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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference in El Salvador

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 12, 2004

Friday, November 12, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference in El Salvador

            Secretary Rumsfeld:  -- and thank you so much for your warm hospitality.


            Q:            [inaudible], Reuters.


            Mr. Secretary, I wonder if I might briefly ask you about Iraq.  Has Fallujah effectively been taken now, and are you concerned about the Sunni Muslim threat not to take part in elections?


            Rumsfeld:  I will leave it to the Iraqi government and the forces there in Iraq to announce the progress of the Fallujah campaign.  I can say that it's been proceeding very successfully.


            Q:            And the Sunni threat.  Are you concerned about the Sunni threat not to take part in elections because of the attack on Fallujah?


            Rumsfeld:  First of all, I don't know anyone who speaks for all the Sunnis and your question suggests that somebody did.  It's important for all elements in that country to feel they have a stake in the future of the country if the country is to be successful.  The Iraqi government has been reaching out to all elements.  I have high confidence that there will be elections, that they will be on time and that they'll be successful.  And when one looks at this country and recognizes the fierce struggle that existed here 20 years ago and the success they've had despite the fact that there was a war raging during their election, I think it proves that the great sweep of human history is for freedom.  We've seen that in this country, we've seen it in Afghanistan, and I believe we'll see it in Iraq.


            Q:            [Mr. Barika from [inaudible]. 


            If they do [inaudible] is it going to be necessary to send a full contingent of our armed forces into Iraq and why? 


            And for the Minister of Defense.  Has the National Assembly of El Salvador authorized a declaration of the six soldiers because as we know it is [inaudible] that the general assembly [inaudible].  We have not heard [inaudible] by the assembly.


            Rumsfeld:  Let me comment on the one you addressed to me.  We did not discuss specifically future rotations.   I did express my appreciation to the President and to the people of El Salvador for the support they've provided.  I'll leave it to the President and the Minister of Defense of El Salvador to make any decisions or announcements they may make with respect to the future.


            I will say this about the future generally.  The Iraqi security forces have gone from zero up to 117,000 today.  There will be something like 145,000 when the Iraqis have their elections in January.  They will be heading up towards 200,000 over the course of 2005. 


            Our hope is that the coalition forces, depending on the security situation on the ground, will be able to increasingly turn over responsibility to the Iraqi security forces at which point we would anticipate the coalition forces could begin to decline.  I would very specifically and emphatically not put a timetable on that because as the President said, the United States will stay as long as it's necessary and not one day longer.  So it will be the security circumstance on the ground that will determine the pace at which coalition forces could begin to be reduced as Iraqi security forces continue to grow by such substantial numbers.


            Iraq is a country for the Iraqis to provide security for ultimately and the countries in the coalition are there to be helpful but they have no desire to stay any longer than is necessary.


            _____:  I just want to explain to you that the six nations [inaudible]  domestic, and in this case it was a declaration of the United States of America [inaudible] El Salvador [inaudible] has already [inaudible] these declarations [inaudible].


            Q:            Miami Herald, Pablo [inaudible].


            Mr. Secretary, what is your assessment that you made with the Salvadorans on the security situation in Haiti, and specifically on the Central American battalion that is to be sent to Haiti.  Can you give us some details on the size and when they will arrive in Haiti?


            Rumsfeld:  We did discuss Haiti and the Central American battalion.  I find it most impressive that so many Latin American countries have sent troops to Haiti and are participating in the UN effort there to provide stability and humanitarian assistance.


            The Central American battalion, of course, is the idea of the Central American countries.  We think it's a good idea and certainly favor close cooperation among the countries of Central America but I'll leave it to them to make announcements about their battalion and what they may or may not do with it.


            ___:  [inaudible]. 


            Q:            [inaudible], Santo Domingo.


            [Inaudible] which is that Central American [inaudible] countries [expressed a need for humanitarian] assistance that is composed of [inaudible], and each one [inaudible] Americas.  It [inaudible] Central American countries to get together and [inaudible] but for the time being [inaudible] has already [inaudible].  El Salvador already sends [inaudible] spoke to the President about what they saw and they are working [inaudible] and [inaudible] also together assist us [inaudible].


            ____:  The question is if [inaudible] sufficient [inaudible].  [Laughter]. 


            Rumsfeld:  You sound like my wife.  [Laughter].  She keeps asking me that question.  We'll sort those things out in the future.


            Before this ends I would like to say what a high honor it was for me to be able today to meet with the young soldiers and present them the U.S. Bronze Star Medal and to look them in the eye and tell them how much the people of the United States and I appreciate their courage and their service in Iraq.  Mr. Minister, thank you.


            ____:  [This experience] [inaudible] Defense Secretary.


            Rumsfeld:  If you think of it we've had three major conflicts.  The global war on terror, which is still continuing worldwide.  It's dangerous and it will last a good long time, I'm afraid.  It's a struggle against extremists. 


            We've had the Afghan war where the al Qaida and the Taliban have been replaced by a democratically elected government voted for by the people of Afghanistan.  It hasn't been easy and there's been a loss of life and we visit the wounded in the hospital in the United States and our heart goes out to them and their families.  But the lesson there is that if people want to be free, just as the people of El Salvador wanted to be free and the people of South Korea wanted to be free.  Today the people of El Salvador and South Korea and Afghanistan are all free.  So the lesson there is that the thirst for freedom is powerful.


            Iraq is a difficult situation today.  They have diverse religious and ethnic groups that were held together by a powerful, repressive dictatorship, a dictatorship that killed tens of thousands of human beings and used chemical weapons against its own people and its neighbors.  A regime that cut the hands off and the heads off people.  A regime that threw people off the tops of six story buildings with their hands and legs tied to kill them.  That regime's gone.  That is a wonderful thing for the people of Iraq, for the region and the world.  You don't read about that.  You don't see that on television.  But the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the clinics are open.  There is no humanitarian crisis.  People have food and they have hope and they have opportunity, and there is a reasonably sizeable group of people left over from that regime that still thinks they can take it back.  They're out killing hundreds of innocent Iraqi people and they're killing coalition forces and they've killed a Salvadoran soldier.  They're not going to be successful.  They're going to lose.  The people of Iraq are not going to let the Ba'athists and the Saddam leftovers take back their country and impose another dictatorial rule.  They're not going to do it.


            What's the lesson?  The lesson is if you go back through United States history to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt, they were all wartime presidents, they were criticized viciously, there were people who wanted them to stop doing what they were doing.  I'm sure that was true in your country, that there were people who said enough!  The cost is too great, the pain is too great.  But thanks to people who were resolute, who were steadfast, who recognized how powerful freedom is, we've seen societies -- yours and ours -- go through tough times and make it. 


            We have conducted in Iraq probably the first war with 24 hour news, seven days a week during a series of elections in our country and other countries and it is a process that is different for the world to see.  I guess it's an example of how strong democracies are that they can live with criticism and debate and discussion and analysis and make decisions and live with those decisions. I think the outcome in Iraq will be a positive one for Iraq and for the world.  I pray that's the case.


            ___:  The press conference is over.  Thank you to all the domestic and international press members that accompanied us this morning.

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