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Secretary Rumsfeld Briefs on Defense Department Operational Update

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 16, 2003 11:00 AM EDT
              SEC. RUMSFELD:  I just saw somebody out there that looked like the catcher for the Florida Marlins.  It brought back some memories from last night.  My poor Cubs.

 

            Good morning.  I returned this weekend from Colorado Springs and California.  With us in Colorado Springs were three former Warsaw Pact adversaries, Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic, now NATO allies. Also president -- present were Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia, nations that have been invited to join the alliance.

 

            These recently liberated nations are truly changing our alliance for the better.  They're bringing in new energy and a love of freedom. Six of the seven invitees have now sent troops to Iraq, as have three   of the nations invited in the first round of NATO expansion.  Poland has not only sent troops but, along with Spain, is leading a 17-nation multinational division in Iraq.

 

            Consider some of the countries that are contributing troops in Iraq today.  There's a total of 32, but I'll just mention the following:  Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Salvador -- El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine.  These are diverse nations, but they have one thing in common: they recently recovered their sovereignty and their independence, and they're proud and eager to be helping the Iraqi people recover theirs.  Their contributions demonstrate why it's important that we succeed in helping Iraq -- Iraqi and  Afghan peoples get on a path towards freedom and self-government.

 

            Because of the $90 billion the U.S. invested through the Marshall Plan after World War II, freedom took root across Europe. The liberated nations of Europe then joined with the United States to form the NATO alliance.  Together the allies stood up to the forces of communist tyranny, and by the end of the 20th century, liberty had spread across the entire continent.  Today many of those recently liberated nations are helping the Iraqi and Afghan people recover their freedom.  And if we succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will still have additional allies in the battle for freedom and moderation in the Middle East.

 

            Some have asked why the American taxpayer should be asked to pay $20 billion to help Iraq get on a path to stability and democracy and self-government.  And it's a fair question.  And the answer is, because it is in our national interest, just as the Marshall Plan was in our national interest, and it certainly is in the interest of the free world.

 

            Before I turn it over the General Myers, I'm told there are some -- a delegation of Iceland journalists that are with us today, and we welcome you, wherever you are, a NATO ally.  And we're pleased -- I guess you're all here on a State Department program.  So welcome.

 

            General Myers.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and good morning, everyone.  Operations in Iraq continue to be aimed at providing a safe and secure environment for the Iraqi people while countering efforts by former regime loyalists and terrorists attempting to disrupt our coalition efforts.  We continue to receive assistance from the Iraqi populace in identification of weapons caches and individuals involved in attacks on our forces.

 

            Over the past week Iraqis have come forward almost daily to point out improvised explosive devices that have been planted which could have been used against the coalition or Iraqis.  For example, coalition forces were recently led to two caches.  One had a -- had 20 60-mm mortar rounds, three RPGs, a bagful of hand grenades, and a dozen 57-mm rockets.  Another one had nearly 200 high explosive rockets, more than 200 rocket propelled grenade rounds, four RPG launchers, and 400 boosters for the RPG launchers.  The Iraqi citizen also provided information leading to the arrest for those who were hiding these weapons.

 

            So while there are still dangerous people out there trying to prevent the development of a free Iraq, we have made, in many cases, great strides in reducing the amount of weapons on the streets and the opportunities for preventing future attacks on coalition forces.

 

            Operations to prevent infiltrations into Iraq are also continuing.  Operation Chamberlain is designed to provide the Iraqi people with a stable and secure border in order to maintain territorial integrity.   In this vein, coalition forces recently intercepted smugglers trying to cross the border southwest of Sinjar.  As coalition forces approached the group, the smugglers opened fire on our forces.  While some of the smugglers escaped, several of them were detained, and in the operation we seized weapons and a pickup truck. Other border operations have resulted in the detention of similar individuals trying to illegally cross into Iraq with weapons and money.

 

            Additionally, we have recently begun Operation Sweeney.  This operation is designed to prevent smuggling operations in the south.  To date we have arrested about 75 individuals, seized 20 full barges, 15 empty barges, eight oil boats, 36 petroleum tankers and nine pickup trucks containing fuel, and 10 fuel pumps.  As part of this effort, Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, operating from the USS Peleliu, have gone ashore in Iraq to assist in this operation.

 

            All over Iraq, coalition forces are having some good successes. However, as I said on numerous occasions, we are still a nation at war, conditions are difficult, and our soldiers continue to make many sacrifices, and in some cases the ultimate sacrifices.  So our thoughts and prayers go out to the soldiers and their families, as well as those soldiers from our coalition partners.

 

            We have many hard challenges ahead, but I am very optimistic that the fruits of our labor will pay huge dividends in the future.

 

            And with that, we'll take your questions.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Charlie?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, the U.N. Security Council has, just within minutes ago, passed a new -- a U.S.-supported resolution on Iraq.  You have said previously that you don't expect that that would result in large numbers of additional international troops in Iraq.  What will the -- initially, what will the practical effect be on security in Iraq?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, it's a good thing that it passed, and it will have a favorable effect in some countries that have indicated they would prefer to have an additional U.N. Security Council resolution.  Which countries and how many troops it might affect, I think, remains to be seen.  We're in discussions with -- oh, goodness, I'm going to guess -- five or six, seven, countries still about it, and time will tell.  And it's really up to them and to their parliaments and their cabinets.

 

            It has one other effect, and that is it, I believe, makes it easier for the -- what do they call them, the international financial lending institutions -- I think it makes it easier for that cluster of international organizations, somewhat, to participate in helping the rebuilding of Iraq.  So that's' a good thing.

 

            Q     Do you expect that it might quickly have some effect, some positive effect on security?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think -- I'd like to be able to say yes, but I wouldn't be able to -- I can't in my own mind indicate in what ways it might.  It certainly is a plus, not a minus, but I couldn't draw a connection line between the resolution and security.  It's a tough situation there.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, it seems clear from intel and press reports that Iran not only continues to aid and abet and finance terrorism, but is continuing its spread of terrorism in that part of the world and perhaps elsewhere.

 

            If the president is serious about waging a worldwide war on terrorism, why is the administration so relatively soft on Iran?  And even though the final decision, obviously, is the president's, as Defense secretary, do you believe U.S. forces will be needed to curtail that spread of terrorism and also to handle Iraq's (sic) manufacture of nuclear weapons -- Iran's.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Those are issues that the president is working in the United Nations and through the IAEA with respect the nuclear program that Iran -- that's being addressed in Iran.

 

            You're right, Iran does continue to sponsor terrorism, there's no question about that, that they have been a major sponsor of Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, and that al Qaeda have found haven in their country, and that we worry a great deal about the border between Afghanistan and Iran and that possible safe haven, as well as the border between Iran and Iraq.  And we -- General Abizaid is working through ways that we can do a more effective job with respect to the border there.

 

            Q     I'd like to ask you both if you would comment on the Stars and Stripes survey of troops in Iraq, which indicated that a large number, large percentage of troops expressed their -- defined their morale as being low and reluctant to reenlist when their obligations were up.  I know you've both been to Iraq in recent weeks and months and talked to troops, commanders.  How does that square with what you know about what the morale and the retention situation is?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, goodness.  Well, I'll take a quick stab at it and let General Myers comment.

 

            We have not yet seen any adverse indications with respect to recruiting or retention that are notable.  There's one indicator in one service with respect to one category that is soft --

 

            Q     The Army?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It is the Army.  And I'm trying to think if it's the Guard or the Reserves.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  It's the Reserve component.  I think it's the Reserve component specifically.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  But overall, the indicators remain good.

 

            On the other hand, the effects of a stress on the force are unlikely to be felt immediately; they're much more likely to be felt down the road, so we have to be attentive to that, and we are. There's a whole host of things that the Army is undertaking to -- indeed, the services are undertaking to address the issues of the circumstance of our troops.  They're just enormously important to this country, these young men and women who are doing such a terrific job around the world, and we have to see that we manage the force in a way that's appropriate to them, and that they're paid properly, and that they have the right kind of certainty as to what's going to happen in their lives, and that we do the best possible job with respect to their families.

 

            I'm told that this -- I guess it's Stars and Stripes.  I haven't seen the article, so I -- I'm not an expert on it, but I'm told it was an informal and admittedly non-scientific poll.  And one would have to say that if you take a couple hundred thousand people and looked across them, you're going to find people at every point in the spectrum in terms of their views and whether they're up or down or happy or sad or whatever.  And I don't know that I would be a good judge of morale.  I try to be a judge.  I try to go out there and talk to them, and I do talk to a great many of the troops.  And one has to say that -- you've been there.  You've seen how they are.  They seem up and recognizing the importance of the task they're doing and proud of what they're doing.  On the other hand, I'm sure that you could go to any one of those groups and find people who are concerned about something, or unhappy, or don't have sufficient access to Internet or telephone to their families, or that may have --

 

            One of the tough parts of this is that the active forces families tend to be clustered around their home bases.  So they get the word. The military commanders and the chain of command works pretty well with those families.  The Guard and Reserve may live in a single unit, might live -- from three or four or five states.  And when I was in the Naval Reserve and drilling and training, goodness, people came to that naval air station from four, five, six states.  I used to go to one in Michigan when I lived in Ohio.  So it's not unusual for their families to be spread, in which case their families don't have that support group, they don't have as effective communication.  And we've talked to the Army, and they're trying to find ways to do a better job of seeing that they network down to the families of the Guard and Reserve in a way that gives them a greater sense of certainty about what's taking place.

 

            Do you want to comment?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Yes.  I would like to make a comment.

 

            As you can tell from the secretary's remarks, morale is really important, and -- because it's people who get the job done.  And I -- there should be no confusion about that.  We often focus on the high tech piece of our business and the equipment and so forth, but in the end it's the individual soldier, sailor or marine -- sailor, Coast Guardsman that make the difference.  So morale of our folks is very important.

 

            I've read the articles.  Well, I've skimmed the Stars and Stripes.  I've read the one that was in the Washington Post, I think  -- was it today? -- whenever it was.  And it's useful insight.  We go -- we -- both the secretary and I put our tentacles out to people who have visited -- congressmen, others.  We just met this morning with a group of senators who had recently visited both Afghanistan and Iraq, and we asked them those questions -- you know, "How do you find the soldiers?" -- because they'll talk to constituents, they'll see people that we don't see.  And I always worry -- as a four-star, somebody's always -- you know, they're bringing us all the happy folks.  And, you know, I want to see the folks that have complaints, and sometimes they won't let them near me. (Laughter.)  So we know that phenomenon exists out there, and that's why we have our tentacles out.

 

            And I don't think we could ignore how tough conditions are in Iraq.  I mean, we are still a nation at war.  We're at war against terrorism.  The focus right now is Afghanistan and Iraq, Iraq being probably a more dangerous place right now for our troops that are on the front line of this battle.  And their living conditions, while, hopefully, improving, are still pretty austere.  And, while they're volunteers, and while they raised their right hand and they wanted to go defend their country and are proud to do that, our obligation is to try to make life, as the secretary said, as predictable, to provide as much quality of life as we can for them, to allow them to connect back to their families back here.  You know, there were several months where we didn't have the phones and the ways for them to do that.

 

            So this is a very tough and difficult environment.  And the survey, as I read it, about a third said their morale was low, two- thirds say it was above average to average.  Dr. Cohen, Eliot Cohen, who studies these matters, says he's surprised the numbers for morale are so high.

 

            It's something we take very, very seriously, we look at all the time.  We query our commanders, General Abizaid on down.  It's a focus of the good leadership that we have out there today.  This is not -- and the leadership I'm talking about is not just officers; I'm talking about NCO leadership and the leadership of the individual troops on the ground, because they all have their own leadership responsibilities.  But it's something we're going to continue to look at and continue to try to work those issues.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It's an important subject.

 

            Yes, way in the back?

 

            Q     On the Buy American Act, do you still support the compromise that Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz worked out with Chairman Hunter late last month?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm personally a free-trader type.  And I know that we had an understanding with some members of Congress that we would sit down with them, work out, to the extent it's possible, something that would be appropriate -- that might be appropriate to see if we couldn't get a decent bill passed through the Congress.

 

            The understanding was that Secretary Wolfowitz would discuss that with staff up there.  He did.  There were four, five, six versions of that.  So which version you're referring to, I don't know.

 

            The current status, as I understand it, is that the -- we always said that the rest of the government has to agree as well, which includes the Special Trade Rep, the Department of Commerce, the White House, OMB.  And they then worked with Secretary Wolfowitz to moderate that in some way.  What will eventually be agreed upon, it's really a White House issue.  And eventually, I don't know, but certainly with the Joint Strike Fighter and the various things we do around the world with other countries, we have to be careful on that issue.  And I'm sure that Secretary Wolfowitz and the negotiators in the conference are being careful.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Secretary Rumsfeld, on the troop rotation plan, although you say you don't know what countries might join, how many, it doesn't look like you'll get a multinational division, another multinational division by February-March to replace the 101st, which the Army had planned on replacing.  At what point do you have to make a decision whether to call up additional Guard and Reserve, or possibly bring some Marines back as well?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The -- I don't know that we won't get additional international forces in that timeframe.  We --

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- a division.  Do you think that's possible?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I -- I just don't know.  And -- I don't want to discourage all the people that we're talking with about bringing in forces by saying that it's not going to happen.

 

            Second, I would have to concede -- anyone would -- that it's complicated.  We have the U.S. military -- CENTCOM -- that would have to work with them, develop a memorandum of understanding as to where they would be located, how they would be supplied, what roles they would have, are they properly equipped.  There's a whole set of issues that are quite important.  AND, an additional dimension of complexity is, we would have to work with the Iraqis, because whatever we end up with has to be acceptable to the country offering troops, to the Iraqis, and to CENTCOM as to how it is all done.  That suggests to me that it takes a little time.  And therefore we're going to continue working the problems.

 

            With respect to the second part of your question, I think we've already made decisions about what we would do in the alternative.

 

            (To Gen. Myers)  Isn't that right?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Yeah.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  So we've already talked to the Army.  It's basically the Army and the Marines.  We're looking essentially at ground forces, although we are looking at some other services' forces to assist in various types of things --

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Support roles.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Support.  And those decisions have been made that, that is to say, that in the event that we do not get a sufficient number of forces, whatever number that is, we have a backup plan, and those people have already been notified, and they know who they are and what they would do.

 

            Q     Can I --

 

            Q     A question for General Myers?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Way in the back.

 

            Q     Exactly a week ago, Turkey decided to send troops, and here in Washington it was, you know, welcomed by everybody.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Sure.

 

            Q     And, so you met with your counterpart in Colorado Springs. What are the difficulties?  Is there any progress?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Sure.  It is -- I just answered that question, really.  It's very complicated.  It takes -- we're very pleased with the action taken by the government of Turkey.  They -- what they decided was that they would offer the possibility of sending troops, subject to the discussions with the Central Command and with the Iraqis.  And so that process is now going forward and they're talking about how it might be done, what numbers, where it might be.  And in the last analysis, whatever ends up has to have been tested and agreed on by the Turkish government, military, and the Central Command that's working with them, and the Iraqi Governing Council.

 

            So, all of those pieces are being worked on.  And as I said, we'd have to have a memorandum of understanding, as we have always with Turkey and other countries.  So it all takes -- just takes time.  And expecting something like -- as complex as that to happen rapidly probably is not likely.

 

            Q     You don't have any time frame for it?  I mean, you don't --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You know, I don't.  One could go back and look historically and say how long do these things take.  But the model we're working on here, there's no historical predecessor that I know of.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, Lieutenant General Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, has been quoted and seen giving speeches to various religious groups casting the war on terrorism in fairly religious terms; among other things, saying   radical Islamists are attacking the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo- Christian."  The enemy is "Satan."  I won't read all of these quotes, but he also says that the president is in the White House not because of the voters, but because God put him there.

 

            Your reaction to these comments, and what is the policy about people in your office, or in the military overall, about giving these speeches casting the war on terrorism this way?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, that's a lot of questions.  I've not seen the videos, which I understand are pieces of a speech or speeches that he made and, therefore, I not only have not seen that, but I have not seen the full context of what it was he said.  We do know that he is an officer that has an outstanding record in the United States armed forces.

 

            The -- I'm trying to think what else you asked.  Oh, the policy. The policy is, as President Bush has stated, that we believe in this administration that -- oh, it -- whatever he did was -- I'm told was in his private capacity as a person.  But the president has said, and I think correctly, that the -- that this is not a -- the war on terrorism is not a war against a religion, it is not a war against a people or a country, it is a war against a group of people who have taken the subject of terrorism and tried to hijack a religion and make it look like that's part of their religion, which it is not.  And I think the president set exactly the right tone and tempo on it.

 

            Q     He was seen in a military uniform when he was giving these speeches.  And is it harmful to have these kind of statements out, especially in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim population?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (To Gen. Myers)  You going to comment?  Well, let me comment first on the latter part, and then you can comment on the uniform, because -- I mean, General Myers tells me he wears his uniform to the National Prayer Breakfast.  So -- so I don't know what -- what -- that he's violating any rule in that regard.

 

            How do you answer this?  I'm trying to think.

 

            The -- there are a lot of things that are said by people in the military, or civilian life, or in the Congress, or in the executive branch that are their views.  And that's the way we live.  We're a free people.  And that's the wonderful thing about our country.  And I think that for anyone to run around and think that that can be managed and controlled is probably wrong.  It just like -- just isn't like that in our country.  Saddam Hussein could do it pretty well, because he'd go around killing people if they said things he didn't like.  We -- and as I say, I just simply can't comment on what he said, because I haven't seen it.

 

            Dick, do you want to comment?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Well, the only thing I would say, Brett, is that there is a very wide gray area of what the rules permit.  I mean, a very wide gray area, and the secretary just mentioned one.  Generally speaking, you know, you can't criticize the chain of command in public; there are other ways to do that.  Generally, when you speak to groups, if you're in a private capacity, it's probably appropriate not to wear a uniform, but there are always exceptions to that.  And I've   spoken in church before at a prayer breakfast, but other occasions where they might honoring the military -- very appropriate to get up and speak in uniform.

 

            So, all different kinds of shades of gray here.  I don't -- at first blush, it doesn't look like any rules were broken.  That's just from what I've read and what we've discussed this morning.

 

            Q    Mr. Secretary?

 

            Q    Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm going to make a comment.  I'm going to make a comment.  I'm going to make a comment.

 

            Q     All right.

 

            Q     You're briefing.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)  We were asked is that harmful or something, someone said.  I'll tell you what's also harmful. The Los Angles Times, I read this morning in the Early Bird, it had, I guess yesterday, the day before, an article that we were going to close -- according to this -- "shuttering nearly 25 percent of its bases."  And the headline says, "Big Risk in Cutting Troops."  And so today the editorial commenting on an inaccurate article.  Therefore, the inaccurate article precedes and followed by an inaccurate editorial. And a whole lot of people out there in the world look at that and say, "My goodness, they're going to shut 25 percent of the bases.  They're going to -- it's a big reduction of troops."

 

            It's just not happening.  We've got a BRAC.  We've got a process. We've got a procedure.  And someone sits down and writes this and a whole bunch  people read it, and then they say, "Oh, my goodness, we're going to cut all these troops and we're going to cut all these bases."

 

            We don't know what we're going to do yet.  The BRAC process is in law.  It's there.  It will be properly done.

 

            GEN. MYERS:   Hasn't started.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And it hasn't started.

 

            I'm going to go to Iceland.  I'm going to go to Iceland.

 

            Q     Yeah, maybe related to that subject, on behalf of the Icelandic journalists.  Could you comment on your future vision of the   U.S. base in Iceland?  And do you see the base as necessary for the years to come, apart from the political?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The United States is in the process of looking at our global posture around the world and at home.  And we have a base- closing process here and we're in the process of -- we've pretty well looked at the world, and the next step is to take that into the interagency, which we've just started doing, and to our allies around the world, and we've just started doing that.

 

            I talked with our NATO allies in Colorado Springs about this, had a good discussion.  Interestingly, several of them are doing it themselves in their own countries, so they know exactly what we're doing and what the tensions are between the need to be more efficient and do a better job for the taxpayers, and move away from a static defense to a more dynamic -- for example, in NATO, NATO response capability, where you can actually have some agility and move some forces.  They get it.  The Eastern Europeans understand it.  The German minister mentioned that he's going through a process like that. A number of the countries are.

 

            We will be talking to the Iceland government and the German government and all the other governments of Europe where we think we have ideas as to how we might make some changes.  Until we talk to the Congress here and to our allies and friends about how we can best be arranged, we won't end up with a final template.  So we're at kind of a third of the way through the process.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     A question for General Myers, please, on Iraq.  General Myers, what evidence do you see that al Qaeda or its representatives are increasing their activities in Iraq and either planning or carrying out attacks against U.S. troops?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  We have looked at the recent bombings and the recent improvised explosive device attacks, and that's one of the first questions that as we capture and detain people, we try to determine if there are links to the al Qaeda.  And we also are looking at how many foreign jihadists, al Qaeda perhaps, some of those, that are coming into Iraq.  And without getting into classified information, it's -- we suspect they are in the country; we suspect that they have probably aided, in some cases, but we have yet to tie them to any of these major attacks, to the best of my knowledge.  And we'll continue to look at that.

 

            Now, we have mentioned from this podium several times the Ansar al-Islam group, which does have ties to al Qaeda, and which we believe is very active in the country.  In that regard, we just captured their number two or three person; the 101st apprehended one of their key figures in Mosul last week, and I think that's been reported.  It was the number two or three figure in the network.  And we believe that Ansar al-Islam continues to organize, try to organize anti-coalition attacks in Iraq.  And, obviously, having this individual is going to provide, we think, very viable intelligence not only on their efforts, but who else is involved, and where they're doing it, and any relationship to past attacks that they might have been involved in. But they're clearly -- Ansar al-Islam clearly is supported to some degree by al Qaeda in terms of finances or maybe weapons, and so forth.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, a follow-up --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just a second.  I'm going to try other people.

 

            Q     Well, I have a follow-up.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You didn't hear me.  We're going to try other people.

 

            Q     But you did a very --

 

            (Cross talk.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We either -- we either -- we either adjourn the press conference, or we allow the people up here to decide how many questions everybody gets.

 

            Q     That's your call, Mr. Secretary.  But a follow-up on --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We'll try and come back to you.

 

            Q     Understood.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We'll try to come back to you.

 

            Q     Oh!  Will you --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Do you really not want your colleagues to at least have a crack?

 

            Q     He needs to get a follow-up question --

 

            Q     Sure.  But based on what you said earlier --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Goodness gracious!

 

            Q     -- based on what you know about what General Boykin said, do you believe that it's either appropriate or advisable for such a high-ranking member of the Pentagon to make those kinds of remarks in public?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  How could you answer that if you haven't seen the text of what he said?  I don't --

 

            Q     But you see --

 

            Q     Is that something you'd want to look at?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Is -- sure, but is that something that -- does that sound unreasonable, that a person would want to have heard the context of something that somebody said before commenting on it?  I think that's perfectly reasonable.

 

            Q     But it's something you'd want to look into, in other words. You said you'd want to read --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  If I said that, then the headline would be "Pentagon looks into" --

 

            Q     There you go.  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I mean, really.  She said it; I didn't. (Laughter.)  She's not the Pentagon.  (Laughs.)

 

            Q     What is -- and the term you used -- would it be helpful to characterize this as "them against us good Christians"?  Would it be helpful to do that?  Which is -- apparently what was he is doing.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, see, "apparently" works for you. (Scattered laughter.)  "Apparently" doesn't work for me.  If I start saying, "Well, apparently" this or "apparently" that, then -- and if it's not so, what have I done?  I've misserved people, and I don't like to do that.  Others can do it, but I'm just uncomfortable doing it.

 

            The policy of this government we have stated, the president has stated.  He has made a point of visiting mosques.  He's made a point of meeting with leaders from that religion, as has -- have many others in the administration.  We have said repeatedly that this is not a war against a religion.  I don't know how else -- how better a president or an administration could have set a tone on that subject.

 

            Q     But what he's saying seems to be contrary to that policy, appears --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Okay, "appears."   "Seems to be."  You do "appears."  You do "seems to be."  I don't.  (Cross talk.)

 

            Q     After you talk to Lieutenant General Boykin, can you --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Let me go back here.  (Cross talk.)  Let me go back here.  You're next.  You want to leave it up in the front row?

 

            Q     No.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Okay.  (Scattered laughter.)  You want to take it back there?  You've got it.

 

            Q     The question is the same question everyone was asking.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good.

 

            Q     What steps are you going to take to look into, investigate -- use whatever word you choose to use -- comments that appear to be in direct contradiction to what this administration's policy has been? Do you plan to look into it, investigate it, talk to General Boykin, all of the above?

 

            Q     View the tapes, read the transcripts?

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            Q     Are you sufficiently intrigued?

 

            Q     Why don't you just fire him and then get someone --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  This is the most bloodthirsty crowd I have ever seen.  You're back with Charlie's summary execution.  (Laughter.)

 

            Q     And the answer is?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Listen, I have my job.  The services have their jobs.  They do that type of thing.  I don't.  And whether or not they will or not depends on what they end up thinking about it.  But it's not for me to comment on it.

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- the undersecretary of Defense?  I mean, that would be become an Army matter because he's an Army general, not an OSD matter?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I just haven't addressed it.  I haven't seen what he said.

 

            Q     General Myers, when you wear your uniform --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, wait a second!  Wait a second!  You've had one.  Different subject.  There he is.

 

            Q     In the wake of the bombing of the Baghdad Hotel in Iraq, U.S. officials both here and in Baghdad touted the effectiveness of the Iraqi facility's protection force trained by the United States. But subsequent to that our -- CNN's people in Baghdad tell me that, in fact, the people guarding the hotel were contractors from the DynCorp company.  Is that the case?  And are any of these Iraqi protection forces actually up and protecting anything at this point?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Sure.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Yes.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  There are site protection Iraqi forces.  There are border patrol Iraqi forces.  There are some starting in the Army. There are any number of Iraqis in police forces.  The total number keeps going up.  About a week ago it was 56,000 with another 14 (thousand) in training, up to 70,000 -- 16 in training, 17 in training.  And now it's something in excess of that.  They have a variety of responsibilities.  I would guess that in addition there are contractors hiring Iraqis with -- for the -- to work for the contractor, which would be a different -- still different category.

 

            Q     Do you know what the situation was at the hotel?  Because it was (projected ?) it was --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't.

 

            Q     -- (one way ?), and then here maybe it was a different --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Somebody probably said "seems to be" or "apparently" -- (laughter) -- which I wouldn't do.

 

            Q     General Myers, do you know the answer to that?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  We'll check on that.  I understood it, as you first said it, that it was a mainly Iraqi force.  We'll have to check on it.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Pam.  (Laughter.)  You going to start there? Okay.

 

            Q     No, no, no, I'd like to go.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Because we're running out of time.  No, no, we're going to go over here first.  It's your suggestion.

 

            Q     No.  No.

 

            Q      General Myers --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)  Who's in charge of this thing?

 

            Q     -- and Mr. Secretary, could you give us your assessment of the threat posed by Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shi'ite cleric who's -- preaches in Kufa and is in Najaf, and what -- he has a militia; how large that militia is and what kind of threat it poses, and what happened a couple of days ago when there seemed to be a shoot-out in Karbala and his people were involved?

 

            And Mr. Secretary, do I take it to understand that you're not going to push through this Boykin thing and you'll leave it to the Army?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I do not know.  I literally have heard about it this morning.  I have not read it.  I have not seen it.  And it seems to me that it is a perfectly fair thing for a person in a position of responsibility to confess that he doesn't know and has not seen it, or not read it and defer -- now, that -- that -- is that unreasonable, Pam?

 

            Q     It's not unreasonable, but there's a question of are you going to go back to your office, pick up the phone and call Boykin and say "What's this all about?", are you going to ask for the transcript, are you going to ask to see the videotapes, or are you just going to say "I'm going to leave this to the Army; if they want to do anything about it, they can"?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I just don't know.  I'm going to -- I --

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I just haven't even addressed it.

 

            Q     Okay.  Great.  I'm satisfied.

 

            Muqtada al-Sadr, please.  Threat, his militia.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  The incident in -- that you referred to seems to be more -- it was -- one Shi'a faction and another Shi'a faction that were having some difficulties.

 

            Our problem with Sadr is when -- or with anybody -- and this has been stated early on by -- I think it started with General Franks and reinforced by Ambassador Bremer, is that anybody that incites violence against the coalition, that that's not proper behavior; in fact, that's illegal under the CPA's rules.  And so anybody that does that would be subject to some sort of action.  And --

 

            Q     And has he been -- is he going to be subject to some sort of action?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  That all remains to be determined.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Barbara?

 

            Q     Thank you.  My question actually is for General Myers, sir, and --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good!  (Laughter.)

 

            Q     To come back one last time, I guess, to the General Boykin matter, you, in fact, here have indicated -- you said you did have some familiarity with his remarks based on what you had read.

 

            GEN. MYERS:   I just read the papers, but -- yeah.

 

            Q     Well, sir, you've also said here that, quote, "At first blush, it doesn't appear the rules have been broken."

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Right.

 

            Q     So, are you -- based on those two remarks that you've made, do you have, one, any concerns, any concerns, about General Boykin's remarks?  Do you now accept -- do you, as a senior military official, believe his remarks, if they're acceptable then for him to make, are they acceptable for all members of the military to make, since what's good for one is good for all?

 

            And you said that, you know, you had appeared at places like the National Prayer Breakfast.  When you, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, appear at religious events, do you express your personal religious views?  How do you handle these events?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  I think that the secretary -- this is really good, Barbara.  I think you've worked this very well.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)

 

            GEN. MYERS:  But, actually, the secretary covered all of this and --

 

            Q     No, but you made the remarks, "At first blush, it appears" --

 

            GEN. MYERS:  You bet.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think Barbara's right.  You wanted -- (laughter).

 

            GEN. MYERS:  What part was right?

 

            Q     Apparently (she's learned ?) --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It seems like, you know.

 

            Q     So, sir, I mean, you honestly did make those remarks.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Yes.  Well --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  At a recent prayer breakfast, I saw a four-star official of this department give the talk.  This year, I believe.

 

            GEN. MYERS:   Year before.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Year before.  And it was a prayer, and it was his own views.  And I think that -- how can one who is participating in what is a religious activity -- a prayer breakfast -- and is asked to speak, give someone else's views?

 

            Q    Well, let me ask you this, then.  There is a great tradition --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It's self-evident.

 

            Q     There is a great tradition at these briefings that the briefer takes questions from the news media and provides answers.  So, I would like to ask you to take the question, if you will, if you will look at these remarks, come back to us and tell us whether you approve of the remarks he made.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just so that Dick, when he takes this assignment from you, Barbara, really knows precisely what it is you said, are you asking --

 

            Q     Does he --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm going to answer you.  Are you asking him to go away and come back and respond directly to what you said; that is to say, does he agree with what he said --

 

            Q    (Off mike) --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just a minute.  -- or do you really mean you'd like him to come back and say that he agrees that he had a right to say them?

 

            Q     Yes, sir, actually to clarify.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Which is it?

 

            Q     I don't know what everybody else wants to know, but I'd like to know whether you support that General Boykin can -- exercised appropriate, good judgment as a military officer in making those remarks.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That's a different question.  That's a different question.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  And in what capacity was he speaking.  And that's a big issue because --

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- he was in uniform.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  -- if you're in a public capacity, uniform or not, if you're using -- you know, if you're speaking, if I'm speaking as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, there are certain -- because of the Constitution, the way we're organized, and I'm a senior official of the government, I have certain things I can't say.

 

            Q    I'd like to know if you believe that he was exercising appropriate, good judgment.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  And I already answered that.

 

            Q     You believe he was.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  I think these rules get very hazy, and so it is a matter of judgment.  And --

 

            Q     (Inaudible.)

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Well, I'm kind of like the secretary; we have not -- I haven't seen the tapes.  I've read what I read in the Early Bird this morning.  And I don't -- you know, if that's accurate, I don't know if that's accurate or not.

 

            Q     I absolutely don't mean to --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You don't want us to rush to judgment, Barbara, do you?

 

            Q     No.  But that's why I'm asking you to look at the material. And I'm not understanding why both of you are reluctant to say, "I will look at it."  Why are neither of you willing to say that?  And I don't mean to be rude, sir.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You're not rude.  You're -- (laughs) -- just par for the course.

 

            I'll tell you.  Barbara, I'll tell you why.  Going back to the other question, that if we say we're going to look at it, we're going to review it, we're going to investigate it, we're going to do this, then the headline tomorrow is "General Myers said he's decided to go out and review what some person said."  Now, he doesn't know if he wants to yet.  He hasn't seen it.  He said he hasn't seen it.   He would prefer, I think -- and I know I would prefer, as I think I expressed -- that you let it sit.  Running out and criticizing somebody from a pinnacle of near-perfect ignorance is not good form. It's harmful to the institution.

 

            Q     Sir, with all due respect, you're overthinking this problem. We're asking you a simple question.  The general's remarks were either appropriate or they weren't.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And he said he would look into it.

 

            Q     We would like to know what you think.  Were they appropriate or not?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And I do not want a headline tomorrow that says: Investigation of Somebody's Comments.

 

            Q     We're not saying -- we're not saying --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Shh!  Shh!  What if we started doing that to every soldier, sailor, Marine, lieutenant, colonel, general who says something?

 

            Q     Well, again, this is a senior official from your department.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I said general.  I said general.  Yeah.

 

            Q     But he's a senior official who works for you.  You're his boss.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That's right.

 

            Q     We'd like to know, at your convenience, when you've had a chance to look at it, did he -- was it appropriate or wasn't it?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We've heard that.

 

            Q     Could I give you a little --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  How many times have we heard that?

 

            Q     Could I give you a little unsolicited, friendly advice, Mr. Secretary?

 

            (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Zip up your pockets.

 

            Q     The headline you're going to see tomorrow is going to make you sound indecisive, because the headline you're going to see is -- "What are you going to do?" is the question, "I don't know."  Quote, unquote.

 

            Now, you don't want that headline, do you, sir?

 

            Q     On a 24-hour news cycle.

 

            Q     We're not asking you to investigate, but you're asking for you to take a look at the material with --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think if I went back and read the transcript of this, that I would not be uncomfortable with what I've said.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Can I --

 

            Q     Can I follow up on al-Sadr?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Can I go back for --

 

            Q     Can I follow up on al Sadr?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Can I go back for a second to the question you asked earlier about notifying those Reserve units?

 

            Q     Way back!

 

            GEN. MYERS:  It's way back.  But it's -- I want to make sure that --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It's important.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  It's important.  I think we have notified, for the Operation Iraqi Freedom, two rotation, which starts next spring, late winter, spring, we have notified the major combat units.  There are combat support, combat service support units in the Reserve component that probably have not been notified yet because we're still trying to source those.  But they will be notified in plenty of time to give them all the notification they need and all the training.  Their time to get ready to go is a lot shorter.  So we -- for the combat units, they've been notified because they need the long train-up.  So we still have some of that to go.  But --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Ah!  So what we said earlier is not completely accurate?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  That's -- not completely accurate.  So that's the answer to that question.  And --

 

            Q     Thank you.

 

            Q     Just a quick follow-up on al-Sadr.  You said it is illegal to incite violence, and sort of left it open there at the end.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Right.

 

            Q     Does that mean you're investigating him now?  I don't know if you'll hate that headline.  (Laughter.)  But are you looking into what he has done in Iraq?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It is a subject that's being handled in Iraq by the provisional authority, the Coalition Provisional Authority, and General Sanchez and General Abizaid.

 

            Q     Don't you worry about backlash?  If you did go in and detain him, that it might create more problems?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Why would we want to stand up here and speculate on all of that when it's a matter being handled in Iraq by the appropriate people?  We'd rather not.

 

            Q     You should have gone to law school, you could be rich! (Laughter.) 

 

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