Secretary Rumsfeld and General Pace Stakeout at Capitol Hill
REP. Jack Kingston: The Secretary's got to go to the White House in about three minutes, so fire away quick and --
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you ready to accept the McCain Amendment?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The White House has been negotiating, I haven't seen the latest draft but my guess is they'll end up working something out.
REP. Bill Schuster: Some of you may be curious why we're here. We just got back from a CODEL last week and we asked to sit down with the Secretary to talk about what we saw. The message and the things that we saw in Iraq are things are positive, things are moving in the right direction, and that's something that is not being told enough here in America. There are some out there that say they don't trust the White House, they don't trust the Secretary. Well I personally trust the Secretary and the White House, but more importantly I trust the men and women that are over in Iraq on the ground, and we heard directly from them, and positive things are happening. That's a story that has to be out there.
REP. Dennis Rehberg: The progress is unbelievable. And what we picked up while we were there from the military is they're interested in security, they're interested in democracy, and they're interested in prosperity, and I think we're on track for all three of those. Security is moving through very well, but more importantly, democracy is moving forward. We met with many of the candidates in the Iraqi elections and they're a phenomenal group of people. We think they can do it. And what we're asking for is a little bit of patience. That's the message we wanted to give the Secretary.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you have a response to Mr. Murtha who said yesterday he would have accepted your resignation had he been in the White House?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Everyone's free to say what they wish.
REP. Schuster: Once again, I'll stress there are people out there saying that are going on that we didn't hear that from the men and women on the ground, and that's the important people we've got to be hearing, and that's the message I hope all of you take out to America. Important things are happening. That's the voice of the Soldier and the Marine that I hope you guys get out there and interview.
We talked to a lot of sergeants, a lot of lieutenant colonels on the ground that every day are dealing with the Iraqi people and they're talking about positive things. Again, once again, I hope you stress that in your reports.
QUESTION: I just asked you at the last stakeout if you're confidence in a withdrawal of American troops after next week's election.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I answered it very well the first time you asked.
QUESTION: So you are confident that this will occur if conditions on the ground persist? These numbers will drop.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I would prefer to use the words I used. I said it's condition based. We will be drawing down from a plus of 155 to 160,000 down to 135, 37, 38, 40,000 after the election because we plussed up to that amount. Then a new government will be formed, we'll take a look at the conditions on the ground and the commanders will make a recommendation to me and to General Pace and we'll make a recommendation to the President, and when the President has something to announce, he'll do it.
QUESTION: The President has also suggested moving U.S. troops from the cities to bases that are more secure. Why do this? And how soon could this possibly begin?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We've been doing it continuously. We've been passing over responsibility for bases and for pieces of real estate to the Iraqi security forces as their capabilities have increased. It's a continuing process. It's been going on for many months. I think there's been -- General Pace --
GENERAL PACE: About 29 either closed or turned over to the Iraqis. About 17 of those have been actually turned over and the rest have been closed.
REP Kingston: That's one thing we were real excited to see on our trip, is that 50 percent of Baghdad right now is under Iraqi security; 25 percent of Mosul; and that word does not get out in America. And to have I think an honest debate on it, that's the kind of information people need to know about because it's tremendous progress. But people just don't realize it.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We've got to --
QUESTION: Why do you think Americans are so uneasy?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Excuse me. We have to be down there in 14 minutes, and I'm going to have to --