "Enormous numbers. Enormous numbers," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld responded Nov. 2 when asked if he knew how many shoulder-held surface-to-air missiles were in Iraq.
"Hundreds?" Rumsfeld was asked on "ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos."
"(There) have to be more than hundreds," Rumsfeld said. "There are weapons caches all over that country. They were using schools, hospitals and mosques to hide weapons. Think of it, in Bosnia, in the last six months, they have found 40 tons of weapons in a country that we've occupied for six years. So Saddam Hussein spent his money on palaces and on torturing people and on weapons. And he's got a lot of them."
The secretary fielded questions on the Sunday talk shows Nov. 2 as reports filtered in about the Chinook helicopter shot down in Iraq by a surface-to-air missile that day, killing 16 and injuring 20 soldiers en route to Baghdad International Airport.
During a morning news conference today, Army Col. Rhonda Cornum, commander of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, said the injured soldiers arriving there so far are "stable." She indicated a number of "broken bones, a lot of compressions, loss of consciousness from being knocked around, (and) some head injuries."
Besides U.S. forces being targeted in recent attacks, Rumsfeld noted incidents "against international humanitarian organizations like the U.N."
"They're against the Iraqi people, the Iraqi police academy," he noted. "One attack was against a woman who served on the Governing Council and she was murdered."
He said about 85 Iraqis who serve in the security forces who have been killed already, adding that most of the attacks are against other Iraqis. "They are targeting things, people that are cooperating with the coalition," Rumsfeld noted. "So in that sense, they're against the goal of the coalition."
Rumsfeld also replied to reports that townspeople celebrated in the streets when the helicopter was shot down. "We know that the overwhelming majority of the population of Iraq favors the coalition, wants them to stay and appreciates the work and progress that's taking place," he said.
"We also know," he continued, "that some fraction of the population prefers Saddam Hussein. They've benefited by his regime and had the opportunity to enjoy the things he enjoyed palaces, cars, killing people, and mutilating people. Those people obviously would celebrate in the streets."
Rumsfeld emphasized that "the battle we're engaged in the global war on terrorism is an important one."
"It's a different one than we've been in previously," he said. "Although terrorism isn't new, the nature of terrorism is that its purpose is to terrorize -- to alter people's behavior."
If free people end up behaving in a way that's different from the way free people behave, they've lost, the secretary said.
Therefore, he continued, it's important to take the battle, the war on terrorism, to the terrorists where they are. "That's what we're doing," Rumsfeld pointed out. "We can win this war. We will win this war. And the president has every intention of staying after terrorists and the countries that harbor terrorists until we have won this war."
Several terrorist networks with durable reach and several countries harboring terrorists have global reach, he noted. "We weren't going into Iraq when we were hit on Sept. 11," Rumsfeld pointed out.
He said knowing that there are terrorists, terrorist states and countries harboring terrorist, "you just can't hunker down and hope they won't hit you again. You simply have to take the battle to them."
The United States has worked consistently on the al Qaeda network and has captured or killed a large number. A large number of the top 55 Saddam Hussein loyalists has also been captured or killed, Rumsfeld said.
Emphasizing that it's necessary for the weapons inspectors to continue their work in Iraq, Rumsfeld said, "You're not going to find things by accident in a country the size of California. The only way you are going to find them is by capturing people who know about them and interrogate them and find out what they think they know as to where these weapons are and what the programs were."
The secretary told "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert that the United States knows that foreign terrorists are coming into Iraq. "We've captured 200 or 300 of them from various countries," he noted.
The Ansar al-Islam and al Qaeda terrorist groups were already in Iraq before the war started, Rumsfeld said. "The Iraqis were engaged in terrorism themselves. They were giving $25,000 to suicide bomber families who would go in and kill innocent men, women and children.
"The people being killed in Iraq today are overwhelmingly Iraqis by Iraqis," the secretary noted. "And the terrorists and the criminals that were released by Saddam Hussein, some 100,000 of them, are out killing other Iraqis, trying to target successes."
Rumsfeld also talked about the length of the U.S. commitment and the number of troops.
"How many U.S. forces will be there a year from now depends entirely on what happens in the security situation on the ground, first and foremost," he said. "It depends on how fast we are able to build up the Iraqi forces.
"The total number of security forces in that country have been going up steadily. We've come down from 150,000 to 130,000 troops. The coalition troops of about 30,000 have stayed about level. And what's changed is the Iraqi troops have come up from zero to 100,000, heading towards over 200,000 next year."
The secretary said he has trouble believing that the security situation in Iraq will require more U.S. troops. "We'll have to rotate our forces and take the ones who've been there awhile out, and put additional troops in," Rumsfeld said.
He said if someone asks him how many troops will be needed in Iraq, his answer is, "I don't know. Nobody knows. And that's a fair answer."