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Stakeout at Senate - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
March 27, 2003

(Also participating was Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Stakeout at Senate.)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.

The war in Iraq has been going for roughly one week. Good progress has been made. The coalition forces have control of the air. They have moved from the Iraq border in the south to within 50 miles of Baghdad. We have forces in the south, in the west, in the north. The so-called Republican Guard forces are ringing Baghdad some 40-50 miles away from it, and very likely that will be some of the toughest fighting that will occur and that's yet ahead of us.

Questions?

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you know why is it that there isn't a whole lot of evidence of Iraqis coming out in support of [inaudible]?

Rumsfeld: I do. Uday Hussein, the oldest son of Saddam Hussein heads up an outfit that they call the Fedayeen Saddam. In fact what they are is death squads, enforcers. What they do is, there's probably somewhere between 5,000 and 20,000 of them in the country. They go into the cities and shoot people and threaten people and insist that they not surrender and not rise up. They're vicious. They left somebody in the center of Baghdad not too long ago with his tongue pulled out until he bled to death, cut his tongue out. And they're shooting, executing people in Basra.

Q: [inaudible]

Rumsfeld: Who knows? I don't know how many there are now. Why would I have an expectation?

Q: Well they are having a larger effect --

Rumsfeld: I don't know that they're having a larger effect. We know that it's a repressive regime. Everyone in the world knows that. It's been that way for decades.

Anyone who has read Amnesty International or any of the human rights organizations about how the regime of Saddam Hussein treats his people, heck he used chemicals on his own people as well as on his neighbors. So why would anyone be surprised or find it more repressive than expected? I wouldn't think so.

Q: You mentioned today that the Republican Guard, the American people should be prepared for more dangerous days to come as the U.S. engaged now with Republican Guard south of Baghdad but north of Tikrit. That's the first time that's been mentioned.

Should the American people be prepared for a fight for Saddam Hussein's birthplace, that area, Tikrit?

Rumsfeld: The Republican Guard has (calibrate me Dick). They pulled south in the north and they went north in the southern portion of the country. It is a relatively large ring around Tikrit and Baghdad and a little farther south. One has to recognize that the regular forces have been more inclined to not defend the regime to the end and the Republican Guard have been more inclined to defend the regime, although that's not 100 percent. Therefore I think it's only reasonable to expect that it will require the coalition forces moving through some Republican Guard units and destroying them or capturing them before you'll see the crumbling of the regime.

Myers: Tony, there is still time for the members of the Republican Guard and their leadership to do the right thing and the honorable thing, and that is to lay down their arms and be on the right side of this inevitable victory by the coalition and try to provide a better life for their own families and their children.

Q: What does current intelligence tell you though? Will they --

Myers: It is uneven and it's mixed.

Rumsfeld: And that's the end. Thank you.