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DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
March 25, 2003 1:30 PM EDT

(Also participating was Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Slides and video are at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2003/g030325-D-6570C.html.)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. It's now about five days since the major ground forces entered Iraq. It's almost four days and 30 minutes ago that the air war began. We're still, needless to say, much closer to the beginning than the end. The men and women in the uniform, the U.S. and coalition alike, are performing superbly. They're doing an outstanding job. The resistance that's being encountered was expected. It has not affected coalition progress. Iraqi forces are capitulating by the hundreds. The total now, as I understand it -- at least early this morning -- was something in excess of 3,500 Iraqi prisoners of war and thousands more that have been part of units that have simply disband (sic). With each passing day, the Iraqi regime is losing control over more of the country. Coalition forces are closing in on Baghdad and will not stop until that regime has been driven from power. Their defeat is certain. All that is unclear is the number of days or weeks it will take. The threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction will be removed and a regime that is one of the world's most notorious sponsors of terror will be no more.

This war is an act of self defense, to be sure, but it is also an act of humanity. Coalition forces are eliminating a regime that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of its own people and which is pursuing weapons that would enable it to kill hundreds of thousands more. In recent days, the world has witnessed further evidence of their brutality and their disregard for the laws of war. Their treatment of coalition POWs is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

To the families of those captured or missing, know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and with your loved ones and that we will do everything in our power to bring them safely home. To the families and loved ones of those brave men and women who have been killed or wounded, know that their courage and sacrifice are deeply appreciated by all Americans.

The regime has committed acts of treachery on the battlefield dressing their forces as liberated civilians, and sending soldiers out waving white flags and feigning surrender, with the goal of drawing coalition forces into the ambushes; using Red Cross vehicles to courier military instructions. These are serious violations of the laws of war. The regime's actions have had little practical military effect thus far, but they do serve as a telling reminder of why it is important that this regime be removed.

Those who behave with such brutality cannot be allowed to possess tools of mass murder. This is the behavior of desperate men. Iraqi authorities know their days are numbered. And while the Iraqi regime is on the way out, it's important to know that it can still be brutal, particularly in the moments before it finally succumbs. This campaign could well grow more dangerous in the coming days and weeks as coalition forces close on Baghdad and the regime is faced with its certain death. But the outcome is assured.

To the Iraqi people, let me say this: By now you have seen and know that coalition airstrikes are not aimed at you, they are aimed at the regime of Saddam Hussein. We are systematically eliminating the institutions that repress you. As we do so, we are doing everything possible to protect innocent civilians. Humanitarian assistance, food, water and medicine is already being delivered, and more will arrive shortly. A regime that starved its own people so that a dictator could build many, many palaces, will be removed. In its place, you will build a free Iraq with a new government based on democratic principles of political freedom, individual liberty, and the rule of law.

To the officers and soldiers of the Iraqi armed forces: Do not lead your men into a battle to die for a condemned regime. Do not obey orders to use weapons of mass destruction. Lay down your arms and you will be spared.

General Myers?

Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

I would like to add our thanks to the men and women in uniform, U.S. and coalition, who are performing superbly, and have from the time this all began.

Operation Iraqi Freedom continues. I don't have much additional information following CentCom's brief, but wanted to update you on the overall picture.

On the ground, our forces are nearing Baghdad. They have moved some 200-plus miles into Iraq in less than five days of the ground campaign. We are now poised for the next objectives and our plan is on track.

The air campaign is continuing well. We flew nearly 1,000 sorties over Iraq yesterday, most against Republican Guard units, and conducted close air support for the ground advance in the south and Special Forces in the west. Coalition forces have secured the port of Umm Qsar and are preparing the port for the arrival of humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq.

I have a pre- and post-strike image for you today. It's of the Special Security Organization warehouse along the Tigris River in Baghdad. You can see the warehouse and boat facility destroyed, while the highway and bridge right next to it remain intact and well-traveled.

Finally, I have three videos for you today. The first video is an F-117 using a satellite-guided weapon, the GPS weapon, to destroy what we think is the last active Iraqi GPS jammer that we've been able to find. That was a three-quarter speed, by the way, because there wasn't much time between the clouds and when it went off.

The second is of an F-18, destroyed a patrol boat in a canal in southern Iraq. Please note the three other vessels in the area. Only the patrol boat is destroyed.

And the third is of an F-15 using a 500-pound bomb to destroy a Republican Guard tank south of Baghdad. Remember we mentioned we focused about 50 percent of our air missions on the Republican Guard in the past couple of days.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

Rumsfeld: Before we start, let me just say that, as you may know, the president was here today and met with the joint chiefs of staff and with General Franks, General DeLong and General Abizaid by secure video, and then made an announcement concerning the supplemental. In addition, I've just come from meeting with a number of the former Secretaries of State, former Secretaries of Defense, and former national security advisers who were here to have a discussion with us, which was, I find, always helpful, and it's something we do from time to time.

Because we have such a large gathering here, I'd like to suggest that, out of courtesy to everybody, that people ask a single question.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said yourself a moment ago that this operation could become more dangerous for U.S. and allied troops in the coming days as you approach Baghdad. There are Sunday morning generals in every war, and critics are coming out of the walls to criticize this ground campaign. They say that your imprimatur of transformation is heavily on it, and there are simply not enough troops and armor on the ground right now to efficiently take Baghdad or protect your rear. How would you answer that?

Rumsfeld: First of all, I don't know how anyone outside of the government thinks they know what my views are, or what General Franks' views are, or what General Myers' views are. We've all been deeply involved, and the plan has been a plan that's been approved by all the commanders and by, needless to say, General Myers and General Pace and Don Rumsfeld and the president of the United States. And it is a good plan, and it is a plan that in four and a half or five days has moved ground forces to within a short distance of Baghdad. And forces increase in the country every minute and every hour of every day. And that will continue to be the case. There is a force flow that's been put in place weeks and weeks and weeks ago, where people were mobilized, people were trained, people were -- equipment was loaded on ships, ships were leased, ships were sent over, ships moved into position, ships were unloaded, personnel were airlifted over to meet with their equipment. And every hour the number of U.S. and coalition forces in that country are increasing.

So I guess how I would respond to what you say are some folks who are concerned about that is that the people who are involved in this, the -- General Franks and General McKiernan and General DeLong and General Abizaid and Admiral Keating, General Moseley, are very comfortable, as are the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who have met with the president twice in the last two days and discussed it.

One question. You want to comment on that?

Myers: You bet I do.

It's a plan that's on track. It's a plan everybody had input to. It's a plan everybody agrees to. I've been on public record that I think the plan as finally formulated and, as put together by General Franks with some help and some advice by General Franks and his commanders, is a brilliant plan. And we've been at it now for less than a week. We're just about to Baghdad. Some of the biggest losses we've taken are due to Iraqis committing serious violations of the law of armed conflict in the Geneva Convention by dressing as civilians, by luring us into surrender situations then opening fire on our troops. So this is a plan that is very well thought out, and that will play out, I think, as we expect.

Q: Mr. Secretary, are there indications -- have you seen indications that the Republican Guard units that are ringing Baghdad have been authorized to use chemical weapons in the event that U.S. forces advance to a certain distance from the city center? Around the city?

Rumsfeld: There has been intelligence scraps -- who knows how accurate they are -- chatter in the system that suggest that the closer that coalition forces get to Baghdad and Tikrit, the greater the likelihood and that some command and control arrangements have been put in place. But whether it will happen or not remains to be seen.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, there is reported to be a popular uprising in Basra, but the popular uprising apparently is not only targeting some of the Iraqi forces but also some of the coalition forces. And we have reports that at least one British coalition force member has been killed. Can you comment on what's going on there?

Rumsfeld: I have not seen these reports, but I can tell you roughly what's going on there. What's going on is that forces came in -- coalition forces came in from the south; they're moving towards Baghdad. They essentially bypassed Basra. The British forces now have the task of dealing with the remaining capability in Basra. We have intelligence information saying that the Fedayeen Saddam people -- I'm not going to call them troops, because they're traveling in civilian clothes and they're essentially terrorists -- have been moving south into some areas, including Basra, and that they are in some cases pretending to surrender and then shooting people. They do not represent a serious threat to the success of this campaign. What they do represent is a terrorist-type threat, and there will very likely continue to be people -- until the regime is gone, until it's finally tipped, until there is absolute certainty that Saddam Hussein is not there anymore, I suspect that some of these dead enders will be down there shooting people and doing that type of thing. That's basically what's going on.

Now, if your implication in your question was that the uprising was against the United States or the coalition forces, I suspect that's not true. I mean, these people have been repressed by the regime of Saddam Hussein and they now have people in there that are shooting them if they try to desert, if they try to surrender, if they try to escape. These are Saddam Hussein's people in there shooting people if they try to leave the city. Now, therefore, an uprising -- anyone who's engaged in an uprising has got a whale of a lot of courage, and I sure hope they're successful.

Q: And you think that Saddam Hussein is in the middle of it?

Rumsfeld: One question. One question.

(Cross talk.)

Q: Mr. Secretary -- (inaudible).

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Sir?

Q: Mr. Secretary, as the nature of the questions before have indicated, and you yourself have anticipated, is at the first sign of any difficulty or casualties, there have been a number of critics, some of them laymen and some of them retired military officers, senior military officers, voicing the kinds of concerns that Charlie did.

Without again restating it, would you say that you have perhaps not adequately managed the expectations here of -- in the sense that some people believe that just five days into this, the war might be going badly, and you're trying to make the point that we're much closer to the beginning than the end. Do you need to do a better job in giving the American people and the public an idea of what to expect in the days and weeks ahead?

Rumsfeld: I don't know how to answer that, really. If you go back to the Afghanistan situation, it was only a few days into it that it was described by one of the newspapers here as a "quagmire." And it was a matter of days later that things looked quite good and, as I recall, Mazar-e-Sharif fell, and then the other cities began to fall.

I can't manage what people -- civilians or retired military -- want to say. And if they go on and say it enough, people will begin to believe it. It may not be true, and it may reflect more of a misunderstanding of the situation than an analysis or an assessment of it, but there's no way anyone can affect what people say. We have a free country. In Iraq, they can affect what people say because you get shot if you say something they don't like. We don't do that.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: General Myers?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: But it seems to me that anyone with any sense of what's taking place recognizes the complexity of this task, the importance of it; the fact that we're there to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction in that country and to put in a regime that will not threaten its neighbors. These are important things to be done. They're not things that are done easily. This is a sizeable military that the coalition forces are up against. They are -- unlike 1991, they recognize that the task is not to put them out of Kuwait and then let them go about their business; the task here is to not only deal with them throughout the country, but to see that the regime is changed. So you're going to get a different level of intensity.

And certainly General Myers and I and General Franks all have indicated from the outset that this is a tough business, and wars are unpredictable and there's lots of difficulties.

(To General Myers.) Do you want to comment on that?

Myers: No, I think with as much coverage as we have of the war, primarily because of the decision to embed a lot of reporters with it, you know, we are -- we're watching this thing, what happens, pretty much 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And I think that lends this perception that it's been going on a long time and a lot is happening. If you look at the -- a lot is happening, obviously -- but the big scope of things, we're on track, we're on plan, we think we have just the right forces for what we need to do now.

I would remind people that forces are still flowing to the region. As the secretary said, we're putting thousands of more each day. It was always the plan. That will continue, probably, to be the plan. Depends on the situation --

(Cross talk.)

Rumsfeld: If you think about the difference, in World War II, there was no television. People had radios. People would go to the movies because the beginning of the movie would be a 15-minute preview of what took place, not the day before or the minute before or the hour before, or what was taking place at that moment, but it was a summary of the week's news of World War II.

And now what we're seeing is every second another slice of what's actually happening out there. It is a breathtaking sight to see it. It tends to be all accurate, but not in an overall context. And it does, as the general said, leave people with the impression that it's been going on for days and weeks and months. And it is -- it was one o'clock (pause) --

Q: Thursday.

(Pause continues.)

Rumsfeld: -- Friday --

Q: Friday.

Rumsfeld: -- that the air war began. (Laughter, cross talk.) It even seems like weeks to me. (Laughter.)

But it is really just such a brief period, and they have moved so far on the ground and made major accomplishments in the west, made major accomplishments in the north, and clearly have caused the Republican Guard to pull in closer to Baghdad and Tikrit.

And the difficult task remains. The Republican Guard units -- setting aside the Special Republican Guard and the Fedayeen Saddam group, which are different; they're more fanatical, I would say -- Republican Guard group are military, and that's where the difficult task begins. And it is starting with the Medina Division south of Karbala.

(Cross talk.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, we hadn't heard much from Iran in this entire time. I'm wondering if you can characterize what (sic) you think Iran is looking at this conflict and if you believe any troops with an allegiance to the Iranian government are inside Iraq at this time.

Rumsfeld: Well, there's no love lost between Iran and Iraq. On the other hand, both are states that have sponsored terrorism and the -- thus far, Iran has not done things that are making our life more difficult in Iraq. We hope that continues to be the case.

With respect to the latter portion of your question, we do see Iran-sponsored forces, Iraqis but sponsored and armed and housed previously by Iran, in the country in relatively small numbers, which is unhelpful.

Q: Mr. Secretary, could I just follow up on -- (name inaudible) --question a little bit. Is it possible that you did raise expectations beyond reasonable levels by talking about a shock and awe campaign? I mean, wasn't the impression put out that, you know, 3,000 bombs are going to fall in the first 48 hours and the regime is going to collapse?

Rumsfeld: Not by me, not by General Myers.

Q: Well, General Renuart came and gave a briefing along those lines.

Rumsfeld: Well, there were a lot of bombs dropped. The reality is that they were dropped on military targets and regime-controlled targets and they were not dropped on innocent men, women and children. And --

Q: No, I was asking you if you may have created the impression in the public minds this was going to be over in four days.

Rumsfeld: I thought I answered that.

(Cross talk.)

I certainly did not. General Myers certainly did not. Is it possible that someone might have said something that led some person to believe that? I suppose so. But realistic people -- why would we have put in train the hundreds of thousands of people to go do this task if we thought it was going to be over in five minutes? I mean, it's just unrealistic to --

Q: Mr. Secretary, if I could go back to Basra for a minute. As you said -- or, the initial decision was to bypass Basra. Apparently, the British have now decided that they're going to undertake some specific tactical missions there, military missions, so there apparently is a little bit of a change of plans. Can you just explain what's your plan for dealing with cities? Would you -- do you anticipate continuing to bypass cities or try to stabilize them as you go along, given what appears to be some kind of guerrilla threat?

Myers: Well, it depends on the situation on the battlefield at the time and where we are in our plan of execution. It was planned to, in fact, to bypass Basra early on. And the British forces, as they have done, have come around Basra at this time. And then we have to deal with the situation we find. Clearly, as the secretary said, the people in Basra I think for the most part would be happy to be done with this regime. But they're not going to do so as long as they think there's a shred of evidence that there's going to be some threat against them. If you remember in '91, hundreds of thousands were killed because they thought they had a chance for a popular uprising, and it didn't -- they didn't get -- the backing didn't materialize the way they thought it was going to materialize. And so I think we have, rightly so, some very cautious people. Now we'll go to the next phase once we've got the environmental situation under control in the oil fields, once we can start bringing humanitarian supplies up, once we can start getting water up to some of the cities where their - the water supplies have been disrupted, which is all working in a train. Now we'll look at working those Fedayeen Saddam and Republican Guard that may have come down in civilian uniforms to keep a gun in the back of the other people. And we'll start working that. And that's what you're seeing right now.

Q: General Myers?

Q: Mr. Secretary? Mr. Secretary?

Q: Question for General Myers?

Rumsfeld: Let's give General Myers --

Q: Yeah.

Q: I have one for General Myers, too, Mr. Secretary.

Q: Well, wait --

Q: I will. We'll wait, too.

Q: General Myers, you talked about how in the last two days a lot of our targets have been against the Republican Guard. In 1991 the U.S. military didn't want to go into Kuwait until 50 percent of the armor of the Iraqis had been destroyed. Is that sort of the template you're using here and we won't really move to close with the Republican Guard until half of their armor is destroyed?

Myers: I'll tell you what. I'm just not going to get into that. That gets into some of the operational details, I think. But it'd be at a great disadvantage to our force. But the situation is different, we think. Their overall strength, their training, and their morale is different than it was in '91. And we're going to take advantage of that in ways that I just can't go into.

(Cross talk.)

Q: Thank you, sir. Just going -- just a moment, please. (Laughter.) Going back to an earlier question --

Rumsfeld: We'll be right with you -- (laughter).

Q: Can you give an update for any family members on the effort to retrieve the soldiers who have been killed in action and just that process? And is there any possible way that you could use the International Red Cross to retrieve the -- like, the soldiers that we saw on television? And how disturbed are you about the fact that they are showing the remains of these soldiers on national television?

Myers: The -- clearly, what we expect from the Iraqi regime is to treat any prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention. And part of that is that the International Red Cross ought to have access to them.

In fact, we are doing that with the enemy prisoners of war we have, that are nearing numbers now close to 4,000. We will ensure, I think, maybe even today or tomorrow, we'll have International Red Cross in there looking at the condition of the Iraqi prisoners of war we have. We expect the same thing. Of course we're concerned about our prisoners of war, our missing in action, and it's been our government policy for forever to continue to try to repatriate them and find out what happened to the missing.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Sir, why --

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you, sir. Going back to the questionof the intel chatter and the possible use of weapons of mass destruction, the chemical weapons, against our troops, you and General Myers have often said if that should ever happen, we would use every means possible to retaliate. My question is, what more can you use that you're not now using to retaliate if it should happen?

Rumsfeld: Go ahead.

Myers: Okay. There are plans that General Franks has put together to address that situation. And the one thing we're not going to do is tell you what they are, Ivan, right now, because we haven't seen use of WMD, so far as we know, at this point. But when we do, we have plans to deal with that.

Q: General Myers, I want to ask you about the expectations question. The DIA director a couple of weeks ago said in a press interview that while the Pentagon is preparing for stiff resistance, there is a very real likelihood that resistance could collapse very quickly. A couple days before that, Vice President Cheney said that he did not expect a long, bloody fight, and that even significant elements of Republican Guard are likely to step aside. At this point of the conflict, do any of those predictions seem to be bearing out?

Myers: Well, I would say, given the fact that we're 200-plus miles inside Iraq at this time, on the doorstep of Baghdad, that we really haven't engaged on the ground the Republican Guard divisions. So -- we've put helicopters against them, attack helicopters, we've put air against them, we've put some artillery against them, but we haven't engaged them in a classic battle. So their mettle has yet to be tested. We're going to have to find out.

Q: What does the intelligence show -- it's a follow-up.

(Cross-talk.)

Rumsfeld: No follow-ups.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Let me just make a comment on this, it keeps coming back up, about expectations. Analysts say what they say. And quite honestly, they seem to me to be all over the lot. They're not all in one little box of "It will be over in 15 minutes." If some analysts want to say it's going to be a cakewalk, and it turns out not to be a cakewalk, the fact of the matter is we have said repeatedly we can't say how long it will last. We do not know. It is not knowable. I've said I don't know how many times, "Days, weeks or months." "Don't know.

Same thing like the cost. I notice today everyone was saying, "Oh my goodness, they did know what the war was going to cost." And I have said repeatedly we don't know what the war is going to cost, and the truth is, we don't know what the war is going to cost. You can't know it, it's not knowable.

The budget figure the president announced up there is not the cost of the war; the budget figure he announced up there is the cost -- some money that State needs, some money the CIA needs, some money that Homeland Security needs, some money that this department needs to carry us from the beginning of the global war on terror, starting October 1st of this fiscal year, through where we are today and, hopefully, through the rest of the year; and some money to flow forces overseas. And we can't tell you -- if you can't tell how long it's going to last, you sure can't tell what it's going to cost.

But now -

Q: But that budget was based on the war plan --

Rumsfeld: Shhh! (Laughter.) Shhh!

Now, if -- if people have a tendency to want to gravitate toward some analyst's expectation which is unreasonable -- which may be unreasonable, given the fact we're four days into it, it's a little early to know if it's unreasonable, but let's pretend it's unreasonable, then I would not follow that analyst and I would try to listen to what we're saying from this podium as to what we think.

Pam?

Q: Could you explain what's going on with the -- a British spokesman came out and said that elements of the 51st Division have pulled back to Basra. This is a regular army division. We were led to believe that this was a division that abandoned its post, that the commander surrendered to U.S. forces and they abandoned their post and went back home. Were they under -- were they forced back there by Fedayeen? Were they regrouping on their own? Are there other groups that you've seen abandon their posts that are somehow regrouping? And does this force you to rethink the way that you're taking prisoners, which is you're -- from what I gather, you're trying to cull out the ones you want and let the rest of the ones that you don't think will present a problem go home.

Myers: I think we think the 51st has surrendered; that some of their equipment may have been used by the Fedayeen, perhaps, or other folks the Fedayeen brought with them. I mean, supposedly there were some, maybe, perhaps Republican Guard members who changed to civilian clothes and came south.

But I have seen no reliable evidence yet -- and it may be because we haven't seen it yet -- that the 51st has reconstituted. Most of them ran away. Some of their equipment may still be there. They did have a tank battle today with some of their equipment. We think it was the Fedayeen, again, manning some of this equipment, perhaps Republican Guard, and they were defeated by the British.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: (Inaudible.)

Q: General Myers?

Q: On the surrender of Iraqi forces, I was wondering, since you were saying they were surrendering and then going back and firing on the U.S. troops, I was wondering what the latest is on negotiations with Iraqi leadership, and if there is some concern that those negotiations might also be some of sort of ruse, that they may not be serious about that.

Rumsfeld: I don't know of any negotiations with the leadership in Iraq. There are military leaders that have talked about surrendering. Some have actually done it. Others may be engaged in a ruse. That's possible. All the kind of ruse we've seen has tended to be a very small handful of people, Fedayeen Saddam types, in civilian clothes, pretending they're giving up.

Yes? (Cross talk.)

Q: General Myers, can I keep you back on the question of humanitarian relief enough to just clarify a couple of things? You said at the beginning food, water and humanitarian relief is already being delivered. Is any of that other than the initial supplies, MREs and water that troops are taking in with them -- any real humanitarian relief?

And what is your view on the challenges to getting humanitarian relief into the country along the whole line of -- towards Baghdad as long as there is this rear action by these other forces? Because you seemed to indicate humanitarian relief first, then you would turn around and deal with the Fedayeen, and of course international aid workers are very reluctant to go into hot zones.

Myers: Well, of course the first thing we had to do to get significant humanitarian aid in was to clear the waterway leading up to Umm Qasr from the mines. And as you know, we found boats with mines that had yet to be laid, but indications they may have laid some mines. And so we're a day or two away from General Franks declaring that waterway cleared, so we can bring in ships, major ships, then, that have been loaded, are just awaiting clearance into that part. That's part of it.

There has been a combined effort between Central Command forces and the Kuwaiti government to put a pipeline in from Kuwait up to the border. It will initially go into the Umm Qasr area -- after that, we don't know -- to bring fresh water in.

And clearly one of the things that's keeping the humanitarian aid from the people in the South is the Iraqi regime itself. As you mentioned, it's the Fedayeen Saddam and others that are keeping the Iraqi people from getting the food, the water, the medicine they need.

Rumsfeld: The humanitarian disaster that existed, existed under the Saddam Hussein regime. The people needed food. They were starving. And the money was going into weapons of mass destruction.

Second, the military -- coalition forces have brought in massive humanitarian assistance as they have come in, quite apart from what the general's talking about, involving the port. They have been bringing in food and water and medicine as they have come in to all of those areas. And the people that are embedded with those units know that fact.

Third, the environmental disaster that occurred in Kuwait when the Iraqis touched off all their oil wells was averted.

Fourth, there was a concern about internally displaced people or refugees fleeing into neighboring countries and Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere.

It has not happened. The last count of refugees was several hundred, not tens of thousands, as was the case previously. Why is that? It is because there is not a humanitarian disaster at the present time in those areas. What -- the area that we're not controlling, there could still be a great many people without food, as was the case under Saddam Hussein. And they may not be able to flee or get to medicine because they may have guns at their heads and they're being told they can't leave the cities.

Now, I think there's some very clear indicators of what's taking place. And if we look at them and track them, we'll have a good sense of it. I must say, I also have a feeling that the American people have a very good sense of what's going on there. It may be that some analysts might not, but the American people do. What do they see? They see young men and women in uniform out there performing incredibly difficult tasks. They're doing it courageously, they're doing it tirelessly, they're doing it with great success. And the fact that a few analysts say, well, my goodness, it should have been faster or slower or this or that, I do not think is affecting the judgment of the American people, who are having a chance to see what your friends and peers, who are out there watching what's happening -- and they're seeing that reported every hour of every day.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you say what's being done to provide more security for the supply lines, which some critics -- active duty officers and former officers -- say are lightly defended and spread a bit too thin?

Rumsfeld: Do you want to comment on that?

Myers: Well, I -- the problem you have is you get into operational details very quickly. But let me assure you --

Q: Well, can you say -- are you providing more security for the support there --

Myers: There is a -- there has been and there is a plan to provide security for the lines of communication. I mean, it's obvious when you go that far, that fast into a country that you need to protect your lines of communication. This is not a new requirement. This is something that General Franks and his people --

Q: Did you leave them too lightly defended, as critics charge?

Rumsfeld: No.

Myers: In my view, no.

Rumsfeld: We've got total dominance of the air. It is not air superiority, it's dominance. They have not put an airplane up.

Q: But the Fedayeen are chipping away, it seems, at --

Rumsfeld: And these are ones and twos, and that you're going to live with, like we live with in Afghanistan; that's - we live with in some major cities in the United States.

Myers: There are plans being put in -- or, plans in place to deal with those onesies and twosies.

(Cross talk.)

Rumsfeld: We're going to make two more questions.

(Cross talk.)

Q: You used the word a few minutes ago --

Rumsfeld: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Q: General Myers?

Q: General Myers?

Rumsfeld: No. No. The man next to you, who's been so quiet and courteous and patient and -- (laughter) --

Q: Very patient. A British-related question, if I may. You talked about the British campaign as well to try to help in Basra with this supposedly popular uprising. I wonder how important is that not just strategically, but also to try to get a message out, not just to the rest of Iraq, that it is popular to rise up, but also to the rest of the world, who look perhaps with a little suspicion at the term "war of liberation" because there's not an awful lot of people willing to be liberated at the moment, it seems.

Rumsfeld: (Sighs.) I guess those of us my age remember uprisings in Eastern Europe back in the '50s, when they rose up, and then were slaughtered. And I am very careful about encouraging people to rise up, unless -- I mean, we know there are people in those cities ready to shoot them if they try to rise up. We know there are people in that city ready to kill them if they try to escape.

Now, until you're arranged so that you can actually go to those cities and deal with that problem, of the Special Republican Guards, SSOs and the Fedayeen Saddam people who are in those cities, putting a gun to their heads, unless you're ready to deal with that, then I am very reluctant to run around the world encouraging people to rise up. People will rise up. But, let there be no doubt: these are a repressed people. And -- but I hope and pray they'll do it at a time when there are sufficient forces nearby to be helpful to them rather than at a time where it simply costs their life and it's a wasted life.

Q: General Myers --

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: General Myers?

Rumsfeld: Last question.

Q: General Myers, a couple days ago you met with reporters for breakfast, and at that time laid out roughly what you described as the campaign, an initial air campaign, how it would be like nothing we've ever seen before, that if it was successful it would essentially shock the leadership into submission, quickly. It would be a short conflict. To what extent have you seen that shock, and what specific signs can you point to that that's succeeded?

Myers: Well, we talked about a campaign that would start with a lot of violence in both the ground and the air. Obviously, we haven't met much resistance on the ground, and the air campaign is going as planned. And I would say, Eric, that I will stick by any statements I made at any breakfast about the -- about how the plan is going. And I did not -- I hope I did not imply any time line with that. I've never talked about a time line, I don't think. You can go back and check the record, but I don't think I've ever talked about a time line, because I -- it's just -- it's unknowable. It is unknowable.

Q: Do you believe you've shocked this regime? Are there signs of that? They continue to broadcast, they continue to issue orders, apparently; they continue to function, albeit at a degraded level. And I understand there's only -- it's only four days into the air campaign.

Myers: I guess it depends how you look at it. If I were in Baghdad and I was looking south and I saw a U.S. Army division that is on the outskirts of Baghdad, I think -- you know, I don't know that that would be shock, but I'd certainly be a little concerned. (Laughter.) And they'll have a lot more to be concerned about shortly.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

Thank you.

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