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DoD News Briefing with Secretary Rumsfeld and General Pace

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 14, 2005 1:15 PM EDT

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good afternoon.

 

            Q:  Good afternoon.

 

            Q:  Good afternoon.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  In the years leading up to September 11th, the United States dealt with terrorism primarily as a law enforcement issue.  Terrorists who had already killed Americans were investigated, they were arrested, and then they were put on trial, and then they were punished.  When terrorists committed an act of war against our country on September 11th, killing 3,000 people, the United States and our allies responded by using military force against al Qaeda and its Taliban sponsors in Afghanistan.  In this new era, it became clear that prosecuting terrorists after they strike was an inadequate approach, particularly given the lethal threats posed by violent extremists.

 

            During the operations since September 11th, the military has apprehended thousands of enemy combatants, and several hundred were determined to be particularly dangerous and valuable from an intelligence perspective.  There was no existing set of procedures or facilities to detain these enemies in Afghanistan or elsewhere.  After extensive discussions with his senior advisers, the president decided that they were not entitled for formal prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions and that they were certainly not criminal defendants in the traditional law enforcement sense.  Indeed, faced with this new situation, the president ordered that detained combatants be treated humanely under the laws of war.  The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay was established for the simple reason that the United States needed a safe and secure location to detain and interrogate enemy combatants.  It was the best option available.

 

            The Department of Defense, working through the National Security Council interagency process, established procedures that would provide appropriate legal process to these detainees, procedures that go beyond what is required even under the Geneva Conventions.  These included combatant status review tribunals to confirm that, in fact, each individual is, in fact, an unlawful enemy combatant.  Every detainee currently at Guantanamo has received such a hearing.  As a result, some 38 individuals were released.

 

            Military commissions, trials with full representation by defense counsel for those suspected of committing war crimes.  The commissions have been temporarily suspended pending further review by the U.S. federal court system.

 

            And third, administrative review boards that annually assess the remaining potential threat and intelligence value represented by each detainee.  These boards are designed to reexamine detainees regularly in order to identify detainees who can be released.

 

            Our goal as a country is to detain as few people as is possible and is safe.  We prefer to return them to their countries of origin if the country is capable and willing to manage them in an appropriate way.  In some countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, we have begun a process of trying to help them develop the proper facilities and the proper trained forces to manage these detainees.  Other countries have not satisfied the U.S. government, as yet, that they will treat their nationals humanely, were they to be transferred to their countries. Still others don't have laws that permit them to detain individuals of this sort, and they're in the process of passing such laws.

 

            One of these detained terrorists at Guantanamo is a man, called Mohamed al-Kahtani, believed to be the 20th hijacker on September 11th.  He has direct ties to al Qaeda's top leadership including Osama bin Laden.  While at Guantanamo, Kahtani and other detainees have provided valuable information, including insights into al Qaeda planning for September 11th, including recruiting and logistics; the identities and detailed information of 20 of Osama bin Laden's bodyguards; information leading to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the September 11th attacks; and information allowing foreign police to detain 22 suspected terrorists plotting attacks earlier this year.

 

            Detainees are sent to Guantanamo only after a proper screening process that identifies these prisoners who pose a threat to the United States or who have intelligence value.  The kind of people held at Guantanamo include:  terrorist trainers, bomb-makers, extremist recruiters and financiers, bodyguards of Osama bin Laden, and would-be suicide bombers.  They are not common car thieves.  They are believed to be determined killers.

 

            Arguably, no detention facility in the history of warfare has been more transparent or received more scrutiny than Guantanamo.  Last year the department declassified highly sensitive memorandum on interrogation techniques.  Unfortunately, they were documents that are useful to terrorist operatives, and we posted them on the Internet specifically to set the record straight about U.S. policies and practices.

 

            There have been nearly 400 separate media visits to Guantanamo Bay by more than 1,000 journalists. Additionally, some 180 congressional representatives have visited the facility.

 

            We provide continuous access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose representatives meet privately with the detainees.

 

            Allegations of abuse at Guantanamo, as at any other U.S. military facility, have been thoroughly investigated.  Any wrongdoing is -- wrongdoers are being held accountable.  The U.S. military has instituted numerous reforms of the conduct of detainee operations, with a renewed emphasis on standards and training.

 

            The U.S. military has also gone to unprecedented lengths to respect the religious sensibilities of these enemies of civil society, including the issuance of detailed regulations governing the handling of the Koran and arranging schedules for detainees around the five daily calls for prayer required by the Muslim faith.  In fact, at Guantanamo, the military spends more per meal for detainees to meet their religious dietary requirements than it spends per rations for U.S. troops.

 

            Since September 11th, the military has released tens of thousands of detainees, including some 200 from Guantanamo.  Regrettably, we now know that some of those detainees that were released from Guantanamo have again taken up arms against the United States and our allies, and are again -- were again attempting to kill innocent men, women and children.  The U.S. government will continue to transfer others to their countries of origin after negotiating appropriate agreements to ensure their humane and -- humane treatment.

 

            The United States government, let alone the U.S. military, does not want to be in the position of holding suspected terrorists any longer than is absolutely necessary.  But as long as there remains a need to keep terrorists from striking again, a facility will continue to be needed.  The U.S. taxpayers have invested over $100 million in military construction in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and it is spending something like an average of $90 (million) to $95 million a year to operate that facility to its highest standards.

 

            The real problem is not Guantanamo Bay.  The problem is that, to a large extent, we are in unexplored territory with this unconventional and complex struggle against extremism.  Traditional doctrines covering criminals and military prisoners do not apply well enough.

 

            As the president has said, we are always looking for ways to improve our procedures.  And of course we have been looking for better suggestions as to how to manage detainees who pose a lethal threat to the civilized world, and we have already implemented dozens of reforms.

 

            Finally, today is the 230th birthday of the United States Army. From this Republic's earliest days, the American people have depended on our soldiers to protect our freedoms and to stand against those who seek to take our freedoms away.  Theirs is a proud history.  So I want to wish the Army a happy birthday and extend my appreciation to all those who serve in the United States Army around the world, and the appreciation of a grateful nation.

 

            General Pace.

 

            GEN. PACE:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

 

            I would like to join with the secretary in wishing all the Army family a very, very happy 230th birthday -- not only the 1 million men and women who serve on active, Guard and Reserve duty, but especially the million family members -- the million families that are out there who support in a very strong, silent way their soldier.  Our country is fortunate to have them all.  Happy birthday.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Charlie?

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, you mentioned today is the Army's birthday. The Army has failed to meet its recruiting goals four months in a row now.  And both the Army Reserve and National Guard are behind in their recruiting goals thus far this year.  Is the Army in a recruiting crisis?  And is the viability, in fact, of the volunteer U.S. military threatened?

 

            GEN. PACE:  I think the Army's taking the right leadership approach to the problems it had the last couple of months in meeting their recruiting goals.  First of all, we should make note of the fact that they're looking for almost 8,000 more soldiers this year than they were last year, because of our desire to grow the Army so it can transform itself, and then go back down to its prewar size.  But there is an increased number there.

 

            The Army has allocated another 3,000 recruiters and a good deal of leadership time to train those recruiters in getting out to our communities.

 

            Interestingly, those who serve in the Army today, who are currently on active duty, are reenlisting at historic numbers.  We have had the goals for reenlistment exceeded, especially by those units who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Why?  Because those soldiers have had the opportunity to serve the country the way they volunteered to do.  They get it.  They understand the tremendous positive impact they are having.

 

            So, from the standpoint of retention, we're doing very, very well.   From the standpoint of new recruiting, we need to work harder to get the Army message out to our young men and women who are prospective volunteers.  And as a country, we need to encourage our young people to serve this country in a time of need.

 

            Q:  Well, I guess I would ask both of you gentlemen again.  The Army has had additional recruiters for almost four months now, and again, they've fallen short four months in a row.  Is there a crisis here in Army recruiting?  Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, it takes time for these things to take.  In other words, you see the indications of a fall-off.  You have to begin with this principle, that we're increasing the size of the Army, so the goals are higher than they have normally been.  Therefore, the infrastructure to achieve the goals were lower than they would need to be to achieve the higher goals.

 

            Second, the normal pool you draw from is the people who are coming out, in many instances, and -- for the Guard and the Reserve. And of course, that pool is down because more people are being retained on active duty.

 

            I think General Pace answered the question properly and correctly.  And obviously, the Army is renewing their efforts to see that they increase and come up.  The Navy's fine, the Air Force is fine, the Marines are fine, and the Army has fallen short.

 

            Q:  Neither of you again have said whether or not this is a crisis for the Army, falling behind --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, because that's a journalist's word.  That's a headline word.  We're trying to accurately describe precisely what's taking place, and that's what we've done, rather than offer a headline like that for you.

 

            Q:  (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm sorry, Charlie.

 

            Q:  It would seem to be a major problem.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, that's why they've increased recruiters. That's why they've increased their advertising budgets.  That's why they've increased their efforts, is because the numbers are short of their increased goal.

 

            Q:  Can you accurately describe precisely what you're going to do at the end of the year if the Army is not able to meet its goal of 80,000 troops, which every indication is at this point they're not going to be able to do, given the trend line?

 

            GEN. PACE:  There's a difference between what the Army wants to send to recruit training this year and the numbers of new personnel they want to access into their delayed entry program to be able to train them and get them ready to go to next year.  So the Army has capacity in its delayed entry program pool right now to shift enough people into this year to cover this year's numbers if needed.  The real concern is that longer term, as you deplete some of your pool that you have waiting to go in the out months, that that pool becomes smaller and smaller. And that, then, becomes a problem.

 

            The Army has taken the leadership decisions they need to make to get the extra recruiters out there.  It does take time.  I was on recruiting duty for three years in Buffalo, New York in 1980 to 1983. It takes time.  It takes anywhere from four to six months for a new recruiter, a new Sergeant Pace, to come onto duty, get trained up, and become effective in talking to perspective applicants.

 

            So it will take some time.  But the Army's made the right decisions, and they're putting the resources towards it.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The other things that are being done, in answer to your question, Jamie, one is that we are, as you know, under the new National Security Personnel System, moving people who are military people serving in civilian functions out of civilian functions and replacing them with civilians.  That number is not trivial.  This has involved already some 10,000, as I recall, and the total universe that one can look at is three -- 200,000 to 300,000 -- not one service; all services.  Not -- it's not -- I wouldn't want to leave the impression that it would be desirable to take that large a number out.  But it's a pool of people that can be accessed.

 

            The second thing we're doing is, for many months now, we -- as you know, the Navy and the Air Force have been actually pulling down some numbers.  And we have been working with the Air Force and personnel in the Air Force and in the Navy to see if some of the individuals needed for the Army might come from there.

 

            Third, what we've done is we have taken some of the functions that Army people perform where we've had, because of mal-organization in the Army, a shortage of certain skill sets, we've been training not only Army people to learn those skill sets, but we've been training some Air Force and Navy people to fulfill those functions by giving them that training.

 

            So there are a variety of things underway that have been underway for some time to deal with the problem.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, can we go back to Guantanamo just for a moment?  With your five-minute, I guess soliloquy about Gitmo, do we take that now as the definitive administration policy?  Because the president and the White House press secretary left the door slightly ajar on Guantanamo, saying all options are on the table.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Always go with the president.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, on that line, it costs a lot of money to keep people at Guantanamo, flying lawyers in and out --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Absolutely.

 

            Q     -- and there appears to be no legal advantage any longer, since the people there have recourse to the U.S. federal court. What's the advantage of people -- keeping people at Guantanamo over, say, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, or another place where we've got infrastructure?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't know anyplace where we have infrastructure that's appropriate for what -- that sizable a group of people.  The investment's been made.

 

            The second thing, Ivan, as you know, I'm not a lawyer, but my recollection here, that if you asked a lawyer the question you've just asked, they would say that there are some things that are similar, but other things that are dissimilar as between location in the United States versus location at Guantanamo. And Larry DiRita can get those precise legal distinctions for you. And of course, these things are still being reviewed in the courts now, so who knows what will be the case tomorrow or the next week.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, I wonder if you could give us a sense of when you expect to get recommendations from Generals Abizaid and Casey about troop levels in Iraq?  And do you expect a decrease in the current 140,000-some-odd troops there by the end of the year?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, they obviously are constantly reviewing their circumstance in Afghanistan and Iraq, and elsewhere around the world, in the entire CENTCOM area of responsibility.  And they -- we had a meeting this morning, for example, on Afghanistan, and we spent -- I don't know -- a considerable amount of time going over that.  We do this regularly.  And as they come up with different proposals, why we receive them and then discuss them with the president and make announcements as appropriate.  But I wouldn't want to prejudge them or predict them.

 

            Q:  Don't you have a sense when they might recommend --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No.

 

            Q:  -- whether or not there will be decreases?  There was some talk early this spring about reducing the size of the U.S. contingent there.  Is that still possible or --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think the talk was -- the talk wasn't by General Abizaid or General Pace or Don Rumsfeld or the president.  The -- what I would say is that you -- in Afghanistan, you've got September 18th elections coming up for the provinces as well as the national parliament.  That's a much more complex task than the presidential election because of the thousands -- I believe it's in the thousands -- of candidates for all of those different offices.

 

            So that's an -- that very likely -- and we've talked to NATO about this, about actually increasing some NATO forces during that period.  And General Abizaid would have to make a judgment with General Eikenberry as to how he would want to manage that period.  But one has to believe that just as we found in the presidential election, the al Qaeda and the Taliban are certainly not in favor of success there, and we are.  So we have to manage that.  In Iraq we've got elections coming up a -- correction a referendum on a constitution to be written between now and October, and after the referendum, then there would be elections under the new constitution in December.  So we have those things that we do have to keep in mind, as well as the state of play on the ground.

 

            Excuse me, Pete, go ahead.

 

            GEN. PACE:  Excuse me, sir.  I was just going to say, it will be event driven, not time line driven, and to put any kind of a time line on it really is not a smart way to approach it.

 

            Q:  The New York Times quoted unnamed generals in Iraq saying it could be two years or longer before U.S. troops are reduced there. Is that what you were hearing from the generals in Iraq?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No.

 

            Q:  Could I ask a follow-up question, please?

 

            Q:  Could we follow on that?  What are you hearing from the generals in Iraq?  There have been varied reports about the status of Iraqi security forces, whether they're really getting the job done. Some Iraqi commanders are even doubting their own ability to stand up without U.S. forces backing them up.

 

            General Pace, can you give us --

 

            GEN. PACE:  Sure, I'd be happy to.

 

            Q:  -- a realistic update of what you're looking at now?

 

            GEN. PACE:  I'll use one example.  Let's just use Iraqi army battalions.  In May of 2004, there was one -- count them --, one Iraqi army battalion that was deployable anywhere inside that country. Today, there are over 100 battalions, not all of which are fully capable of independent operations right now, but we have from the U.S. commanders in the field, who are working side by side with them, a breakdown of readiness capability -- like we provide for our own troops -- that tell us how many of each type of battalion are available for country-wide deployment; how many are best still to stay in the local vicinity; how many still need more training.

 

            All that is very positive.  The numbers of battalions that are operating first side by side with us has increased dramatically. Then, those that are operating independent, as Iraqi units under their own country's orders, has increased dramatically.  The numbers of Iraqi army brigades has increased.  So everything about the train and equip program over this last year, under General Casey and General Petraeus, has gone extremely well.  They're at just shy of 200,000 total security forces right now.  Just shy of that.  All not fully trained and equipped --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Inaudible) -- 169,000 this week.

 

            GEN. PACE:  (On pace ?) or --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That could be wrong, but --

 

            GEN. PACE:  I'll check my number.  Thank you, sir.  But bottom line is, one battalion a year ago, over 100 battalions working not only as battalions, but as brigades, meaning three or more battalions at a time.  And the division headquarters that have stood up.  Three areas that we had as U.S. / Coalition bases have, in the last month, been turned over to Iraqi forces.  They have that -- now their bases of operation.  So this progress is very good.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q:  Secretary Rumsfeld?

 

            Q:  Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yes, go ahead.

 

            Q:  In just this past week, the inspector general testified before Congress about his accountability review of the Boeing tanker lease.  Last November, you described Darleen Druyun as a criminal who had very little adult supervision --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think she (did ?) stuff, yes, that was criminal --

 

            Q:  -- in April, you --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I wasn't judgmental.  I think she pled guilty.

 

            Q:  In April, you had --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And is -- she's now in a jail, I think.

 

            Q:  She is in jail.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yeah, (not ?) a good place to be.

 

            Q:  In April, you had said if someone does something wrong, they ought to be punished.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Right.

 

            Q:  And now, in his report, Inspector General Schmitz has issued a long list of individuals who were accountable for what went wrong in that case; for not properly following acquisition procedures and for pushing through a deal that would've cost taxpayers an estimated $6 billion more than it should have.  In fact, he said, that if the contract had been signed, there would have been criminal violations.  What action do you plan, you know, to take to punish those cases of wrongdoing?  And what safeguards are you planning to implement to make sure it doesn't happen again?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We can give you a list of the safeguards and investigations and studies that have already been implemented since the beginning of this process.  And I'm sure the press office will give you that, because there have been a number of things that have been already done.  The short answer is, as with any inspector general's report, it will be studied and evaluated, and judgments would be made upon it.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q:  In what time frame do you expect to do that, sir?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't do time frames.

 

            Q:  And can you speak to your role in approving that deal? There is some contradiction within that report about whether you were actively involved in making the decision to proceed with that deal, or whether that decision was left up to Secretary Aldridge, Undersecretary Aldridge.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And this is in this report?

 

            Q: Yes, and in the testimony, the inspector general's staff said that they interviewed you and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yeah.

 

            Q:  -- and that they were -- their impression was or what they understood from those interviews was that you had let Aldridge make that decision and then supported it.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I have --

 

            Q:  But I'm wondering if you can give us your recollection of this.  Was it --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'd have to go back and read this and then talk to the people involved or refresh myself.

 

            GEN. PACE:  If I could correct myself while I'm still on mike here, the secretary was correct; it was 169,000 troops -- thanks, Larry -- 169,000 troops today.  My number of 200,000 was a projection by December of this year.  So I misspoke.  Thank you, sir.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Or by October.

 

            GEN. PACE:  By December, sir.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Is it December?   Okay.  (Light laughter.)

 

            Q:  (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The -- and just -- his number does not include the site protection people, which number something like 70,000 additional people, who don't report any more either, as I understand, certainly not to the Ministry of Defense, and have a different role. They actually physically go out and protect a ministry, or they do something else.  So there are security people beyond the ones that we report on regularly.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, the Iraqi national security minister said the Iraqis are considering an amnesty for the insurgents --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Is there such a thing as a national security minister?

 

            Q:  There is.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You mean adviser at the -- to the prime minister, or the minister of defense or the minister of interior?

 

            Q:  The national security minister.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I -- okay.  That's a new title for me.

 

            Q:  Okay.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  What's his name -- or her name?

 

            Q:  His name is Abu Musaab -- oh, no, that's a different guy. (Laughter.)  Abd al-Karim al-Anzi says that the Iraqis are considering an amnesty program for the insurgents, and I'm wondering what you think about this idea.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, you know, we've done that in our country. On occasion there have been steps taken that relieve people of responsibilities.

 

            In Afghanistan, a sovereign nation, President Karzai is in the process of trying to find a way to get the lower-level Taliban who don't have blood on their hands brought back into the society and connected to reduce the support for the insurgency.  Iraq's a sovereign nation. And even though I don't know precisely who that individual is at the moment, it would be a perfectly understandable thing to me for them, a sovereign nation, to say that they would like to find a way to make sure that more people are engaged inside the tent rather than outside the tent.

 

            You say there have been reports, and so I can't comment on the anonymous quotes there have been reports about it, and I hadn't seen his statement.  But it would not surprise me at all for discussions of that type to be taking place.  If you think about it, you've got tribal relationships in that country that go back decades and decades and decades.  And to the extent you can get a tribe that has a portion of its people opposing the government and a portion of the people supporting the government pulled in, why, that's a good thing.  You want to constantly try to tip people towards support for the Iraqi government if you're going to have a successful single country at peace with its neighbors that's able to provide the kind of opportunities for its people that everyone knows that country can do.

 

            Q:  Would you have a problem if such a program included amnesty for those who have engaged in attacks that have killed American soldiers?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You know, I don't want to get into that.  It's not our role.  It’s a sovereign nation, they've got a parliament -- assembly, national assembly.  They have a government.  They're going to have a constitution.  These are tough decisions they're going to have to make.  They're going to have to live with the decisions they make.  And that's the way it works.  You know, at some moment if you've got your hand on the bicycle seat, you have to let it go.  And they're going to have to make that decision.  And that's fine.  And they'll make a decision that will be an Iraqi decision, not an American decision.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, on a broader question -- maybe both of you could take a crack at this.  The insurgency --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We'll make this the last question, this broader question.

 

            Q:  Two years-plus since the U.S. invasion, the insurgency seems to be vibrant.  Certainly the number of attacks seem to be going up and down, but we're in a period now where they seem to be up.

 

            General Pace, maybe you can give us kind of a big-picture assessment of the military operation.  How successful has it been? The state of the insurgency, if you will.

 

            And Mr. Secretary, on the political side, to follow up Jonathan's question, how confident are you that there could be a successful political reconciliation in Iraq between these tribal and ethnic factions you talk of?  Try to give us a broad-picture assessment of where we are.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Okay.

 

            GEN. PACE:  Well, we're operating against a thinking enemy, clearly.  The numbers of attacks country-wide in Iraq each day is about 50 or 60, depending upon the day.  That's not a good number. It's also not a terrible number.  It just is a fact.  Inside those attacks, the enemy has changed their tactics, techniques and procedures in response to what we've been doing.

 

            There's been a tremendous amount of progress, as I've already mentioned in this discussion.  But from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, what our armed forces and their armed forces and their police can do is provide a level of security inside of which discussions amongst various tribes, amongst various political leaders, amongst those who have different views of the way ahead for the country, but peacefully, to discuss it, so that they can get together and do what they're doing, which is write a constitution, have a referendum, vote for their next government, and get on about having a life that they're capable of having.

 

            So the security situation is very important for that.  But I would not chase the spikes and dips in the security situation.  If you draw a straight line through the middle of that, it's fairly constant. That's not good or bad, it's fact.  But inside that fairly constant line there's plenty of opportunity for the Iraqi people to stand up and vote their own futures.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  On the political portion of it, that's obviously not the business of this department, but I can comment on it.

 

            The general feeling is as follows, that the election was held January 30th.  It took a number of weeks to put a government together. Not a number of years, but a group of people with no experience in democracy at all, it took a number of weeks, a few months to put together a government.  A lot of tugging and hauling, a lot of negotiating about what it would mean in the assembly, a lot of negotiating about what it might mean with respect to the constitution- drafting, a lot of negotiating about what it might mean as to who's in what ministry and for what reasons, and the presidential council, I believe they call it.  And they came to a conclusion.

 

            When the conclusion was made and announced, one could look at worst case and say it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that the Shi'a would say, Okay, Sunnis, you didn't play in the election, you gave it to us for 20, 30 years, and we didn't like it, and now it's our turn, and we're going to give it to you.  Quite the contrary.  The Shi'a, the top leadership down, have been saying, Look, we want to have one country; let's reach out to the Sunnis, let's include them, let's find a way, even though they made a mistake and didn't participate in the election, let's see that they're involved in this, let's get them involved in the drafting of the constitution -- exactly the right instinct.  The Sunnis, instead of saying, Okay, we didn't get in the election, maybe it was a mistake, maybe it wasn't, but now we're not well represented and we're not going to play and go separately and try to break the country into three pieces.  The Sunnis didn't do that.  I mean, everyone you talk to said we made a mistake.  The Sunnis made a mistake. They should have gotten involved in the election.  They didn't get involved in the election.  They now know they should have gotten involved in the election.  And thank the good Lord, the Shi'a are reaching out to them and the Kurds are reaching out to them and trying to include them.

 

            Now, what does it mean next?  Well, they're going to have a lot of to-ing and fro-ing on the constitution.  Fortunately, they've made a lot of those decisions in the Transitional Administrative Law, the so-called TAL.  And it's there as a guidepost.  It's not a mandate, and it's not a speed limit or a direction, but it is generally agreed to.  And so it'll serve, I would think, as at least a touchstone for the very complicated task of trying to find a piece of paper that people who have had historic hostilities to each other; that have been held together not through love or respect, but through vicious dictatorship repressing them -- that's how they've held together as a country.  And now they're going to look for a piece of paper that will do that for them instead.  Instead of a vicious dictatorship, instead of repression, instead of a police state, instead of mass graves filled with people, bodies, tens of thousands of bodies, there's going to be a piece of paper that those people are going to have to put their faith in.  That is an enormous thing.  And they're going to be debating that and tugging on it and to-ing and fro-ing, and they're going to, in my view, come up with one.

 

            Q:  What would the effect on the process be if --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just a minute.  Just a minute.  And then they're going to have -- take that to the Iraqi people and have them vote on it.  And another 26 million people will have a chance or a population -- and whoever's eligible to vote, men and women alike -- some large number is going to have a chance to go vote on that.

 

            And then it'll be there, and then they'll vote on whatever that constitution says, for a president or a prime minister or whatever, representatives.  They'll have a chance to vote on that in December. This is amazing!  This is historic!  This is a gigantic step forward! This ought not to be dismissed or trivialized!  This is a big deal.

 

            Will it happen?  I think it'll happen.  Can I guarantee anything in life?  No, I can't.  No one can.  It's their country.

 

            Thank you, folks.  I think we're going to wind up right there.

 

            Q:  You're going to like this question.  Would it happen if --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)  I'll take it next time.

 

            Q

 

            General --

 

            Q:  See you tomorrow.

 

            Q:  General --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  All right.  Tomorrow?!  (Laughter.)

 

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