Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability after NBC's Meet The Press
SEC. RUMSFELD: Hello folks.
Q: Secretary –
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good morning.
Q: There’s some – (inaudible) -- suggestion that the insurgency may not keep for another year. Do you have any estimate of when the tide is going to turn?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, I don’t. I think that it’s reasonable to suggest that the insurgency and the terrorists see progress being made politically. They see the elections were successful. Now they see that the Sunnis are involved the drafting of the constitution along with the Kurds and the Shi’as.
That’s got to be disappointing to them. They also see the constitutional referendum coming up later this year in October and the election in December. And if those are successful, it’s a terrible blow to the terrorists that want to take that country back to beheadings and darkness. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the level of the insurgency go up and the lethality go up between now and the period of the elections in December.
Q: Should we have better estimated the strength of the insurgency --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh my goodness – the strength of the insurgency is a function of the success of the Iraqi government people to persuade the Iraqi people that, in fact, they have a legitimate government and that’s coming; you can see it in the polls. You can see people in Iraq have greater respect for the government. They have greater respect for the Iraqi security forces. Now how do you estimate that? How does anyone do it? You don’t have crystal balls in life.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld – (inaudible) -- an AP poll about the bottom line in terms of the recruiting situation at this point, if you would say some things I would appreciate – but what do you say to Americans who more and more don’t want --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Do you want me to look at –
Q: Yes, yes – What do you say to Americans –
Q: -- what do you say to Americans who more and more because of this war do not want their kids going into the Army and the Marines?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, we’ve missed recruiting goals in this country on a number of occasions over the years. It happens that the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps are meeting both recruiting and retention goals. The Army is meeting its retention goals. In fact, it’s quite good. It’s interesting that the people who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher retention rate than the ones who haven’t. The recruiting goal is not being met right now partly because the goal is higher than it normally has been. We’re increasing the size of the force by 30,000 people. But, people run around that people saying the army is broken, and it’s wrong, and the implication of it is wrong. We’ve got the best army on the face of Earth, the best army in the history of the United States of America.
Q: Do you see any indication that the war is having a major effect on recruiting?
SEC. RUMSFELD: There are a number of things that affect it. The fact that the press is constantly saying that the Army is broken and people don’t want to serve, which is nonsense. It’s noble service, they’re doing a great job over there. The other thing is the economy is strong and unemployment is down, so historically that cycle affects recruiting and there’s a lag, but they’re going to be fine.
Q: Do you think – is the administration trying to retool its message now due to recent polls showing that there’s lack of support for this war?
SEC. RUMSFELD: This message business is not my field, but the truth is the truth. The fact is we’re making progress politically. We’re making progress over there from an economic standpoint. Having a democracy in Iraq will be a truly historic achievement, and the men and women in the Armed Forces will look back in 5 or 10 or 15 years at the accomplishment and feel great pride in what they’ve done.
Q: It seems that Iraqis believe that there’s a perception that rebuilding isn’t happening fast enough. What’s happening on the ground that would lead some Iraqis to believe that the reconstruction isn’t happening –
SEC. RUMSFELD: What do you mean some Iraqis feel something is not fast enough? Come on!
Q: An Iraqi journalist has been talking about –
SEC. RUMSFELD: Do you believe everything an Iraqi journalist says? Or any journalist?
Q: Well it’s a perception –
SEC. RUMSFELD: Look, there’s no – if you were an Iraqi you would want everything to happen fast – magically. But the schools are open. The hospitals are open. The security situation is not good. It’s dangerous; people are getting killed. It’s a tough business to go from a despot to a democracy. This is hard stuff. Now, would people like faster? You bet. Would they like it instantaneously and magically? You bet! Did that happen in our country? No. Is it happening in Afghanistan? No! It’s tough, difficult work and it’s going to be tough for a period as we go forward.
Q: Mr. Secretary, just one question please. Would you confirm those reports from the British media this morning that there are, in fact, secret talks between the U.S. – including a representative of the Pentagon – with insurgents there? Is it a shift in terms of U.S. policy? What should the Arab world read into that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The Arab world and the rest of the world ought to read the truth. And the truth is that a London newspaper reported that there were some meetings. That is not a scoop. There are meetings all the time. People talk. First of all it’s Iraqi – the Iraqi people’s country, and they’re going to have meetings – as many meetings as they want, anytime they want. The same thing is going in Afghanistan. President Karzai is reaching out to the Taliban. He’s not reaching out to the people with blood on their hands, but he’s reaching out to other Taliban and trying to encourage them to come back into the society, be a participant, and support the government. In Iraq, the same thing is taking place. The Shi’a are reaching out to the Sunnis. They’re trying to get them to be involved in the constitutional drafting process. They’re achieving that goal, and meetings are going to take place by Iraqis and other Iraqis as we go forward probably every week month into months ahead. And that’s a good thing, and the message to the world is that they’re trying to bring people in to support the government.
Q: But negotiations would be a result of also U.S. military action – we have seen some heavy-handed action that – are they weak enough to come to the table to come to the table of negotiations? All of those groups, all of them?
SEC. RUMSFELD: First of all, there are all kinds of insurgents. There are the Zarqawi people and you can count on them never to coming to the table. They’re not going to come to the table. A suicide bomber, who’s willing to go in and blow themself up and kill 50 to 100 innocent men, women, and children is not the kind of person you negotiate with. But that’s just one element of the insurgency. There are all kinds of people involved in the insurgency and a lot of them will end up participating and supporting the government.
Thank you folks.
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