No Plan? Go it Alone? 'Humbug,' Rumsfeld Says
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2003 When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gives a speech, people listen. When he responds to people's questions, they really listen.
Unfettered by prepared remarks, Rumsfeld tells it the way he sees it with style, Rumsfeld style.
Last night, for example, the secretary spoke at the 10th anniversary of the founding of Empower America, a group devoted to ensuring government actions foster growth, economic well-being, freedom and individual responsibility.
Rumsfeld received Empower America's Freedom Award for distinguished public service during a dinner for about 250 senior government, business and civic leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The secretary's formal remarks focused on the U.S.-led coalition's success in Iraq. He said the media's reports of "doom and gloom" don't tell the whole story. While U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq are dealing with a "difficult, dangerous and complicated" situation, there has been impressive progress and the nation should be proud of its accomplishments.
At the conclusion of his prepared remarks, Rumsfeld said he'd be "happy to respond to some easy questions."
One man asked if the administration's concerted effort to get the word out on the progress being made has been effective.
"I don't know that I'm the best judge," Rumsfeld candidly replied. "I will say I have seen an increasing number of stories about things that are, in fact, happening there."
But, he added, he hasn't seen the press ask any "pushback" questions when people make such claims as there was "no plan" for post-war Iraq.
"How in the world do you get 100,000 Iraqis (security personnel) trained, out in the street 85 of them are dead because they're helping defend the security of their country 85 dead in a matter of three months how does that happen with no plan?"
Yet, the "no plan" argument, he said, "has been beaten and beaten and beaten. No media people have ever stopped and said, 'What are you talking about, "no plan?"' It just goes on and on and creates a life of its own."
Rumsfeld also dealt with the idea that the United States went into Iraq on its own.
"Go it alone. I've heard that. 'We should not go it alone. America is wrong to go it alone.' What nonsense," Rumsfeld said. "We've got 32 countries involved in Iraq with forces there. The Polish and Spanish division has 17 countries involved alone.
"We didn't go alone," he stressed. "President Bush made the decision to go to the United Nations. There've been two resolutions passed. NATO is supporting the Polish and the Spanish division.
"We have 90 nations engaged in one of the largest coalitions in the history of mankind engaged in the global war on terrorism," he continued. "Yet we hear it over and over 'It should be internationalized. We shouldn't go it alone.'
"We're not going it alone," the secretary concluded. "We have gone out -- before the war had started -- and began talking to countries and said, 'In the event that Iraq does not acquiesce in the requirements the United Nations has imposed, would you like to participate and in what way?'"
Rumseld said he was "struck by the no-plan thing," particularly when he saw a newspaper article that said the "Defense Department and the U.S. government had been working with the World Food Program for weeks and weeks and weeks before the war started." The risk of humanitarian crisis is a factor in the planning process, he said.
Too often, he said, news reporters have "the next question" in their minds "instead of listening to the answer that they're getting to the prior question, and then respond to that in a way that forces people to justify statements like those."
Another guest asked Rumsfeld to respond to reports that troop morale in Iraq is low, the troops want to come home, and they don't know why they're there.
"If you take 130,000 young men and young women," the secretary said, "you're bound to find, across the entire spectrum, someone that's got a circumstance at home and they want to be home. And God bless them, you can't blame them for wanting to be home.
"You're going to find someone who didn't get a hot meal that day," he said. "You're going to find someone who had a problem with his boss in the platoon."
On the other hand, Rumsfeld said, people who've visited Iraq find the troops "know what they're doing. They know why they're there. They're proud of what they've accomplished. They also have the wonderful opportunity to feel the energy that comes to them from the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people respond to them."
There are between 1,500 and 2,000 patrols or activities a day across Iraq, he said. "There are maybe 10, 15, or 20 incidents a day somewhere in that enormous country where either we precipitate it, or someone attacks our forces. They last an average of about a minute and a half."
All the rest of the time, Rumsfeld said, the troops are out there digging wells, helping the Iraqi people fix up hospitals, putting in generators and other things that help the Iraqi people "and the Iraqi people know it."
"When you walk down the street, the people come up and they are thankful," he said. "When you fly over in a helicopter, they come out in the courtyard and wave."
"Is everyone for us? No. Does everyone want to be free and not go back to the Baathists? No. There are a handful of those folks that want to go back to the Baathists, no question about it. And they're tough, and they've got weapons, and they've got explosives, and they're killing people."
Rumsfeld said the best part of his job is being with the troops, because they have so much pride and confidence in their country. They are sure what's being done is right.
He said even the seriously wounded troops he visits at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital are proud of their units, their service.
"They are so proud of their country and they're aware of the importance of what they're doing. I just feel an enormous gratitude that we've got so many wonderful people who are willing to raise their hands and say, 'Send me' and they do it with such wonderful skill and courage and compassion."