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Secretary Rumsfeld's Speech at the National Press Club

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 10, 2004 1:00 PM EDT

Friday, September 10, 2004 1:01 p.m. EDT

Secretary Rumsfeld's Speech at the National Press Club

MR. DONNELLY:  Good afternoon, and welcome to the National Press Club.  My name is John Donnelly.  I'm a reporter with Congressional Quarterly and I'm chairman of the Press Club Board of Governors.

 

I'd like to welcome club members and their guests in the audience today, as well as those of you watching on C-SPAN or listening to this program on National Public Radio.  Please hold your applause during the speech so that we have time for as many questions as possible.

 

For our broadcast audience I'd like to explain that if you hear applause, it may be from the guests and members of the general public who attend our luncheons, and not necessarily from the working press. (Laughter.)

 

The video archive of today's luncheon is provided by ConnectLive and is available to members only through the National Press Club website at www.press.org.  For more information about joining the Press Club, contact us at 202-662-7511.  Press Club members also may access transcripts of our luncheons at our website.  Non-members may purchase transcripts, audio and video tapes by calling 1-888-343-1940.

 

Before introducing our head table, I'd like to remind our members of future speakers.

 

On Monday, September 20th, Secretary John Snow, U.S. Department of the Treasury.  Tuesday, September 21st, Hector V. Barreto, administrator, Small Business Administration.  Friday, September 24th, President Obasanjo of Nigeria will be our guest at a special evening newsmaker event.

 

And tomorrow, September 11th, the Press Club will host its seventh annual 5K run and silent auction to benefit the Ellen Persina Scholarship for aspiring journalists of color.  Silent auction items are on display and available for bidding now at the front desk.  For more information about the 5K, check out our website at www.press.org.

 

If you have any questions for our speaker, please write them on the cards provided at your table and pass them up to me.  I will ask as many as time permits.

 

I'd now like to introduce our head table guests and ask each to stand briefly when their names are called.  Please hold your applause until all head table guests are introduced.

 

From your right, Bernd Debusmann, editor, political and general news for the Americas, for Reuters; Ivan Scott, Pentagon correspondent, WTOP Radio; Marc Heller, Washington correspondent, Watertown Daily News -- Daily Times -- forgive me; Robert T. Hartmann, former Washington bureau chief, Los Angeles Times, and former counselor to President Gerald Ford; Samantha Young, Washington Correspondent, Stephens Media Group; Eric Rosenberg, national correspondent, Hearst Newspapers; Askiya Mohammed (ph), White House correspondent, National Scene News Bureau; Clayton Boyce, a freelance journalist, former president of the National Press Club and vice chairman of the club's Speakers Committee.  And skipping over our speaker: Katherine M. Skiba, Washington correspondent, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the Speakers Committee member who arranged today's luncheon.  Thank you, Katherine.  Tammy Lytle, Washington bureau chief, the Orlando Sentinel, and former president of the National Press Club; Jack Cushman, editor, Washington Bureau, New York Times, and also a former president of the club; Carly Weeks, an intern with the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism, and the Globe and Mail; and finally, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of USA Today.  (Applause.)

 

On the eve of the third anniversary of the September 11th, 2001, terror attacks against the United States, it is with great pleasure that we welcome Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to the National Press Club, where he was the guest of honor at a newsmaker luncheon precisely one year ago.

 

Secretary Rumsfeld has the distinction of serving as both the youngest and oldest Defense secretary in the history of the United States.  (Laughter.)

 

RUMSFELD:  That's a distinction?  (Laughter.)

 

DONNELLY:  (Laughs.)  When Gerald Ford picked Donald Rumsfeld to be the 13th secretary of Defense in 1975, Rumsfeld was 43 years old.  And when he became the 21st Defense secretary, under George W. Bush, in January 2001, he was 69.

 

Now, 1977 was a long time ago, and for that matter, January 2001 now seems like a long time ago as well.  Donald Rumsfeld has led the U.S. armed forces into two wars in the aftermath of September 11th. His name forever will be associated with managing the Department of Defense during some of the most perilous times this nation has faced.

 

Donald Henry Rumsfeld was born in Evanston, Illinois 72 years ago to successful realtor George Rumsfeld and his wife, Jeanette.  The young Rumsfeld was an Eagle Scout and energetic, said to have held 20- odd jobs in his youth, from gardening to delivering newspapers.  It's also said that his interest in politics and the world around him may be traced the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when the 9-year-old Rumsfeld watched his father put aside his career to join the Navy.

 

Rumsfeld attended Princeton University on academic and Naval ROTC scholarships.  He captained the wrestling and football teams there in the early 1950s.   After Princeton, Rumsfeld, like his father, served in the Navy.  He was an aviator and flight instructor in the wake of the Korean War.

 

After his years in active duty, Rumsfeld worked as an aide on Capitol Hill and later as an investment broker.  In 1962, at the age of 30, he won a seat in Congress from a Chicago district, and he retained that seat in three subsequent elections.  Early on he was one the capital's up and comers.

 

In 1969 he resigned his House seat to work in Richard Nixon's White House, first as director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and ultimately at U.S. ambassador to NATO.  Next he chaired President Gerald R. Ford's transition team and became his chief of staff; a staff, by the way, that included a gentleman named Dick Cheney.

 

Then, as I mentioned, President Ford appointed Rumsfeld secretary of Defense, where he served for 14 months ending in 1977.  He made a name for himself by building up the military and opposing the SALT II strategic arms reduction treaty.

 

Secretary Rumsfeld has been called many things:  charming, charismatic, iron-jawed, savvy, no-nonsense, and maybe a few others. His colleagues from his first tenure as Defense secretary characterize him as a highly organized and highly political person.  Henry Kissinger, then-secretary of State, said in his memoir that Rumsfeld was, quote, "a special Washington phenomenon:  the skilled, full-time politician bureaucrat in whom ambition, ability and substance fused seamlessly."

 

In the presidential election of 1976, when Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, Donald Rumsfeld the public servant became a captain of industry.  From 1977 to '85 he worked as CEO, president and chairman of the global pharmaceutical giant G.D. Searle and Company and later   the General Instrument Corporation.  The stocks of both those firms soared under his stewardship.

 

But he was never far from the political scene.  He flirted with a presidential run in 1988, he chaired the bipartisan Missile Threat Commission in 1998, and more.

 

With the election of George W. Bush in 2000, Rumsfeld was picked again to run the Pentagon.  He launched an effort to create a leaner, more mobile military, able to meet threats that often, he said presciently, cannot be precisely predicted.

 

He met with a little resistance, it's fair to say, from the Defense establishment, as he still is.  By the summer of 2001, the sniping from the resisters was such that some predicted Rumsfeld will be the first Bush II  Cabinet secretary to step down.

 

Then came September 11th.  The secretary of Defense became a secretary of War.  The transformation began with his decision to help people in the rubble of the Pentagon that bright, clear day.  It continued as he led military operations against the Taliban, beginning in late 2001, and then, starting last year, in the ongoing struggle in Iraq.

 

At the fall of Baghdad last year, Secretary Rumsfeld exulted that Hussein had taken his right place in the pantheon of failed brutal dictators and predicted that the Iraqi people were well on their way to freedom.

 

But since then, Donald Rumsfeld has heard his share of criticism. The two leading reasons given by the administration for toppling Saddam Hussein -- the gathering threat from his weapons of mass destruction and his connections to terrorism -- have proven to be almost entirely untrue.  This past week, U.S. military deaths since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq climbed past 1,000, and injuries reached near 7,000.  Several parts of Iraq are run by insurgents, not coalition forces.

 

Two and a half weeks ago, a high-level panel led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger told the press about its investigation of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in Iraq.  Schlesinger said that senior Pentagon officials sowed confusion about what kinds of interrogation techniques would be permitted and delayed for months dispatching reinforcements to help U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib. Furthermore, the panel said, Secretary Rumsfeld and his aides had failed in not anticipating and responding swiftly to the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq.

 

But Schlesinger answered no, resoundingly, when asked whether Secretary Rumsfeld or other high-ranking Pentagon officials should resign.  Schlesinger said such a decision would be, quote, "a boon for all of America's enemies."

 

Here to discuss these and other issues, and to give a progress report on the global war on terror, I am delighted to present to you Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.  (Applause.)

 

RUMSFELD:  Thank you, sir.  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.

 

John, those at the head table, my friend Bob Hartmann from the Ford administration days -- good to see you -- ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.  It's good to be here again.

 

I always worry about correcting an introduction.  (Laughter.) But I shall do so.  The biggest worry is that if you correct one part of it, you seem to be endorsing the rest of it.  And I want to point out that I am going to correct only one thing, and it does not mean an endorsement of the rest.  (Light laughter.)

 

John indicated that I was captain of the wrestling team in Princeton -- (laughter) -- and captain of the football team.  It turns out I was captain of the wrestling team, and I was also captain of a football team, but it was not the varsity team.  It was the 150-pound football team.  (Laughter.)  And I wouldn't want anyone here to go away thinking I was big enough to play with the big boys.

 

Q:  (Off mike.)

 

RUMSFELD:  (Chuckles.)

 

Tomorrow we will commemorate the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks against our country on September 11th, 2001.  But today I want to talk about a different anniversary and take a moment to consider what was happening, where we were, what many folks thought about our world, not on the 11th, but on the 10th of September three years ago.

 

There are those who might be tempted to think that if we would only pull back, if our country would only withdraw from this global struggle against extremists and let events abroad run their course, let those folks go about their business, that somehow the combat, the conflict, the ugliness on our TV screens and newspapers would go away, and that we could return to that more comforting time that preceded the September 11th attacks.

 

But if you think about it, that's not the way the world really was before September 11th.  Consider the world of September 10th and before.  Two Americans and six others stood on trial by the Taliban in Afghanistan for the crime of preaching their religion.  The leader of the opposition Northern Alliance, Massoud, lay dead, his murder ordered by Saddam Hussein -- by Osama bin Laden, Taliban's co- conspirator.  An Iraqi newspaper put out by Saddam Hussein's son Uday called on European corporations to pressure their governments to break  with the United States and Britain, so that the sanctions would be lifted.

 

Meanwhile, the Iraqis were bragging about having shot down a U.S. drone in late August.  Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz vowed that Iraq would inflict losses on the U.S. and Britain -- that were flying in the southern and northern no-fly zones.  Our planes were being shot at every week.  Libya's undeclared nuclear weapons program proceeded apace, with technologies and materials being supplied in part, at least, by a network -- a secret network headed by the rogue, A.Q. Khan, a man who also aided the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran and possibly others.  All of this was before September 11th.

 

Closer to home, a man named Hani Hanjour and his associates checked into a Marriott Residence Inn in Herndon, Virginia, about 20 miles from here, and they would board the American Airlines Flight No. 77 at Dulles the next morning.  And in New Jersey, a young Todd Beamer postponed until the following morning a business trip to California because he and his wife Lisa had just returned from Europe and he wanted to spend an extra day with his children.

 

September 10th, 2001, was not the last day of world innocence. It was, however, the last day of America's lack of understanding of a worldwide extremist movement determined to terrorize, to defeat, to destroy civilized people everywhere.

 

Consider the world as it stands three years later.  The Taliban regime is gone.  Those still not killed or captured are on the run. Despite a campaign of violence and intimidation, over 10 million Afghans have registered to vote, including 4 million women, despite the intimidation.  And they've registered to vote in what will be the first free election in that country's history.

 

Saddam Hussein's regime is finished.  His sons are dead.  He's in a prison cell, where he awaits the justice of the Iraqi people, which he will soon face.  Libya has said now that it is renouncing its illicit weapons programs, and it says it will cooperate with the efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction and that it's seeking to reenter the community of civilized nations.  Time will tell, but so far, so good.  A.Q. Khan's arms network has been shut down.  The Pakistan government is a staunch and courageous ally against extremism and terrorism.  And a few short years after Osama bin Laden ridiculed the American soldier as a paper tiger, saying that after a few blows, they run in defeat, the names of Todd Beamer and Pat Tillman and so many other brave Americans live as symbols of our country's courage and determination.

 

In the last three years, under the leadership of President Bush and the 85 or 90 countries in the coalition, probably the largest coalition in the history of mankind, we've changed strategies, assumptions, and our view of the world.

 

While some may still find false comfort in the pre-September 11th thinking, our enemies have been living in the September 11th world for a very long time.  Al Qaeda, if you think about it, first attacked the World Trade Center not in 2001, but in 1993.  Later, attacks against the Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia, U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, the U.S. sailors aboard the USS Cole, and the attacks continue.  Since September 11th, extremists using knapsacks, passenger cars, trains, letter openers have killed hundreds more in places like Spain, Turkey, Kenya, Indonesia, and other countries.

 

We've witnessed the horror of terrorists taking Russian children hostages on their first day of school, resulting in the death of hundreds of children.  I don't suppose there's a mother or father in America or anywhere in the world who dropped a child off for the first day of school who did not wonder could that happen to them.  The answer is it could, which is why it is so important that in the global war on terror we recognize that we have to fight this battle where the terrorists are rather than waiting for them to force us to fight, God forbid, in our own schools.

 

And if these enemies of civilized society gain chemical or biological or nuclear weapons -- which they seek, let there be no doubt about it -- it's not inconceivable that an attack on a city here or elsewhere in the world could cause not the 3,000 dead from September 11th -- innocent men, women and children of all faiths -- but of 30,000 or even 300,000.

 

For the past three-and-a-half years, the Department of Defense has been undertaking efforts to reform and improve the way that our forces -- your forces -- are organized, equipped and positioned to meet the security needs of the 21st century.  We're reshaping and modernizing our global force posture away from Cold War obsolescence.

 

The world has changed markedly since the conflicts of the last century ended, when the Soviet tanks were poised to roll across the North German plain and when South Korea was an impoverished nation devastated by war.  But our military arrangements, while having been reduced somewhat, have not changed dramatically.  Our forces must be where they're wanted, they have to be where they're needed, and they have to be where they can be deployed quickly, and they have to be deployed without burdensome restriction, legal, political or otherwise.

 

We're restructuring and transforming our military.

 

The Army is now led by a forward-looking chief of staff, General Pete Schoomaker.  It's significantly increasing the number of agile, more self-sufficient combat brigades available for rapid deployment from 33 up to 43, and possibly to 48.  He's rebalancing specialties between the active component and the reserve components, which is so needed, so that National Guard and reservist soldiers will not be called up so often.

 

We're developing, testing and beginning to deploy limited defenses against ballistic missiles to deter rogue states from attempting to think that they can blackmail America or our friends and allies.  And we're updating our existing alliances and building new relationships based on security realities of this new century, and not the last century.  Countries like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Yemen, Pakistan, India -- to cite but a few examples -- are now partners in the fight against extremism in the Middle East and in Central Asia.

 

These reforms and initiatives are so urgent because of the ruthlessness of the enemies we face.  Their tactics vary, but their objectives are consistent.  The terrorists and the extremists hope to intimidate and to demoralize the American people and our allies with their threats and with their attacks.

 

I mentioned the schools in Russia and the hundreds of children. But the chopping off of heads on television, on video, so people can see it; taking pliers and pulling tongues out, and cutting them off; chopping off hands; attacking indiscriminately, or maybe I should say discriminately, the most innocent and the most vulnerable for the purpose of terrorizing -- terrorizing to alter behavior on the rest of the people in this world.

 

They seek to drive our coalition out of the newly liberated countries of Afghanistan and Iraq and to re-impose dictatorial regimes. They will fail; let there be no doubt.  And they're conducting a reign of terror against those who represent hope and freedom -- the mayors, the city councilmen, the women who register to vote in Afghanistan, and the volunteers who sign up to join the Iraqi army or the National Guard or the Iraqi police force.

 

I'm sure you all read about the bus that was stopped by some Taliban near the Pakistan border, and they went through the women's possessions to see if they had registered to vote, and the ones that had registered to vote were killed.

 

No one should underestimate the powerful impact of human freedom. Today Iraqis are among those in our globe who are allowed to say what they want and go where they want and write and watch and listen to whatever they want when they want to do it, and to criticize their own government.  Governments and people throughout the Middle East are taking notice of that.  The assassins and the terrorists we are fighting know that the rise of a free, self-governing Afghanistan and a free, self-governing Iraq will give powerful momentum to reformers throughout the region and it will discredit their extremist ideology.

 

Free people battled their kind before in struggles against dictators, fascists, communists of the last century.  Freedom has always required sacrifice.  And, regrettably, it has always cost lives. The attack on Pearl Harbor alone claimed the lives of some 2,400 Americans on one day.   Roughly 400,000 more American troops would be killed before they overcame repeated defeats in those early years of World War II and demoralizing setbacks to eventually achieve victory years later.

 

I mention this because we've now lost over 1,100 Americans in the global war on terror -- in Iraq, in Afghanistan, elsewhere on the globe.  The reality is that as advanced as our capabilities are, the truth is that war is ugly and it takes lives.

 

It's important to keep in mind that the civilized world passed the 1,000th casualty mark at the hands of extremists long ago; I mean, 3,000 on September 11th alone; in a series of attacks that included the bombing of our embassies and military barracks.  It was the murder of so many and the destruction of so much in one morning on our soil three years ago that brought home what we're up against in this ongoing struggle.

 

As long as we continue our mission, as long as we work to change terrorists' way of life before they succeed in changing our way of life, as long as we avoid a return to the false comfort of September 10th, 2001, victory will come, just as it has in conflicts in the past.

 

For all of the enemy's ruthlessness -- and it is total, there is nothing they will not do, indeed there is nothing they have not done -- we have an enormous advantage.  I say "we."  I don't mean the people of the United States; I mean the people in the 85 or 90 nations across the globe that are cooperating in this effort, in this war against -- this struggle against extremism.  And the advantage is that the great sweep of human history is for freedom.  And that is on our side.

 

I'll be happy to respond to some questions.  (Applause.)

 

DONNELLY:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

 

We do have a few questions, and I've grouped them first of all into questions about Iraq.  The first is, when will the U.S. military attack the insurgents and others in the enclaves such as Fallujah? Won't delaying this house cleaning obstruct the January elections in Iraq?

 

RUMSFELD:  The Iraqi government and certainly the coalition military understand fully that you cannot over a sustained period of time allow portions of that country to be under the control of people who are using it to kill Iraqis, which they are killing a great number of -- the extremists, the former regime elements, the terrorists -- or to kill coalition forces or to try to kill and damage the new Iraqi government.  The Iraqi government understands that.  The coalition understands that.

 

The process they're engaged in is one where they are attempting different approaches.  And in Najaf they had a choice.  They could have gone in and taken over the town; had the military power to do it, let there be no doubt.  Indeed, they were very close to having to do that, to believing they had to do that.  And they had Iraqi forces ready to take care of the shrines in Najaf so that the coalition forces would not have to do it, but the coalition forces would be right behind them and that they would have successfully retaken the city.  It turned out they didn't have to.  The fact that it was clear to Sadr and his crowd, the militia, that they did have the ability to do that is what without question led Sadr to encourage his militia to get out of town and turn in their weapons, and as a result Najaf has been taken back peacefully.

 

There are other places that will be taken by force, and it's really going to be a choice between the people in those towns -- and I don't mean the innocent Iraqi people, the overwhelming majority of which support the government and don't want to see their towns ruined, taken over by terrorists and militias.  What will take place in Fallujah is -- correction, we know what will take place in Fallujah, and that is that it will be restored as a -- something under the control of the Iraqi government eventually.  What we don't know is whether it will be done peacefully or by force. But one way or another, it will happen.

 

DONNELLY:  How confident are you, Mr. Secretary, that general elections will be held in Iraq in January?

 

RUMSFELD:  Well, I'm one of those people who has been around long enough to not make hard predictions or dates -- set dates or numbers of costs, and those types of things, because every time I watch people do it, turns out they're wrong.  So I'll be very careful.

 

The Iraqi government is determined to have the elections take place on time.  The United States government is determined to have those elections take place on time.  The elections are being administered by the United Nations.  There's no question but between now and the end of the year, the terrorists are determined to try to prevent the elections from taking place, and from taking place on time.  And they will, without a doubt in my mind, increase the level of violence between now and then, and they'll attempt to attack coalition countries to see if they can get other coalition countries to pull out.

 

Some countries have elections taking place and there's a big tug of war over whether or not they should stay or whether they should have been there.  And the terrorists know that.  They're not stupid; they're smart.  And they've got brains, and they think, and they watch, and they saw what Spain did.  And they thought, my goodness, if we can affect that, maybe we can do something.  So they're going to be going after coalition countries; they're going to be looking for weak spots; they're going to be going after people who are running for office.  There are going to be Iraqi people who are engaged in that process, and they're going to do their best to try to stop it.

 

Do I think it will go forward?  Yes, I do.  I think it will go forward because if you look at any measure -- by any measurement, the Iraqi people want elections.  They want to vote.  They're determined to vote.

 

Now, will it be perfect election?  Probably not.  Will there be places that are -- where the violence is being targeted that will probably prevent people from voting?  No, it won't be perfect.  But I've never seen an election anywhere that's perfect.  There's always a little -- (interrupted by laughter) -- I didn't mean just the outcome. (Laughter.)  I meant the process.  So I think it will be -- I think it will happen.

 

DONNELLY:  The Financial Times today editorializes that it is, quote, "time to consider Iraq withdrawal," close quote, noting the protracted war is not winnable and it's creating more terrorists than enemies of the West.  What is your response, this questioner asks.

 

RUMSFELD:  Who put that question in?  He ought to get a life.  If he's got time to read that kind of stuff -- (laughter) -- he ought to get a life.  (Scattered applause.)

 

They've been saying things like that for months, and there have always been critics.  There have always been people who say it's not worth it.  And indeed, if you watch in any conflict in our history, there have always been people who said, "Why?  Why should we do that? Another loss of life.  Another person wounded.  Another limb off."   And -- you can't go to the hospitals at Bethesda or Walter Reed and see those folks and not have your heart break for them and the fact that their lives are going to be lived differently; or tomorrow, when we go to Arlington and recall all those who died on September 11th and lives not lived.

 

But it is worth it.  It is worth it.  And those who suggest to the contrary are not only wrong, but they will be proved wrong.

 

The -- Germany and Italy were fascist states -- and Japan -- during World War II.  And throughout the entire Cold War those countries stood with us against the Soviet Union.  How does that happen?  How did they go from being fascist states to being democracies and to helping to prevent the Soviet Union from expanding across Europe?

 

South Korea -- same people in the north, same people in the south.  South of the DMZ:  robust economy, vibrant democracy.  Up north:  darkness, starvation, concentration camps.  They had to lower the height for getting in the military in North Korea to four feet, 10 inches for adults, because of starvation.

 

Now think of those people.  Think if we'd said, "Oh!  It's not worth it."

 

The extremists are determined to destroy states.  They are determined to destroy free systems.  They are determined to take their violence and spread it across this globe, and we can't let them do it. And The Financial Times is wrong.  (Applause.)

 

DONNELLY:  This questioner writes, "Aren't you ashamed of your policy forbidding the flag-draped coffins of our dead soldiers to be shown returning home, when their families have clearly said that they do want their loved ones to be honored and recognized in this way?"

 

RUMSFELD:  No.  And I would just simply repeat that this is a procedure that was adopted by the Department of Defense many years ago, back in the last administration.  I do not believe that the person asking the question is correct in saying that the -- clearly the families want it one way.  The families, I believe, support the position of the Department of Defense when, back in the last administration, the policy was instituted.  And I think that it's probably correct.

 

The families have every opportunity to handle the burial of their loved ones in any way they want, public or private, and they do that. And it seems to me it's not the government's right or position to make that decision for them.

 

DONNELLY:  How will we know that the mission in Iraq is accomplished and our forces can leave?  Can that ever happen if our troops remain under attack?

 

RUMSFELD:  The answer is yes, it can happen and it will happen.  We -- the United States of America does not put forces into a country to leave them there; we put them in there to help that country get on its feet and then leave.

 

What we're doing is important.  We are training Iraqis in the police, in the army, in the national guard, in the border patrol, so that they can assume the responsibility for their own security.  We have no desire to stay there and provide security in that country or in any other country.

 

And we have gone from zero to 95,000 Iraqis that are fully trained, fully equipped, providing their own security.  They'll be up to about 145,000 Iraqis by the end of this year, fully trained, fully equipped.  There are some another 50,000 of them that are not fully trained or fully equipped yet but that have been recruited and are capable of doing some things, relatively modest things, but not fully providing security.

 

The amount of time it will take, it seems to me, is a reasonable amount of time.  We have wonderful people working on the training. NATO has now agreed to assist in the training.  And I think that what we'll find is that already the Iraqi forces outnumber the U.S. and coalition forces.  And if you look at the trained and equipped, we've got about 135,000, 136,00 people there, and the Iraqis are now up to 95,000 fully trained and fully equipped, they're going to walk past us in the next month or two in terms of total numbers, and then pass the entire coalition before the end of the year by a substantial amount.

 

So I'm optimistic.  I think that we have -- we don't want to be there.  What we want to do is to help that country get on its feet, and to contribute to their development of their own security capabilities so that they can have a country, as the president said, that's a single country that's at peace with its neighbors, that is not engaged in weapons programs that threaten other people, that's not engaged in terrorism, and that is respectful of the various religious and ethnic diversity that exists in that country.  And that's what will happen.

 

DONNELLY:  When do you anticipate Saddam Hussein will go on trial?

 

RUMSFELD:  It's up to the Iraqis.  And they're working on it right now.  There are people over there that are talking about in the  coming weeks.  I know there are people accumulating the kinds of information.  Other countries want to participate, like Kuwait and Iran and other countries that have been the recipient of Saddam Hussein's viciousness over time.  When it will actually happen is up to the Iraqi people, but there's no doubt but that they want to get it done.

 

DONNELLY:  Has the cost of the Iraq war, not just in terms of dollars and lives, but also the extended deployments and resulting impact on civilian careers of guardsmen and reservists, and the hardships on military families, exceeded what the administration had expected and told the nation to expect?

 

RUMSFELD:  Every person serving in the Guard and Reserve and the active force is a volunteer.  There's no one who was conscripted.  There's no one who was forced to do anything.  Every single one of those wonderful young men and women put their hands up and volunteered to serve our country.  And we are so fortunate as a country that there is a steady stream of talented, professional, dedicated, courageous young people who are willing to do that.

 

The stress on the force, if you will, the numbers of people that have been called up in the Guard and Reserve, has been obviously greater during this period of Afghanistan and Iraq since September 11th, 2001, than it had been in previous periods.  And we are doing everything humanly possible to reduce the stress on the force by rebalancing the active and the reserve components, by seeing that we've got the right skill sets on active duty so that we don't have to call reservists up excessively.

 

The statement about the -- what the administration told the American people, it needs to be answered, it seems to me, because it seemed to have a little barb in it.  (Laughter.)  I can't climb into the questioner's mind, but I sense that.

 

You know, when September 11th came and 3,000 Americans were killed, we went to war.  There were people who thought that terrorism was a law enforcement problem, and what you do is you sit around with your finger in your ear and you wait till you get hit, and then like when somebody steals a car you run out and find the person, throw them in the jug and punish them for it.  Well, this is not about that. This is about something entirely different, terrorism is.  And it isn't a matter of throwing someone in the jug for stealing a car and punishing them; the task here is so fundamentally not law enforcement. It is trying to get the information so that we can go and find and stop the terrorist networks from killing another 3,000 people.  That's what this is about.  And I understand it's hard for some people to get their heads turned around on that.

 

So what does the -- any administration tell the American people? Well, the prior administration said we'd be out of Bosnia by Christmas.  We're still there.  I have not said when we'll be out of Iraq -- (chuckles) -- because I don't know, and I know I don't know. What we have said is there's been criticism of the cost, there's been criticism of the length of time, and it's not knowable precisely.

 

This task we have is to do everything humanly possible to try to protect the American people.  And this government has done a lot to make this world safer and the coalition has done a lot to make this world safer.

 

And what we tell the American people is what we know.  And what we know is we're putting pressure on them through this 90-nation coalition all across the globe.  It's harder for them to travel between countries.  It's harder for them to communicate with each other.  It's harder for them to raise money.  It's harder for them to transfer money.  It's harder for them to buy weapons.  It's harder for them to do everything!

 

Saddam Hussein (sic), if he's alive, is spending a whale of a lot of time trying to not get caught.  And we've not seen him on a video since 2001.  Now he's got to be busy.  Why is he busy?  It's because of the pressure that's being put on him.

 

And it seems to me that that is what one ought to expect.  One ought to expect that their government will do everything humanly possible -- we can't make people safe, because the terrorists can attack at any time, any place, using any technique.  It's not possible to defend in every place in the world at every moment of the day or night against every conceivable technique.  It can't be done.

 

The only way to do this is what's being done.  And that's to put together a large coalition, to put pressure on them all across the world, to bring every element of national power to bear, and to continue that until we have reasonable confidence.

 

And it's -- this is much more like the Cold War, in terms of the amount of time it's going to take, than it is about World War II.  The president said it the other day.  You're not going to see a signing ceremony on the USS Missouri at the end of this war.  This is more like the Cold War.  This is something that's going to take time.  It's going to take perseverance.

 

People are going to have to be steadfast.  They're going to have to reject the kind of counsel that The Financial Times gave this morning.  I didn't read this, so I assume you're reasonably right in your quotation, whoever asked the question.  We're going to have to say to people, "Don't be faint-hearted.  Don't think you can make a separate peace.  Don't think you can make a private deal, as a person or a country."  You can't.  We're in it together.  (Applause.)

 

DONNELLY:  Mr. Secretary, you said earlier that Saddam Hussein hasn't done a video for a while.  You meant Osama bin Laden, right?

 

RUMSFELD:  I did.  I meant that we haven't seen Osama bin Laden.  Thank you.

 

And I made one other mistake, I'm told.  This says that the flag- draped policy was established not in the last administration but in the one before that, which would have been Bush 41.  And for that I hasten to correct myself.  I want to thank whoever sent the note up. (Laughter.)

 

DONNELLY:  We have a couple questions about the Abu Ghraib prison situation.  You've come in for some criticism by people who say that by virtue of a memo you wrote, and the Schlesinger report also documented this, that you may have contributed to a climate, it is said, that allowed some of these abuses to happen.  And a couple questioners would like you to address that.

 

RUMSFELD:  The memo I wrote involved Guantanamo Bay and had absolutely nothing to do with Iraq at all.  It was a memorandum that I wrote in response to a request from the combatant commander right after September 11th, people -- correction, after Afghanistan, when some people were picked up in Afghanistan, brought to Guantanamo Bay, and they were being interrogated.  And he wrote a memorandum requesting that he be authorized to do certain things.  And I authorized some of the things, did not authorize some of the other things.

 

And this was -- I forget the month, but for the sake of argument, I think it was maybe December, but it doesn't matter when it was. Within a matter of weeks, I was told that some of the people in Guantanamo were concerned about the possibility of using some of those techniques, and so I immediately rescinded it and asked a -- called together a group of general counsels and judge advocate generals and asked them to review the entire thing and make sure that whatever we're doing is the correct thing.

 

In the intervening period of a few weeks, the procedures that I had authorized and had to approve were approved for the use on one or two people.  One of them was one of the people deemed to be one of the other September 11th hijack conspirators.  And the procedures were not torture.  And so the suggestion to the contrary, it seems to me, would be inaccurate.

 

At the end of that period, after the review by the lawyers, we looked at it and I issued a new set of instructions, which have been in existence, I believe, ever since.  And that's the sum total of it.

 

The -- I think there's two things to keep in mind.  One is that the people who were captured in Afghanistan had been in al Qaeda training camps.  Al Qaeda had just killed 3,000 Americans. Understandably, the task was not to put them in jail and have trials of them and then send them to jail because they were bad; it was to find out what in the world did they know.   Who were they going to hit next?  Where was bin Laden?  Where were the other senior al Qaeda people?  And that's why the president made the judgment that the --  those detainees would be kept in Guantanamo Bay and the Department of Defense would be responsible, along with an interagency group, of conducting interrogations for them.  There's a blurring of memory into all of this, and if you think about it, the pictures that one saw of Abu Ghraib were terrible.  And they represented abuses of people in our custody.  And that's wrong.  And that should not have happened.  And there isn't anyone connected with the Department of Defense who doesn't understand that, doesn't know it.

 

What have we done about it?  I guess, if you think about it, how a country responds to a problem like that tells a little bit about the country.  We've had 11 investigations.  Eight reports are completed. Three more are due.  Over 13,000 pages of reports have been received thus far.  Over 950 interviews have been conducted.  Forty-three congressional briefings and hearings have been conducted.

 

There have been 45 people referred for court martial.  Some have pled guilty and have already been sentenced, I believe.  Forty-two have been referred for what the military calls an Article 15 non- judicial punishment.  Twelve general officer letters of reprimand have been issued.  Twenty-three soldiers have been administratively separated.

 

The Army has taken -- Army is the executive agent for detainees. They have taken a whole series of administrative steps.  They've established a provost marshal general as Army executive agent for detainees.  They are planning for general officer-level military police command in the Army future force.  They've developed detainee operation integration plan -- prioritized plan addressing policy, doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership.  They've synchronized Army with joint policy and doctrine, and they've established a detainee operations oversight council.

 

So the people who've done something wrong are being prosecuted. The investigations are still under way and more may be happen, because a number of these matters have been referred to the Army inspector general and the Defense Department inspector general.  And corrective steps have been taken.

 

Has it been harmful to our country?  Yes.  Is it something that has to be corrected?  Yes.  Is it something that shouldn't have happened in the first place?  Yes.  Does it rank up there with chopping someone's head off on television?

 

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  No.

 

RUMSFELD:  It doesn't.  Was it done as a matter of policy? No.

 

I think that -- I think that the Department of Defense has addressed it in a serious way that reflects the responsibility the department has to treat people properly who are in the custody of the Department of Defense.  And in this case that did not happen.  It was wrong.  We should have treated those properly and they were not treated properly.

 

DONNELLY:  The probes you refer to are, if I'm not mistaken, all Defense Department probes.  And they're numerous and serious, but a lot of people have asked and -- asked the question:  Do we need to have an independent commission like the September 11th commission to look at this, somebody who is more independent?

 

RUMSFELD:  Well, I guess 11 isn't enough for that person. We want to have more.

 

It seems to me that the Schlesinger panel -- Jim Schlesinger was a Cabinet officer for presidents of both political parties.  Harold Brown was a secretary of Defense for a Democratic president.  Tillie Fowler was a former congresswoman from Florida.  Chuck Horner, General Horner was a combatant commander.  Those four people are independent. They were given complete access to every single thing going on in the department.  They have said that publicly.  They have had every opportunity to review and to discuss and to analyze.  And I would call that an independent, and I think anyone who suggests that those four people are not independent doesn't know them.

 

Come on, John.  You've got another one.

 

DONNELLY:  Oh, I've got a -- (laughter) -- I have so many that the task is whittling them down in the next five minutes.

 

Do you think that the war on terror cannot be won, as the president said?  Forget for a moment that he is your boss. (Laughter.)

 

RUMSFELD:  You got to be kidding.  (Laughter.)

 

Look, what he was talking about was what I mentioned earlier, that, you know, it isn't a kind of a war that ends with a signing ceremony on the Missouri.  This is something that -- it's like -- it's like -- there are some things that you have to keep working on continuously.

 

We've got a bunch of people sending money to schools that put these young people in there and teach them how to go out and kill innocent men, women and children, and lie to them and tell them that they're going to go to heaven if they do that, that that's a good thing for them to do.  Now will there maybe always be people trying to pollute young minds and make them believe that?  Maybe there will be, in which case we're going to have to keep working the problem.

 

We can't -- this is not a problem that can be handled militarily.  Does the military play a role?  Certainly.  But does the Department of Treasury, with watching the finances?  Yes.  Does the Department of Homeland Security in terms of defense right here?  Yes.  This is a problem that the world is going to have to struggle with, because there are a small percentage of people of that religion that are trying to hijack that religion and train more and more people so that they can reestablish their extreme views as the dominant view in this world, not just in their religion, but in this world.

 

And -- so will the war be over?  Sure it will be over, in the sense that we will have done such a good job over a sustained period of time that there won't be a signing ceremony.  But then can you turn around and relax and think that there aren't going to be people in the world who are going to want to do some perfectly terrible things, like going into a school in Russia and killing hundreds of young kids?  No.

 

There are always going to be people, I'm afraid, who are going to engage in various types of violence, and we're going to have to live in a world like that.  And we're going to have to live in a world like that at a time when the lethality of weapons is increasing, and when the availability of those weapons is increasing, and where people will be able to buy things off the shelf that they never could have in a million years developed, manufactured or produced.  But they can buy them off the shelf, and they can use that same technology against the people that do develop and think of and manufacture and produce those technologies.

 

DONNELLY:  Here's another boss-related question.  Vice President Cheney said this week that voters should make the, quote, "right" decision on election day or risk being, quote, "hit again" by terrorists.  Do you agree?

 

RUMSFELD:  I think that the vice president, shortly after he said that, someone asked him if he meant what might have been taken from that, and he said, no, he did not mean that.  So why would someone ask me that question?  (Scattered applause.)

 

DONNELLY:  Recently South Korea admitted once having a clandestine uranium enrichment program as well as a previous plutonium development program in the '80s.  Were you surprised by these revelations?  And what's their impact on the security situation on the peninsula?  Do you think South Korea maintains an intention to develop nuclear capabilities?

 

RUMSFELD:  I was surprised.  It does not make any difference at all in terms of the security situation on the peninsula.  And I would certainly doubt that the current government has any clandestine nuclear capability in South Korea.  We know that the North Koreans have announced that they do.

 

DONNELLY:  Is there any connection between the Chechen terrorists in Beslan and al Qaeda?  And is Putin taking the right stance with regard to the Chechen situation?

 

RUMSFELD:  If we could take, first of all, the school incident, my answer is, I don't know.  I've talked to Minister of Defense Ivanov, and they are investigating the people who they have access to who conducted that ghastly terrorist attack.

 

We'll know what their linkages were.  Some of the people they've identified already, I'm told, have been identified as Chechens.  So we'll stop on the subject of the school.

 

The second subject:  Is there a relationship between Chechen terrorists and al Qaeda?  And the answer is absolutely.  I mean, they've been trained in the same training camps in Afghanistan.  The interaction between them and the IMU and the Ansar al-Islam and various other groups -- they have various linkages.  Some have common funding sources.  Some have common training facilities.  Some cooperate on activities together.

 

And -- but -- so there's no question but that there's a linkage between the Chechen terrorists and al Qaeda.  But I can't say that about this event, because the investigation's just in its early stages.

 

DONNELLY:  Before I ask you the last question, Mr. Secretary, I'd like to present you with a certificate of appreciation from the Press Club and -- you already have one of these, but a second National Press Club mug for the beverage of your choice.

 

RUMSFELD:  Thank you, John.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.

 

DONNELLY:  One more for you.

 

RUMSFELD:  One more?!

 

DONNELLY:  One more.  I said, "Before I ask the last question."

 

After November -- (laughter) -- after November, will you fade away, or will we have Don Rumsfeld to kick around for another four years?  (Laughter.)

 

RUMSFELD:  I'm old enough to have heard that fellow say that.  (Laughter.)  And I don't intend to say it.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

 

DONNELLY:  I'd like to ask everyone to remain in their seats while the secretary leaves.  Thank you.  Please remain in your seats.

 

And I'd like to thank you all for coming today.  I'd also like to thank National Press Club staff members Melinda Cooke, Pat Nelson, Jo Anne Booz, Melanie Abdow and Howard Rothman for organizing today's lunch.  Also, thanks to the NPC library for their research.  Thank you all very much.  Have a good day.

 

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