Rumsfeld: Defense Department Stands Ready for Action
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 11, 2003 Saddam Hussein is "an accomplished deceiver" who will stop at nothing to "deceive the world and his own people," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in his Pentagon briefing today.
"There are many examples, but the point is this: He lied during the Gulf War, and if there is another war he will lie again. Indeed, he already is. The only question is whether he will be believed despite his record," the secretary observed.
The United States and a "coalition of willing countries" await the U.N. Security Council decision on a second resolution on Iraqi disarmament, Rumsfeld said.
"We hope to see the United Nations act... but if the Security Council fails in this test and resolve, the coalition will be ready to act," he said.
The U.S. troops deployed now exceed 225,000, said Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, Joint Chiefs chairman, adding that "if the president decides to act, they stand ready to disarm Iraq." He also reported stepping up Operation Southern Watch to support diplomacy and to keep pressure on Iraq. "We are now flying several hundred sorties a day, with 200 or 300 over the Southern No-Fly Zone," Myers said.
Rumsfeld said that the question before the United Nations is clear: "Is Saddam Hussein taking every opportunity to disarm or not?" He said the answer to that question is "increasingly obvious."
"He makes a show of destroying missiles which he claims in his declaration do not violate U.N. restrictions, but now admits that they do . . . . Yet even as he destroys those missiles, he's ordered the continued production of the very same missiles."
Rumsfeld called Iraq "one of the most repressive regimes on the face of the Earth. They threaten all of their people every day. That's how they live in that country, under threat of the government."
During the first Gulf War, he pointed out that Saddam ordered his forces to dismantle a mosque in Baghdad, while placing the blame for the destruction on coalition forces' bombing.
Rumsfeld said that Saddam sought to maximize civilian deaths to create the "false impression" that coalition forces targeted innocent lives. Hussein placed Iraqi civilians inside bunkers, telling them that it was an air raid shelter for protection.
"Right beneath them," Rumsfeld said, "was a military command and control center that was being used by senior Iraqi officials for military communications. We later learned that Saddam Hussein had decreed that all Iraqi military bunkers would also house civilians."
Myers also confirmed reports of a vehicle accident in Afghanistan in which a U.S. soldier and three Afghan nationals struck a land mine while riding in a vehicle. The accident killed one Afghan and seriously injured another. The U.S. soldier and other Afghan were unharmed.