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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability at Senate and House of Representatives

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
April 02, 2003

(Media Availability at the Senate and House of Representatives. Also participating Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)

SENATE

Rumsfeld: We are due at the House of Representatives in eight minutes, so we just stop by to say hello. And we'll answer two questions. One.

Q: As the coalition forces close the circle as they say around Baghdad, is there any way to avoid prolonged urban warfare?

Rumsfeld: Sure. There are several ways that could happen. Depends on what takes place between now and then. It depends on what happens to the regime. It depends on the extent to which the capabilities of the Iraqi military and the regime are degraded between now and then. It depends on the conviction on the part of the Iraqi people that Saddam Hussein is definitely is going to be gone. That emboldens them. So there's lots of ways

Q: Mr. Secretary, can I ask you. It's supposed to be about a hundred degrees in Baghdad. As forces are getting closer to city, are you concerned about weather and the possibility that [inaudible] used?

Rumsfeld: I looked at range today, and it was something like 55 to 72 or something.

Myers: The troops are prepared to fight in any weather. We've talked about that before. Clearly when they put on their chemical protective suits, it hotter for them, but we can also fight at night. That's one of the things our forces are able to do. And we can pick and chose our times because right now we are the militarily dominant force on the battlefield. So, it would slow you down a little bit, but it would not stop progress.

Rumsfeld: Thank you

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. Gen. Myers and I had a good visit with the -- We had a good a visit with the members of the Senate earlier this afternoon and have just completed a session with the member of the House of Representatives. I guess we've been over here now twice in 12 days or something and had a chance to brief in a classified environment, and I'd be happy to take a couple of questions. And, then the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Duncan Hunter and answer the rest of them, but I'm due downtown in 15 minutes. So --

Q: Mr. Secretary, how would you assess how well we doing at the current time with respect to the Republican Guard as we approach Baghdad?

Rumsfeld: The 3rd Infantry Division and the Marines have both made very good progress. The Republican Guard units have been considerably weakened and their capabilities degraded in terms of their equipment. The pilots have done a superb job, Army, Navy, and Air Force, in weakening those divisions. The Republican Guards from up north have been filling in some of the most decimated divisions like the Medina Division. The Nebekanezer Division came down from the North and has been portions of it and had been trying to fill in. They're also bringing some regular army folks and trying to fill in the gaps, but the progress has been good. The forces have been pressuring them on the ground and from the air. My guess is, however, that the Republican Guard the pretty much ringed Baghdad at the present time, will probably represent some difficult days ahead and dangerous days ahead in terms of fighting.

Q: Mr. Secretary, now that the troops are closer to Baghdad, are there any fresh indications that the Iraqis are preparing to use chemical and biological weapons, and if so, what would the U.S. response be?

Rumsfeld: We keep seeing chatter in the intelligence channels about the possibility. We've discovered caches of chemical protective gear that the Iraqis have stored, and of course, they know we don't have chemical weapons and don't use chemical weapons. So, it's hard to believe they've been stored for any other purpose but to protect their people in the event they decide to use those weapons. Gen. Franks has thoughts about a way to dissuade and deter further use of chemical weapons, but we'll leave that for the future.

Thank you very much.

Hunter: Let me just make one statement about the Secretary also. He's made an excellent case for the operation so far. The mood of the congress is to support him very strongly. One thing that we realize now is that by this rapid armor drive up through the throat of Iraq. We were able to take bridges and take other key positions before the Iraqi defenders could blow them. That was partly a result of the rapidity of this march and also the surprise element. As you noticed, there aren't monster oil fires going on in Iraq this time as there were in 1991. Key places like dams and bridges have been secured before they could be blown, and this in our estimation, is evidence of a very effective operation. So, the mood of the congress in this briefing and earlier has been to be very supportive of the Secretary, Gen. Franks, and the plan.

Thank you Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: Thank you. I appreciate it.