(Also participating Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Slides from today's briefing are located at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Apr2003/g030421-D-6570C.html. Photos of today's briefing are available at http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/Apr2003/030421-D-2987S-060.html, http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/Apr2003/030421-D-2987S-098.html, http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/Apr2003/030421-D-2987S-106.html.)
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
While the overall situation in Iraq is improving daily, coalition forces do still face resistance from remnants of the death squads and foreign fighters who came to oppose the coalition forces. There are still some number of dead-enders that remain in the country, in Baghdad and elsewhere. And as coalition forces hunt them down, some are continuing to fight.
As the coalition works to remove the remaining elements of the former regime, the Iraqi people are emerging from the shadow of Saddam's tyranny to help coalition forces find death squads, uncover weapons caches, capture regime leaders, recover POWs, and restore order and basic services. Last week near Mosul, Iraqi Kurds handed over the Ba'ath Party regional command chairman to coalition forces. In Baghdad local civilians led coalition forces to the home of a general in the Special Republican Guards, where they found a trove of documents, computers and various other materials. Over the weekend a reconstituted Iraqi police force in Baghdad arrested Saddam Hussein's former finance minister and handed him over to coalition forces.
Baghdad residents recently led Marines to a yellow trailer parked in a residential neighborhood. Inside they found four 40-foot-long missiles.
In another part of the city, a man quietly approached U.S. soldiers, drew them a map directing them to the home of the internal security operative who used to monitor that particular neighborhood. Still other residents led them to a school, where they found a cache of rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.
This kind of spontaneous cooperation is happening on a daily basis across the country -- a sign of the growing trust between coalition forces and the majority of ordinary Iraqis.
Of course, not all Iraqis support the coalition presence, and we know that. It's to be expected. Certainly those who benefited from the former regime don't support the coalition. In any totalitarian system, there will be a small portion of the population that has profited from the power of the dictatorship. Those with allegiances to figures in Iran or Syria undoubtedly also do not support coalition forces, while some others may be ordinary citizens who are understandably uncomfortable with the presence of any foreign forces in their country.
A few weeks ago, there were no protests in Iraq. Now Iraqis are speaking out, expressing opinions, discussing and debating the future of their country. They can do so because of the courage and determination of the coalition forces, troops that are performing superbly.
I should add that support for the troops has been outstanding. USO affiliates across the United States have collected and distributed more than 80,000 care packages for deploying troops, and they've distributed more than 100,000 international telephone calling cards so that troops can call home to their families and loved ones. I'm told that a man from North Carolina [sic. the man was actually from South Carolina] and a woman from Illinois found foster homes for pets of deploying forces, and between them, they've placed roughly 2,000 dogs, cats, and at least one pot-bellied pig. (Laughter.) There are hundreds of similar stories of generosity and self-sacrifice on the part of ordinary Americans.
Of course our forces have no stronger group of supporters back home than their families. And let me say just a word about military families. It can often be harder to be the one left behind than the one who is leaving, especially when the loved one is leaving for war. In wartime, military families endure extended periods of separation, not knowing where their loved ones are, what they're doing, and whether or not they're safe or in danger, or whether they're going to be coming home. These are burdens that the families of the men and women in uniform have carried during the course of this war; they've carried them for our country, and the country is grateful and proud of their service and sacrifice, as well as that of the men and women in uniform.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Operations continue throughout Iraq. Earlier today, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit was engaged in a firefight on the Mosul airfield in the north. One Marine was wounded. The Marines returned fire, but the attackers escaped and we have no idea who they were.
Also in the north, U.S. Special Forces discovered a very large weapons cache south of Kirkuk. This cache is in 40 different bunkers; it contains multiple rocket-launch rockets, artillery rounds, and other munitions, including, significantly, 50 SA-7s, the hand-held surface-to-air missile. In the humanitarian area, 40 Czech doctors and other medical personnel are en route to Iraq today to set up a field hospital. Also today, U.S. forces assisted with a Saudi Arabian field hospital convoy en route to Baghdad's Red Crescent hospital, and a Jordanian field hospital convoy to Fallujah.
The two convoys combined numbered over 150 vehicles.
Also earlier today, an Iraqi health official led U.S. forces to three warehouses in Baghdad which contained enough medical supplies to keep all of Baghdad's hospitals stocked for the next six to 12 months. Coalition forces will provide security for Iraqi Ministry of Health officials to distribute the supplies to city hospitals.
In the south, British forces began rail services from Umm Qasr to Al Basra, and this can obviously carry much-needed cargo from the port city to Basra.
So I think in sum, there's still a lot of dangerous work to do in terms of continued security and stability, as well as the search for weapons of mass destruction and support to humanitarian operations.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you spoke about demonstrations in Iraq now that the country is free. Those demonstrations include both Sunni and Shi'a Muslims, and the Shi'a, of course, didn't profit from Saddam. And many of those demonstrators are calling for an Islamic republic to take over in Iraq. Would the United States support an Islamic republic in Iraq under the tenets that you've mentioned before, the democratic tenets that you expect?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know what the definition of "many" is. Portions of this country have been free for 15 minutes, others for a day or two, or three or a week. Characterizing anything as "many" or implying that there are large numbers that happen to have that view, it seems to me, reflects a much more insightful knowledge of the situation than I think is permitted at the present time.
The principles the president has put forward are clear, and that is that there should be a country that is -- has its territorial integrity protected; a country that is not a threat to its neighbors; a country that is organized and arranged in a way that the people in the country are -- the various ethnic groups and religious groups are able to have a voice in their government in some form; and we hope, a system that will be democratic and have free speech, and free press and freedom of religion. The -- in the last analysis, the Iraqi people are going to decide what that form is, not the United States, not the coalition and not anyone else.
Q: Would an Islamic -- excuse me, sir, if I may follow, just very -- an "Islamic republic" connotes the idea of an Iran, a government such as that in Iran. Would that be acceptable to the United States -- a government not only based on the tenets of a religion but ruled by the tenets?
Rumsfeld: I don't think that I would characterize what's going on in Iran as a democratic system. I don't think I would say that it fits the principles that I've just indicated. I think there are an awful lot of people in Iran who feel that that small group of clerics that determine what takes place in that country is not their idea of how they want to live their lives.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in your opening statement you talked about the progress that's being made with Iraqis leading U.S. troops to Ba'ath Party leaders, et cetera. You mentioned this general from the Special Republican Guard, and quite a few, I think, people from the deck of cards have either surrendered or been captured now.
Q: But so far you haven't mentioned that any of them has confirmed the existence of chemical or biological weapons. And General Myers mentioned this huge weapon cache near Kirkuk, but he didn't mention that any chemical or biological weapons were found there. Does that make you uneasy?
Rumsfeld: No. I've believed all along we're not likely to stumble over anything, nor did the inspectors stumble over anything. What's going to happen, ultimately, is we'll find people, and the people will decide that they want to look forward instead of back, and they will come to us, as they are, and offer up suggestions as to where one might look and how one might approach it, and testimony on their personal involvements. And we will obviously look with favor on people that do that.
Q. And those who've turned themselves in or have been captured so far, I take it, are not offering up that kind of information?
Rumsfeld: I think it's premature to be making judgments like that.
Q: One of the things from the podium you've said repeatedly over the last three months -- that you've warned Iraqi military, if they used chemical or biological weapons, they'd face war crimes -- General Myers, in any of the debriefs of the 8,000 POWs, has anybody said, "We were going to use things, but the U.S. scared us to death, the U.S. scared us; we decided not to"?
And Mr. Secretary, you talked about not stumbling over anything --
Rumsfeld: (Let's ?) do one at a time here.
Q: Okay. But -- go ahead.
Myers: I don't recall specifically about WMD use, but that -- but there were certainly some things that -- where we think our psychological operations had a big impact on them, or we said, "Don't do this, or you're going to bear the responsibility."
Q: Are you surprised there's been no tactical weapons found, no 155 Howitzers or rockets, that they were going to use?
Myers: No, it's going to be a long -- it's a long process. You can't assume what -- the previous question, that the premise of that question is right.
The debriefings are ongoing. Let them work. They're going to --
Rumsfeld: I'm going -- that's two or three already. My impression of this is that there is, understandably, an appetite to know the answers to these things. And we know there are people now beginning to explore sites really for the first time that have been in the area where we have reason to believe there is the greatest likelihood that we'll find their programs.
We also have said that they've done a superb job of hiding things, and we know they have. They have learned to function in an inspection environment, so that meant they had to have things deeply buried, well dispersed, well hidden, with a relatively few number of people who knew where things are.
I am not going to answer questions that say, "Do you have any intelligence on this?" or "Any intelligence on that?" I'm just not going to do it. We've got a good group of people, interagency group -- CIA, FBI, DOD, DIA -- working out there, and they're collecting things, they're looking for things, they're interrogating people. They're finding all kinds of information. I do not spend time every day trying to figure out what they're being told, were they given any clue on this or any clue on that. That's not what I do.
You will be told at that point where a site has been explored and we don't know anything or we didn't find anything. Or you'll be told, as you have been -- we've had embedded reporters milling around these places. You'll be told if we do find something. So, in good time. In good time.
Q: Along the same lines --
Myers: The only thing I would add to that, that they are ongoing operations, and so anything we would say from here would not -- just not be helpful. I mean there are -- no kidding -- ongoing operations, and we're just better off not commenting on them.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: Let me give you an example. When they arrest or capture or get turned over some person or some computer or some documentation, it takes time. They then have to look at that, they have to talk to the person, they have to explore it, they have to examine it, they have to cross-check another place. And these things don't happen in five minutes. They have to translate documents.
The idea that we should be rushing around spewing out fragments of information that come into the hands of people who are in these teams, who are proceeding in an orderly, disciplined way, worrying about chain of control and that type of thing, I think is an expectation that is not going to be fulfilled.
Q: In the process that you are engaged in now of looking not just at Iraq, but at the region, can you give us your thought process -- frame for us how you want the American footprint to look like, a year or two from now, in the region. There was also a New York Times story saying that the administration was supposedly looking at, long term, four air bases in Iraq.
Is that, in fact, a reflection of your thinking for the future of that country?
Rumsfeld: Well, I would say that that article probably takes the award for world-class thumbsucker of this year. (Laughter.) It is --
Rumsfeld: Pardon me?
Rumsfeld: Well, it depends -- it says "senior Bush administration officials say." To my knowledge, I don't know what senior is, but I can tell you he wasn't asked (indicating General Myers), I wasn't asked, Torie wasn't asked, Wolfowitz wasn't asked, Pace wasn't asked, and there has been zero discussion among senior Bush administration officials, the way I define senior, on that subject. We literally have not even considered that.
Now, what is going on? There are four bases that the U.S. is using in that country to help bring in humanitarian assistance, to help provide for stability operations. And are they doing that? Sure. But does that have anything to do with the long-term footprint? Not a whit.
Q: What of the long term --
Q: Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute.
Q: Yeah! (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Well, obviously, we're thinking about what we're going to -- how we want to be arranged in the future. And in any instance, it would be a subject for discussion with countries, whether in Europe or Asia or in the Middle East. And those kinds of discussions will take place over an orderly period of time. There haven't been decisions made, there haven't been conclusions reached, and it's just a fact that the implication that, as it says here, that the United States is planning a long-term military relationship with an emerging government of Iraq -- there isn't even an emerging government to plan it with at the present time -- one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases -- a subject that has not come up with anybody senior -- and "project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region" -- I mean, not so! Not so! And I would say enormously unhelpful.
I mean, let me just get this off my chest. (Laughter.) I have no idea who these people talked to. But I'll tell you, if I were a journalist, I would find -- remember who they are, and I'd write their name down, and I would rank them right at the bottom in terms of reliability, credibility, judgment, knowledge. They are unhelpful.
The impression that's left around the world is that we plan to occupy the country, we plan to use their bases over the long period of time, and it's flat false.
We went in there to change a regime. We went in there to find weapons of mass destruction. We went in there to stop them from threatening their neighbors. And we have said precisely what we're there for, and it is not what that article said.
Q: So you --
Rumsfeld: So the people peddling that stuff are wrong, and the people writing it should check things out better.
Q: Mr. Secretary, on that, I don't want that -- my question to -- any of my questions to help my colleague there. My question was just like that theme -- you said weapons of mass destruction are a reason the United States went into Iraq. You said that. I'm not mishearing it from anyone else.
What happens, sir, in the new democracy that one hopes will be in Iraq, if that new administration in Iraq decides it needs weapons of mass destruction to protect itself from its neighbors? What does the United States do at that point?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, I could ask 50 hypothetical questions that no one in this room could answer. I mean, why are we even asking those questions? There's all kinds of -- I guess the short answer is Adlai Stevenson's: We'll jump off the bridge when we get to it. It isn't there.
Q: Well, I think I asked the question -- I asked the question, sir, because of the implications of the New York Times story which you said was flat false, among other things. But the question does --
Rumsfeld: I did not say somebody didn't say that to the reporter.
Q: No, I realize that. You said what it was portraying --
Rumsfeld: The content --
Q: The content --
Q: But what the larger theme is of the --
Rumsfeld: Depending on how you define "senior."
Q: I would define you as senior, sir. And so that's why I'm asking you -- (laughter) -- (inaudible) --
Q: (Inaudible) -- your rank, of course.
Q: -- how the U.S. hopes to have stability in that part of the world, I think, also is part of that story, and weapons of mass destruction is very unstable tool in the hands of the wrong people, as you've said so many times. So --
Rumsfeld: I guess we'll have to work our way through all that and see how things play out. And you're right; weapons of mass destruction in a terrorist state's hands are not a stabilizing influence. I would expect that you're going to find a country in Iraq that's not going to be on the terrorist list and is not going to want to have weapons of mass destruction.
Q: Wait a minute.
Q: I pushed your button, but you didn't answer my question. (Laughter.) I beg your pardon. I was looking for footprint in the region, not necessarily Iraq.
Rumsfeld: Right. And we'll announce it when we're ready.
I told you we were in discussions, I told you we were talking to countries -- not yet; we plan to -- and that it's an important question. And, obviously, there will have been significant changes.
I would, personally, say that a friendly Iraq that is not led by a Saddam Hussein would be a reason we could have fewer forces in the region, rather than more, I mean just logically. And we're already starting to pull forces out of the CENTCOM AOR, as you must know.
Q: But you don't -- so you don't have a philosophical framework --
Rumsfeld: No. We'll announce -- we'll announce --
Q: -- or a Rumsfeld framework to -- less here, more there?
Rumsfeld: I have something in my head, but it depends on taking those thoughts, discussing them with other countries, the relevant countries, and listening to them and then coming to some judgments and time-phasings. But it's not something that one divines and then announces in a press briefing without having talked to other countries, obviously. Yeah.
Q: Mr. Secretary, taking you back to finding things in Iraq, there was a report today that the Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha actually did find a scientist who produced verifiable information about the presence of precursor chemicals, I think it was, as opposed to some theoretical, invalidated finding. Can you confirm that finding --
Q: -- and explain what those teams are doing in Iraq, these Mobile Exploitation Teams?
Rumsfeld: I can explain what they're doing. They were formed on an interagency basis, as I said, and they're going out and they're looking at sites that come under our control where the situation is sufficiently secure and stable that they can do that. Some are things we thought we knew before; some are things that are opportunistic, where somebody comes and tells us something. And they, then, have an obligation of analyzing things and doing it in an orderly, disciplined way and not talking about it until such time as they think they've come to some conclusion.
Q: In this case there was no --
Rumsfeld: I have nothing to add to it.
Q: Some of those teams have complained of a lack of resources, particularly vehicles, helicopters, and the kinds of resources that they need to do their job well.
Rumsfeld: I have not heard that.
Q: You have not heard that?
Rumsfeld: No. But, you know, at any given moment, in any given place, somebody doesn't have something they need, and then the squeaky wheel gets the oil. CENTCOM -- I believe they're under the operational control of CENTCOM, and CENTCOM has been denied nothing, that I can recall, in terms of things they have felt they needed. And if they have things that they don't currently have that they think they need and ask for them, they'll get them, because this is an important project.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you make some comments about the helpfulness of people who are declaring themselves the mayors of this town, that town, and what this means for the future stability of the country?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that it adds or detracts. It will happen. People are entrepreneurial, and they'll make announcements and say things and aspire. And on the ground it will get sorted out. Things will happen. People will agree or disagree. And over time, we'll see what happens. I just -- I am not surprised that people do that.
Now, there is no question there are a number of groups that are trying to assert influence there, and it's going to take time -- people from inside the country, people from outside the country, people that are being influenced by countries -- neighboring countries, people that are not being influenced by neighboring countries, people who believe they represent some view of a certain group and want that view reflected, that's what a -- some process is going to flourish here, and all of that is going to be expressed in a -- something other than a perfectly orderly and disciplined way.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what's your latest thinking on Syria? Do you see any positive signs now coming out of Syria?
Rumsfeld: The president and the secretary have both spoken on that recently, and that's good enough for me.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what's the mechanism now for the U.S. to declare an end to the hostilities with Iraq, since it does appear for several days now major combat has indeed ended? What's the mechanism for that? And what is your framework of thinking now about phase four operations; in other words, the need for a particularly sized military force for security and stability?
Rumsfeld: That's a subject that General Myers and Pete Pace and CENTCOM and all of us are discussing, and when we have --
Myers: The U.K. -- the Brits.
Rumsfeld: The U.K., coalition forces, exactly. And at some point when we have something -- we are simultaneously going out and bringing other countries into the phase four considerations, and we've had some wonderful luck. To date, there are over 20 countries that have forces on the ground in Iraq or are providing support functions in the theater. Italy has offered 300 [sic. 3,000] Carabinieri for security duties. Albania has provided military forces for a stability operation. Lithuanian cargo handlers are involved already in the country helping with the delivery of humanitarian supplies.
There are any number of international organizations that are now finding portions of the country sufficiently stable that they can come in. We've had a surge in offers of medical support to assist the humanitarian effort. We've been moving quickly to try to integrate these assets into our overall effort. There's a Czech field hospital that started deploying in Iraq last Friday. Spain has a ship in the Gulf with a medical unit on board which is treating Iraqi civilians. Lithuania sent a medical team.
The idea that no other countries are involved in the post-Saddam Hussein activities reminds me of the -- before the war, when it was -- the United States was acting unilaterally and we were, quote, "going it alone." and we ended up with 66 countries involved, 46 of them public.
Q: Can you tell us anything --
Rumsfeld: And the same thing's true here. We have a large and growing number of countries that are involved in Iraq, doing a good job. And to ignore them and pretend that they're not there and not doing their work, which tends to be the impression that's left frequently, it seems to me it's unfortunate, because these people, with their dollars, are stepping up and offering important humanitarian assistance and stabilization assistance, which is what is exactly what's needed in that country. And the United States never did, from the outset, have any intention of doing it alone or doing the stabilization period alone.
Q: Can you tell us anything about the mechanism by which there will be declared a cessation of hostilities, and whether under the Geneva Convention, that would put any additional obligations on the coalition?
Rumsfeld: It does.
Q: How will this emerge?
Rumsfeld: It does. In other words, you -- my understanding -- Dick can calibrate me, but my understanding is that you have a period where you have hostilities. You then can go into a period where you have a move towards a stabilization period in some portions of the country and not the whole country, or you may continue to have hostilities. If you think of where we are in Afghanistan, that's where we are. We have a reasonably stable environment in much of the country and we have something other than that along the Pakistan border.
I suspect that that's what will happen here, that you'll end up with other countries coming in providing stabilization forces in the areas that are stable at some point, and in other areas that are less stable -- and I have no idea -- no one can predict it, how much the non-Iraqis will be fighting over a period of time, how many of these death squad people have melted into the woodwork and will come out in civilian clothes and try to kill somebody.
Q: Will you officially declare this -- not you personally, sir -- will the United States at some point officially declare this war is over?
Rumsfeld: Dick said it, I think. He said what we'll do is we'll sit down with the coalition and make a recommendation to the president at some point as to what portions of the country you can move towards a stabilization effort in at some moment. Ultimately at some point, it will be over. But is it over now? No.
Q: Mr. Secretary, today, Ahmad Chalabi said that his group is tracking Saddam Hussein and his sons inside Iraq based on credible intelligence, saying, "We have received information about his movements and the movements of his sons." Have you received the same information?
Myers: Have not.
Rumsfeld: I've not seen it, but I might not. I mean, it would go to CENTCOM, so we'll just have to see what happens.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: Is it now a priority to try to figure out what exactly happened to Saddam Hussein and his sons?
Rumsfeld: It's certainly on the list of priorities.
Q: Mr. Secretary, reports --
Q: In an effort to get more than that --
Rumsfeld: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
Q: -- is there digging going on at that site where -- which was bombed, at al Mansour?
Rumsfeld: Goodness. There've been -- first of all, there have been more than one site where people suspect that he might have been. To what extent any one of those sites has been exploited or examined or investigated -- only very recently have some of those areas fallen under coalition control.
(Aside to Gen. Myers.) Isn't that true?
Myers: That's true, that's true.
Q: Mr. Secretary, prior to the conflict, human rights groups complained about the use of cluster bombs by the United States. Now that the major combat phase is over, we're seeing the evidence that this, in fact, is a weapon that can continue to kill after the hostilities are over. There've been a small but significant number of people maimed or killed, including some children and some American forces as well. Would you consider limiting the use of cluster bombs in the future, or perhaps even eliminating them from the U.S. arsenal in response to this kind of -- type of criticism?
Myers: I think it gets back to -- well, first of all, cluster bombs are not like mines, completely different subject. Cluster bombs are set to go off when they strike their target or whatever they do, so they're not like a mine that lies there until it's activated.
I have not heard of injuries due to cluster bombs, but we'll look into it. It's possible, of course, but we'll have to look into it. And --
Q: Well, we've been seeing pictures of unexploded sub-munitions in various residential areas --
Myers: We'll have to find out who's they are, and do all that sort of thing. I just -- I have not seen those pictures, but I'll --
Q: There were four injured soldiers just this past weekend when a little girl handed over a canister-sized piece of a cluster bomb, an M-42.
Myers: Yeah, what I -- the story we got on what the little girl handed over -- and it was -- was an improvised explosive device to do harm to the four soldiers. It wasn't trying to return a piece of ordnance, in fact.
Q: From a seven-year-old girl?
Myers: Exactly. Exactly. Then she tried to run away after she handed it, and it went off.
Q: Michael Linington on the ground said that it was an accident, that she was simply trying to --
Myers: Well, initial reports this morning --
Q: -- return a piece of an M-42 --
Myers: Initial reports this morning, that was not the case, but we'll have to look at that, too.
Q: That hasn't changed, then?
Myers: All I know is the report we got this morning.
Q: Can you expand on that report this morning, please?
Myers: I pretty much gave it to you. It's that they were -- this -- four, I think, Marines -- was it? -- or soldiers were approached by a young girl with some sort of explosive device. They couldn't determine what it was, and before they could, it went off. And it injured, I think, the little girl and four soldiers.
Q: General, I don't want to get the wrong impression from the remarks, but --
Myers: Wait a second. We'll call on people.
Q: Oh, I'm sorry. It was a follow-up on that, sir. A quick -- are you suggesting that the cluster bombs are less dangerous to civilians than land mines are?
Myers: Oh, absolutely.
Myers: Absolutely. I'm not just suggesting it; I'm -- that's an assertion.
Rumsfeld: Back here.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could someone just take -- this is not a question you could answer now, but could someone from your office get back to us with how many cluster bombs were used in this and what areas they were used in, to counter some of this impression that we're getting that they were actually used in residential areas and had ended up in residential areas?
Myers: And clearly -- well, yeah, we'll have to look --
Q: (Off mike) -- whatever you can tell on that?
Myers: You bet. We'll get that to you.
Q: Mr. Secretary, it was reported over the weekend that Jay Garner had urged the military to provide security at key facilities in Baghdad before it had fallen -- the antiquities place and some banks. In retrospect, was it a mistake not to put security at those facilities? Considering that -- getting intelligence and that you probably lost documents from some buildings, was it a mistake not to provide that security?
Rumsfeld: I don't know anything about what Jay may have recommended to someone in CENTCOM on the subject. There were a large number of things that it was desirable to have happen, to be protected, if you will. And the reality is that when forces are at war and they're moving into a city or into a province that's held by enemy, they have a lot of concerns. They have a lot of things they have to do. One is they'd like to prevail in the conflict. Second is, they would like to have as few coalition casualties as is possible. And a third is that they would like to provide for force protection for the coalition forces. Fourth is they'd like to not -- or fifth, they'd like to not kill innocent civilians. So they're careful on that type of thing.
And at some moment their forces increase, and they then start changing that. As the pressure for winning is less and they think they're going to win, and the pressure for protecting their own people is less, they can then begin the process of attempting to think through what other things might be done.
And hospitals are important, places -- getting electricity into a hospital, for example, is important. Protecting headquarters where there might be documentation is important. And a lot of that was done.
Now, everything was not done, nor was everything that ultimately was done done instantaneously. And it strikes me that it's asking an awful lot for a group of people, young men and women in uniform, whose lives are at risk, to expect them to go into an area and protect everything in that area that it would be nice to protect. It just isn't going to happen. I think that expectation is unrealistic.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I want to close the loop on the Iraq base question. Was your answer intended to say that you are not currently considering -- you haven't considered yet having permanent bases there, or is it that you've ruled it out? Because it seems to me that in places where there are U.S. military bases, there tends to be more stability.
Rumsfeld: I have never, that I can recall, heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed in any meeting.
Q: So that means it hasn't come up, yet, but you haven't ruled it out? Does it?
Far be it from me to put words in your mouth, because you're on fire today! (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Now, now! Now, now! You should see me when I'm on fire. (Laughter.)
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: No, no, not even close. I'm reflective today. (Laughter.)
The likelihood of it seems to me to be so low that it does not surprise me that it's never been discussed in my presence, to my knowledge. Why do I say it's low? Well, we've got all kinds of options and opportunities in that part of the world to locate forces, it's not like we need a new place. We have plenty of friends and plenty of ability to work with them and have locations for things that help to contribute to stability in the region. We --
Q: Is there a down side to having them?
Rumsfeld: I think there is a down side. I think any impression that is left, which that article left, that the United States plans some sort of a permanent presence in that country, I think is a signal to the people of that country that's inaccurate and unfortunate, because we don't plan to function as an occupier, we don't plan to prescribe to any new government how we ought to be arranged in their country.
It's just not something we do. We're not arranged that way.
Q: Is the problem, Mr. Secretary, the use of the word "permanent"? Is that the problem? Permanent denotes forever.
Rumsfeld: Or long-term. How do you like that?
Q: Are you okay with long-term?
Rumsfeld: You can substitute -- no -- you can substitute long-term for permanent, and my answer's the same. We are using those bases, properly so, to help with stabilization forces and humanitarian assistance. And thank goodness we are, because a great deal is coming in through the port and coming in through those airfields in ways that are helpful to the people.
Q: So do you have no interest in a future military-to-military relationship with a new Iraqi government if they want one?
Rumsfeld: We haven't gotten to that point. My goodness gracious, we've just gone in and thrown out Saddam Hussein's regime.
Q: But wouldn't it be logical?
Rumsfeld: Why would --
Q: You would be thinking about how to continue on the gains you have made --
Rumsfeld: It may be logical, but we haven't done it. (Laughter.) We stand indicted of failing to consider permanent bases in Iraq. We apologize profusely. (Laughter.) How have we done?
Myers: In 32 days, we're doing okay.
Rumsfeld: Yeah! (Laughs.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, how long do you plan -- there have been several statements this weekend about the possible duration of military presence of --
Rumsfeld: The possible what?
Q: The length of a military presence in Iraq. Mr. Richard Perle mentioned six months; Ahmad Chalabi, two years; you said, if I recall correctly, as long as necessary --
Rumsfeld: And not one day longer.
Q: Exactly. How long is that, do you think; in terms of months or years?
Rumsfeld: We don't know. I don't know. Maybe everyone else has a view, but I'm without a view. It depends on how this thing ends; it depends on how rapidly this interim government evolves; it depends on how successful external influences are in trying to change what's going on in that country adversely. There's so many variables, it's just not possible. We have no desire to be there for long periods, we simply don't. And that's just a cold, hard fact.
Q: Do you anticipate that U.S. troops would be able to successfully deal with the remnants of the regime faster than they've been able to do with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: I would hope so. I would hope so. I think the -- it partly depends on neighbors. The problem in Afghanistan is the border with Iran and with Pakistan. And that opportunity to move back and forth across borders, and to make mischief from the other side of the border and to supply elements within the country makes it more difficult.
If it were an island, it would be, probably, less of a problem. But it's not an island. And I have a feeling that it will partly depend on how Iraq's neighbors behave, to some extent.
But I'm -- I really -- I don't know that I'm smart enough to look out into the future, take all of those variables and grab them and say, "Well, this one is going to come out this way, and that one will come out that way, and then when they all interact, that means it's going to be nine months or nine years." I just can't do that. I just think that anyone who thinks they can probably is just guessing, and I can't get in the business of guessing because you all will beat me up for it. (Scattered laughter.)
Q: Could I ask General Myers a question? Last week you were asked about this lessons-learned study that would be done of the war, and you said you didn't want to get into what lessons you thought you could draw already. But I wonder, would you just explain how this exercise works a little bit? What sorts of things get looked at, and what is done with the information? Does it mean that certain weapons systems might get cancelled? Does it mean that units will be reorganized? What's the --
Myers: First of all, lessons learned can impact a variety of things: your doctrine, how you organize yourself, how you train, how you train your leadership, and maybe even how you pick your leadership, what kind of facilities you need. It can go into material things as well. There may be certain systems that are -- you know, you've decided might be more valuable in the future than others. So it's across that -- that's how it's applied across that whole gamut.
And the way it will be organized is a little bit different than in the past, is that we're going to try to turn these lessons very, very quickly. And so we're taking a series of views. The first view probably ought to inform us on the sorts of things that we have on the table right now in the '04 budget, and so forth. Are there anything extraordinary that might require some adjustment? That budget was built some time ago, as you know. Certainly for the '05 budget and forward, are there things that need to be done there? And then some of these other things that aren't budget-related, that are just either organization or doctrine, that can be fed into the process as we go along. So --
Q: Well, to ask a specific question, I think that some critics of the FA-22 would like to draw the lesson, you know, that this air war went so smoothly that that plane isn't needed. Do you think you can draw a lesson from this war for --
Myers: The only thing I would say regarding that, that the Afghan conflict taught us some things, some of which we used in Iraq, some of which we didn't use. Iraq is going to teach us a lot of things, but it's not going to be the template for -- you can't just keep laying it over and saying, "Well, that's the template for the future," necessarily. There will be good elements that we'll want to replicate, want to carry forward, want to enhance; there will be other elements that probably we don't want to have in the future. And I'm not going to make any comments on that.
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.
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