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Secretary Rumsfeld Stakeout on Capitol Hill

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 09, 2003

(Participating were Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Senator John Warner, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, and Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks.)

 

     Warner:  The committee is breaking for a vote at this moment, but I certainly can say as Chairman, and I think I'm joined in this view by all members of the committee, we're having a very thorough, forthright and responsive hearing to the many questions that we have of the Secretary and General Franks. All members praised General Franks for his distinguished career of 36 years in the United States Army and service to our nation, and the leadership that he has given under the direction of the distinguished Secretary and indeed the President in the operations in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

 

     General Franks, also on his own initiative and in response to questions, clearly indicated those things that went right as expected and planned for, and those areas in which in future operations we'll have to seek improvements. We were impressed with his candor as we were with the Secretary's likewise forthright answers to our questions.

 

     Mr. Secretary?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I would only that not only the Senators praised General Tom Franks but so did Don Rumsfeld. It's been a remarkable career. I thought it was 38 years. How many years is it?

 

     Franks:  If you consider enlisted and officer it's 38 years.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Thirty-eight years. There you go.

 

     General Franks?

 

     Franks:  Mr. Secretary, thanks for the kind comment.

 

     In fact it's an honor to be in uniform for what I suspect will be the last occasion where Chairman Warner will call me up to provide answers to some excellent questions and concerns.

 

     Warner:  I'll say at this time it will not be the last. In our after-action study -- This operation is not finished yet, and at the conclusion we will do our usual committee intensive hearing on after-actions.

 

     Franks:  Of course, Mr. Chairman, when I come for that one the only difference will be that I'll look more like you and less like this uniform and I'll be honored to do that, Mr. Chairman.

 

     I have been honored to serve the years mentioned by the Secretary and the Chairman with some wonderful men and women in uniform. The three years that I have spent in Central Command working for wonderful, wonderful leaders to include the gentleman standing to my right and the President of the United States, and working with the most remarkable men and women in uniform that I have seen in the course of my service, it's something that we'll always remember.

 

     Mr. Chairman, this is a great hearing and I think I would tell you that I'm pleased to be here and respond to questions.

 

     Warner:  I'm going to step back and make vote and you two gents are on your own.

 

     Q:  Mr. Secretary, how do you respond to the White House acknowledgement that the information (Inaudible.) state of the union was not adequate for (Inaudible.)?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I wouldn't add anything. I think the White House responded absolutely correctly.

 

     Q:  Would you say (Inaudible.) a reason to go to war?

 

     Rumsfeld:  It wasn't the reason. It was one scrap of intelligence along with, if you think back to Secretary Powell's presentation that included a great deal of information.

 

     Q:  Mr. Secretary, can you clarify, just help us understand the question of whether NATO has been called or not? This would seem to be something you'd know and perhaps make that phone call yourself. Can you clarify for us what is the Administration's position as far as reaching out to NATO and NATO to provide troops for --

 

     Rumsfeld:  I don't know what else I can add. The Department of State has been the instrument through which the United States of America has been consulting with many, many dozens and dozens of nations and organizations around the world. They deal with NATO, they deal with the UN, they have been doing it.

 

     I do know for a fact that NATO is involved. They have been doing the force generation and assistance for Poland. I also know they are currently under discussions as to additional ways they might help.

 

     I tend to be very precise when I answer a question and I answer what I know and I don't answer what I don't know. Can I say precisely what the request was made or requests plural were made by the United States of NATO? No. You may think it's something I ought to know, but I happen not to. That's life and that's a very honest answer.

 

     Q:  As a former Ambassador to NATO, is there a formal procedure, a formal request that must be made?

 

     Rumsfeld:  No, in answer to your question. It can be self-generated with the Secretary General; it can come from another country other than ours; it can come from another nation that's not part of NATO. There are any number of ways that things can get started within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

 

     Q:  Mr. Secretary, getting back to the question of uranium, Ari Fleischer today said that that information should not have gotten, should not have risen to the level of a presidential speech.

 

     Rumsfeld:  I'm sure he's right.

 

     Q:  Hindsight is 20/20. So you agree with him?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Sure.

 

     Q:  Mr. Secretary, you said in your testimony that you planned for a long list of occurrences in Iraq that did not occur. Violence, lighting oil wells, --

 

     Rumsfeld:  We did.

 

     Q:  Did you plan for the sort of consistent and persistent attacks on U.S. forces that are occurring? And I'm not talking about looters, I'm talking about the kind of sabotage and organized resistance that seems to be occurring. And if so why the troops seem to be caught in a situations where your troops are in a situation where US troops are dying every day?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Do you want to respond to that?

 

     Franks:  I will, Mr. Secretary.

 

     Let me say that I believe any time we take armed forces into an environment that involves both warfighting and security operations, yes, we have an expectation that there will be violence.

 

     Now having said that I believe we always find that we are never very precise in our understanding of what the levels of violence are going to be in stability and security operations. We can see operations in Bosnia and Kosovo and we see other places that we have been in conducting such operations. But it's interesting to note that the troops, the forces actually on the ground in Iraq today, and I would also add the ones involved in operations in Afghanistan, have received exhaustive training and equipment in order to be able to operate in stability environments and in security situations. So that probably is the best I can give you.

 

     One can always hope that stability will be very quick and very easy after hostilities, after major combat operations. Our examples at the end of the Second War in Japan, the examples that we saw at the end of the Second War in Germany did not fulfill our desires to have instantaneous stability. In fact if memory serves it took a number of years in order to accomplish that.

 

     So I believe our soldiers are doing a wonderful job of protecting themselves in this very difficult environment that you described.

 

     Q:  Secretary Rumsfeld, I'd like to ask you for some of your customary precision on the issue of France. Senator Levitt asked you several times on France and Germany and you kind of kept on saying we [have a lot of] countries. Do you welcome the participation of France?

 

     Rumsfeld:  We would be happy to have them.

 

     Q:  Will you ask them?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I've answered that question four times this morning, Charles. Really. Isn't there a limit?

 

     Q:  I heard you --

 

     Rumsfeld:  I've answered the question to the best of my ability.

 

     Q:  On France?

 

     Rumsfeld:  You keep repeating yourself.

 

     I have said that we would be happy to have troops from a wide variety of countries including France. How's that?

 

     Q:  Okay.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Does that really nail it for you?

 

     Q:  It does.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Good! Let's hear it for him!

 

     Q:  Tomorrow the Army’s going to release a report explaining what happened to the 507th Maintenance Company when they got ambushed in Iraq, what had happened to Private Lynch. It seems to really differ from a lot of early reports on what happened. I wonder if you have any comment on that and where the discrepancy came from.

 

     Rumsfeld:  I've not seen the report. I've heard that a report is working its way up and out. Since I've not seen it I can't characterize its differences or similarity, but I have been reading lots of articles about newspapers that had reports. They have differed widely. Therefore almost no matter what this report says it will differ from some of those reports one would think. How's that?

 

     Q:  The report that was in the paper today, do you think --

 

     Rumsfeld:  I didn't read the papers today.

 

     Q:  The Washington Times is right here. (Laughter.)

 

     Rumsfeld:  I wear trifocals. If you think I can read that, you're wrong.

 

     Q:  -- was injured in a [road] accident --

 

     Rumsfeld:  I've said what I can say. I've not seen the report. I've not seen the newspaper article. I do know that the reports have varied widely and therefore I would think that whatever is reported by the official report will differ from at least some of those reports.

 

     Thank you.