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DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Franks

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
May 09, 2003 11:15 AM EDT

(DoD news briefing. Participating were Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander, U.S. Central Command.)

Rumsfeld: Good morning.

I promised that from time to time when General Franks was in town I would bring him down here. I have done so. And I think with that, with the fact that we do have him here suggests that I should be very brief. So I shall be.

I think I should, however, introduce his wife Cathy, who is sitting right there in a red blouse, who is a nifty lady.

A number of you were in the region with me last weekend, in CENTCOM and in Iraq and Afghanistan and then London. The thing I would simply say in introducing General Franks is that he has put together a superb team. He fashioned a brilliant plan. The fact that it was so successful is important. I think that, however, the way that campaign was conducted is also important, and the effect of the way it was conducted has put us on a path that would be notably different than had the plan been different or the plan been conducted in a way that was different. All of those things that could have gone wrong, for the most part, did not. And that is a great benefit to the region, to the neighboring countries; it's a benefit to the people of Iraq, who did not suffer a prolonged air war; it is a benefit to those who are now in the process of working on the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq. And I simply want to say that General Franks is a truly outstanding professional military officer who performed his critically important tasks just about as well as they could have been performed, and I am very grateful.

General Franks?

Franks: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much.

Fifty-two days ago today, President Bush issued the order to begin Operation Iraqi Freedom. And it's interesting to me, when I think about it, to note that on that day, the President and Secretary Rumsfeld gave our forces -- gave me -- gave our forces a very clear mission with very clear objectives. And Mr. Secretary, I may be wrong, but I believe right here in this room, you announced very publicly those objectives on about the day that that war started. It's also interesting to me that those objectives have not changed, and that we measure our progress in this effort against those objectives fifty-two days ago.

Today, the Iraqi people no longer live in fear of a regime of Saddam Hussein, and key regime figures are being brought to justice every day, one by one. Camps of terrorists who had found safe harbor in Iraq have been destroyed. And our forces are exploiting intelligence information day by day on their organizations, their networks, their operating procedures.

Coalition forces have removed hundreds of tons of dangerous weapons and munitions from schools, from civilian neighborhoods, from religious centers. And to be sure, the difficult work of exploiting hundreds of sensitive sites is ongoing, as we speak.

The coalition has secured Iraq's oil fields so that those precious resources can in fact be used by the Iraqi people to help rebuild their country after decades of neglect and oppression. The predicted humanitarian crisis in Iraq has been averted by the provision of food, water, medicines -- in fact, at levels in some cases never before seen by the Iraqis.

Children in Iraq are beginning to return to school, and basic services like health care, electricity and water, while not where they need to be, and certainly not where they will be, are improving every day.

Coalition forces continue to work tirelessly with the international community, and certainly with Kuwait, to locate military personnel and citizens who have been missing in Iraq since the 1991 war.

The Iraqi people are now experiencing the right of democracy, and everything that goes with the responsibility of democracy, as they work to form a government of their choice.

And nations in the Red Sea and, in fact, in the Gulf region, are no longer threatened by a regime in Iraq that attacked neighbors twice in the last 20 years.

As President Bush told the nation from the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, decisive combat operations in Iraq have concluded, and the coalition today is focused on helping Iraqi people as they work to build a new country. Our forces still stand in harm's way and much dangerous work remains to be done. I have every expectation that we will continue to see pockets of resistance, and we will see pockets of instability and we will come across difficult situation[s] in the weeks and in the months ahead. But our forces are up to the task, and will remain committed to the task.

Iraq's best days are yet to come. And the Iraqi people are already taking steps to build a new government, that in fact, will be of their choice. Local governments and town councils are being formed in virtually every city and town across the country. The transition from dictatorship will take time, but is worth the effort that, in fact, we put to the task.

As we think about achievements behind us and the work force -- or, the work that lies before us, I think we pause every day to remember the families and the loved ones of the heroes who have given their lives during Operation Iraqi Freedom. These men and women died so that others, so that we could live in a safer and more secure world. They have succeeded in that task. We'll not forget their service, nor their sacrifice.

I believe the Secretary and I'd be pleased to take your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, General, journalists in Iraq report that a sense of public order is still lacking.

Rumsfeld: Who reports this?

Q: Journalists.

Rumsfeld: Journalists.

Q: In Iraq... is still lacking in Baghdad and in some other parts of the country. And some U.S. officials are quoted as saying that U.S. planning and execution of the postwar reconstruction were inadequate. Do you think that any mistakes were made in this area? And what is your assessment of the current state of the reconstruction effort?

Rumsfeld: Who are the officials?

Q: They're unnamed.

Rumsfeld: Ah. (Laughter.) That's nice. (Laughter.) What you're seeing in the press and on television are slices of truth. You're seeing that someone is harmed, or in a particular location the water isn't back on, or in a different location the power is only intermittent, or is in 80 or 90 percent of the city and not 100 percent of the city. All of that's true. A good deal of it, of course, was also true prior to the war. And it seems to me it's important to have that in mind.

We keep tracks, where we look each day at the major cities -- I don't now how many, 20?

Franks: Twenty-seven.

Rumsfeld: Twenty-seven cities, and track them and see how they're doing with respect to security, how they're doing with respect to water, how they're doing with respect to power and what have you. And each day it gets better. We use red for a situation that is worse than the beginning of the conflict, and green when it is better -- the same as prior to the conflict, and blue when it's better than -- the situation for the people of the country is better than it was at the beginning of the conflict, and a white for not observed. The white has pretty well disappeared now.

Franks: It has, yes, sir.

Rumsfeld: And now we are able to observe and have some sense in every portion of those 27 cities, every portion of the country.

The reds have disappeared as of this morning. There are very few blues, but there are some blues. And there are amber, or yellow, for --

Franks: -- getting better --

Rumsfeld: Getting better but not up to the green level. This is a reflection of the seriousness of purpose of General Franks and his team. And as he said in his remarks, things are, in fact, getting better every day in that country. That does not mean that people cannot continue to write articles or see television clips of something that isn't perfect, or isn't as good as it was, or isn't better than it was. That is probably also true if one looks around any city in the United States or Western Europe, that things are -- we find things are not perfect. You'll see slices of truth that suggest that there are problems.

My impression of what's taking place is that the folks in General Franks' organization and in General Garner's organization have done an outstanding job and are continuing to make things better in almost every corner of that country, every week and every month, and that's a good thing.

The other thing I'd do, just to put a little perspective on it, is it's been 51 days since the war started. I mean, ask ourselves, each of us, what have we accomplished in 51 days? No, that's embarrassing, I shouldn't do that to you! (Laughs.) That would be wrong. (Laughter.) But 51 days is not very long. And I think that the reality is that it is a very difficult transition from despotism and repression to a freer system. It's untidy, it is -- it is -- there will be fits and starts, and a couple of steps forward and a step back. There'll be bumps along the way.

And it strikes me that what it requires is for people to be realistic; to look at other countries that have made that transition and ask how was that done, how long did it take, how difficult was it, how untidy was it? And recognize that this country does not have a history of representative or democratic systems; it's going to take some time and it's going to take some patience. And we accept that, and we're there to create an environment where that process can take place. And we have patience, and we accept the fact that it's untidy. And I hope that others can recognize that and accept it and put it into some historical context.

Q: Mr. Secretary, we talked about this before several times, but I'd like to ask General Franks.

General, I talked to several active-duty generals in the Army, since the war began, who, obviously, will remain nameless. But -- and they criticized your --

Rumsfeld: That's not obvious until your question's been posed, I don't think, and --

Q: Well, you will know why in a moment. But they have criticized your plan by saying that it was too light, not enough boots on the ground, such words as a "gamble" that could have been catastrophic and that it was irresponsible. Also, the criticism is voiced about not enough troops to maintain the peace. Would you comment on both those criticisms, please?

Franks: Sure, I'd be pleased to. I make it a practice to not comment on the remarks of predecessors, and I think it's distinctly unuseful to comment in the direction of unnamed officials. And so, I won't put a point on a comment. I'll simply say that it's instructive to take a look at what could have happened in this military operation and didn't.

I have a sense that stability in the Red Sea region and in the Persian Gulf neighborhood is certainly as good as it was the day this started. That doesn't necessarily have to have been the case. I think we could have had problems with the launch of surface-to-surface missiles into neighboring countries with weapons of mass destruction aboard them. We didn't. I think the oil infrastructure, the future of the country of Iraq, could have been devastated, but it wasn't. I think the water infrastructure of the country of Iraq could have been ruined, but it wasn't.

The calculus associated with working one's way through how many forces, of what type, to do what, over what period of time is a matter of both art and science. There are military professionals -- have been and will continue to be -- who have views on both the science and the art of military operations. I am satisfied, based on what we see today, 51-plus days -- (clears throat) -- excuse me -- into the event, and in consideration of all those things I just mentioned which did not happen, that the plan we saw was a good plan and that the execution of that plan by the armed forces of this country and other coalition members was absolutely magnificent.

Rumsfeld: Could I just add a comment? I agree completely with what General Franks said. The other thing that didn't happen was mass -- masses of refugees and internally displaced people. And another thing that didn't happen was a humanitarian disaster.

This plan was so different than what the world expected, and what was reported, and what was leaked; that -- the fact that the ground war began before the air war; the fact that the air war was long -- correction -- long in 1991 and very short here; the fact that it -- I don't know what it was, but it may have been complete reversal of precision weapons versus dumb weapons in this conflict percentage- wise; [1991: 10% precision weapons, 90% unguided; 2003: 70% precision weapons, 30% unguided] --

Franks: It was, yeah.

Rumsfeld: -- all contributed to something that, clearly, a lot of people had trouble wrapping their heads around because it was so distinctly different than the expectation and than the views that were reported.

We will know more about what took place when we're able to do interrogations. And we know a lot of bad things didn't happen now; we don't know quite why that is. We think we know, but we don't know for sure. And my guess is, as time passes and historians write their books, they'll be able to talk to people who were there, and we'll find out why some of those bad things didn't happen. But I suspect one of the reasons they didn't happen is because this plan was distinctly different than previously, and because it did not do the expected, and because of that, it achieved a degree of tactical surprise that was not expected.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what is your understanding of the role France played in connection with the Iraqi regime up until the start of the war, and even after combat operations?

Rumsfeld: France has historically had a very close relationship with Iraq. My understanding is that it continued right up until the outbreak of the war. What took place thereafter, we'll find out.

Q: Do you believe that France is harboring Iraqi leaders or helped Iraqi leaders get out of that country?

Rumsfeld: I've read those reports, but I don't have anything I can add to them.

Q: General Franks, can you talk about this year-long military occupation that's envisioned in the new U.N. resolution? How do you see that year unfolding, you know, what your work will be during that time?

Franks: Ma'am, actually, I'm not familiar with the year you're referring to in the --

Q: You know, I think it said a year or probably more you would have to be there.

Franks: Well, no, ma'am, I can't talk specifically to that, but I can give a sense. I think what we'll -- I think what we'll see is that there are a lot of variables associated with all of this. And I think right now what the future will hold a year, two, three, you know, ahead of us is not exactly knowable.

But I do know this: I know that the instructions that I have from the Secretary and from the President will commit what is necessary for as long as it is necessary, and no longer, in order to do the work that we said we would do and in order to execute the objectives that the Secretary gave us. We are going to watch this nation form anew in accordance with what the Iraqi people themselves want to do. And I'm not sure at this point that we know exactly what the force structure or size is going to look -- or what the international content is going to look like as we move forward.

Rumsfeld: I'm not sure you're right that there is a one- year figure there.

Q: (Off mike.) --

Rumsfeld: Just a minute. Just a minute.

Q (Off mike.) --

Rumsfeld: Just a minute. I'm not doing the negotiations, the Department of State is. And I suspect that if someone's mentioning a year, it's probably just a review period, because anyone who thinks they know how long it's going to take is fooling themselves. It's not knowable. And that's why General Franks said what he said.

The President and I have told General Franks and Ambassador Bremer and General Garner that the United States is prepared to keep any number of troops that are appropriate and necessary in Iraq for as long as it takes to create a secure and permissive environment so that they can go about their business of reconstructing their country in a way and in a fashion politically and economically that makes sense. What portion of those would be U.S., as he says, depends on what number of people, other countries, step forward. And a large number of countries are stepping forward. There have been two donors' conferences already. I don't recall all the countries. I wrote them down here someplace. But there are a large number of countries that have stepped up and said they will, in fact, be providing forces. My guess is that we'll know more about that in the next two or three weeks. Some countries may depend on the passage of a U.N. resolution, but certainly that's a minority.

Yes?

Q: Could I ask you to step back a minute. I'd like to ask you a more general question. As you look ahead now, you've asked, I think, for a study or some recommendations on the future of the U.S. military footprint overseas, that this is a time to now take a look at it; there may be some innovative things out there. Could you talk a little bit about that; what you'd like to see happen now? Are there some innovative things that could be done now as a result of the success in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: I think that the 21st century, and September 11th and certainly, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts have, in fact, changed the circumstance in the world fairly significantly. And it would be unrealistic to think that the way we were arranged in the world in the 20th century would necessarily make sense in the 21st century.

As a result, when I came here, I began the process early on, well before September 11th, of having the combatant commanders in the areas of responsibility being a process of looking at how our forces are arranged and how the -- our friends and allies are arranged, and seeing if we might not want to make some adjustments in it. I'm now far enough along in that process that it's rather clear to me that there will be adjustments in every area of responsibility. And I feel very good about the progress that we've made. I don't know where it will end, but what we'll do is once we develop conviction, we will then talk to our friends and allies and they will -- we'll work with them to get ourselves properly arranged.

Q: Do you think something as innovative as possibly U.S. troops for the first time being based in the former Soviet bloc is a possibility?

Rumsfeld: I understand there's some provisions in some agreement or some meeting that took place that would require that if we were to do that, there would have to be discussions with Russia. I've forgotten what conference it was, but there was some conference that was held not too long ago.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Speaking of adjustments, a couple weeks ago, before you went to the -- on your Middle East trip, you replaced the Army secretary. Can you give a sense of some of the trends or directions of that service that troubled you that prompted this leadership change, and what you expect the new secretary to do to correct these deficiencies you see?

And a quick follow-up, did you offer General Franks the Army vice -- Army chief of staff position?

Rumsfeld: The -- first of all, those important posts, and they are important posts, are posts that the President offers, not the Secretary of Defense, as you well know, and they are subject to Senate confirmation. And I don't discuss what I recommend to the President; I let him make those judgments.

It is interesting, and possibly instructive, for this group to note that I have seen at least 40 or 50 newspapers say that I selected the Army chief of staff a year and a half ago, to the great embarrassment of the current Army chief of staff, which is false; I never did. Anyone who's ever been around knows I still have not recommended a name to the President for Army chief of staff, let alone having done it a year and a half ago. But everyone goes into the morgue and then they reprint it, and over and over and over again out comes this totally false statement.

Secretary White's last day is today. He is a fine man. He's served his country ably, and I wish him well.

The White House has announced that the president's decided that Jim Roche, the Secretary of the Air Force, will be -- it's an intention to nominate, after some more paperwork and process is taken care of, to succeed Mr. White. And he and I will be sitting down and talking about the future and who might be appropriate to succeed General Shinseki, who I think has a four-year term limit; his service ends as of a date certain, under the law. And we will be talking to General Shinseki and to General Keane, who is the vice chief, and the secretary nominee, when that nomination is made.

Q: What are some of the trends or problems? There's a number of stories that have come out in the last couple of weeks saying you're at war with the Army, and making all sorts of --

Rumsfeld: That's kind of an inside Washington thing. It's just not true.

Q: What are some of the issues with the Army you want Secretary Roche to deal with?

Rumsfeld: I'll sit down with Secretary Roche and we'll talk about it with the new chief of staff of the Army and with General Shinseki and others.

Q: Mr. Secretary, a question for General Franks.

Could you outline -- or have there been any problems with looting in the oil fields? And has that caused any problem, any problem of looting?

Franks: Looting parts, and so forth, in the oil fields, sure, there have, just as there's been looting in downtown Baghdad as well as other population centers in the country. Valves, fittings, parts, and so forth, are things that looters would likely take; small enough things to perhaps be able to resell and make money.

Interestingly, the level of expertise that we have available to us working in those oil fields, along with thousands of Iraqis right now, are in the process of overcoming the pilfering that has taken place there. And what we see most striking about those oil fields is that that infrastructure has been so terribly disregarded and permitted to run down over decades, that it is the process of replacing and taking care of what has been permitted to fall apart under the previous regime that gives us the most difficulty. And so I think we'll see that those oil fields will produce for the Iraqi people in the near term a certain amount of oil. And I think that as time goes forward, we'll work with the Iraqis and they will be able to bring those oil fields up to a standard we're looking for. And so some pilfering and looting, yes, to be sure; major and in the form of a show stopper, no.

Q: General Franks?

Q: Mr. Secretary, could you explain to us why, with 2,000 more arms inspectors going -- or not arms inspectors, but folks going over to look for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and other things under the Iraq survey group, the U.N. arms inspectors haven't been invited to join? Only American arms inspectors from the U.N. are on that team, Dr. Cambone told us.

And General Franks, could you in detail sketch out for us the way ahead in the next couple of months for keeping security in Iraq? I understand it's going to be divided into three sectors. Could you describe what's going to go on in each of those sectors and how they'll be administered?

Rumsfeld: I don't know the answer to your first question. I --

Q: Do you think more bodies will be better than fewer?

Rumsfeld: Part of the problem is, if you have an environment where there are still pockets of violence and people are being killed -- as I'm sure you noted, and General Franks mentioned, we had a trooper killed yesterday -- that it is much more logical that the people associated with the defense establishment, General Franks, would be doing their work. At what point it would make sense to have international inspectors come in, it might very well make sense. I just don't happen to know.

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: I'm sure they are. As I say, I haven't been dealing with the United Nations, the Department of State has, and it may very well be that at some point that would make sense.

Jamie?

Q: I'm sorry; General Franks, about security?

Franks: Sure. Very quickly. Security in that country is absolutely critical to everything else that's going to be done there. A condition has to be established so that the people of Iraq can feel free to, you know, unshutter the windows of their shops and go to work and so forth. And at the end of all of it, it will be the Iraqis themselves who will get the police forces stood up and be able to handle security for the long term.

In the meanwhile, if you think about the types of forces that we used during this very kinetic phase of this war, and then you think about the functions that we're going to want to be working with the Iraqis to perform in the future vis-a-vis security, then we can see that there are certain kinds of forces that we're probably going to rearrange with other kinds of forces more ideally suited to that task. I don't think there is a certainty that says that security will be arranged in a number of sectors and so forth. What we want to be sure of is that we have the right sectors with the right leadership working with the Iraqis all over the country, in all the population centers. And we'll surely do that.

Rumsfeld: I would also add that it's -- it would be inaccurate and unfortunate for people to go off thinking that the United States is dividing that country into three pieces, because we are not. And there have been pressures to have the country not be a whole country; and when somebody indicated that, well, these forces would be in this area, and the other in this area, and it comes out to three, people ran off and said, "Oh, my goodness; they're dividing the country up." We're not. It's a whole country.

Q: But -- (Inaudible.) -- do exist.

Rumsfeld: We may have -- well, they do exist. The areas of responsibility within the country may be assigned to the Marines here, this military unit there, to the Brits there. But that has nothing to do with dividing the country up into parts. And I was -- I've seen press reports to that effect, which worried me. And I think it would be unfortunate.

Q: General Franks, back to the war plan just for a moment. Some in the media, and in particular, some retired military generals took some heat for suggesting early on in the war that perhaps things weren't going as well as you'd hoped. Did they get a little bit of --

Franks: You said, Jamie, they took some heat, did you say?

Q: I said they took some heat -- (Inaudible.) -- some criticism that perhaps they rushed to judgment. But in fairness to them as you look back, wasn't there a point about five or six days into this when it did appear, even to your own commanders, that this might be a more difficult challenge than it eventually turned out to be? And didn't you make adjustments at that point to sort of turn things around?

Franks: Well, I'm not sure about the last phrase in there, Jamie. I wouldn't necessarily talk about that.

I think one of the characteristics of the plan which the Secretary of Defense described very early as a plan which would be unlike -- or a campaign which would be unlike anything that we have seen before. Well, one of the reasons for that is because this has been a plan that was above everything else joint. I mean, actually joint -- not a plan that deconflicted the Services, but rather, a plan that caused the Services to work together. So, it's a characteristic of it.

Another characteristic of the plan is, or was up to this point -- and you know, we're still on a plan, obviously -- but the other characteristic was that it was a plan that's flexible, adaptable and provides the opportunity to respond to weather, to respond to -- if we believe that we'll find an enemy circumstance set in a certain way and we find when we get there that the enemy circumstance is arranged in a bit of a different way, the flexibility and the ability to adapt is what's really, really critical to this.

And so, did I ever second-guess the plan? Nope. Did not. I think that all of us who look at the execution of a military operation look at it through the lens of our own experience. Now, that deserves a little thought by all of us, because if, in fact, what the secretary said was true, and that is this will be an effort that is not like anything we have seen before, that means that it's going to be difficult to find a lens through which anyone could look and say, "Aha, we know just exactly what this is going to do." And so surprised, disappointed, questioning? Not at all, Jamie, no.

Q: Well, speaking of bum raps, did you get a bit of a bum rap in the criticism about failing to protect the museum in Baghdad, when now we know that many of -- or most of the antiquities, in fact, were not looted? And did that, in fact, occur before the U.S. even got there?

Rumsfeld: I was told personally, by someone who went to the museum three weeks before, that the door was closed and that there were a very few items that were visible through the doors, and it was fairly clear that things had been put away into safekeeping or been secreted away by somebody on an inside arrangement.

Franks: No bum rap --

Q: (Inaudible.) -- a bum rap?

Franks: No bum rap. I think if we wrapped ourselves up in, you know, considering and thinking about that, we'd sure waste an awful lot of time. I think what the operational commander is expected to do in this country is to put -- is to put an effort together and focus on it and stay with it, and not worry about what people say on any given day while it's being executed. And that's what we have been doing, and that's what we'll continue to do.

Rumsfeld: I would go so far as to say that it would have been a bum rap even if the items had been looted. And the reason I say that is that it would have been a terrible thing if they'd all been disappeared and looted. Terrible. And here are the antiquities of that civilization. On the other hand, the task for the general was to go in and make a whole series of judgments with his key leaders, at different levels, different ages, different ranks, different seniority, about what they should do to prevail in the conflict with a minimal loss of U.S. life, with a minimal loss of innocent Iraqi life, and to capture and contain and put into custody the regime leadership to the extent possible, and to think of a lot of things. Museums, yes. Hospitals, yes. Schools, yes. Mosques, yes. Shi'a holy sites, yes.

It isn't as though you had one task, you invaded the country to go in and protect a single thing. You had a complex set of tasks. And that those decisions cannot be made in Tom Franks' headquarters; they have to give guidelines and then people go out, and colonels and captains and lieutenants and sergeants and corporals and privates make those decisions as to is it more important to save the life of my trooper buddy standing next to me or to provide safety for a mosque or for a hospital or for something. Those are tough calls. And they -- in my view, if one looked at it in toto 51 days ago, dropped a plumb line through the whole thing, anyone would have to say, "Darn good job, General Franks."

Q: General Franks?

Rumsfeld: We're through. Thank you. (Laughter.)

Q: Is your voice okay? Are you suffering from --

Rumsfeld: I've got a little rasp in my voice, but I'm -- (Off mike).

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