'It's Just Heartbreaking' What Saddam Did to Iraq, Rumsfeld Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 4, 2003 The neglect and damage deposed dictator Saddam Hussein inflicted on Iraq and its people "is just heartbreaking," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters here today.
Back after his one-week, whirlwind trip to the Gulf region -- which included visits to Iraq and Afghanistan -- Rumsfeld gave his impressions on post-Saddam Iraq and other defense matters on the "Fox News Sunday" and CNN's "Late Edition" television talk shows.
On the Fox news show, the secretary pointed out that his eight-country tour included visits with U.S. troops and talks with senior Arab government officials. He noted that he and his traveling party "were well-received" throughout the region.
Rumsfeld concluded that Arab leaders viewed the departure of Hussein's regime from Iraq as a case of "good riddance."
"They knew him for what he was and for what that regime was and they're pleased he's gone," the secretary emphasized.
Rumsfeld cited "the superb job" performed by U.S. and coalition forces in defeating Saddam's troops during three week's of Operation Iraqi Freedom fighting.
"They were courageous, they were dedicated, and they were received hospitably in the region," he asserted.
That Saddam's rule was characterized by cruelty and selfishness, Rumsfeld pointed out, is made evident by the differences between Iraq and other countries in the region.
The Gulf states, "are prosperous" and energetic, he remarked, while Iraq, which too has oil, didn't fare as well under Hussein's iron rule.
"You go into Iraq and it's just heartbreaking to see what a vicious, Stalinist-type regime can do to people," Rumsfeld declared. The Iraqi people, he said, were "denied all the kinds of opportunities" to enjoy better lives under Hussein's 20-year-plus rule.
Iraq's infrastructure was "destroyed," Rumsfeld pointed out. He cited frequent brownouts during Hussein's regime, while the dictator spent billions on weapons and palaces. In fact, recent news reports show U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq finding billions in American currency stashed around the country.
Under Saddam, the secretary continued, ill-supplied Iraqi hospitals were used for the regime's Baath Party headquarters, while International Red Cross-affiliated Red Crescent vehicles were used to tote military equipment.
Rumsfeld said his biggest impression while visiting post- Saddam Iraq was "how devastating a regime like that can be to human beings."
Regarding the whereabouts of Hussein or simply whether he was dead or alive, Rumsfeld told Fox News: "I wish I knew and I don't."
However, Rumsfeld said if asked to speculate, he thinks Hussein may still be alive.
In any case, the secretary pointed out, the deposed dictator is no longer running Iraq.
"He and his crowd are gone. They're either in a tunnel someplace or in a basement -- hiding," Rumsfeld asserted.
"We'll find him if he's alive," he said.
On CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday show, Rumsfeld said the search continues for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The secretary asserted that he wasn't upset that those weapons haven't turned up yet.
"We always knew that Saddam Hussein could function in an inspections environment," Rumsfeld pointed out. He noted that before the war, the dictator's minions "spent a great deal of time dispersing (WMD) materials and documentation to multiple locations private residences and the like."
Therefore, the WMD search in Iraq "is going to take time," the secretary observed, adding searchers probably aren't "going to stumble over" a cache of WMDs in Iraq.
Most likely, he continued, "We're going to find people who come up and say, 'Look, we know where something is.'"
On another matter, Rumsfeld told CNN that both the U.S. State and Defense departments would like to speed up the processing of detainees currently being held at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
News reports say more than 600 detainees al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban supporters captured by U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan during the war there -- are being held there.
The interrogation process, conducted by FBI, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency officials, is a "complicated" one, the secretary remarked.
"It takes time to find out what intelligence" the detainees have, Rumsfeld said. "It also takes time to figure out what law enforcement process might be appropriate."
The detainee population at Guantanamo represents several nationalities, the secretary pointed out, adding that a number of countries "would like to know when they could have those people."
Consequently, Rumsfeld said he and U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell "are trying to speed up" the interrogation process.