Secretary Rumsfeld's Town Hall at Yongsan Garrison
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much.
This is an impressive gathering and I thank you so much for your warm welcome. I appreciate it a great deal. It's a real privilege to be with you.
General LaPorte, thank you so much for those kind words. Your friend Dick Myers before he retired once introduced me as the only person who have been Secretary of Defense in two centuries. I didn't know quite how to take it. But I also want to thank you, Leon, for your superb leadership that you provide our country and this important command. We recognize it, we value it, and we thank you for it.
It is terrific to be back here in Korea and have a chance to say hello to the folks who are serving so many thousands of miles away from home. Men and women in uniform and their families who we saw when Leon introduced you earlier. You're serving on the frontiers of freedom. It's important work you do, it's noble work, and we as a country are very much in your debt.
I also want to make a special comment about our family members -- those that are here and those that are back in the United States, and the loved ones. For each of them, for their support of you, it really also serves our country and we appreciate it a great deal. Thank you so much.
What I'd like to do is to talk for five or six minutes and then answer questions. I understand there are microphones located around the floor, in the balconies and even behind me.But first let me make a couple of comments about what it is you're doing and why.
I know it may be hard to believe when you look around the Republic of Korea and Seoul and other cities in this country that about half a century ago this peninsula, the same ground we stand on here today, was ravaged by a truly brutal conflict. Millions dead, and an entire country almost completely destroyed.
I remember well the time in the summer of 1950, armored divisions of the Army of North Korea crossed the border and in those next three years almost 40,000 young Americans would fall in some of the toughest combat in our history. And during that period American forces endured repeated setbacks and difficulties. Partially as a result, President Harry Truman would leave the White House in 1953 with a 23 percent approval rating -- probably one of the lowest ever since they started recording those kinds of things. We should remember that.
Today President Truman is properly remembered in history as a President and a leader of great significance and vision. He was one of the architects who fashioned the free world's post-World War II strategy to the great benefit of our country, the American people and indeed the world.
The success that we see here in the Republic of Korea today is another of the examples of the contribution he and the young men and women who served in those days and the American people who supported them accomplished.
Back then, in the midst of the carnage, a great many people questioned whether the fight in Korea was worth it, whether brave young Americans should face death and injury so many thousands of miles from home for a result that seemed uncertain at best.
Today the answer to that question is so clear. All one has to do is look around this country.
I keep a satellite photo under a piece of glass on a little table in my office with a night photograph from a satellite of the Korean Peninsula. What it shows is south of the demilitarized zone, light everywhere. Energy. And north of the demilitarized zone, darkness, total darkness except for one little pinprick of light in the capital of North Korea, in Pyongyang, which says it all.
In the South, a free political system, a free economic system, opportunity for people. In the North, a dictatorship, a command economy, people starving. The North Korean military taking people in the military who are under five feet and under 100 pounds because of malnutrition. It says a lot.
Here in South Korea you've got a vibrant democracy that is sending 3,000 of its folks over to Iraq and has people in Afghanistan contributing to the liberation of those people and the opportunity to set them on a path of free political systems and free economic systems.
It's worth remembering that contrast when you're considering how your children and their children will think about the fight that our country and our allies are engaged in today as we navigate through the difficulties and the controversies inherent in a complex struggle against violent extremists. Some people still question the seriousness of the threat posed by our enemy.
They find it hard to understand how a group of violent extremists could actually carry out plans to reestablish an Islamic caliphate stretching across the Middle East, North Africa, parts of Asia, parts of Europe. But that's their goal.
[inaudible] as once said about Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, even though Hitler had spelled out relatively clearly in his book "Mein Kampf" in the 1920s what he had in mind. Only a few people, people with vision like Winston Churchill, read it, understood it, believed the danger, and were prepared for the danger. They took him seriously.
Osama bin Laden declared war on America in 1996, but it wasn't until five years later and after 3,000 people had been killed in our country that our nation declared war in response. We've seen the designs and intentions of the next generation of terrorists most recently in a letter al-Qaida's second in command, Al Zawahiri, wrote to his top lieutenant in Iraq, Zarkawi. The first stage, expel the Americans from Iraq; the second stage, establish an Islamic authority; the third stage, extend the jihad. He called in this letter for war against Jews, against Christians, against Shia Muslims, against moderate Sunni Muslims, against all who do not share al-Qaida's violent and medieval version and vision of the world. Those are their plans and we must respond.
President Bush understands this. He said in a recent speech that evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience must be taken very seriously and we must stop them before their [kind] can multiply.
That's why our country is on the offensive. That's why our forces are on the attack. They're having very good success. And that's why our goal as a country is nothing short of victory -- unapologetic, unyielding, unconditional.
When the history of this era is written I'm confident that it will be recorded as one of the finest hours for our men and women of our armed forces, and that future generations of Americans will remember you and thank you for the proud history that you are making.
To face these new and lethal threats, our military is undergoing important reforms and restructuring to be more agile, more capable, and more lethal. So too, America's historic alliance with the Republic of Korea is undergoing a transformation -- one that you here are helping to execute in the months and years ahead.
The United States has boosted our capabilities to maintain and strengthen our deterrent while at the same time making ground combat forces available for other important missions. The vital work you're doing and the service of the troops of the 2nd Infantry Division up north are part of a long, noble tradition of Americans soldiering here on the Korean Peninsula.
Each of you stand on the front lines of freedom and the great sweep of history is for freedom, and we're on freedom's side.
So I thank you for your service. I thank your families for their support of you and for your commitment to the defense of our country.
Now I'd be happy to answer some questions. You might want to stand up near a microphone. And be gentle on me. It's been a long day! I'm just kidding. Fire away, I can take it!
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Major Rob Hines. I'm the Commander of Headquarters Company, 8th United States Army.
QUESTION: My question is, when the U.S. does achieve victory in Iraq and when the Iraqi people do succeed in establishing a new government and we are able to withdraw forces from Iraq, what is to prevent rival forces and Islamic fundamentalists from returning to civil war just as rival factions did in the case of Somalia?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I suppose the answer is several things. First, take Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan's been put on a path. They have an elected president, an elected parliament, elected provincial leaders, a new constitution, and we're helping them to develop and build their security forces.
The same thing is true in Iraq. Iraq now has 406,000 security forces that have been trained and equipped since the end of that war and they are getting better every single day. They were the people who provided the security for the referendum election that took place just a few days ago, a week ago, and they did a darn good job. Our forces, Coalition forces were basically in reserve, in a quick reaction mode, available to help if needed, but for the most part the Iraqis did that.
So the answer is that I believe that as the constitution gets approved and the votes get counted in the next week, we'll then have an election on December 15th under the new constitution. They will have their own government, their own parliament, under their own constitution, and every terrorist and every insurgent who attacked anybody in that country will not be attacking America, will not be attacking the coalition, will not be attacking a foreign occupier, they will be attacking the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people don't like it.
The tip phone lines that exist in Iraq have gone up like this in the last two, three, four months. The number of people who can pick up a phone, call the Iraqi security forces or the American coalition or other coalition forces and say there's an insurgent in here, we don't want him here, here's where you can find him, they can now do it anonymously. The number of tips have gone up like that.
So the answer to your question is that over time it will have to be the Iraqi people that will secure their country and finally defeat that insurgency. Insurgencies last historically anywhere from five, six, eight, ten years. Ultimately they are put down not by foreign forces. They are put down by the people of that country which are tired of seeing their own people killed. The Iraqi security forces today are being killed at double the rate of all Coalition forces. The numbers of Iraqi civilians that are being killed are multiples of that. At some point the people in that country are increasingly going to tip against insurgencies and have the courage to support the government.
I believe that that in fact is what will prevent terrorists and insurgents from succeeding in that country.
Undoubtedly there will be countries that will want to assist Iraq and Afghanistan for some period as President Karzai of Afghanistan has requested – [they] will want to assist in the case of Afghanistan to provide some deterrent effect on their neighbors because they don't have the capability at the present time to defend against neighbors in Afghanistan, for example, and [inaudible] for a period. But the bulk of the problem has to be taken care of by the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'm Major Rick Sorres, I'm the 8th Army Space Officer.
What force structure changes do you see happening in Korea in the next couple of years?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You've read the announcements that have been made. A number of troops are moving out of Korea as the Korean forces increase their capability. A number of bases and locations that we've had are being reduced by I guess 105. We've turned back the number now and hope to have I think 40 turned back by the end of this year.
What will happen is that you'll see the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea evolve. It's 50 years old. They now are not a country that's on its knees brutalized and [inaudible], they are a country that has the tenth largest economy, gross domestic product on the face of the earth. They have an increasingly capable military. Under General [inaudible]'s leadership they've been taking over, I believe, six, they've already taken over some six sets of responsibilities in the combined forces command and have four more that they're going to be taking over in the period immediately ahead, and then there will be [inaudible] things they'll take over. And as that happens we'll see them play a larger and larger role in this combined forces command and the United States will be able to play a somewhat lesser role. How that will evolve over time depends on a variety of things. One of the things that's taking place of course also simultaneously is the six-party talks with North Korea, the efforts to persuade them to manage their affairs in a way that is less threatening to the peninsula and to the world, and were that to evolve it would have an effect also on forces.
I think it isn't wise to suggest that we know precisely over the next one, two, three, four years anything beyond that which we've announced, but I suspect we'll continue to see the relationship and the [inaudible] of the United States evolve in the direction that it's been going in the past as we go forward because of the capabilities of the Korean military forces.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Captain Tim Russell from 8th Army Plans.
Can you expound on the notion of full sovereignty in Iraq? Will this be like [inaudible] Okinawan sovereignty to Japan in 1972 when we retained exclusive control over the 30-plus military bases there and when the [inaudible] behavior [inaudible] there?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yes, I can comment on it. Iraq today is a sovereign nation. Iraq and any other sovereign nation can decide how it wants to arrange itself. Iraq has indicated that during this period they want the Coalition forces in their country doing what it is we're doing because the government of Iraq knows that they're not yet in a position to provide for the security of their country by themselves. So there's not an infringement on their sovereignty in the correct meaning of the word that we're there.
It is an argument that's used against us while we're there that it is an infringement of their sovereignty but it is in fact not because it is at their request and it also happens to be under a UN Resolution.
You know our country. You know our desire is not to have our forces anywhere they're not wanted, not to have them in places they're not welcome, and certainly not to have them in places they're not needed. Most of our folks would rather be home. Yet the nature of our world and the nature of our responsibility in the world as Prime Minister Blair said when he spoke to our Congress, at this moment our country was called upon to do some things in the world and it's our responsibility during this period to do that.
I think that what you'll see is as the Iraqi security forces continue to grow and become more qualified as they are every single day, the U.S. and coalition forces will pare down over time based on conditions in the country, partly dependent upon the behavior of their neighbors in Syria and Iran, partly dependent upon the extent to which the Iraqi people accept the fact that it is their country and because of that constitution and because of their opportunity to vote and to put the people they want in office, that they have an interest in its success. I think all of those things will determine the pace at which that's happening.
But I think the number of military bases and locations that we'd be involved in in Iraq would come down substantially. And from our standpoint the sooner the better.
We have always faced a tension in this situation and the tension is this. You want enough forces in Iraq that you can provide a measure of security while they get their sea legs and go through this process of politics and fashioning a constitution and arguing about political parties and arguing about the federal system they want to establish and how much of the responsibility should be in the provinces and how much with the central government, but not so many people there that it's intrusive, that [inaudible] heavy. The more troops we have there the more combat support we'll need, the more force protection we need, the more intrusive it is. So we're trying -- Our folks on the ground are doing a spectacular job. God bless them. The men and women over there serving now are doing a truly amazing job for our country and for the world. They understand what I just said.
You see a lot of observers and people sitting in arm chairs somewhere else saying oh you should have more troops, you should do this, you should do that. The fact of the matter is, the people on the ground recognize that tension between having just enough to do the job, but not so many that in fact it causes a bigger insurgency and a reaction against the intrusiveness of the "occupation force". I think what you'll see is, in the period ahead you'll see a reduction in the number of bases and when those conditions permit you'll see a reduction in the number of coalition forces over time.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Specialist Johnson, 527th MI Battalion.
My question is at a time when there is an admittedly drastic shortfall in the number of proficient Arabic linguists, why is there a continually large percentage of military personnel put through the Korean language program?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Repeat the last part of it. Why was there such a large number?
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Why is there such a large percentage of military personnel put through the Korean language program.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Do you know what the percentage is?
QUESTION: Not off the top of my head, sir.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don't either.
QUESTION: I'd say it's about on par with the Arabic language program.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: For about three years I've been working apparently with only moderate success to try to get the military services and the institutions that teach languages, whether it's [inaudible] or the various language programs, to shift their emphasis into the 21st Century. Dr. David Chu has been looking at it. He briefed me on it as recently as last month. He persuades me that considerable progress has been made in shifting out of languages that were very interesting for people to study in the last century into languages that would be vastly more useful for our folks in the 21st Century.
I simply don't know the percentage on the Korean language, but I'll sure as heck check.
I'm with you.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. I'm 1st Lieutenant Raymond Page, 607th Weather Squadron, United States Air Force.
My question is about the media. The media seems to --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You're asking the wrong guy.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You should spin around and ask those folks.
QUESTION: The media seems to be the enemy's greatest weapon since the battlefield is really international politics. Do we have a strategy to counter that? They seem to be more agile than us again and again. Do we have a strategy to counteract that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: If we had one it sure isn't working.
How do I explain this? You're exactly correct. Our forces are not going to lose a battle, they're not going to lose a war against terrorists in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. The center of gravity in this battle is a test of wills and the battle is in large measure being fought with great skill by the terrorists against us basically with our populations. They use the media. They have media committees. They use them to great effect. They have a lot of freedom to lie consistently and I don't know who it was, Mark Twain or somebody said a lie travels three times around the world before the truth even gets its boots on.
Our problem is someone lies about something and our people are obligated to try to find out the facts, try to find out the truth, and that takes one news cycle, two news cycles, five news cycles and the damage is done. They don't have states to [inaudible], they don't have parliaments, and they function in the 21st Century. This is the first war conducted in the history of the world when there's been an Internet, when there's been e-mail, when there's been 24-hour news and talk radio and embedded reporters and all of the things that are different. Computers, the blackberries or blueberries -- whatever. I still use a dictaphone.
So it's a totally different environment that we're functioning in and they are good at it and they know what they're doing and they reveal the fact that they know what they're doing in terms of manipulating the media in their communications with each other. They talk about it.
You know, one interesting thing though is we haven't seen Osama bin Laden on film for one whale of a long time. I hadn't thought about that until recently. Apparently if he's around he's very busy hiding.
I don't know what the answer is. Our country is an amazing place. We probably have the best advertising, the best marketing, a movie industry that sells messages of various types but successfully and capably and competitively in the world. and yet we are in the government, we shy away from trying to do anything in terms of effectively dealing and countering the wonderful talent and success that these terrorists seem to have.
I [think] it's against the law for us to do much because, for example, you have multiple audiences. Any time anyone says anything, not only are you saying it to the people you're targeting, the enemy, or the people the enemy are trying to persuade for example, to be enlisted and recruited, to be trained as suicide bombers or whatever, to give money to the terrorists. When you're talking to them, you're also talking simultaneously to everybody else, to our people. And that's where you have the problem.
So we have to be very careful in what we do and we are.
I guess the [inaudible] is to, I guess [inaudible] strategy. We do have a strategy. We're a democracy and we believe democracy works. We believe that in the last analysis given sufficient information, over time, free people find their way to right decisions and they make their decisions and they figure it out. They basically have a good center of gravity, free people. Our strategy is that. Our strategy is that there's power in freedom, there's power in a democratic system and we have to have confidence in it. It's worked. As Winston Churchill said, it's the worst form of government except for any other that's ever been tried. And it is the best. And we have to know --
If we believe that we put everything, all of our confidence, all of our hope, in the idea that people given sufficient information will find their way to reasonably right decisions. If that's what we've done, and look where we've come. I suspect we'll make it. Notwithstanding the difficulty of the task and notwithstanding the fact that the folks we're up against are very good at what they're doing.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, Martin Sanders from the Combined Federal Campaign Overseas.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Is that right?
QUESTION: Yes, sir.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Good for you. I'm not allowed to -- [Laughter].
I'll just tell you, I hope I don't get in trouble. There are no lawyers here, are there? No lawyers, good.
We appealed to the Office of Personnel Management to have the Pentagon Memorial put on the list of things that people can give in the combined federal appeal, and we were turned down. So we went back to them and allowed as how we had a minimum of high regard for that decision. And they reversed themselves. I just thought I'd mention that that's what we did.
And I wouldn't want to [inaudible] in any particular direction.
QUESTION: [inaudible] many other duties, [inaudible], you also serve as Chairman of the Board for the CFC. Yes.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yes.
QUESTION: As the Chairman of the Board, --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I've already paid at the office. [Laughter].
QUESTION: But as the Chairman of the Board of CFC, [inaudible] emphasize to the men and women of the armed forces [inaudible] to this campaign.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you for asking that.
You know, I don't know that we even need to say this to a group like this. They're already giving. They already have demonstrated by self-selection that they're people who, the people in this room and the people all across the globe who serve in uniform understand the importance of giving. So I look down that list of things that are available there and think of all the good that can be done for folks. And how important it is for the people on the receiving end to have not a lot, but something from almost all of us who feel we can do something like that. In our eyes, [inaudible] benefit from those charities and the gifts that are made. They're appreciative, they often don't have a chance to get directly to the people who reach down deep in their pockets, but they certainly are appreciative of it and on behalf of all of the recipients I thank all of you who do participate, and thank you for what you do.
Are there people behind me?
Look at that.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, My name's Lieutenant Commander Chris Davewell, U.S. Naval Forces, Korea.
Sir, tonight is the Navy Ball at the [Shilla] Hotel and we'd love it if you'd come down and join us for --
QUESTION: It's 230 years of beautiful naval tradition and we'd love to have you come down and join us.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: What time is it?
QUESTION: It was actually to start at 1800, so --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think he's trying to get me to give shorter answers. He just issued the invitation for the heck of it. Thank you, I'll take it under advisement.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, my name is Airman First Class [inaudible] of the 67th Air Intelligence Squadron.
I just wanted to ask you, with all the proposed budget cuts to the new [inaudible] programs that are being developed for the military, the restructuring of the military towards fighting more of an unconditional war, and the current trend towards reducing and problems with manning, do you believe there's going to be any impact on the U.S. military's capability to fight a war against a conventional foe within the next 10 or 20 years?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No, I really don't. In the last five years we've seen the Department of Defense budgets go up by significant amounts. People talk about budget cuts. There haven't been budget cuts in the Department of Defense in the last 4.5, 5 years. But there have been some reductions in [inaudible] that people have projected those out. And so they've said let's lay out a plan for the four year defense plan, five or six years, and then they found that there are other things that needed to be done and they took [inaudible] and not actual budget cuts for the most part. Now undoubtedly in a budget the size of the Department of Defense there are some pieces of it obviously that have been cut and should have been cut, but the short answer is no, we can't afford that.
One reason we are not threatened by large armies, navies or air forces is because the world knows that we have the most capable large Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps of any country in the history of the world.
And it's not the kind of thing you develop in just ten minutes. You either have it or you don't. We have it and we've got an element of people as a deterrent and as a stabilizing force in the world. However, it means that [inaudible] after us directly against a big Army, a big Navy or a big Air Force during this period. If they come after us, they're going to come after us like they are using every conceivable asymmetrical unconventional type of [inaudible] imaginable. That's the way we're going to be attacked for the period immediately ahead, because there just are not capabilities sufficient to attack us conventionally.
Now what does that mean? That means we have to be arranged for that as well. The process we're going through at the present time is to do everything that we can imagine to see that we have the kinds of capabilities that will enable us to hopefully deter those kinds of asymmetrical attacks, but recognizing that that's not likely to be able to deter them all we have to be capable of defending against them, a whole series of types of things effectively in the event that those types of attacks do occur. But it's a fair question, thank you.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. I'm Sergeant First Class Herndon with the 311th Theater Signal Command and the 8th Army Staff.
Sir, I know that over the past few months the Uniformed Services [inaudible] Protection Act has been brought to your attention and you have heard some of the horrific stories relating to it. I'd like to take a moment to tell you that even the [inaudible] every day stories are horrific themselves, and ask you a couple of questions.
I was married to my spouse for 14 years. Out of those 14 years, six of that she had her own military career [inaudible]. Over the next eight years when she was strictly a military spouse there is no doubt in my mind that she made some sacrifices and some compromises for the benefit of my career. However, as I retire next year, and I'm [inaudible], I will pay her for 2.5 times the number of years that we were married -- 36 years, a total of just shy of $580,000.
Now sir, if you calculate that for every hour of every day of the 14 years we were married, I'm reimbursing her at nearly $5 an hour. If you subtract those six years that she was in the military herself, I'm reimbursing her at $8.25 an hour.
So my two questions to you sir, are I know that you've directed a DoD review of the policy [inaudible], and I would like to know where you are on that review. And I would also like to know what your position is on that Act.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well now, [inaudible]. If he's not in mathematics, he should have been.
You're correct. The question was raised to me several months back. I got myself informed about it. I asked Dr. Chu to put together a group of people to begin thinking about what has changed since that legislation was seemingly required by the services and passed by the United States Congress, and there are things that have changed. I've asked him to also begin talking to Members of Congress. The response we've gotten thus far is that at the moment they do not want to open that issue up.
So what we're doing is we've gone back to the drawing boards to see how we can marshal the information and the data in a way that we can conceivably go to the Congress with some ideas about how they might change the law in ways that would ease their concerns about reopening that issue.
I've not forgotten it. I don't have an answer. It may take some time. But I think the transcript of this discussion we've just had would be an example that could be used, and I thank you for raising it.
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Secretary. My name is Marita Ann Hickelbach, I'm a captain in the United States Army. I'm part of 1st Signal Brigade.
What I want to say, sir, is that I'm proud to be a soldier, and considering all that the media has tried to do to take away from what we stand for, which is democracy, I think we are doing the best that we can with the resources that we have in order to accomplish the mission.
My question is, are we going to still have that [inaudible] come January 2006? [Laughter].
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I'm proud you're a soldier, too.
My understanding is that the answer is yes. The President proposes and the Congress disposes. All I know is there is one that is in train. I believe it will happen. But until it happens it hasn't. I think realistically with the government that's the most accurate answer one can give you.
All right. Last question.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, my name is Corporal Han from [inaudible].
I [inaudible]. [Laughter].
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Don't be at all. I'm harmless.
QUESTION: [inaudible] about [inaudible]. On behalf of our [inaudible] and Korean people[inaudible] I would like to thank you, the United States Army, to be stationed in Korea and protecting us from the enemies we have, sir, and [inaudible] I'm proud to join in [inaudible] sir, and I hope to see you [inaudible].
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you. God bless you. Thank you very much. I appreciate that a great deal.
Let me just say in closing you folks do a superb job for our country. Your country's grateful and I'm grateful. God bless every one of you.