Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability Enroute to Paraguay
Rumsfeld: I have not had a chance to visit either Paraguay or Peru during this time as Secretary of Defense, and this seemed to be a good time to stop by and have a chance to visit with them. I met with the Vice President when I was -- When was it? January, I think. more recently? Late spring. -- In Washington when he was here and had a good visit.
The relationships, of course, with Paraguay are good. We've had some medical teams involved, treating some 12,000 people over the past months. We've had good cooperation on various types of exercises of that sort. It's an important part of the hemisphere and I look forward to the visits. I've not met previously with the President or the Minister of Defense.
We'll be going to Peru as well and again, a country that I've not had a chance to visit during this tour as Secretary of Defense so I'm looking forward to that as well. I'd be happy to respond to some questions.
Media: One of the country's supporters, both the countries that you're going to be visiting, is Bolivia. Are you concerned about the level of unrest there, the direction that the politics have taken and particularly about its implications for the rest of the region?
Rumsfeld: Well sure. Any time you see issues involving stability in a country, it is something that one wishes would be resolved in a democratic and peaceful way.
Media: The role of Cuba and Venezuela in Bolivia?
Rumsfeld: There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways.
Media: Can I ask about the constitution process in Iraq?
Media: Obviously there's been at least a seven day delay in completing the constitution. Can you just give us your assessment about what it would mean if that delay is extended beyond this short extension? You yourself --
Rumsfeld: Why don't you ask what if they were able to solve it in three days or four days instead of seven?
Media: Well I'm interested in that too, but --
Rumsfeld: Apparently the glass is half empty, not half full.
Media: You yourself have raised in the past the importance of meeting the deadline, and it's only seven days, granted, but there doesn't seem to be great progress towards addressing the key issues here.
Rumsfeld: I would say they've made great progress. I think they made very good progress, for example, with the TAL and sorted through a lot of big issues at that stage. They're wrestling with a number of those kinds of issues. These are tough questions.
Think of the arguments and discussions and debates the United States had over federalism ourselves, and the fact that we amended our Constitution some 26 or 27 times since.
No, I think that what you're seeing is the Iraqi people for the first time wrestling with very tough, fundamental issues that are important to them and they're important to their region, they're important to their futures, they reflect the history of the country and they've been proceeding in a very orderly, peaceful way. I find it admirable.
Obviously, I've always believed that the sooner the constitution was completed and the sooner it was voted on, the greater the likelihood that the Iraqi people would feel they have a stake in the country and that they had an acceptable set of compromises that would protect them from each other and have a set of arrangements that they could live with peacefully. That means that the sooner that's done the fewer Iraqis that will be killed, the fewer American and Coalition forces that will be killed. So you're quite right, I do feel that moving ahead with it's important.
I think that…I have every confidence that they will end up voting on a new constitution on October 15th when they had originally planned to do so. Time will tell. But one has to be admiring of the process and of the fact that these people were selected for this task. They're engaged in this task seriously and constructively. I expect them to complete it and meet the October 15th deadline.
Media: How does this delay affect the insurgencies at all? Do you think the insurgents will end up being emboldened by this delay and see it as a sign that they're making trouble?
Rumsfeld: Well I think a delay is not helpful. How a few days delay in this process would affect the insurgency I think would be, that it wouldn't. But who knows? Time will tell. We'll all learn soon enough.
Media: [Inaudible] Bolivia. Will you be raising this with the President or the leaders of the two countries that you're going to?
Rumsfeld: I think I'll wait until I talk to the leaders before I start talking about what I'm going to talk about with the leaders.
Media: One thing is…is this a situation that calls for some sort of a regional response?
Rumsfeld: The countries in South America are interested in what's taking place in their continent and have been attentive.
Media: When you said that Venezuela and Cuba have not been helpful, or their activities in Bolivia, can you be more specific about why or how or what way?
Rumsfeld: I could be, but I don't think I will be.
Media: Will you be talking about the tri-border issue in Paraguay?
Rumsfeld: I think the cooperation that the countries in the tri-border area have demonstrated has been a useful and constructive thing. It's been good.
The kinds of problems that the hemisphere faces are problems that don't lend themselves to single nation solutions. The kind of antisocial and destabilizing behavior that we've seen with respect to hostage-taking and gangs and drug trafficking and that type of thing is not the kind of thing that a single country can deal with. It requires cooperation. We've found that, for example, with respect to the coalition against terrorism. The problem of proliferation of weapons -- No one country can deal with those kinds of transnational problems, global problems. So the kind of cooperation that exists, we've seen an increase in cooperation in Central America; we've seen an increase in cooperation in South America; and that is a very healthy and necessary thing.
Media: Can you talk to us on what the U.S. goal is in Iraq in regards to your decision-making process, the administration’s decision-making process on when you can start drawing troops down? Your goals for the insurgency, where it needs to be? Is that even a factor? Is it just a matter of -- Does the insurgency have to be defeated or down to a certain level, or is it just a matter of getting the Iraqis up to a point where they can take-on the insurgency themselves?
Rumsfeld: Every time that question gets asked of anybody in the military or the civilian or in the Defense Department, the State Department or the White House or the Coalition countries, someone always writes it in a way that it sounds like it's different from somebody else. It's a game that's being played almost. I think it's unhelpful. It causes one either to keep repeating rote certain words regardless of what's been asked, or to just say nothing on the subject.
The fact of the matter is the Coalition countries are in agreement. The military and civilian elements of the Department of Defense are in agreement. The administration is in agreement. And nothing has changed.
Media: From what?
Rumsfeld: From what we have been saying since the outset. Sometimes someone puts a phrase in front of a sentence. Another time they may put it in back of the sentence and people say aha, there's a change. They don't agree with each other. And it's utter nonsense.
The facts are the same.
Media: I guess I just --
Rumsfeld: But I'm telling you what's happening. If you're confused, don't be. Don't read the papers that confuse you and you'll be fine. [Laughter].
I suppose I could state it in its various elements and even despite my preface [inaudible] find ways to be mischievous about it. But the President has said it over and over and over again, that it is condition based. I have said repeatedly that there are a variety of variables or things that affect the conditions. Syria's behavior affects the conditions, Iran's behavior, progress on the political front with the constitution affects it, economic progress affects it, the pace at which the Iraqi security forces are able to develop and grow and be better trained and more experienced and better equipped and better integrated and better led affects the conditions. At that point where the conditions are such that the Iraqis are able to do what they ultimately will have to do, and that is provide for the security of their own country.
The President has said that as they stand up, the coalition forces will stand down. I don't know how anything else could be said or how anyone could even be slightly confused.
And anyone speculating about when and how that might happen it seems to me is making judgments or expressing hopes with respect to all of those variables and how they might sort out over time.
We have planners, as do other countries, and those planners go about their business of planning current force levels, increased force levels or decreased force levels. Every once in a while one of those people will say something and someone will say aha, they have a plan to do this, to increase for that period or decrease for this period, or that country's going to do such and such. And it all goes back to the basics. The basics are what they were when we began. They are the same yesterday. They're the same today. They'll be the same tomorrow.
Media: -- How do you feel about the positions now?
Rumsfeld: Well I've said, I wish that the constitution were completed rather than delayed by seven days, or up to seven days. I think that will proceed apace with the vote on October 15th. I think that the work that's going into the development of the Iraqi security forces is coming along fine. The NATO countries are participating in the training and equipping, some inside the country, some outside the country. Our folks are doing a good deal of the training, other countries are participating both in the country and out of the country, and increasingly -- Didn't you all get a briefing from General Patreaus not too long ago?
Media: No. We have not spoken to him collectively. We had an arrangement --
Rumsfeld: His contention is that the numbers of Iraqi security forces that are in the fight are increasing on a monthly basis and that that's a good thing.
Media: Back to Iran. Maybe I just wasn't listening --
Rumsfeld: To Iran?
Media: Iran. As it applies to the conditions that you talk about. Maybe I just wasn't listening closely enough months ago, but it seems like that's kind of a new condition that's been added into the words coming out of your mouth. What is the condition, Iran being involved in Iraq? How does that somehow affect the equation for when the U.S. --
Rumsfeld: The more difficult the situation on the ground with respect to the insurgency and terrorists, the greater the capability of the Iraqi security forces to deal with that level of insurgency. So that's one of the conditions. So to the extent any country -- Iran, Syria, anyone else -- facilitates the flow of weapons and terrorists or financing into the country and makes that level of insurgency greater rather than less, it is obviously unhelpful and it also will require over time a higher level of confidence on the part of the Iraqi security forces for them to be successful in managing over time the insurgency. And as I say, I said before, I think it will take some time. I don't know how long.
I one time made the comment that insurgencies, if one looks at the histories of insurgencies, can last two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve years, and immediately people wrote, "Rumsfeld said the insurgency's going to last for 12 years." Well that's not helpful. Nor is it accurate. Nor does it make me happy!
Media: There have been reports about Iran specifically facilitating -- I mean you've addressed them a little bit. But over the weekend there was an even more detailed report in Time Magazine about Iran’s Revolutionary Guards setting up a specific unit in Iraq to carry out car bombings against Coalition forces. Are you aware of those kinds of reports? Do you think Iran's involvement is getting more intensive as the process of writing the constitution goes along?
Rumsfeld: I've not seen that report. I see intelligence reports and we know that we're finding Iranian weapons inside of the country. They don't just get there by accident. They don't fly there. And we know that Iran has a system of government it would like to replicate in Iraq, and we know the system of government they have with a handful of clerics running the place and telling everyone want to do is fundamentally inconsistent with the kind of a constitution that's currently being drafted in Iraq. And an Iraq that is democratic and representative will stand in stark contrast to Iran.
So one ought not to be surprised that they're engaged in the kind of activities that they're engaged in. They're making a mistake, in my view. I think they're going to have to live with their neighbors like any country does over time.
Media: -- Iranian weapons on more than one occasion?
Rumsfeld: I've got another [inaudible] secure videoconference --
Media: These discoveries in the past couple of months -- What do you think it indicates?
Rumsfeld: What I just said.
Media: [Has the United States] communicated any protest to Iran, anything at all about their activities in Iraq? Is that something that --
Rumsfeld: I'll not get into that.
Media: The training of Iraqi security forces are coming along, but the public opinion is low as to the war. I’m wondering why what you're telling us doesn't seem to be translating out into the American public?
Rumsfeld: Well, because they're hearing every conceivable negative thing that anyone can conceive of communicating, and over time that affects people's attitudes and judgments. We're engaged in a test of wills and to the extent that the American people are subjected to a constant series of negative things or disappointing things or problems, as opposed to a balanced impression of what's taking place in that country it has to be discouraging to anyone reading what is read or said.