(Town hall meeting in Baghdad, Iraq.)
Rumsfeld: What a sight! This (Inaudible.) that fine welcome, and also for the absolutely superb job that you folks have done. The entire world has watched impressed.
I have to admit I'm surprised to see you folks at the Baghdad Airport. The world was told there were no Americans here. Over and over and over. But I guess that's the last time we heard from that fellow.
I do want to thank each of you for your courage, your dedication to duty, and for volunteering, stepping up to serve your country.
What you have accomplished is truly remarkable. You've rescued a nation, you've liberated a people, you've deposed a cruel dictator, and you've ended his threat to free nations. You've braved death squads and dust storms, racing across hundreds of miles to reach Baghdad in less than a month. Some people call that a quagmire. It was possibly the fastest march on a capitol in modern military history.
And unlike many armies in the world, you came not to conquer, not to occupy, but to liberate and the Iraqi people know this. And when you arrived in Baghdad many of the Iraqi people came to the streets to welcome you. Pulling down statues of Saddam Hussein, celebrating their newfound freedom, freedom that you helped restore, and what a sight that was.
You've unleashed events that will unquestionably shape the course of this country, the fate of the people, and very likely affect the future of this entire region. Take great pride in your accomplishment. Not only for what you've done but also for how you've done it. You've done it well.
While your adversary did everything in his power to put civilian lives at risk, you, our coalition partners took such great care to protect the lives of innocent civilians. Indeed in a real sense, many of the Iraqi people were hostages to that regime.
We want the Iraqi people to live in freedom so that they can build a future where Iraqi leaders answer to the Iraqi people instead of killing them, and because of you they will have a chance to do just that.
There's still work to be done. The remnants of that regime needs to be removed from every corner of this country. We still have to find and deal with the remaining elements of the former regime. We have to root out and eliminate terrorist networks operating in this country. We have to help Iraqis restore their basic services. And we have to help provide conditions of stability and security so that the Iraqi people can form an interim authority an interim government and then ultimately a free Iraqi government based on political freedom, individual liberty, and the rule of law.
So while you folks have accomplished a great deal there is still some work to do. We're grateful for your service, but we're also grateful to your families. They worry about you. They endure long separations from you, and they also serve the cause of freedom. So we are grateful and proud of their service as well as your service.
So I thank you for all you've done. I thank you for what you will be doing. I thank your families from my heart. The American people are proud of you and God bless each of you.
Thank you very much.
Now, are there microphones around here? I'm not going to call on you. (Laughter.) You are too eager.
If nobody will ask me when they can go home -- (Laughter.) -- I'll respond to a few questions. I'll answer the ones I know the answers to and I'll respond to the others.
Q: PFC Giuvina, 54th Engineer Battalion, Bamburg, Germany.
Mr. Secretary, is Iraq currently a member of OPEC? And if not, are they planning to join in the near future?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. (Laughter.) I suspect they're not or if they are they probably are on a very qualified basis. My guess is they're going to have to increase -- I shouldn't get into -- This is diplomacy and I don't do diplomacy. (Laughter.) You may have noticed. (Laughter.)
I think it's a complicated question and they're going to have to see what kind of a quota or what kind of a role they want to play in the world's oil markets, and that's something we've got some very bright people. We have some excellent people from various countries outside of Iraq, we have some people who have a background in Iraqi oil, and they are beginning that process of working together to make the kinds of judgments that will be necessary.
The first task, as President Bush said, we need to get the sanctions lifted so that the people of this country can begin to see their lives improved.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Specialist Disart (sp), Fox Troop, 3/7th Cav out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Rumsfeld: What did he say, he was in the Navy?
Rumsfeld: No. No, sir. Oh, I misunderstood. I thought that's what he said, excuse me.
Q: In the 3/7th Cav, sir. You may have heard of us.
Rumsfeld: You hit a button.
Q: -- the possibility of combat time being used in exchange for military schools such as ANOC, BNOC and PLDC, is this correct?
Rumsfeld: What do you all think?
Rumsfeld: General, do you know the answer to that? (Laughter.)
Four generals don't know the answer and you asked me? (Laughter.) It sounds to me like if it isn't it ought to be.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Sir, Lieutenant Sean Barbarus from V Corps, stationed down at Darmstadt, Germany. What is the proposed plan for getting units out of Germany and which units will be affected?
Rumsfeld: The situation is that the world has changed so much in this 21st Century, the Cold War period is of course over. We've experienced September 11th. We have as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom made a whole set of new relationships in the world, in Central Asia, in the Middle East.
What we're doing now is systematically working with our friends and allies around the world to examine our footprint, to see where we are, how we want to be arranged for the future. There's no question in my mind but that we have probably too large a number of folks in Western Europe, some of which is still left over from the Cold War and the fear of the Soviet Union coming across the north German plain. It was appropriate then, it's less appropriate now.
So General Jones, the European commander and the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO is in the process of analyzing that and there's no doubt in my mind but that we will be making adjustments. As to what particular units he'll decide ought to be shifted and make a recommendation to me, we're just not at that point yet.
Needless to say we're doing the same thing in this part of the world. We're doing the same thing in Asia because it is necessary that we arrange ourselves for the future rather than the past.
Q: My name is Lance Corporal Kally (sp), 3rd LAR, 29 Palms, U.S. Marine Corps.
Sir, I was wondering if we find Saddam and his regime in surrounding countries or maybe in Russia or wherever he may have fled, if he got away, will we go in and get him or will we try to have the countries give him back to us, sir?
Rumsfeld: First of all, we are finding people in the top several dozen of the Saddam Hussein regime every two or three days. Some are stopped at a border as they try to get out. Some have been picked up just through serendipity. Still others, in fact most, have been the result of the fact that people have come up to us, Iraqis have come up and said down the block in that house is one of the people you're looking for, and we've been able then to find them.
As I say, it's been like one or two every three or four days.
There's no doubt but that some people escaped, probably through Syria earlier on. Some of those are probably still in Syria. Some have probably transited to other countries. We have asked other countries to return them, and we are using diplomatic efforts to try to encourage them to do that.
At least at the moment my impression is that some of the countries that had been accepting then previously are no longer accepting them which is a good start.
As an Iraqi government evolves and gets on its feet, it may very well be that they will want to have some of those folks brought back so that they can have a discussion with them.
Q: Sir, --
(Mike not working.)
Rumsfeld: I'll tell you what, we'll take someone else and you come up on the stage and we'll let you ask it up here. You're determined.
Q: Sir, Major Joe Samek, V Corps Headquarters engineer.
Sir, do you think that our experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom have validated our efforts to transition to a more strategically mobile, lighter military force?
Rumsfeld: I think that the plan and the execution of the plan in Operation Iraqi Freedom has been superb, and what I want to see happen is I want to see those of you who have that experience in combined, joint warfighting and such successful experience, bring that knowledge back into your respective services. We have a long way to go for this defense establishment of ours to get itself fixed so it can deal with the kinds of problems we're facing in the 21st Century. We do need to be quicker on our feet. We need to be able to do things in hours and days instead of weeks and months. We need to be able to do things with somewhat smaller footprints. We need to be able to do a variety of things. We need to be able to function with the services in a completely interconnected way.
I think that the leadership that some of the key leaders standing right behind me on this platform have fashioned an approach to warfare which will be critically important as we go forward. We've got to see that that gets put into the services so they're less service-centric. We need to see that it's put in the schools so that the schools are teaching the kinds of things that are going to be needed. We're going to have to have in my view more standing joint task force capability so that we don't have to start from a dead start and in fact are well down the way in the event that that kind of a capability is needed.
So I think what we've accomplished here is you've demonstrated what can be done, what can be done very well and very rapidly, what can be done in terms of working together. And I must say the relationships between the Army and the Marines on the ground and the Naval and Marine and Air Force and Army air I think has been truly impressive.
Q: Sir, my question was how does this fight compare to the war in Afghanistan besides the fact that it shows our military can adapt to the various situations? And also what images do you think America will remember about this war?
Rumsfeld: The differences are not able in my view. In Afghanistan we basically used large numbers of ground forces that were Afghans in the Northern Alliances and a few people from the tribes in the south. Embedded with them were Special Forces and special operation teams and superior and precision air power.
Here we had a much different circumstance. We had some support on the ground but it was not of the same magnitude that we had in Afghanistan, and as a result we used U.S. ground capability. The effect of that was that by building up that force over a sustained period of time we obviously lost strategic surprise. We flowed the forces as the President and Secretary Powell were working in the United Nations, attempting to get the United Nations to be supportive and be helpful, and so strategic surprise was gone.
The fact that these gentlemen behind me and General Tom Franks and his team decided to start the ground war before the air war in my view helped to achieve tactical surprise. And the fact that the 4th ID was still up in the Mediterranean very likely left the Iraqi regime with the impression that it was not likely that the war would start because they very likely were expecting a sustained air war which was the pattern from '91. They very likely were not thinking that we would start the war without the 4th ID. And when the ground war began, it seems like four year ago but I guess it was only six weeks. When the ground war began, and then instead of pausing it moved forward at such amazing speed, it seems to me that all of those things that we had to worry about that could have gone wrong -- the risks of ballistic missiles being fired into Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Israel as happened in 1991; the risk that the dams would be blown; the risk that the oilfields would all be set afire and the terrible environmental disaster which happened in 1991 in Kuwait; the risk that weapons of mass destruction might be used, chemical weapons or biological weapons; the risk that there would be large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people in the hundreds of thousands which happened, again, in 1991. None of those things happened this time. They happened because of the superb leadership, the superb plan and the fact that you folks are so disciplined, so well trained, so well equipped, so courageous and so determined, and the loss of life, of innocent life was minimal because of the precision and the speed.
So when people are writing the history books, you're going to be in it.
Thank you very much.