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Secretary Rumsfeld's News Conference In Poland

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 24, 2002

Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2002

(News conference in Poland)

Rumsfeld: We have had very good meetings today. We've talked a good deal about NATO and transformation and improving the command structure of this organization, just as in the United States we've been working on the command structure there. We talked about fashioning a NATO response force that can do things faster and with greater agility and be capable of sustaining itself. This is not a meeting where decisions were taken, but there's no question but that the response to our proposal was excellent, uniformly excellent.

We had a very good briefing by the deputy director of central intelligence, John McLaughlin on the subject of Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction; it's relationship with terrorists.

Trying to think what else did we do, Mr. Ambassador. We discussed Afghanistan to some extent and the situation there. Trying to think what else. Lots of subjects.

Q: We'd like to hear more.

Rumsfeld: The Balkans. Talked about the Balkans.

Q: Could we have a little bit of detail, within reason, realizing it was a classified briefing, on Iraq? What did he say about Iraq? Did he provide any new information, anything closer to a smoking gun?

Rumsfeld: He gave a very thorough briefing on the best shared intelligence information that exists on the subject of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction and terrorists.

Q: As you know, Prime Minister Blair gave a very detailed speech in Parliament. Was anything mentioned about that in the session?

Rumsfeld: Indeed, we were all supplied copies of the unclassified version of the white paper. And I had a chance to watch a portion of Prime Minister Blair's presentation, which I thought, was excellent. I also had a chance after lunch to move through the white paper that they released today and thought it was an excellent piece of work. And needless to say, it closely parallels the classified briefing that was provided this afternoon.

Q: Where there any questions raised during the briefing on Iraq about capabilities...

(Crosstalk)

Rumsfeld: Sure, a number of questions.

Q: I mean, contentious questions?

Rumsfeld: No, just information questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, did any of your colleagues make remarks about the briefing or afterward to you indicating any sort of shift in their opinion...

Rumsfeld: Oh, no. That's not for me. The briefing just ended and I walked out.

Q: Did any of the ministers challenge any of the facts you presented or viewpoints you presented on Iraq?

Rumsfeld: No. I mean, what we presented was quite factual and it was basically what we know. It was what the shared intelligence of the countries in the room and other countries besides know.

Rumsfeld: And I've always found that when people are working off the same set of facts, they tend to come to quite similar conclusions. When people are working -- everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. And if you're all on the same sheet of music, why, you tend to sing the same song.

So I think that there's a -- if one goes back a year to after September 11, there is no question but that this alliance has accepted fully the risks that exist in the world with respect to weapons of mass destruction and the dangers of terrorists and terrorist states and terrorist networks and countries that are havens for terrorists, and that the alliance has taken a whole series of steps to see that our countries are better prepared to cope with and deal with and deter and defend against and mitigate the damage from those types of capabilities that exist in the world today. They've undertaken any number of steps that are quite impressive.

Q: (inaudible) the briefer says second about the connection between Iraq and al Qaida and weapons of mass destruction...

Rumsfeld: Quite a bit.

Q: Did he say anything about whether there is a connection between Iraq and al Qaida?

Rumsfeld: Oh, certainly, there is.

Q: And could you tell us what that connection is?

Q: I mean, if Blair has already mentioned some of these...

Rumsfeld: Sure, read his report.

Q: But can you...

Rumsfeld: I could, but I'm not going to. It's unhelpful to us to get into a lot of detail because it just changes our capabilities of doing things.

Q: Do you believe that Iraq is helping al Qaida with weapons of mass destruction...

Rumsfeld: I've said all I want to say on the subject.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the French defense minister held a briefing and she said she was all for this rapid strike force, rapid deployment force, whatever you want to call it, except that she didn't think, number one, it should operate out of area; number two, it should use preemptive force; or number three, it should never operate without direct orders from the U.N.

Q: What do you think about that? I mean, what is your response to that? This is an out of area -- I mean, you would want it to operate out of area, wouldn't you?

Rumsfeld: The NATO countries is the location where those decisions are made as to whether or when NATO, as an entity, would want to operate either within NATO or outside of NATO. And it's that collective consensus and process that makes those decisions.

Q: And how about preemption as opposed to reaction?

Rumsfeld: I think that's a semantic problem. You know, was President Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis acting preemptively? Did he take an anticipatory self-defense by not waiting until Soviet missiles were in Cuba and fired at the United States, instead decided to go out, engage in what most people would characterize as an act of war by imposing a blockade which they euphemistically called a quarantine and put the country in a very tense crisis with respect to the risk of the use of nuclear weapons? I would characterize that as not waiting.

Q: Did you use that analogy in your (Off-Mike)

Rumsfeld: I can't remember. I might have. Hope I did.

Q: But would you just repeat some of the words...

Rumsfeld: If I didn't, I should have.

Q: Would you repeat some of the words that you did? I know we've heard some of the words that you did use. Could you just repeat those to us about the rapid-reaction force and why it's necessary for the alliance, and if you didn't get it, what sort of message -- what did you say in that light?

Rumsfeld: We supplied a paper describing a theory as to what a NATO response force might look like and circulated it prior to the meeting. I described it in my remarks to the ministers. And the logic for it is very much the same logic as to why in the United States we're attempting to make rearrangements in how we're organized and trained and equipped.

And the reality is that military assets that are capable of getting ready to do something in months or years are very likely to be less useful in the world we're in, a world of little or not warning, than assets that are capable of functioning in days or weeks. And that means you have to be organized and equipped and trained and have headquarters and capabilities so that you can respond rather rapidly.

Now, it's up to NATO to decide whether or not they'd like that and how they might want to use that. To the extent they do, NATO obviously would then have a relevant capability. To the extent NATO decided not to do that, obviously it would have less relevant capabilities.

Q: But if there's a failure to create a force, what sort of signal might that send?

Rumsfeld: Why would one want to anticipate that when I said that the reaction to it was almost overwhelmingly positive?

Q: You used strong words. I was trying to get you to repeat the words.

Rumsfeld: I did not read the press today, but I'm told there's something that needs to be -- what's a nice word -- calibrated.

Q: Calibrated?

Rumsfeld: Calibrated. That's what I was looking for.

There was no coalition before the Gulf War a decade ago. The president made a decision, and he then began the process of developing a coalition.

Rumsfeld: It was not a NATO coalition, it was a coalition of a lot of countries all across the world. And it wasn't built from zero to whatever it went to, 40 or 50 countries, the first day or the second day. It evolved over a period of time.

The global war on terror when President Bush, this President Bush, announced that we needed to tackle this problem directly, there was no coalition. And it began to be built and today it's up to 90. It's the largest coalition in human history, I think.

People are now writing articles, I am told, that suggest that there's no coalition with respect to Iraq. One ought not to be surprised. Anyone who has any, even a modest understanding of history will think back over the last day or two and realize that the president's not made a decision with respect to Iraq. Therefore it's not surprising there's not a coalition with respect to Iraq.

What role, if at all, any country or any organization might wish to play if and when a decision was made with respect to Iraq that there was no alternative except to use force is something that would evolve at that point.

Rumsfeld: And anything that's being done now or said in no way ought to be considered as marginalizing any other country or any other organization. And it would be a misunderstanding of the situation to do that.

Q: Can I ask you, we understand from...

Staff: Make this the last question.

Q: OK. From the United Nations that the United States and Britain are close to coming to agreement on some language that they want to present before the full Security Council and that it was waiting for your eyes to go over the document.

Rumsfeld: Who said that?

Q: Our folks that are at the U.N. Have you had a chance to look at the latest language?

Rumsfeld: No.

Q: But are you getting any allies...

Rumsfeld: That was the last question.

(Laughter)

Q: But following up on that, are you getting any allied support from...

Staff: Thanks, you guys.

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