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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director For Coalition Operations; and Daniel Senor, Senior Adviser, CPA
April 20, 2004 9:10 AM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Before we just start the conference, we would like to stop out of respect for the two, our friends who were killed, in Al-Iraqiyah.  So please stand up, all of you, for two minutes.  (Pause.)

 

            MR. SENOR:  Good afternoon.  I have a short opening statement. Then General Kimmitt has a statement.  And then we will be happy to take your questions.

 

            Yesterday, many of you know, we reported progress on discussions in Fallujah with regard to pursuing a peaceful solution to the situation there.  We are now obviously working on the implementation of a number of the issues agreed to yesterday.  These include unfettered access to the Fallujah General Hospital, providing unfettered access to the Fallujah General Hospital; removal of the -- removal and burial of the dead; provisions for food and medicine in  isolated areas of the city; lifting the curfew from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; allowing for the passage of official ambulances through the city. We've begun today the -- allowing 50 families, Fallujan families, to return to the city per day.

 

            We are also reemphasizing critical components of this agreement, which is Fallujans turning in illegal and heavy weapons.  We want to begin the regular patrols involving joint patrols between coalition forces and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps forces.  And of course it is incumbent upon all parties to work towards the removal of foreign fighters, of criminals, drug users and other individuals that are using Fallujah as a basis -- as a base of operations to engage in violence and terrorist acts in Iraq.

 

            I think it's important to emphasize that we communicated to all parties yesterday that we are very serious about these talks.  We are very serious about a peaceful resolution to the situation in Fallujah. But everybody must recognize that in the absence of a true cease-fire, major hostilities will return on short notice.  We do not want that solution, but if the peaceful track does not play itself out and there is not a serious effort by all parties, major hostilities will resume on short notice.

 

            As far as Ambassador Bremer's schedule today, he had a meeting with the Governing Council this morning.  Later in the day he met with the ministers, the Iraqi cabinet.  They addressed a number of issues there.  The Iraqi minister of planning briefed on the 2005 budget, dealt with a number of issues relating to the challenges inherent in the 2005 budget.

 

            Later in the afternoon, Ambassador Bremer held a long meeting with female political leaders in Iraq, the National Women's Conference of Iraq.  And they dealt with issues related to what needs to be done now so women can get to the 25 percent goal that is detailed in the Transitional Administrative Law for the transitional assembly, how to get women involved in consultations that the Governing Council will begin and the U.N. will begin when Mr. Brahimi returns, that we are beginning -- the coalition is beginning right now, wide consultations with the Iraqi people on the formation of the interim government.

 

            General Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Thanks.

 

            Good afternoon.  Coalition offensive and stability operations continue throughout Iraq.  The area of operations has remained relatively stable over the past 48 hours, and all units remain focused on the elimination of extremist threats throughout their zones.

 

            In Task Force Olympia, the area of operations remains quiet. Rhetoric in mosques and local media condemning the death of Razidi (ph) has diminished, but remains a concern.  Today Iraqi police apprehended four individuals who attacked the Mosul police headquarters with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, and coalition forces detained five enemy suspected of executing attacks in southeastern Mosul last night.  In Tall Afar a coalition soldier was wounded when his patrol was attacked with a hand grenade.  The patrol returned fire and apprehended two of the assailants.  In Hammam al Alil and Dohuk the situation is quiet.  West of Erbil there was one incident where the ICDC discovered an IED composed of four large- caliber mortar rounds on the main Mosul-Erbil road.

 

            In the north-central zone, units report a generally calm area of operations despite an increase in ACF -- anti-coalition force -- attacks over the past 24 hours.  Near Tikrit and Samarra enemy forces have continued offensive operations.  An Iraqi Civil Defense Corps checkpoint received small-arms fire from forces near Al-Ojah (ph). There were no casualties as a result of this attack.  Earlier today there was an attack on a convoy that resulted in one coalition soldier wounded.  In Baqubah there were three improvised explosive device attacks against coalition forces resulting in four coalition wounded. Near Kirkuk and Tuz the situation remained quiet and stable.

 

            Two employees of Al-Iraqiyah Television Network were killed and one wounded after their vehicle was fired upon by coalition forces in  Samarra yesterday at about 4:15 p.m.  The individuals were observed filming Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and Iraqi police checkpoints, a coalition base, and routes to and from these locations.

 

            While filming outside their vehicle, coalition forces fired warning shots into the river.  After the warning shots were neglected, the individuals got into their vehicle and drove towards the coalition base.  As the vehicle approached the base, additional warning shots were fired, in attempt to halt the vehicle.  The vehicle, apparently disregarding the warning shots, drove towards the soldiers and their base.

 

            After more warning shots, the vehicle did stop and continued to approach the base's gate and was engaged with direct fire.  Five signs clearly prohibiting filming and stopping near the base were displayed in the area as part of local force protection measures.

 

            After examining the vehicle, coalition forces discovered two individuals had been killed, one was wounded, and a fourth individual, an Iraqi police officer, was unharmed.  The three casualties were discovered to have Iraqi Media Network press credentials.  The two dead individuals were moved by ambulance to a Samarra hospital.  The wounded person was treated by coalition forces.  He and the unharmed individual were questioned and then released at approximately 6 p.m. last night.

 

            In Baghdad, 1st Cavalry Division conducted three separate cordon- and-searches of suspected weapons dealers, detaining three suspects. There's been an overall reduction in attacks in the Baghdad area, and we continue to assess that the majority of population remains neutral with respect to the increased violence, and most are eager for a cessation of hostilities.

 

            We have initial reports that 18 mortar rounds were fired earlier this afternoon at the Baghdad confinement facility.  Preliminary reports indicate that more than 21 detainees were killed and more than 100 wounded.  The Iraqi Red Crescent has been contacted for assistance in the post-attack requirements.

 

            In the western zone of operations, the current situation is stable.  The enemy is continuing attacks against coalition forces in and around the region, with five reported attacks in the area over the past 24 hours.

 

            In Fallujah there was one report of hostile fire in the last 24 hours, resulting in no casualties or damage to infrastructure.

 

            In Ar Ramadi, the situation is under control.  There was only one reported attack over the last 24 hours.  The enemy attacked coalition forces in the region with indirect fire, resulting in the wounding of three Marines.

 

            The performance of the 36th Iraqi Civil Defense Corps Battalion during recent combat operations in Fallujah is worthy of note.  In the view of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the battalion distinguished itself as a trustworthy and capable Iraqi security force and will serve as a benchmark for ICDC performance in the future.

 

            In Amiriyah, the Marine Expeditionary Force conducted a reconnaissance in force.  The Marines were expecting heavy anti- coalition resistance when entering Amiriyah but instead found the area desolate, with no anti-coalition forces and very few civilians present.  One individual was detained near the mosque in the center of the city.

 

            Offensive operations continue in the western Al Anbar province. The Marines will continue offensive patrols in al Qaim and continue to cordon and search selected targets in Husaybah.

 

            Multinational Division Central South remains relatively stable. There were three attacks in the AOR in the past 24 hours.  Last night in Karbala, a U.S. military police patrol was attacked by RPGs and machine-gun fire, but there were no reported injuries.

 

            Anti-coalition force activity has increased in the vicinity of Al Hillah.  In the past, attacks in Al Hillah have been minimal, but in the last 15 hours there have been two attacks.  The first attack in weeks occurred last night when Camp Charlie was attacked by mortar fire.  There were three impacts; two inside the compound, one outside the compound, with no reported injuries.  The second attack occurred when coalition forces were engaged by anti-coalition forces with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.  There were no reported injuries during that attack, either.

 

            There were no attacks in An Najaf, al Diwaniyah or al Kut in the past 24 hours.

 

            Yesterday a coalition patrol was ambushed east of Al Kufa by a platoon-size force.  Two coalition soldiers were evacuated to the 31st Combat Support Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

 

            In the southeastern zone of operations, the current situation remains stable with five reported attacks over the past 24 hours.  In An Nasiriyah and al-Samawa (ph) the situation is calm with no reported attacks.  In al-Amarah there were two indirect-fire attacks against coalition forces with no wounded or damage to infrastructure.  In Basra, there were two attacks against coalition and Iraqi security forces which resulted in one Iraqi police officer wounded.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  (Off mike) -- you just mentioned the accident that took place was accidental.  So when will be an end for these accidents, and when are going to stop violating and posing harm to the Iraqis?  So I'm from the journalist union, so we are trying to defend the right of the journalists.  How come the journalists are being exposed to fire and no one is there to defend them?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, I would say at this point we can -- we've released as much information, I think, that we are comfortable in releasing until a full and comprehensive investigation has been complete.  Let's let the investigation move forward, let's let all the evidence surrounding the incident be collected, evaluated, reviewed, and then at the end of that investigation, let's hold judgment and make the determinations at that point.

 

            MR. SENOR:  I would just add that Ambassador Bremer wishes to express his condolences to the families, the colleagues -- all of you -- and the friends of the individuals that were tragically killed in the last 24 hours.  He is fully committed -- as General Kimmitt has articulated, Ambassador Bremer is fully committed to a thorough and robust investigation to determine exactly what happened here.  That doesn't take away from the tragedy of it and the pain and suffering being felt by all of you and by the families of those killed, but we are committed to getting to the bottom of exactly what happened.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  And again, on behalf of the coalition military, let me also echo those comments and also refer to the recent incident with the Al-Arabiyah journalist in Baghdad where we were quite forthcoming in accepting responsibility for that incident.  We do not intend to be any less vigilant or any less diligent in conducting this investigation as we were with that investigation.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     Gregor Mayer from German Press Agency.  General Kimmitt, could you elaborate on that incident, what I understood 21 killed? Was it a fact that prison/detainee facility?  And has the people who were killed ensured all been detainees/prisoners, or has there been guards as well amongst them?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, as I've said, these are preliminary reports right now.  We've got them very -- in the last few minutes before we did the press conference.  We understand there was an incident.  We understand at this point that the -- it is our understanding at this point that the only persons that have been killed were the actual detainees.  Whether they were criminal prisoners or security detainees we don't have those facts yet, but as soon as those facts become available we'll get them to you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  …from (inaudible) Society.  You just mentioned in your speech that the team of the Iraqiyah were engaged.  Do you think that they were holding arms while they were journalists and they were disarmed?  If they were armed, then how do you have been engaged in shots, with direct fire with the people in the base?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  And again, those are all the facts that need to be looked at by the investigators before they can make a determination.  So it would be best if all of us took some time to allow the investigation to proceed thoroughly, diligently, and then at the end of that investigation let's see what the determinations come out to be.  I don't think -- we just don't have enough information at this point to either assess blame, innocence or fault.  So let's let a thorough, impartial investigation move forward on this.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah.  I would just say that we understand this is an emotional time for everybody affected by this.  But to follow on to what General Kimmitt said, it would be irresponsible, I think, for us to rush to judgment on exactly what happened.  We owe it to the colleagues and management of Al-Iraqiyah, we owe it to the families, we owe it to you to get to the bottom of what happened.  We are thoroughly committed to that.  And as soon as we have information that we believe is reliable in that regard, you will know about it.  We assure you that.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  And I would also echo his comments by saying, as we have seen so many times in other investigations, what is first assumed to be fact in the first 24 hours often, after you've done a meticulous investigation, turns out not to be correct.  So particularly for the families involved, who at this point need to be going through the grieving process, let's go through the period of grief while the investigation runs parallel, so that sometime in the future, when all the facts are known and the family (sic) is ready to hear those facts, they can be presented with those facts.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     Kevin Seitz with NBC News.  General, I didn't hear this in your overview, but we had reports today of a roadside bomb in Mosul, possibly killing two U.S. soldiers, if you can confirm that for us; also reports that 250 prisoners had been released from Abu Ghraib. Any information on that?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I have not received any reports on the first incident.  The reports are typically a couple of hours late.  I would have expected to have seen that report, but if it has happened, it may have happened very recently.  But we have no reports on that.

 

            And as to the comment of 250 detainees being released, we have a regular and routine release program.  We release probably that number every week out of the entire population.  I don't have the numbers with me right now.  We can certainly check on that for you.  But that's not a large number, that's not an incredible number, and that's typically about the number that we would release on any average week.

 

            Q     They wouldn't be related to any negotiations going on anywhere else in the country?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Not at all.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            STAFF:  Microphone.

 

            STAFF:  Microphone, please.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            STAFF:  Microphone!

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            STAFF:  Microphone, please.  Would -- (inaudible) -- his microphone?

 

            MR. SENOR:  His microphone's on.  You may want to -- it may not be working.  Want to use the one --

 

            (Pause.)

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  As you know, there has been widespread of (sic) the incidents where Arab and Iraqi journalists have been killed.  So what after the death of the two Iraqi reporters?  Don’t you know that all of the reporters here also are threatened?  So what can you do to secure our lives?  And why all of this -- why are you taking the lives of our reporters as unvaluable lives?

 

            Now you say that there is a free Iraqi journalism.  Where is the freedom of this journalism where our reporters have been killed?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  You are perhaps making an assertion regarding intent that we're not prepared to agree to up here.  You're somehow in your statement suggesting that the coalition forces intentionally went out of their way -- when recognizing that they had journalists in front of them, that they intentionally went out of their way to kill them.  That hasn't been proven.  It hasn't been proven in any of the investigations that have been conducted thus far.

 

            The fact remains -- is we operate in a hostile environment.  This is a combat environment.  It is sad that -- when these incidents occur.  It's hard to say this is understandable, so I'm not even going to suggest that it's understandable.  But the very fact that oftentimes the story is very near the gunfire often brings the press at that location where the risk comes up tremendously.  And unfortunately, it leads to days like today, when we are up here trying to explain to you why another event is happening.

 

            Again, we deeply regret the loss of any life, in particular two Al-Iraqiyah employees, who were working for their country, and any journalist who in the performance of his or her duty loses his or her life on the battlefield.

 

            MR. SENOR:  I would just say that this in no way should be interpreted as anything related to our commitment to the freedom of press in Iraq.  We have gone to great lengths to protect a free press in Iraq.

 

            As a point of historical comparison, I would say -- I would point you to post-World War II Germany, where -- someone recently showed me a report that during the occupation of Germany post-World War II, literally every single German newspaper and radio station was shut down by the occupation authorities.  And they were only reopened something like a year later if they were shown to be broadcasting or printing an overtly pro-American message.

 

            You contrast that to the situation in Iraq today, where we have been diligent about protecting the freedoms of the press here, whether they are critical of things we do or supportive.  It's something we take very seriously.  We believe that the press in Iraq is the freest in this part of the world.  We'd put up the freedom of the press in this part of the world against the record of any press environment anywhere in the world, not just this part of the world.  I recently heard from someone from Dubai Media City who told me that, from a reporter's standpoint -- an Arab reporter's standpoint -- Iraq is the best place to operate right now.  It is the freest press environment in the entire Middle East.  That is something we take very seriously. We think it's important.

 

            We think freedom of speech and a free press and freedom of assembly are just some of the critical pillars of building a democratic society, which is what we are trying to do here.  And we will continue to go to great lengths to protect those freedoms, and we think it's important that those freedoms are also articulated and protected in the interim constitution.  That is part of what we have been working on.  It's not just what we protect while we are here, but what is protected once we -- once Ambassador Bremer and the coalition civilian occupation forces withdraw.

 

            Carol.

 

            Q     Carol Rosenberg with the Miami Herald.  With Honduras' decision to depart -- remove its troops from theater -- what can you do with what's left of the Spanish brigade?  And has anyone else notified you that they're withdrawing their forces?

 

            And for those of us who don't know, who's responsible for the Baghdad detention facility; I mean, is it the coalition?  And how many prisoners are there?  And where is it?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, as to the Baghdad confinement facility, this is the one that we've talked about at length many times from this podium, and why don't we take that question and walk you through how many we have in there as we have many, many times before and who's in charge after this press conference.

 

            With regards to the issue of Honduras, the understanding that we have is that Honduras will depart soon, but they want to make it an orderly departure.  Currently, inside that brigade we have -- excuse me, inside that division, Multinational Division Central-South, there is a Spanish brigade which has the Latin American contribution, there is a Polish brigade and there is a Ukrainian brigade.  Neither the Poles or the Ukrainians have suggested that they are going to depart anytime soon.

 

            Within the Spanish brigade and the sub-units of the Spanish brigade -- the Hondurans, the El Salvadorans, the Dominican Republic -- the Dominicans -- some of the nations have made sovereign decisions about their future contributions.

 

            That is one brigade in an organization that has roughly 30 brigades inside the country of Iraq.  It is a manageable military problem to make some determinations of how that contribution will be replaced.  It could either be replaced with existing forces on the ground, it could be replaced with new contributions, it could be replaced by simply taking that area of operations which was previously covered by three brigades and now redrawing the boundaries so that two brigades cover it.  Those are some of the courses of action, some of the considerations that I'm sure the planners are looking at right now.  This is a common military problem, and it should come to a fairly rapid resolution as soon as we understand which countries will be leaving and at what time.

 

            Q     But are they all leaving, sir?  All of the members of the Spanish brigade?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, I think you and I have read the same accounts.  The Spanish have announced their withdrawal, the Hondurans have announced their withdrawal.  We understand the El Salvadorans have decided to stay in the country until their departure at the end of July, beginning of August.  And I don't know that the Dominicans have made a decision at this point.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  (Name and affiliation inaudible.) My question is to Mr. Dan Senor.  First, I was -- I thought that the -- I think that what you said, that you expressed your condolences to the Iraqi press, but it seems that you are indifferent about (that team ?), only this time about this condolence.  But can you tell us what's your opinion about the -- whenever the Iraqi press was so important for the Americans so that they can express their condolences towards them?

 

            MR. SENOR:  I'm not sure I understood the question.  Are you asking when did the Iraqi press become so important to the Americans?

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            MR. SENOR:  Well, from the moment we arrived here, and the moment the reconstruction began, following the liberation on April 9th, we have been committed to a free press.  Many of you have been covering press conferences in this room since the second week of April 2003.  And maintaining a strong relationship with the Iraqi press, protecting their freedoms, protecting the freedom to criticize the things we do, criticize the things that Iraqi officials do has been something we have been quite consistent on and we've maintained our relationship throughout.  As you know, Ambassador Bremer meets with a group of Iraqi journalists on almost a weekly basis.  He appears on television programs with Iraqi journalists in which he takes questions regularly.  So we've been very engaged.

 

            But whenever there is the killing of a civilian, an Iraqi reporter or not, we recognize the tragic nature of it.  And certainly a number of you here today expressed your concerns, and we respect that and we are expressing our condolences.  We recognize it's a hostile environment and these things sadly happen in a hostile environment from time to time.  It doesn't make them any less painful, and we appreciate that.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Nick Riccardi, L.A. Times.  Two questions, the first on the Iraqiyah.  I want to try and clear something up from the opening statement.  And maybe I misheard it, but, General Kimmitt, I think you had said that the car advanced toward the base, stopped, and then they fired as it was advancing.  Does that mean that, according to the earlier reports, that the car was proceeding, stopped, and then proceeded again, or did the car proceed continuously to the base without stopping?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:   Again, that's the initial reports, that it stopped and then started again even after the warning shots had been fired.

 

            Q     Okay.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  But it is again important to let the investigation bear out and prove out many of these initial reports.   As we've seen in so many cases before this, those initial reports don't stand the scrutiny of a careful investigation.

 

            Q     I had one other question, on Fallujah.  I'm just wondering if you folks have seen any progress towards the goals outlined yesterday, particularly if you're seeing some of the heavy weaponry being turned in or if that's not happened yet.

 

            MR. SENOR:  We're not -- we're going to withhold commenting sort of minute by minute or hour by hour on how the implementation is going.  We'll have a report for you at some point, but -- in a couple of days -- but we're not going do the sort of hour-by-hour update.

 

            But I think it's important to reemphasize that time is running out.  And while we believe that the Fallujan negotiators -- the Fallujan delegation were quite serious about their intentions, we continue to question whether or not they will be able to deliver on those intentions, on those commitments.  And while everybody, we believe, recognizes that a peaceful solution is the goal, we also communicated to everyone and continue to communicate to everyone that, in the absence of a true cease-fire, major hostilities could resume on very short notice.

 

            Yes.

 

            Q     Savi Marad (ph), NSK.  Are you going to compensate those families of Fallujah for destroying their house and shops, or just to consider it as natural cases in the field of conflict?  And what are you going to do if the fighters of Fallujah keep on fighting you and never surrender?  Are you going to kill everybody and make the city as a deserted village or a city of ghosts?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I think we're both embarrassed to admit that we had our headphones on and were waiting for the translation, which never arrived.  Sir, could you repeat the question, please?

 

            Q     Yes.  Are you going to compensate those families of Fallujah after destroying their houses and shops, or just you consider it as natural cases in the field of conflict?  And what are you going to do if the fighters of Fallujah keep on fighting you and never surrender?   Are you going to kill everybody there and make the city a deserted village or as a city of ghosts?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Let's remember what our long-term aspirations are in Fallujah, and rather than put it in spectacular terms, such as "a city of ghosts," what we want to see is a city where the Iraqi Civil Defense Service, where the Iraqi police service, where legitimate Iraqi government officials are running that town; rather, let's look at a city and look forward to a city where the health system is working, where the schools are operating, where it is functioning as a lively city.  Let's look at a city that understands what democracy is, what freedom is, what sovereignty as part of a sovereign nation is. That's what we're looking for in Fallujah.

 

            That can be achieved peacefully.  There is a method by which that can be achieved peacefully.  There is a process to achieve that peace. There is an end state to achieve that peace.  What has been laid out is a pretty good plan to get us to the first steps.

 

            But many inside Fallujah have got to make that choice:  if that's the city they want to see, or if, for whatever reason, they want to choose another path, a path that works against the children of Fallujah, a path that works against the families of Fallujah, it -- a path that works against democracy in Fallujah.

 

            Let's keep focused on the prize.  Let's keep focused on the end state, which is, let's take whatever route is necessary so that Fallujah can have Iraqi control, can have the elimination of foreign fighters, terrorists, former regime elements holding the city hostage, and let's see if we can bring justice to Fallujah.

 

            How that happens -- there are many different paths.  There is peaceful track, where it can be brought on by consensus, or it can be brought by force of arms.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Rajiv?

 

            Q     One question for each of you gentlemen.  General Kimmitt, given that the 1 MEF's praise of the 36th Battalion of the ICDC, does the coalition have plans to constitute similar such ICDC units, namely, made up of former members of the peshmerga and other political party militias?

 

            And a second question for you, Dan.  Yesterday the Governing Council released a statement that constituted pretty much of a broadside against Lakhdar Brahimi's proposal, in which it asked for comment from the Iraqi population for a variety of different proposed interim administrations post-June 30th, including one that would be an expanded version of the Governing Council.  I'm wondering if the CPA has any comment to that official statement put out by the GC yesterday.  Thank you.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The ICDC is an organization that is available to anybody who comes in who passes a strict vetting process and who swears allegiance to the nation of Iraq.  We seem to spend a lot of time focusing on the background of many of these people inside the ICDC, whether they're former peshmerga, whether they're former militia from other organizations.  Where they came from is not important.  If they pass through the vetting process and swear their allegiance to the nation of Iraq, they will make a tremendous contribution to the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, to the Iraqi police service or to the Iraqi armed forces.  And that should be the ultimate focus, which is, what can they contribute to the defense of this nation.

 

            Q     But just to follow up there, I mean, putting aside, perhaps, the militia background, what you did have was sort of a non- organic unit, that guys who weren't from Fallujah serving in that area, which is different from the two ICDC battalions you had previously constituted in the Fallujah area.  I mean, given the performance of this 36th Battalion, was the coalition perhaps looking at changing its ICDC model from, you know, gathering people from disparate parts of the country and having them serve outside the areas in which they live, which seems to be the difference here with this battalion as opposed to the ones you had existing in Fallujah?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Now, that's a different question than you asked first.  If you're talking about the ability of the ICDC from other areas of the country to be able to be used anywhere within the country, I suspect that's something that's going to come up in the after-action reviews.  The ICDC was originally established to operate in their local areas, to sort of serve as a local guard, a local national militia focused on their particular area of operation.  It may well be that in the after-action reviews, that there would be some merit in making the ICDC an organization that could operate anywhere within the country to provide internal security.  I don't know if a decision has been made on that, but it's little doubt that that's going to be one of the considerations as the campaign is reviewed of a potential way forward.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Rajiv, to your other question, we believe it is very constructive that the Governing Council is engaging in wide consultations with the Iraqi people, or at least is prepared to begin engaging in wide consultations.  The Transitional Administrative Law calls for wide consultations.  The initial U.N. report following Mr. Brahimi's first trip here, earlier this year, called for wide consultations.  And certainly his most recent visit he followed by saying that there should be -- or recommending that there be wide consultations; that he himself and the U.N. want to engage in further consultations, that the Governing Council should be engaged in further consultations; we, the coalition, should be engaged in further consultations.  So we think that is very positive.

 

            As for a specific proposal or counterproposal or variation of the initial proposal, we'll obviously let this process play out.  We're still waiting for the final details of Mr. Brahimi's proposed plan to be fleshed out.  As you know, he is outside of the country now; at some point will be holding meetings with the secretary-general of the U.N.  He'll come back, and after consulting further with Iraqis, will recommend a final plan.

 

            Our initial reaction, as you know, to his sketch, if you will, what he referred to as his sketch of his plan, we were very receptive toward it.  We thought it was a very positive step forward.  As you know, the president of the United States has spoken out supportively of Mr. Brahimi's plan.  We think it takes this country in the right direction.  But again, Mr. Brahimi and the U.N. have the lead on it, and we want to see where they go with it and look at the final details.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  (Name inaudible) -- from Zaman (ph) newspaper.  Mr. Dan, my question is to you personally.  Whatever the condolences, the words would be, it would not compensate the families. The accident that took place yesterday is unique and it has never happened in Iraq.  We do not want to wait until the investigation takes place, and we have so many questions why there have been shots fired and why they have started shooting the cars.  And you have just said that they have found some media network press credentials with them.  And you've said that there have been an officer also, an Iraqi police officer with them.  So we do want an answer for all these questions.  It is not easy, and we cannot wait or tolerate until the investigation takes place.  Would you just give us an answer for all these questions, a clarification?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Let me say this.  First of all, you will get answers. There will be accountability.  In a free and democratic society, which  is what we are building here, authorities are held accountable.  And we will provide information.  You will be able to assess that information independently.  That is part of our commitment to you, it's part of our commitment to the Iraqi people and what we are trying to build here to hand over to the Iraqi people on June 30th.

 

            I was asked earlier why we are so committed to a free press, why are we suddenly so committed to an Iraqi free press.  I said that we have always been, and our actions demonstrate it.  I was told by one of your colleagues that before we arrived here, one of the last events they participated in this room was a, quote, unquote, "press conference" held by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri in which he fielded questions from reporters.  The Iraqi press were the state-owned newspapers they took questions from.  And you can be sure if they asked any questions other than exactly what Mr. al-Douri and the Saddam Hussein regime wanted to hear, they would have probably had their tongue cut out, if they were lucky.  We believe that does not serve the interests of a free society in which the government is held accountable, and that is why we are building -- working so hard to build that pillar of a democratic society here, are you're all central to that.

 

            That said, we are in a hostile environment, and in a hostile environment there are incidents that happen from time to time that are tragic and painful for everybody involved.  But it is part and parcel, sadly, with the environment in which we're operating.  For you to say that this has never happened in Iraq before, I would submit that Iraq was probably one of the most violent societies in the world prior to April 9th.  Ask any of the families of individuals who wound up in mass graves, the thousands and thousands, or on the receiving end of chemical attacks up north, or in torture chambers or rape rooms.  Ask them if they believe that Iraq was a violent society.  It was.

 

            We removed the regime that imposed that brutality on the Iraqi people.  However, there are some individuals, sadly, who would like to see that regime return.  And there are some individuals, international terrorists that have staked their ground in Iraq and are trying to return Iraq to either some version of the former regime or some version of some other evil regime, something akin to the Taliban or something else.  And we have an obligation to protect against that, and we take that obligation very seriously.

 

            That said, in pursuit of staying committed to that goal, we have to engage in hostilities from time to time with people who want to turn this country backwards and take it somewhere else, take it somewhere very, very dangerous and very, very brutal.  And in those situations, because the environment is hostile, incidents such as yesterday tragically happen.  As I said earlier, it doesn't make them any less painful, but it is something that happens and we seek to get to the bottom of it.  We seek to try to prevent it from happening again.

 

            And we seek to get you the information you need so that you are convinced that our intentions were nothing but trying to stabilize and secure this environment.  Those were our intentions.  Regardless of what happened yesterday, those were our intentions.

 

            And you'll be able to make independent assessments based on the information we provide you.  But it would be irresponsible for us to quickly, rapidly get you information that we don't have confidence in. We have an obligation, to you and to our soldiers and to our civilians that are here working, to get you accurate information.  And it may take a little time to get you that, but anything less would be irresponsible.

 

            Thank you, everybody.

 

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