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Media Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld En Route to Iraq

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 12, 2006
SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm going to be meeting with troops and the U.S. commanders and their teams, with the Iraqi prime minister, Maliki, who I met with shortly after he was designated here in Iraq, and then we had a secure video with him at Camp David, then President Bush went over -- his national security team, the minister of Defense and Interior and the National Security adviser and the minister for State Security, I think it's called.  The -- also we'll be meeting with some Iraqi security forces -- Casey, Dempsey, Chiarelli -- talking about the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces.

 

            The issues -- kinds of issues that are likely to come up are -- apart from the things that the president organized when he brought the two Cabinets together -- and if I'm not mistaken, our U.S. secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture and Energy are all -- either have been or will be coming in here to meet with their counterparts.  The president had indicated to the prime minister during that meeting that he wanted to see that the U.S. government was mobilized to be helpful to them as they try to strengthen their administrators and establish their first real permanent government as sovereign, free nation.

 

            The kinds of issues that clearly will be on the docket for me will be things like the Baghdad security; the -- dealing with the militias; the fact that with this new government they will undoubtedly undertake a fairly comprehensive review of their national security circumstance; the size of the Iraqi security forces as planned, the equipment; the mix of forces as between police and army and the like; the reconciliation process, which is critical.  We're at a point now where the security situation depends as much on the reconciliation process and the strengthening of the ministries -- the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Finance, the Oil Ministry, the ability of the new Iraqi government to manage a justice system so that people can be properly tried and incarcerated.  The success in those areas will determine the success from a security standpoint.

 

            There's no big army, navy or air force to fight.  It is a matter of their addressing these issues politically, and then from a governance standpoint, to do so successfully.

 

            They have a big job, and it will very likely not be a straight, smooth upward road; it will be a bumpy road, as it always is going from a repressive dictatorship to a democracy, a representative system.  But they're off to a good start, in my opinion.

 

            STAFF:  Questions.  Vic?

 

            Q     Vic -- (last name inaudible).  Did you discuss U.S. troops levels and the way ahead in terms of --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We haven't gotten to that point.  I know that you're just terribly eager to know about all of that, and it's a consuming interest for everyone in this silver bullet today.  But I regret to say that until they undertake a comprehensive review of their circumstance, and General Casey and Zal have a chance to sit down with them and talk about the way forward and the pace at which they think they can assume additional responsibilities, it's not possible to come to the answer you're so urgently seeking.

 

            Q     Are we talking weeks or months before they --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't talk deadlines.  It's things I can't control, why should I try?

 

            Q     (Inaudible.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)  No, just old! 

 

            Q     In terms of Baghdad security, is there any consideration to putting more American troops back on the streets of Baghdad?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm sure there is.  I mean, we do -- those people consider those things all the time.  But they just went from -- I'm going to guess 40,000 to 55,000.  And the people that are in charge of Baghdad security, my recollection is it's General Thurman who ??  there, working with General Chiarelli and General Casey.  I'm sure they consider these things all the time. 

 

            But the important thing is to -- the problem in Baghdad is basically that -- first of all, there are portions of Baghdad that are quite without incidents.  And then there are groups that are -- armed groups that rove the place, and when our forces go in, they disappear.  So that tells you something.  It's not like you can find an enemy and go in an address them.  It is a task that's as much a political task as any, and they're going to have to engage in the reconciliation process with the Sunnis, and they're going to have address the Shi'a armed groups politically, and then they're going to have to use Iraqi forces and coalition forces to deal with the remnants.  And at what pace they do that is not something which is my level of detail. 

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, they're engaged in a reconciliation process.  They have to persuade as many people as possible that it's in their interest to support the government and to participate in the political process.  Anyone who doesn't want to, they're going to have to go find and do something about.  That's what I mean.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't do times.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't do times.  They're a sovereign country, and they're going to have their priorities.  And our people will be working with them to see that they understand the things that we think are important, and then they'll come to a conclusion and proceed.

 

            Q     The last time you were here -- (off mike).

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That was shortly after the new government was designated, yeah.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I've been here 12 times, after all.  (Laughs.)

 

            Q     Maybe you can -- (off mike).

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  He did.  He went down and talked to Sistani.  And the two of them each announced that. 

 

            Q     Do you feel like they -- (off mike) --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm not going to give them grades.  They've had new ministers of Defense and new ministers of Interior for about, what, a month at the most?

 

            Q     Right.  But if -- (off mike) -- sectarian violence -- (off mike) -- some people -- (off mike).

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Some people.  Wasn't -- wasn't that young lady terrific?  She was fabulous!  (Laughs.)  (Inaudible.)

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't know that.  That's your conclusion.  I'm not going to answer by suggesting that I agree with it because I just don't know that it's -- (off mike).  There certainly has been an upsurge in sectarian violence; there's no question but that they're trying to incite a civil war.  And they have been for a long time, and they have failed so far -- the enemy. 

 

            What else?

 

            Q     [inaudible] the rape/murder case.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I haven't talked to people about it.  And it's in the military justice system, and that's where it belongs.

 

            Q     But it seems to have brought a lot of people in Iraq around to the idea that they'd like to see a time line on the U.S. position in Iraq and U.S. troops being in Iraq.  Is that something that --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, that's true, there are certainly people that hold that position. 

 

            But look, you know, 99 percent of the American troops and the coalition forces are performing in a highly professional, courageous and skillful way.  But when allegations come up like this, there are -- obviously, it hurts the 99.9 percent of the troops as much as anybody.  They are doing a great job, and to the extent anyone does do something that they should not have done, the military justice system will address it in a proper and orderly way.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, do you expect -- (off mike) -- a similar investigation into the -- (off mike) --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't.  I don't know what they'll bring up, but I don't.  It's something that's being investigated at the appropriate levels, and that's where it belongs.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We have arrangements so that our people are processed by our people, and that's under the Coalition Provisional Authority regulations which have been blessed by the Iraqi government.  Until changed, that's the way things will be handled.

 

            It's understandable that when allegations are made, people in a free political system will comment on them, and that's their privilege.

 

            Q     Do you expect it will -- (off mike)?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't.  I don't -- I do not expect to or not expect to.  I haven't had the meeting.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, the department issued -- (off mike) -- I think, although I don't have all the details traveling, that it applies --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm told that Gordon England did, yeah.

 

            Q     It applies -- (off mike) --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Off mike) -- and he pointed out that the Supreme Court had opined on the subject, and agreed with the Supreme Court that once the Supreme Court issues a decision of that nature, it becomes the law of the land.

 

            Q     I guess my question is, do you have a sense of how that would change -- (off mike)?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No.  I don't think it will change the treatment.  The president, from the very outset, has required that prisoners of all types be treated humanely.  And that -- to the extent anyone was functioning within the proper rules of the department and the executive branch of the federal government, they were treated humanely. 

 

            And to the extent that someone was not treated humanely or was alleged not to have, there's punishment by the military justice system, as it should have been.

 

            Q     But would it, for example, change the --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Look, I'm not a lawyer.  I do not know.  I have not seen precisely what he put out.  But I'm told that what he put out simply said that the Supreme Court has made a decision, and the decision is the law of the land.  It sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing -- (off mike).

 

            The only problems that exist are the problems that have existed all along, and that's that some of the words in Common Article 3 and in other pronouncements of various types have ambiguities in them.  And it's important that those of us at the Department of Defense make sure that anyone who's engaged in the process of detaining people have as much clarity as it's humanly possible as to what it is we're supposed to be doing and how we're supposed to be doing it.  We've got to see that they're not put in a position where there are ambiguities that could lead them to be charged with wrongdoing when in fact they were not engaged in wrongdoing.

 

            Q     Back on Maliki and the alleged abuses by U.S. soldiers.  He's also suggested --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That's fascinating, the line of questioning (of this group ?).  All the historic things that are happening, and the microscopic focus.  You can ask any question you want and I'll answer it, but it just is intriguing, it really is.  You ought to think about it.

 

            Go ahead.

 

            Q     If I could pose one intriguing question --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That is not what -- (laughter).

 

            Q     Maliki has suggested that the Iraqis be involved in these investigations.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I saw that.  I've already commented on it.  It's perfectly proper for anyone in a free country to make comments on anything they want to.  The fact is that under the rules that exist with the Iraqi government, these matters will be handled as I've suggested.  And that is exactly how they're being handled.

 

            Q     So that's a no.  You're rejecting his request that Iraqis --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, not at all.  I said -- I've (inaudible).  I said he could say anything he wants.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And I said the way the laws and the rules and the agreed arrangements are, it's being handled as it should be.

 

            STAFF:  Maybe one more question, folks.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Inaudible.)

 

            Q    Can you talk about the resurgence of al Qaeda?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Inaudible.)  (Laughter.)  I like that.

 

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