Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace Stakeout at Capitol Hill
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Good morning.
REP. Granger: We've had a wonderful meeting here. I appreciate the Secretary, thanks for being here.
We've had a very good meeting, had the Secretary and General Pace and we were able to ask them questions, get some good news, of course, and some information on the war.
We were talking about particularly what we're hearing back home and I can say from my district I spent the two weeks that we were on the break really talking about where we were with the war in Iraq. Had good support, people were anxious to hear about progress, and were anxious to know really what was going on. I think it was very well taken. We could ask some other questions this morning and had the same thing.
I'll turn it over to you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, we've had a good visit and we're going to be visiting with other folks here this morning on the House side. Then we're going to be down in the White House meeting with the leadership, and the President will be, all discussing the situation in Iraq. We've got the election coming up on December 15th which is an important benchmark. It will be the first election under their new constitution which was approved in the referendum on October 15th.
The Iraqi security forces will be providing the security for the election in large measure, and the politicking is going on, the various lists and candidates are doing what we do in this country in a somewhat different way, in a different language, but they're going through the debating and discussing and tugging and pulling about different issues. On the 15th we'll have that election. Thereafter they'll form a new government and then that government will be in for four years which is a good thing, there will be that kind of stability.
It will be our fourth government since the war ended and the turbulence that occurs every time there's a change in government, of course, you lose a little ground. But with the four years ahead of them I think it's a good thing.
General Pace, do you have anything you want to say?
GENERAL PACE: Sir, thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to come over and just explain the progress, the very solid progress that's going on and to answer questions of our Congress.
The Iraqi armed forces are in fact taking over more and more of their own territory. They're leading more and more of the battles. They're staying behind and providing security for their own citizens so we're very pleased with the progress and the strength of their armed forces. And it's an opportunity also for me to come over and say thank you to our Congress for all of us in uniform for the incredible support that we continue to receive from the Congress for all that we're doing.
REP. Jim Marshall: I'm pleased to be here. As I sat and listened to the Secretary I was thinking about my mother teaching me typing. The first thing I typed was, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party," and I did that over and over and over again.
The British and French used to refer to the political rear when they were engaged in counter-insurgency actions that typically take a very very long time. The focus right now for al-Qaida and others is our political rear and it is a problem for democracies, frankly, to deal with these kinds of challenges.
What I'd ask the press -- This is a unique opportunity. You're all here, I think. What I'd ask the press is to pay attention to the progress being made by Iraqi security forces in Iraq. What I hear from the military and what I see for myself when I'm over there is that there's a great deal of progress being made with Iraqis taking responsibility for the security of their country. By now all Americans recognize that that's a critical part of success.
What I'd like to see are stories coming out of the news media that focus on that key question.
There's no doubt about it, if we precipitously withdraw from Iraq there will be chaos. The Middle East will tend toward Islamic extremists, jihadists, the militants -- more like a Taliban type environment, and security problems for us in the United States will rise dramatically. There's no doubt about that happening.
The key to success is a combination of the United States working with Iraqis. What I don't see here in the United States is a lot of focus by the news media on Iraqis, Iraqi security forces, and the kinds of successes -- or failures -- call it as you see it. But do cover that. I think if America sees, if our political rear sees that Iraqis are taking responsibility for their own security it will be a very positive development. And I frankly think you're missing a big story.
REPRESENTATIVE TIAHRT: One of the -- I'm Todd Tiahrt from Kansas. One of the most under-reported successes I think is that in Iraq the economy is growing, their schools are open, their hospitals are open, cell phone use is up. Their economy will grow by over 15 percent this year. And the thing that I think has not been reported at all is what a foothold this is for moderate Islam. This is an opportunity for them to have a platform to reclaim their religion, to develop a free society or free culture, and they're taking those steps. They're slow, painful steps, but there is tremendous progress. We're going to see progress again this month. Their military is doing well, but also their culture is doing well. They have a lot of obstacles with the violence that occurs there, but moderate Islam now has a voice in the Middle East and they can speak out about freedom and about democracy and about those principles that we hold close as Americans.
So we'd hope that we can get that message out to America, that in Iraq we can see that there's progress for moderate Islam so that they can overcome this radical element that is causing death and destruction in Iraq and in other places all across the globe.
So it's a very good success story that's under-reported and I hope that we'll be able to get that message out to the American public.
REPRESENTATIVE BLACKBURN: I'm Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee.
Last week in Tennessee we did a welcome home for the 278th Regimental Combat Team which is a part of the National Guard. They had just finished an 18 month deployment. And it is amazing to hear them talk about some of the successes, some of the stories, and some of the relationships that they have built. They have not only worked to help free the Iraqi people and put a government in place, but have mentored men and women and how they move forward in governing and living in freedom. It's quite an education. The stories there are absolutely wonderful.
Right now we are also working with the 101st which is located in my district. They are deployed. We are going to be putting quite a bit of emphasis on how those families move through this deployment. We are looking forward to it.
I thank the Secretary and General Pace for coming over and visiting with us, working with us, and continuing to work as we walk with these families through this deployment.
REPRESENTATIVE THORNBERRY: I'm Mack Thornberry from Texas.
One of the challenges we all have is to take the daily snippets of news we get and put it into a broader context and really understand what's happening. I think our visit today with the Secretary and the General have helped us do that, to see the broader trends that are going on in Iraq.
The other point I think that is very important to make that Jim said is if you study this unconventional warfare, going back to at least Mao Tse-tung, you know that the key target of the folks on the other side is the political will of the opponent. It is important for us to recognize that one of their targets is us, and that puts a special responsibility on us, I think, here in Washington and in the United States, to make sure that they don't win politically what our soldiers are not going to allow them to win militarily in Iraq.
QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yes.
QUESTION: Are you choosing --
VOICE: Use the mike, please.
QUESTION: Will you meet with any people who don't support the current thrust of the war? Or are you only meeting with people who --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, I do all the time. I do all the time. I spoke at a graduate school earlier this week --
QUESTION: I mean Members of Congress.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I meet with Members of Congress on all sides of these issues. We have regular briefings for all Members of the House, for all Members of the Senate, and we've been doing it now for several years, ever since the global war on terror began.
QUESTION: So what's the purpose of today's meetings with only people who support your position?
QUESTION: Can you speak to us to, sir?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You're in a horseshoe. [Laughter]. I would have to be like --
QUESTION: Into the light, sir.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Into the light -- oh. [Laughter].
We meet with Members on all sides of these issues all the time, and it's helpful, it's informative, and it's part of our responsibility and we're happy to do it.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that you might retire by the beginning of the year.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Those reports have been flying around since about four months after I assumed my post in 2001.
QUESTION: So does that mean it's not true?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I have no plans to retire.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you confident that a phased withdrawal can begin shortly after next week's election in Iraq?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, I think that as we've said all along, it's condition based. The reality is that the Iraqi security forces are improving in capability and experience every day, every week, every month. And after the -- We were expecting, an increase in violence during the election period, because obviously the terrorists have a great deal to lose if the election is successful, as it will be. But thereafter the hope is that the conditions will permit some drawdowns of troops. As you know, we plussed up considerably from 137,000, I believe, up to about 160,000 to be helpful during the election period, and we certainly expect to go back down to 137,000, and if conditions permit we can go below that. But time will tell. It's condition based.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We're going to run along folks, thank you.
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