No Rift Between Senior DoD Civilians, Military Over Iraq
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2002 There is no great divide between senior military officers and DoD civilian officials over planning for possible action against Iraq, top Pentagon officials said here today.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured Pentagon reporters that recent news articles alleging severe disagreements among Rumsfeld, the Joint Chiefs and other senior officers over details of military planning for possible operations against Saddam Hussein are overblown.
"The things that are said and portrayed in the articles aren't accurate portrayals of what I see on a daily basis and what I hear," Myers told reporters. The articles in question mostly allege that senior military leaders are advising against using military action to unseat Saddam Hussein. President Bush has repeatedly called for a change in regime in Iraq.
Beyond that, the chairman noted that conversations between top defense military and civilians "is certainly privileged communications."
Rumsfeld pointed out inconsistencies between many of the articles. One, he noted, said the Joints Chiefs were unhappy about not being consulted enough about potential operations against Iraq, another stated that senior military leaders were consulted, but don't agree with civilian proposals. A third article, he added, says senior military were consulted and do agree.
"I think it's all kind of mischievous but, it's not for me to speculate as to why people do things," he said.
While President Bush has repeatedly called for a change in regime in Iraq, Rumsfeld noted the president hasn't made a decision as to how such a change might be effected.
Myers allowed that there has been much discussion within the Pentagon on the best way to proceed in planning any potential military action against Iraq.
"The way things are portrayed in these articles simply haven't occurred in front of me," Myers reiterated. "I can't talk about our operational plans or what our advice is, and so forth, but you can imagine if we're planning an operation against the moon, that we would have a lot of discussion about how best to do that."
Myers said senior military officers such as the service chiefs, Joint Staff and combatant commanders are regularly and continuously asked to give their views. Drawing from his experience, he said, there has never been a better exchange of viewpoints between senior military and civilians as occurs today at the Pentagon.
Turning to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Myers reported that a U.S. soldier was wounded today while patrolling near the city of Khost. The troop was shot in the chest and "is getting medical treatment even as we speak," he added. He said more details would be released when available.
Yesterday, the chairman added, U.S. Special Operations troops operating north of Asadabad in eastern Afghanistan returned fire after gunmen fired on them from a blue sedan. Four of the gunmen were killed and one wounded in the exchange, he noted, with no U.S. casualties. A vehicle search uncovered a satellite phone and a large amount of Pakistani currency, Myers said.
Addressing the current situation over Iraq, Myers said the Iraqi air defense systems remain active. Last week, he said, Iraqi batteries fired five times at U.S. and coalition aircraft patrolling Operation Northern Watch and five times at Operation Southern Watch planes.
"We responded most recently on Sunday with three precision guided munitions against air defense facilities about 145 miles southwest of Baghdad," Myers noted.
He also reported that U.S. and coalition maritime forces diverted 36 vessels off the coast of Iraq in a one-week period that ended Monday. The Iraqis, he noted, have been using smaller vessels in attempts to smuggle goods into the country to evade U.N. sanctions.
Addressing media reports on a recent briefing by a member of one of the "think tanks" that do business with the Pentagon that calls Saudi Arabia an enemy of the United States, allegedly because it supports terrorists, Rumfeld scoffed and noted that Saudi Arabia is a valued partner in the war against global terrorism and noted that he is happy with that country's support.
Myers acknowledged press reports that laptop computers are missing from U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. He said the disappearance of the two machines is under investigation.