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DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 20, 2001

Thursday, Sept. 20, 2001 - 12:01 p.m. EDT

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.

We're making good progress at the site of the damage there. The rain helped and damped down some of the asbestos particles that were posing somewhat of a problem. We don't have a precise date when the site will be cleared and the FBI's work completed and the renovation beginning, but they feel very good about it.

I've said before, and I'll say it again: What we're engaged in is something that is very, very different from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Kosovo, Bosnia, the kinds of things that people think of when they use the word "war" or "campaign" or "conflict." We really, almost, are going to have to fashion a new vocabulary and different constructs for thinking about what it is we're doing. It is very different than embarking on a campaign against a specific country within a specific time frame for a specific purpose. There's no question but that the full resources of the United States government across the entire spectrum -- from the political, diplomatic, the economic, financial, as well as other areas, plus military -- are all going to have to be engaged. So the progress that takes place will be something that will be seen -- most of it will be seen, some of it probably won't be seen -- but it will occur in different places at different times in different ways.

The president has made clear, very clear, that this is a -- considered a direct attack against the United States of America and our way of life. And he intends to provide for our defense by taking the effort to the people who are attacking the United States and those countries that are supporting that, whether it's through harboring, financing, facilitating, or even tolerating. Because of those differences, there's no question but that this is going to take time. It will not be swift. It is not a marathon -- it is a marathon, it's not a sprint. It is not something that is easy, it's difficult. And it will certainly require the patience of all of us. And it also will require a lot of international support, and fortunately, that's coming.

The attacks here in the United States were, in a very real sense, an attack on the world, in the sense that there were hundreds and hundreds of people from any number of countries -- 50-plus countries -- that were killed in these attacks, and the world knows that. That's why we have seen such an outpouring of support from so many nations. The NATO Charter has been invoked. The Rio Treaty has been invoked. Our alliance with Australia has been invoked. And I, needless to say, want to say that we appreciate deeply these expressions, powerful expressions, of support.

I don't think it can be said often enough that this is not an effort that is aimed at any religion or any people, particularly, or even the people of a country. In many cases, the countries that sponsor terrorism and facilitate it are actually holding large portions of their populations at risk. They are dictators. They -- there are many people in those countries that do not support the regimes and do not favor the things that regimes like that do. And so it's important that it be seen as an effort that is against people who are attacking the United States and our way of life, and not necessarily all of the people in those countries, many of whom don't believe in or support that.

I would just add that the problem that we've talked about, from the day that I've arrived, of asymmetrical threats, of terrorism and ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, cyberattacks, and weapons of mass destruction, are something that are front and center to us because of the problem of proliferation and the problem that, with the end of the Cold War, there was a relaxation of tension, and almost anything that people want, they can get their hands on, if they're determined and if they have the money.

And the weapons are of increasing power and lethality, and it does call on all of us to recognize the importance of dealing with the problem of proliferation, given the reality of what we've seen here, with thousands of lives lost; how important counterproliferation is and seeing that the weapons of vastly greater power don't come into the hands and are not used by the kinds of people that attacked the United States.

Just by way of notice, the question came up the last time how are we going to deal with the press during this period. We are -- Torie and others are looking at how it's been done previously. That is interesting and I'm sure will be useful and instructive -- (laughter) -- but -- (laughs) -- I'm sure there were some pluses and minuses. Needless to say, we'd prefer to do it right and will hope to do that. But I think it will be different. I suspect it will be different, because this is a different set of problems. And so we'll have to find ways that we are comfortable with and that you are comfortable with, given the responsibilities you have.

There are a lot of rumors that run around a building like this, and I understand that. And it is perfectly within everyone's area of responsibility to try to pursue those rumors. You all know, and I want you to know that I know, that to the extent we respond to every one of those and knock down one, two, three, four, and not knock down number five, we've validated number five. So we're not going to get in the business of knocking down rumors. And we simply -- first of all, you don't have enough time in a day to run around trying to chase all those rabbits. And, you know, 95 percent of them are wrong. The people who are involved in what's going on in this building, in the kinds of things you all are interested in are professional and aren't talking. And the people that are talking are people who either aren't professional or they don't care. And so I hope you'll not chase too many wrong rabbits.

And with that, I'll stop and respond to questions.

Yes, sir.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you spoke of a new vocabulary, so to speak, for the arsenal, the war manual, or whatever you want to call it. Infinite Justice -- there are reports that you signed a mobilization order for the military yesterday to begin building up the military for the war on terrorism. Have you talked to the leaders, the military leaders of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, who are quite worried about the fundamentalist movement to the south, about cooperation with any U.S. military deployment to their countries? And have they agreed to do so?

Rumsfeld: I've concluded, and Colin Powell and I have discussed, the -- how it's best to handle those kinds of issues. And I've concluded that it's best to let the international relations piece of this fundamentally be dealt with at the Department of State. There's no question but that the defense establishment and the State Department are talking to a lot of countries, but it's about a lot of things -- talking about resolutions in different international organizations.

We're talking about things like clearances for people to move through countries and do things in different countries. We're talking about all kinds of various other relationships that those countries have to countries that sponsor terrorism or to entities that sponsor terrorism.

And it's probably best for those countries -- each of which has a different perspective, their own political sensitivities -- to, for the most part, announce themselves the extent to which they are assisting or involved with us in various aspects of what we're doing. There will be very few countries who are involved in everything we're doing. There will be any number of countries that will be involved in a lot of things we're doing. But I'm going to kind of leave that to those countries because of those sensitivities.

Yes?

Q: Just a brief follow-up on that. Speaking of Infinite Justice and the order you signed yesterday, could you give us any details at all on the kinds of forces that you have ordered to move to get ready for this? I mean, do they include bombers and fighters? Do they -- any kinds of details?

Rumsfeld: Maybe we ought to have one clear understanding here. I don't know quite how we establish this, and this is such a different situation. When someone asks me a question that states a couple of facts, or presumed facts, and I don't disabuse them of those facts, the implication is that they're true. And I would have to spend a lot of time taking the premises that are rooted in the questions, like, "the order you signed yesterday," that kind of thing. Now, I suppose I'll have to start knocking down those things, or else people will say, "Gee, he did sign an order yesterday."

Q: Did you? (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: That is a fair question. And I --

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: Yes. (Cross talk. Laughter.)

Did I? (Laughter.) There is no question but that, to move forces, one signs deployment orders. And I do that every day. Almost every day I sign some sort of a deployment order, and -- literally almost every day, sometimes three or four, that move something someplace or bring something back or authorize a group of people to go into a country and do something for training or something. I do it almost every day.

Q: Well, Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that we are moving forces --

Rumsfeld: We are. Yeah.

Q: -- we are moving forces. Did you sign an order, in conjunction with Infinite Justice, in order to build up forces to fight this war?

Rumsfeld: See, now you're going to embarrass me because I can't remember if it was yesterday or the day before. I have certainly signed an order, a deployment order, with respect to the movement of forces. And I just honestly do not remember when I signed it. It could have been -- (laughter).

Q: Do you remember what it said? (Laughs.)

Rumsfeld: I remember what it says. (Laughter.)

Q: Could you give us the details of what's in it? (Laughter.)

Q: Yeah! We don't care what day!

Q: At least some general idea, sir, some general idea of what the --

Rumsfeld: You know, if I start giving general ideas of what it is --

Q: Specific ideas. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: -- and then I leave something out, someone is going to say, "Oh, my goodness, you didn't mention you were doing that."

What we're doing is we are trying to get ourselves arranged in the world with our forces in places that we believe conceivably could be useful in the event the president decided to use them for one thing or another. And I am not going to describe what forces we're moving, I'm not going to discuss the dates and times of when they leave and when they're going to arrive.

There's no question but that when I sign a deployment order, what happens is someone in some state is told, "Pack your bag," and he goes home and tells his wife or she goes home and tells her husband, "Told to pack the bag. We're leaving in X number of hours." And then all of a sudden, people see things moving around an air base, or they see things moving around a port, and the local press reports it.

So it's not like it's all a big secret. But it is sufficiently sensitive that I'm not going to provide specific details of who is doing what, when and where. I just don't think it's helpful.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, you spent the first part of your statement talking about how you're concerned about proliferation. Well, up until a couple of weeks ago, India and Pakistan were part of those proliferation concerns, and now the administration seems to be advocating that we at least lift limited military sanctions against them. Are you worried at all that that may deepen the problem? And as a part of that, are you worried that --

Rumsfeld: Well, let me -- let me tackle that one --

Q: Sure.

Rumsfeld: -- or else I'm going to have to start writing down a couple part questions.

With respect to India and Pakistan you're right. When they -- I believe it was when they exploded a nuclear weapon, each of them, that they were placed on some sort of a proliferation list or sanctions of some kind were imposed. Clearly, a judgment will be made as we go along as to how long those restrictions seem to be appropriate.

And for myself, I am of the opinion that you take life like you find it, that is where it is. And we need to deal with those two countries for a very real and immediate reason. And exactly what the Department of State and the president will decide with respect to the other aspects of those relationships will have to be worked out.

But I believe it's very appropriate for us to be talking to both countries with respect to the current situation.

Q: Mr. Secretary, may I do a follow-up on Charlie's question, please?

Rumsfeld: You bet.

Q: I know you're not going to discuss operational details, and yet what we've been able to find out about the movement of these forces, including the carrier battle group and the Roosevelt and some of the Air Force aircraft -- they're reminiscent of the buildup prior to the Gulf War 10 or 11 years ago.

Now one question, specifically. Have you been able -- or have you been informed that there is a linkage between the terrorist attacks of last Tuesday and Saddam Hussein and Iraq? And moving these forces into that area, is Iraq a potential target again?

And the second part of the question is, no one's talking about Special Forces. You talk about a new type of vocabulary here. It would seem that Special Forces would be the ideal troops to use moving into raids on Afghanistan and elsewhere. Can you tell me if that's part of the planning?

(Pause.) (Laughter.) I like your smile, Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: You've got to be kidding. (Laughter.)

Q: You said once before, when I talked about a strike on North Korea -- (off mike) --

Rumsfeld: First of all, you say the movements are reminiscent of the Gulf War. If I could do anything today, I'd like to disabuse people of trying to draw parallels between previous conflicts and this one. I think it's not useful, and I think it'll prove to be in a direction that is not helpful and not going to prove to be a correct one.

We're not going to -- for the most part, I think the president will be indicating, when he speaks to these issues, who he considers to be the immediate problems, and I suspect that it will be seen over time as a broad set of problems and not a particular one. And as you well know, I'm not going to announce which ones may be of immediate interest.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, how did these terrorist attacks affect your agenda with your Russian colleague in Italy next week?

Rumsfeld: Well --

Q: I'm sorry. And is missile defense still the first priority of these talks? Is missile defense still the first priority, the issue, of the talks?

Rumsfeld: Well, first, it affected it by canceling my trip to Naples. I'll not be going. I've had phone conversations with Minister Ivanov. And in fact, I got to make a note and remember -- (chuckling) -- to tell him something. (Laughter.)

(Chuckles.)

Q: He may know by now! (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: Yeah. In any event, there's no way I can go to Naples. I've just got too many things to do here.

I believe Paul Wolfowitz may be going. Whether or not he would have a meeting with Minister Ivanov, as I had planned to, or not I do not believe has been sorted out because I have not gotten back to the minister to tell him I'm not going.

The focus of the talks were in the first instance much broader than missile defense. They were political and economic and diplomatic, and they involved a whole set of relationships that involved national security issues. Terrorism, for example, was discussed. Missile defense was discussed. Other things were discussed. Various ways of cooperating. So I would think that to think of the discussions with Russia as being essentially missile defense would not comport with what actually takes place in those meetings.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you keep talking about the need to develop a new vocabulary, and war is a word that connotes a lot of things to the American people.

Rumsfeld: Mmm hmm.

Q: Help us with a vocabulary that is more descriptive, and maybe there isn't, for the kind of conflict you are envisioning and the magnitude of it.

Rumsfeld: I wish I -- I ought to sit down and think about that a bit. In fact, I think we all ought to if we want to serve our audiences well. I haven't had time to do that. What I do know is the standard words jangle in my head when I hear them, and then I put them onto the subjects they're relating to, and I know what's going, and I think to myself, Gee, that isn't really as good a word as we ought to be able to find. And I will invest a little time on that, and -- I'm still working on English though. (Laughter.)

Q: Speaking of vocabulary, is Infinite Justice the name of this operation? And I ask that for a very specific reason.

Rumsfeld: I have heard those words. I do not know that they've been adopted, and I think they're probably under review.

Q: Because in talking to several Islamic scholars, they find that name offensive. The only person or thing that can grant infinite justice, according to their religion, is Allah.

Rumsfeld: I understand. I understand. And obviously the United States does not want to do or say things that create an impression on the part of the listener that would be a misunderstanding, and clearly that would be.

Q: So it would probably be changed? Whatever the name becomes, it likely would not be that? Is that --

Rumsfeld: I -- as I say, I have heard that someone somewhere in some place selected those words, and in some preliminary aspect of things use them. Whether they will persist, given what you've said and what I was aware of, I just don't know the answer, but I doubt it. I just don't know the answer, but I doubt it.

Yes?

Q: Sir, you speak of a new vocabulary, a new approach, yet what we're witnessing right now I think could be described in modern times as the traditional reaction to a provocation, which certainly is to understate it. That is to say, a fairly open display of military power moving to a particular region. Can we assume that this movement is a precursor for combat coming sometime in the foreseeable future?

Rumsfeld: Well, there's that word "combat". And the question is, what are we really talking about combat? Are we talking about another Gulf War? Are we talking about Vietnam? Are we talking about World War II? I think I've -- I've tried to provide a sufficient level of detail that would drive a person away from a traditional view of that word.

Q: But, having said that, sir, at the same time there's a very traditional movement of combat forces right now to the region, in the same way that it's been done before.

Rumsfeld: There are probably --

Q: One can make of that dissonance.

Rumsfeld: There are probably also other things going on.

Q: Can you help us with this a little bit?

Rumsfeld: Well, I've just listed them. I've listed a whole series of baskets -- political and diplomatic and financial and military and other things. You know, some things are more visible. You can't move a ship or a plane or a tank without having someone see it move. You can do some other things.

Yes?

Q: Sir, what constitutes a victory in this new environment. I mean, Cap Weinberger in 1987 laid down some pretty clear rules for engaging U.S. forces. One was clear goals that are militarily achievable, that you can explain that there's an endgame. What's some of your early thinking here in terms of what constitutes victory?

Rumsfeld: I've laid down some guidelines for myself. The first month I came here, I sat down and in full recognition of the importance and significance and -- of committing people's lives to risk, I sat down and set forth the kinds of things that I think ought to serve as a set of guidelines or a checklist to have thought through.

And that's a good question, as to what constitutes victory. I would characterize it this way. I think that we're unlikely to be successful in changing the nature of human beings. That's for others. What we need to do is to recognize that we live in a world that's a dangerous world, it's an untidy world, it's a big world. We have to engage in that world as free people, because the linkages we have across this globe are so centrally a part of our lives, as to how we live our lives, that we have no choice but to contribute to a more peaceful and stable world.

It is not humanly possible, however, to think that anyone in any country or any group of countries can change people's behavior so that people in countries across the globe may -- you can't stop them from doing things that are unpleasant to their neighbors or their neighboring countries. So what can you try to do in this regard?

I think what you can try to is to go after this worldwide problem in a way that we can continue our way of life. That it strikes at our way of life, and while we may not eliminate it completely from the face of the Earth, which we surely will not, it's been a part of our society since the beginning of man, I suspect. We have been privileged, because of our geography and because of our circumstance, to not have been burdened with this type of thing previously.

Now, so what can you do? I think what you can do is to go after the problem to a point that you are satisfied that the American people are going to be able to live their lives in relative freedom and have the kinds of linkages with the rest of the world that we feel are so central to our well-being.

Now, it is not static, however. Because of the end of the Cold War and because of the Gulf War, which told people not to compete with armies, navies and air forces, countries do look for asymmetrical ways they can threaten the United States and Western countries. With proliferation, with the relaxation of tension, that proliferation enables people to get their hands on capabilities that are increasingly powerful, powerful to the point that you're not talking about thousands, you're talking about multiples of thousands of people.

And that says that this is a critical moment for this country and for the world. That we have to be able to live in this word; and to live in this world, we have to recognize the magnitude of the threat and the extent to which people are willing to give their lives, as these pilots of these airplanes did, and impose damage on us.

Now, what is victory? I say that victory is persuading the American people and the rest of the world that this is not a quick matter that's going to be over in a month or a year or even five years. It is something that we need to do so that we can continue to live in a world with powerful weapons and with people who are willing to use those powerful weapons. And we can do that as a country. And that would be a victory, in my view.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can I follow up on that? You've talked so much here today broadly about counterproliferation. Can you give us any of your assessment about, today, terrorist networks' capabilities to get a hold of terrorist-level chem/bio? Are they trying to get a hold of it? Do they have it? And I guess, to be blunt, specifically the bin Laden network.

And what preparations need to be made for U.S. troops going into this kind of theater; what kind of threat do they face? And what kind of challenge is posed to you by the fact, for example, that the anthrax program is in so much trouble?

Rumsfeld: Yeah.

Q: What are you walking into?

Rumsfeld: There are any number of public publications that are open, unclassified, that are available from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, and other organizations, that discuss countries that have chemical and biological and nuclear programs. When you compare that list to the list of countries that are on the list of states that have either been involved in terrorism or who have facilitated terrorism, harbored them, one can begin to see, "Gee, isn't it possible that there could be relationships that would be a problem?"

So you're right, we have to be aware and attentive that our forces -- I mean, we know that, for example, at least a couple of countries that have used chemical weapons against each other, and in one case used them against their own people.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, in this military campaign, how is your cooperation with Greece, and specifically with the Greek Minister of Defense Apostolos Tsokhatzopoulos? Did you have a chance to communicate with him, since America has a naval installation in the Island of Crete in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Rumsfeld: Well, Greece is, of course, a part of NATO, and NATO has acted jointly in support of this effort. And beyond that, I'll leave it to individual countries to characterize it.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: I missed you earlier.

Q: Which countries, could you tell us, have publicly committed their military forces, not those behind the scenes, but those that have publicly. Because I'm not sure that any of us have a complete list.

And do you support the legislation on Capitol Hill that we give Purple Hearts to the civilian casualties of the terrorist attack here?

Rumsfeld: I have not had a chance to address the latter question. And with respect to the first question, I think I answered it earlier, that the countries that have offered military assistance of various types vary, and some have done so publicly and some have done so privately, and therefore, it would be uncomfortable for me to try to create a list that would be incomplete.

Last question.

Q: Mr. Secretary, this was originally described to the American people and the world as a war on terrorism. Now you are introducing the idea of proliferation and countries that are engaged in proliferation. Are you in fact broadening the characterization of the kind of operation that the United States is about to undertake from terrorism to terrorism and proliferants?

And as part of that question, are you still as deeply concerned as you ever were with Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction program and its -- the danger of Iraq as a proliferant?

Rumsfeld: I don't think I'm broadening it, in the sense that the United States of America, successive administrations, particularly since the end of the Gulf War, have been very interested and involved and aggressive in trying to deal with the problem of proliferation. Regrettably, the success has been moderate. But it is an important effort. It needs to be emphasized. And as the weapons grow more powerful, its importance increases.

With respect to Iraq, the United States of America and the United Kingdom and coalition forces have airplanes that are at risk every day with respect to Iraq. We know there are no inspectors on the ground. We know that there is an enormous appetite for powerful weapons and an aggressive attitude to their neighbors to the South. So anyone who is not concerned about that combination of attributes, it seems to me, would not fully understand the situation.

Thank you very much.

Q: Thank you.

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