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DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 17, 2002 1:30 PM EDT

(Also participating was Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. First, I want to express our sorrow at the death of an Afghan child who was hit by a vehicle driven by a U.S. soldier in Kabul two days ago. Certainly no one can think of a pain worse for a parent than the loss of a child, and certainly our hearts go out to his family.

I also want to express my sympathies to the family of Lance Corporal Antonio Sledd, who was killed on October 8th in Kuwait. Lance Corporal Sledd died in service to his country. We are grateful that his colleague Lance Corporal George Simpson Jr. survived and is -- seems to be recovering well.

Their sacrifice and that of all U.S. and coalition forces that have been killed or injured in this war remind us all of what a difficult and dangerous challenge we face in the global war on terror.

Last week there was a strong vote in Congress to authorize the president to use force. It sent a strong signal to the Iraqi regime and to the world that our country is united in its goal of working with the United Nations to seek disarmament in Iraq.

As the president made clear in his address last week, none of us desire to see military conflict, because we know the awful nature of war. A decision to use force is never easy. No one with any sense considers war a first choice. In the recent congressional debate, many important questions were raised about the risks of military action.

When I came to the Pentagon last year, I prepared a list of issues that I have found useful in considering before making a recommendation with respect to the use of force. I update those guidelines from time to time, and I thought I would mention a few of them today. A copy of the guidelines is available in the press office, if anyone wants one.

First, is the proposed action truly necessary? Certainly if lives are going to be put at risk, whether they're U.S. lives or the lives of other foreign nationals, there must be a darn good reason.

I suggest that all instruments of national power should be engaged before, during and after any possible use of force. There is clearly an interaction between diplomacy and the potential of the use of force.

And I would submit that -- a good example of it exists today. The Iraqis have refused inspections for years now, and because of the threat of the use of force and because the United Nations is considering that, the Iraqis have now volunteered that they might consider one type of inspection or another. Whether they'll stick with that or not is another question. But I think it's an example of that interaction.

When the U.S. commits force, the task should be achievable and at an acceptable risk. It has to be something that the United States is truly capable of doing. We need to understand that we have limitations. There are some things that this country and other countries simply can't do. There should be clear goals both as to the purpose of the engagement and what would constitute success so we can know when our goals have been achieved. Decisions, in my view, ought not to be made by committees. If the U.S. needs or prefers a coalition, which in my view it almost always will, it's important to avoid trying so hard to persuade others to join a coalition that it could compromise the goals or jeopardize the command structure. The mission needs to determine the coalition.

Third, if a proposed action is necessary and doable, is it worth it? If an engagement is worth doing, then we need to recognize that ultimately lives could be put at risk, and leaders have to be willing to invest the political capital necessary to marshal support necessary to sustain the effort for whatever period of time conceivably could be required. When there's a risk of casualties, that risk should be acknowledged at the outset, rather than allowing the American people or others to think that an engagement can be executed antiseptically.

Next, before acting, one needs to consider the implications of the decision in other parts of the world. When the United States does something in one location, that action is read all across the globe. So too with an inaction -- it can be read all across the globe. And those actions and/or inactions can contribute either favorably or unfavorably to the U.S. deterrent and to our influence in other parts of the globe.

Finally, if there's to be an action, it seems to me that it's important to make a judgment as to when diplomacy has failed and to act forcefully during the pre-crisis period to try to alter behavior and prevent a conflict; if that fails, to be prepared to use whatever force is necessary to prevail, plus some.

It's important not to dumb-down what's needed by promising not to do things, it seems to me. We've seen instances where people have said, "We won't use ground forces," or "We won't risk lives," or "We won't permit collateral damage," or "We won't bomb below 15,000 feet," or "We'll set an arbitrary deadline that it will end as of this date." Those promises, those declarations, it seems to me, have the net effect of simplifying the task for an enemy, and it makes the task for the coalition much more difficult.

I think it's also important to be brutally honest. We need to avoid making any effort sound even marginally easier or less costly than it in fact could become. Preserving U.S. credibility requires that we promise less, or at least know more, than we believe we can deliver. And remember that it's a great deal easier to get into something than it is to get out of it. There may be times when national security requires that the U.S. act without clear answers to some of these questions. These questions, really, that I've posed to myself I think of as guidelines: not a perfect checklist, but simply -- and certainly not hard and fast rules. But they're prepared as a checklist so that as people are considering the possible use of force, it is done with the fullest appreciation of our responsibilities and all the risks.

General Myers.

Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and good afternoon.

Let me just add my condolences to those of the secretary for the family and friends of the young child killed in Afghanistan, and for the family and friends of our Marine that was killed in Kuwait. I'd also like to add condolences to the victims and their families and those injured and killed in the bombings in Indonesia and in the Philippines. I think if it points out anything, it points out the need for continued international cooperation as we come to grips with and try to destroy and disrupt these terrorist organizations that would carry out these heinous acts.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

Rumsfeld: Yes, Charlie.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you and the president have said repeatedly that one thing that separates -- one major thing that separates Iraq from the rest of the axis of evil is that Iraq has been in long violation of international agreements on weapons of mass destruction. Now North Korea says openly that they are violating such an agreement and are actively developing nuclear weapons. Should not now North Korea become a candidate for possible preemptive defensive action, and that weapons program? And if not, why not?

Rumsfeld: Those are questions not for me, but for the president and the Congress and the country. And the United States government has -- is in the process of talking to our friends and allies in Japan and South Korea. And I believe there will -- either have been or will also be discussions of that subject with the People's Republic of China, with Russia, and possibly with the European Union members. It is a fact, it is a reality that they are -- they stand in direct breach of I guess four separate agreements, by their own admission. They have indicated that they have violated the Nonproliferation Treaty, the IAER Safeguards agreements, the North- South Denuclearization agreement, as well as the so-called agreed framework. The United States has indicated that it will be talking with our friends and allies and discussing the seriousness of the problem.

Q: Is it time to demand that North Korea admit inspectors to prove that it will or can give up its weapons of mass destruction?

Rumsfeld: I said before that the idea of inspectors ought to be considered in the context of a cooperative government. The idea of inspections is when a country says, "We've decided that we want to conform to international standards and agree to international resolutions and requirements and agreements, and therefore, we're going to cooperate. And we'd like to prove that we're not doing any of these things, therefore we'd like inspectors to come in and validate that truth for the entire world."

Now, what you're asking is is it appropriate for inspectors? They just said they're violating it. They're not even denying that they're violating it. They've admitted that they're violating all four of those agreements. What does one inspect when they are already stating for the world that that's their position?

Q: Mr. Secretary.

Q: Has there been any change of posture for the U.S. troops in Korea since the revelation?

Rumsfeld: We don't talk about troop deployments or changes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'd like you to be brutally honest now for a moment if you would.

Rumsfeld: I just was. (Laughter.)

Q: Well, on another issue, if I might.

Rumsfeld: Oh. (Laughter.) Okay.

Q: There was a front page story in the Washington Post earlier this week putting in print whispers and comments that many of us have heard since you took on this job, and that is that the top military leadership and civilian leadership in the services are out of the loop, and that you rely on a small cadre of civilians, Steve Cambone and others. One, is that true? And two, are you doing the operational planning for any kind of an attack on Iraq?

Myers: Can I be brutally honest? (Laughter.)

Q: That's not fair, because you're standing by his side, General.

Myers: That's okay, I'll stand over here. (Laughter.) Doesn't matter where I stand. Let me just say that the first part of your question -- not the Iraq part, but the other part -- and I think I was quoted fairly in that article on this point, I can't remember exactly -- but it's my view -- and of course I don't have all the historic context here, but I doubt, if you go back in history, that you will find a civilian structure and a military structure in this building that collaborates more than we have in the last year and a half or whatever. Go out and ask the other service chiefs, go ask the people that you would expect to be at his level collaborating, and even those that maybe shouldn't be at -- in some of the meetings. And that's my view.

And so I think -- I think the innuendo in that article is absolutely wrong.

Q: Second point, please, sir? Are you doing the operational planning without consulting the senior military leadership?

Rumsfeld: (With a laugh.) Ask Dick! I mean, it's nonsense! I called one of those articles a world-class thumb-sucker. I'd like to apologize. This one was a world-class one; that one was second rate! (Scattered laughter.)

Myers: I'll just restate what -- I'm trying to think of a matter that we are not -- that the senior military officials in this building, and out in the unified commands anywhere, where there's expertise that needs to be brought to the problem, where they're not consulted on -- not consulted, not only just consulted, but a part of the planning and the programming, the allocation of resources, and deeply involved in the execution.

And as you would expect, the secretary, being the secretary of Defense and in the direct chain of command from the commander in chief to the combatant commanders, the secretary plays a very active role. But he doesn't play that role solo; everybody is involved, to include the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Staff, other members of OSD, and anybody that would have a valuable input.

I mean, it's just -- those sorts of -- I don't know why -- we've said that several times from here and it just keeps bubbling up. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Q: One quick follow-up.

Rumsfeld: Just a second. I suspect -- I don't know this, but somewhere there's the numbers; I would guess that I've probably met more with the senior military leadership in the United States of America in the last 20 months than any other secretary possibly ever did in four years. It is continuous. I could be wrong on that. And certainly in modern times that's the case.

The other thing I would say about it is, the article had the tinge that there's something wrong with civilian control. And it struck me as a little odd. Someone ought to go back and read the Founding Fathers and what they had in mind. It is intended that there be civilian control in this department. That's the design of the system. Clearly, it's done with extensive consultation and discussion. But one ought not to go away with an impression that that's something that's an anomaly in our system because it's central to our system. In fact, one of the stipulations we have in terms of our relationships with other countries is a preference on their part that they have civilian control of the military as opposed to military control over the military.

Q: One quick follow-up, if I may. There is one point in the article, perhaps, that is accurate, for those of us who know you, Mr. Secretary. It says you're a "tough hombre" in your dealings and --

Rumsfeld: I am sweet and lovable. (Laughter.) Goddang.

Q: General Myers, can I take you back to North Korea a second? What are the military implications in terms of readiness if the U.S. had to plan for heightened tensions in that region of the world from, you know, precision-guided weapons, chemical protection suits, transport, as you've simultaneously planned for potential action against Iraq? Is this a major problem potentially looming from a readiness standpoint?

Myers: Well, you know, I'll go back to the QDR and the strategy that came out of there that had about five tasks for us in the military to do. And the major piece of that, the middle piece of that was to be able to swiftly defeat the efforts in two separate parts of the world and one to take to a win-decisively conclusion. So -- and we have the forces, and then there are other things, homeland security, to be forward postured in four regions as well, and then have a strategic reserve. And if you take all that in balance, you know, we're ready to carry out that particular strategy. I'm not going to get into the what-ifs because we have not -- we don't have a presidential decision on Iraq and we have no indications right now that anything unusual is going to occur, necessarily, in North Korea. So.

Q: But that planning assumption assumed that the -- the agreed framework would continue and that you would have --

Myers: The planning assumption was not based on a particular country; it was capabilities-based. And so it did not -- it didn't -- I mean, in fact it didn't take that into account.

Rumsfeld: Absolutely did not.

Q: It absolutely did not.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you believe that Iraq is more dangerous than North Korea today, now that this nuclear program is no longer secret in North Korea?

Rumsfeld: I agree with the president's speech to the United Nations and to the American people that Iraq has unique characteristics that distinguish it and that suggest that it has nominated itself to -- for special attention because of the threat of what they're doing.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the Iraqi National Congress and the other opposition groups have put forward a couple of thousand names of folks they would like to have get military training, everything from forward air controllers to military police training. Any sense when that might occur?

Rumsfeld: Gosh, I'd have to talk to the folks here in the department who are working on that. You're right; there -- that is a process that's beginning. What its current status is and when it might actually start, I don't know. I'd have to check.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, you've talked about being honest with the American people in talking about -- thinking about the consequences elsewhere in the world and not making things seem easier than they are. I'm wondering if you think the administration has been as forthcoming as it should be in terms of the risks. There's been {talk} of action. There's been a lot of talk about -- a lot of speculation by the present administration about what might happen if we don't act. But has there been enough talk about what might happen if we do act, in terms of sparking the use of weapons of mass destruction, dragging Israel in, inflaming terrorism, the long-term commitment and the costs, and so on?

Rumsfeld: There's been a great deal of discussion of a list of things like that numbers some four or five pages, 30 or 40 items that I've prepared myself and discussed internally and discussed in the interagency process. It is -- those things are being addressed, and addressed seriously and fully. And they're real. There is no question but that there are risks to action, just as, you point out, there are risks to inaction.

The extent to which any one or more of them should appropriately be discussed with the American people, it seems to me, depend first and foremost as to whether or not a decision by the president gets made to do something with respect to Iraq. And clearly he would make a judgment at that point as to what would be appropriate to do.

Some of the things that could go wrong simply by talking about them and suggesting them could lead to their going wrong, if you will. And that would not be helpful.

Q: There seems to be no hesitation to discuss or speculate on the dangers of inaction. But whenever people are asked about the dangers of action, such as sparking the use of weapons of mass destruction, those questions usually turn into "Well, he's -- yes, he's dangerous; therefore, we need to take action," as opposed to really leveling --

Rumsfeld: That's -- I don't think that's quite fair. I testified for hours and hours before the House and the Senate and discussed a number of those questions, in response to questions, and some I volunteered.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Could I ask you a question on North Korea again? Do you view the North Korean admission of this nuclear program as a sign of belligerence, or is it a good sign that they're coming clean about it?

Rumsfeld: (Chuckles.) I don't think there's any way in the world anyone could say it's a good sign that when they were called and confronted and told that we have evidence that they are violating all four of these agreements by engaging in a highly enriched uranium route development program for additional nuclear weapons -- I don't see how anyone could say that that's a good sign. They were told that we had that evidence; they denied it. The next morning they came back and confessed it. I suppose anyone's speculation as to why they might have denied it and then confessed it is as good as anybody else's speculation. Why they are doing what they're doing, of course, is something for them to answer. They have said they wouldn't, (they) entered into a series of four agreements saying they would not, (they) received from the United States and from other countries a great (amount of help) -- billions of dollars of things --energy, oil, food, what have you -- and put all of that at risk by proceeding with a nuclear program that they had agreed in four instances they would not do, and then when caught, ultimately confessed. So characterizing that as a good sign, it seems to me, particularly when one goes to the tone with which they did it, which was belligerent.

Yeah.

Q: Mr. Secretary, just tell us, what's the difference in Saddam Hussein and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il? They're both dictators, they threaten their neighbors, they both have nuclear programs, and they are abusing the human rights. Why don't you take the regime change, or change of regime in North Korea like you do in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: The -- if you -- you can get a copy of my testimony before the Congress, I describe differences in the testimony and in the questions. Each of those countries in the terrorist list are different. They're different in a variety of different ways. I've explained the differences from this podium on a number of occasions, and I explained it in my testimony, and I'd prefer to leave it there.

Yes.

Q: Either one of the gentlemen, we've turned to the military assistance to try and find the sniper here in Washington D.C. Can you tell us a little bit more, either one of you, about your thinking about this effort? Do you, in fact, view this as an extraordinary use of the military assets, how you plan to keep it within the legal framework? And I guess also, a real harsh reality check: do you have the slightest indication, worry or concern that this is, in fact, possibly terrorist-related?

Rumsfeld: I have no information that it's terrorist- related.

Do you?

Myers: I do not. That would be a good question, though, for the FBI, since they're the ones -- seriously.

Q: Well, I just --

Rumsfeld: The FBI -- it's a law enforcement matter. The FBI is in charge. They have come to us and asked for some assistance. We have looked at our assets and capabilities and tried to determine what we might do to be of assistance to them that's consistent with the law, the Posse Comitatus law. Just as I have not thought it helpful for me to describe what other countries are doing with the global war on terrorism, I don't think it's helpful for me to describe what the FBI's doing in terms of law enforcement. They have the best gyroscope to determine what's appropriate and what's inappropriate. I would much prefer to have them tell the world whatever they think is appropriate about what we're doing to help them. We do know that what we're doing is fully consistent with the law, full stop.

If you go to a related subject, if you think about, oh, gosh, three or four weekends ago, there were some surface-to-air missiles located in close proximity in the capital. There were some stingers and a variety of formats. We have combat air patrols flying over Washington and other parts of the country on a -- not a random basis, but on an irregular basis. Just as I think it would conceivably be unhelpful from a law enforcement standpoint for us to talk about what we're doing to help the FBI, because it informs the sniper, so too I think it's personally unhelpful for us to discuss every time we have a CAP over this city instead of that city. I think the irregularity of it serves as a deterrent, and the irregularity of it complicates the task for others. And so to with Stingers on the ground.

So we don't talk about it. If somebody thinks it's a good thing to print that the Stinger's there today, it's not there tomorrow, or they saw a CAP over here and they didn't a CAP over some other place, I supposed that's what the free press can do. But from our standpoint, the irregularity is by design. The goal of not simplifying it, from the standpoint of law enforcement or from the standpoint of our national security, is by design. And we feel it's the right thing to do.

Q: But what about, sir, the principle of precedent of using the U.S. military for a civilian law enforcement function?

Rumsfeld: Well, think if it. We had 5,300 people, if my memory serves me correctly, in Utah for the Olympics.

This is far from the first time that the United States military has ever done anything in support of law enforcement or situations in the United States. It is not infrequently done. We have military people who have been functioning out in the West fighting fires.

What happens is that we have a law, and we have a practice, and we have a history in this country of not using the armed forces for law enforcement, and so we don't. There are times when in a supporting role we get asked to do things that are within the 50 states -- therefore domestic. Some are of a national defense category, like the combat air patrols flying, looking for airplanes that might crash into the White House or the Capitol or the Pentagon or the World Trade Center, some -- which is clearly of a defense nature, but it's stopping a bad act; it's not quite law enforcement. But we do a number of things all the time. So I think it -- it is not a perfect line that's been drawn, but we're sensitive to it and we do it in a supporting role almost exclusively, and not in a role where we are supported by others.

Q: But has there ever been an instance where --

Myers: Just let me follow up on that. Everything that the Department of Defense assets will do, the technical assets, will be under the direction and the supervision of the FBI. So they'll do the planning and so forth, and DOD personnel will not be involved in those typical law enforcement activities, such as searches, seizures or arrests. The law enforcement does all that. So we are in technical support. That is not unusual, actually.

Q: Now, I want to change my follow-up question. You used some very interesting words, sir, on North Korea a minute ago when you said -- talked about their highly enriched uranium program and you used the words for "additional" nuclear weapons. So, do I take that to mean that in your mind there is absolutely no question that they currently possess nuclear weapons, since you said "additional" nuclear weapons?

Rumsfeld: You have a sharp ear. I did say "additional" nuclear weapons.

Q: You did.

Rumsfeld: I think the correct way to say it -- you said, is there no doubt in your mind? I guess the reality is we're dealing with a dictatorial, repressive, closed state. I have not physically been in there to touch and look at and test and examine their nuclear weapons. Nor has any other American. So what do we do? We take all of the intelligence we can gather over a period of years, drop a plumb line through it all, ask the experts at the Central Intelligence Agency to come up with a community opinion or view. And the words that they use, on an unclassified basis, are, quote: "The U.S. has been concerned about North Korea's desire for nuclear weapons, and has assessed, since the early 1990s, that the North may have one or two weapons."

That is the assessment of the intelligence community. I have not touched them, they have not touched them, no one that I would have any confidence in their judgment has touched them. But I believe they have a small number of nuclear weapons.

Q: This revelation by North Korea, then, to you: how much of a surprise was this?

Rumsfeld: I guess at my advanced age I am almost stopped being surprised.

We -- I will say it one more time, and I hope everyone will not chime in in unison just to embarrass me. But the truth is, there are things we know, and we know we know them -- the known knowns. There are things we know that we don't know -- the known unknowns. And there are unknown unknowns; the things we do not yet know that we do not know.

Now, what does that tell us? It tells us that the world we live in is a tough world, it's a big world, it's a complicated world, that denial and deception is rampant through -- across the globe. Things are being done underground, things are being done very cleverly. And we live in a world of surprise. We live in a world of little or no warning. And the only surprise ought to be -- if we're smart enough to know what I just said is true -- and it is true. If we're smart enough to know that, then we ought not to be surprised. We ought to expect that there are going to be things that occur that we didn't know.

Anyone with an ounce of sense can look back at the intelligence and find out that from the time something began until we figured it out, in dozens of cases it took two, four, six, eight, 10, 12, in one case 13 years, and I was informed today that there may be one that's 17 years, between the time it happened and the time we found out about it. Does that mean we're not good at intelligence? No, it doesn't. It means we are good at intelligence. It just means it's a very tough world we live in. And it's a very complicated world. And we have to expect that whatever comes out on an agency piece of paper with an agreed-upon community opinion and assessment, that it is based on what they know. And it is not based on what they know they don't know, and it's not based on what they don't know they don't know. Therefore one has to assume that this is the least of it.

Myers: (Off mike.) Let me just follow up (with)just one bit of context on the first piece of what the secretary said, but it's something we do know, which kind of adds to the -- you know, this question of surprise. We do know that North Korea has the fourth- largest armed forces in the world. We know that. We also know that it's estimated, because -- you get very little bit, because it almost doesn't register, but their GDP is the 143rd largest in the world. Quite a mismatch. So you can talk about intent, and -- but you it in that context, and things wouldn't be --

Rumsfeld: I am due at a meeting in -- across the river. Thank you.

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