Secretary Rumsfeld in Town Hall Meeting at Marine Corp Air Station, Yuma, Arizona
COL. COONEY: Good morning and welcome. My name is Col. Jim Cooney. I’m the commanding officer here at Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma. We’ve got a very special guest, as you well know, and I’d like to take a moment to introduce him to you. Some of you may not be aware, but Secretary Rumsfeld has the only distinction of being the secretary of Defense who has had this job twice. He was the 13th secretary of Defense some time ago, is currently serving as the 21st secretary of Defense.
He’s had a distinguished career in both public and private service. And in public service he has served as a U.S. congressman in Illinois. He has also served with distinction as the Ambassador to NATO -- North American Treaty Organization -- in Europe from the United States. He has also served as the White House Chief of Staff. I’d also like to point out that Secretary Rumsfeld is a retired Navy Captain for the United States Navy Reserve. He served on active duty as a naval aviator. And he was telling us this morning, he had a great time as a flight instructor down in, I believe, in Pensacola. Secretary Rumsfeld in his private life, he has served as the CEO for two Fortune 500 companies.
And this morning, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce our special guest Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Could you give him a good Yuma welcome, please?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, this being a chapel, it’s not surprising that some people have left the front pews open. [Laughter] And there’s folks standing in the back and along the sides. And they’re certainly welcome to come on up and have a seat. Don’t be shy. You can do it. [Laughter] Unless you’re trying to leave early. [Laughter]
Thank you. Thank you so much. I am delighted to be here. As you know, those of us who work in Washington, D.C., but aren’t from Washington, D.C., do need to get out of there once in a while so that they can get a slightly different perspective on the country and on the world and what’s taking place, so I’m pleased to be able to do this.
As we meet today, there are a great many talented and very patriotic men and women and folks from across this wonderful state, and across the United States, who are serving our country in uniform and are performing a vitally important service to our country.
And the distinctive thing from when I was a Navy pilot is the fact that today everyone’s a volunteer. A lot of volunteers then, but we still had the draft back in the 1950s. Today we don’t. So every person here, and in fact the close to 2.5 million men and women who were in the active force, the reserve, guard, select reserve, the individual ready reserve are all volunteers. They’re all people that raised their hands and said, “I’d like to serve – to serve the country. Your countrymen are proud of you, and they thank you for all you do, and for doing it so very well.
Your efforts and the work of others in other coalitions, it’s a broad coalition – some 85 to 90 countries of the global war on terror coalition. In Afghanistan where we got, I believe, 26 countries participating now and some 32 in Iraq, all of them are helping the newly liberated people of Afghanistan and the people of Iraq transition to freedom from a vicious and dangerous tyranny.
It will not be an easy transition. I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said of the United States that one ought not expect to be transported to democracy on a featherbed. It is a fact; it is a tough thing to do. It took us a long time. We didn’t have a constitution between 1776 and 1789. If you think of the other countries that have made that trip, navigating through those struggles [inaudible] to become free countries, in a democratic system. In each case, they’ve had a tough time doing it. With your help and with the help of our coalition partner of those countries today do have freedom and they are helping to fight terrorism, rather than harboring or engaging in terrorist activities themselves.
It’s late August and the third anniversary of September 11th is coming up soon. And I know none of us will ever forget that day. I have recently returned from Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership planned and launched and plotted their deadly attacks. They did it with the support of the Taliban government. And now, despite a continuing campaign of violence and attempts at intimidation, Afghanistan’s over 9 ½ million people have registered to vote and more than 40 percent of them are women. They were hoping to get five or six of them by the end of the registration and there have been attempts at intimidation.
I was in Jalalabad, just a few weeks ago and in that area the Taliban remnants came across the border, stopped a bus, checked the women’s documentation and any one they found that had a voter registration card, they shot them. So the challenges they’re facing in Afghanistan are real, the progress they’re making is truly amazing.
I guess I’ve been there, oh, six, seven times now and each time I go, I come back so impressed with the progress that’s taking place there. You can feel it on the street -- the energy, the numbers of refugees that have come back to the country and the progress that they are making towards a democratic system. It is a remarkable achievement. For a nation that had been subjugated by the Soviet Union, beaten down by civil war, suffered a number of years of drought and then had to endure the repression of the Taliban regime.
The global war on terror is a brutal reality of our time. It’s important to remember, however, that while many in the United States, I suppose, feel like we’ve been at war, at least since September 11th. In fact, the global struggle started many many years before that. The decade prior to September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists bombed the World Trade Center back in 1993. Later, there were attacks around the Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia, then of the U.S. embassy in East Africa, and then, of course, the attacks against the U.S.S. Cole, and the killing of so many sailors.
During those years, Saddam Hussein dispatched a squad of killers to try to assassinate a former U.S. president. The Iraqis were firing almost daily at U.S. and British aircraft, who were enforcing the U.N. resolutions in the northern and southern no-fly zone. And Saddam Hussein was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers to encourage -- still others to go out and kill innocent men, women and children. So we must not make the mistake of thinking that the absence of traditional war or traditional conflict as we train, you know, to deal with it means that we’re at peace, because we most certainly are not. And so, too, the cost and the pain of fighting this war so far off our shores should not tempt us to think that if we were simply to let events take their course, somehow the bloodshed and the sacrifice and the violence will go away. It will not go away. Indeed, it would increase our vulnerability by inviting still more terrorist attacks against our people. Because everything that history teaches us is that weakness is provocative.
Let there be no doubt our coalition will succeed against the forces of extremism that seek to take Afghanistan and Iraq back to the terrorist path.
Fifty years ago, some doubted the success of another coalition’s efforts, the allies during World War II. They doubted first the ability to defeat Germany and Japan, and then over a period of years, they doubted their ability to help those defeated countries actually become democracies. And despite the enormous numbers of casualties in World War II, and the long series of military setbacks, month after month, for years, losses and defeats. The allied troops and our leaders were steadfast. They forged ahead, first to achieve victories against those axis countries – the three axis countries, including Italy - and then to help transform Germany and Japan and Italy into democratic nations - nation that today everyone recognizes were true bulwarks of the free world’s security and prosperity during the many, many decades of the Cold War.
And I suspect that some decades from now, historians similarly will look back on our coalition’s work in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the global war on terror and they will see your service, the service of each of you and the patriots all across the globe as will help to make our country more secure and, indeed, help to make the world more secure.
We read a lot and see a lot in the press about what’s happening over there, but the fact is if one steps back, the great sweep of human history is on your side. It is on the side of the values and a new opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, that are now being offered to those 25 million people in Iraq, and the 25 million people in Afghanistan.
I was in Korea about six months ago, and I was laying a wreath at the Korean War Memorial. And I walked by a wall, a stone wall, and there it had every state in the United States has showed the individuals who gave their lives from each of those states. And I walked by and there were people I knew from High School. That evening, the Korean minister of defense had a reception for me and we were in a - probably an eight-story, wonderful building in downtown Seoul, Korea. And a young woman came up to me -- clearly, too young to have been alive during the Korean War 50 years ago – and the Korean parliament was at that week voting to decide whether to send any Korean troops – Republic of Korean troops – to Iraq. There was a heated debate, understandably. And this young woman, a journalist, who stuck a mike in front of our face and said, “Why in the world should Koreans send their young men and women all the way across the globe to die or be wounded in Iraq?” And I said to her, I pointed out the window, and said that on my desk in the Pentagon, I’ve got a picture from satellite of the Korean Peninsula at night and you see the demilitarized zone. South of it is all lights. North of it is blackness, except for one pinprick of light in Pyongyang. The North Korean military has had lower the standards to get into the North Korean military down to 4’10” because they don’t have enough people over that to fill their ranks. They had to lower it to less than 100 pounds because they’re starving. They’re busing engaging in the proliferation of missile technologies, developing nuclear weapons, engaging in the drug trade, the counterfeit trade, have concentration camps with literally tens of thousands of people in them in their country. And south of the demilitarized zone, the same people, both Koreans with the same resources, the same amount of geography, have a little less democracy and economic miracle that is engaged all across the globe. And people, free people who were living lives that have opportunity and freedom.
And I said to her, “Look out the window, that’s why. Why in the world should Americans, young Americans come over here 50 years ago to Korea and got wounded or lost their lives?” And the answer is because it is worth doing. It is noble work. It is important. The contributions that Japan, Germany, Italy, in this case, North Korea have made the world in the decades since their defeat; and the decades as they achieved their freedom; in the decades as they move towards free, political and economic systems have been breathtaking, and contributed to the lives of people all cross the globe.
So what you’re doing is important, believe me. It is enormously important. And you have my thanks and you have the thanks of the American people. And I know that in five, ten, fifteen, twenty years, thirty or maybe even fifty years, if you’re lucky enough to have lived as long as I’ve lived, you’ll to be able to look back and value and appreciate the importance of what you’re doing, and what your friends and colleagues are doing all across the globe.
So with that, I’ll be happy to respond to some questions. I’m told there’s some microphones around here. And there they are. Why don’t you stick up your hand if you have a question, I’d be delighted to try to respond. Just don’t ask me about TriCare. [Laughter]
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t need the mic. The people with the questions need the mic. I’ve got the answers. And if I don’t, Col. Cooney has the answers. Just put your hand out and someone with a mike will wander over that way.
Q: Yes. Mr. Secretary, do you foresee the United States ever recognizing Taiwanese independence?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Our policy through successive administrations of both political parties dating back to the 19 – the late ‘60s and ‘70s has been that we favored a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan / People’s Republic of China issue. And the Congress and the executive branches over the decades since have had the position that that is an issue for them to work out, and in each case, each administration and consistently the United States of America, as a result, have said that whatever is decided by them needs to be decided peacefully. Therefore, how they will work it out, it’s really up to them, it seems to me. And our view has been that we should work with each of those parties to see that they move in a constructive and peaceful manner. What the future would hold and how that’s going to work out is certainly not something that I can foresee, except that I know that there are a lot of countries in the world that are doing everything possible to see that whatever is done is done peacefully.
Question? Way in the back.
UNKNOWN: Raise your hand.
Q: Sir, [Inaudible] the Army going to be able to increase their number here [Inaudible] Is the Marine Corps going to be able to increase their number as well?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t know. We have not had a proposal from the Marine Corps to increase their numbers. It varies from service to service. The Navy has requested the ability to drop down because they’ve invested heavily in various types of ships and equipment that is less manpower intensive. The Army, as you know, General Schoomaker has come forward and asked to increase from 33 to 43 brigades, possibly going up to 48 brigades and to increase – we have been increasing the size of the Iraqi over the last 2 ½ years up by about 20,000 forces. I have no idea of what the Marine Corps will suggest. What I do know is that the needs that we’ve had for ground forces are real. And as a result, under the emergency authorities that flow from the president’s declaring a national emergency, we’ve been able to increase, not simply by activating Guard and Reserve, but actually increasing the size of the Army during this period. So I guess time will tell.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Sergeant Black, [Inaudible] I’m wondering if President Bush is reelected are you going to stay on staff for another tour? [Laughter]
SEC. RUMSFELD: You sound like my wife. [Laughter] [Applause]
SEC. RUMSFELD: She keeps asking me that question. I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s been a wonderful opportunity. I feel so fortunate to be able to be serving my country at a time when we have had such difficult times and conflicts and we have a great deal of things going on with the Department of Defense that I am enormously excited about in terms of transforming how we do our business. If you think about it, we’ve generally been basically organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces and our challenge at the present time is to deal with a number of asymmetrical threats that are different than contesting large armies, navies and air forces. And we have to – we’re now in the middle of a process of a shift in our forces around the world, so that we’re better arranged, and not in a static defense mode left over from World War II, where if one looked at the globe, you would think we were waiting and inspecting a tank attack across the North German Plain. That’s not likely. The Soviet Union has disappeared. It’s collapsed and the world’s different and we got different challenges. So we’ve been making enormous progress in trying to be more agile, have greater flexibility, having our forces in places where it’s hospitable as, indeed, being here in Yuma, it is hospitable. I’m told the community here is exceedingly hospitable to you folks here and that’s a good thing.
But we do want our forces where they’re wanted, not where they’re not wanted. We want them where we can use them. We don’t want to be in a place where, for example, the neighboring country says you can’t use trains to get your forces out of the country you’re located in. We need to be in places that we have the ability to use the forces on behalf of the American people and contributing to the peace and stability and so forth. So I feel like we’ve got a lot of wonderful things happening in the military that we’re adjusting to the 21st century and I’ve been delighted to be a part of it. And as Adlai Stevenson, the former governor of Illinois once said, “I’ll jump off that bridge, when I get to it.” [Laughter] What else? Question.
Q: Right here, Sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Here’s one, there’s one. Yes.
Q: I have a question, if we’re still adjusting to the 21st century and trying to get out of that Cold War stance, how do we justify needing [inaudible]?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Say again? How do we justify what?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s a good question and it is a question that gets asked by the Congress, it gets asked in the press. And the challenge, of course, is to take each of these major activities, a weapon system, a ship, whether it’s Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, and we’ve made some adjustments in the Army, as you know, in terms of artillery, in terms of helicopters. And the new leadership in the Army is – migrating the Army over towards future combat system and the capabilities that will be more appropriate in the future. I think that we did not, however, simply because we moved into a new century find the end of history. The world still is there. There are still big countries with rapidly growing defense budgets, and with steadily improving capabilities, and it is not clear that simply because we have to be capable of dealing with the new asymmetrical the threats, that there necessarily had no longer feel required to have the capability to deter and defend against more conventional or traditional threats.
One of the reasons that we do have such a considerable margin at the present time, in terms of dealing with conventional threats is because we have those capabilities and it makes it much more attractive for others who would wish us ill to invest in things other than the areas [inaudible] systems. So if we didn’t have the kinds of systems you’re talking about at all, it would be an incentive for other countries to develop those systems and have the ability to threaten their use against us.
What will actually evolve over the next two, three, four years, with respect to some of the other systems is yet to be seen and those are questions that the Congress and the executive branch will be wrestling with. But it isn’t a black-and-white situation. It isn’t that all conventional threats are gone, therefore we don’t need any of the old systems we used to have. And the only asymmetrical threats because to do that, would be to create an incentive for people to try to contest and compete against us with those more fundamental and traditional conventional systems. Question? Yes.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I’m sorry. You better use the mike. If somebody’s got the next question, stick your hand up, then someone will come with a mike now and we won’t have the transit time in waiting and I’ll be able to hear. Go ahead.
Q: I said my question was is do you think that by having combat carrier units out in the field during OIF, has that had a major impact on the war at all?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We had two things out there. We had – are you in the combat camera business? [Laughter]
Q: Yes Sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: No special pleading. [Laughter] We had two things going on out in Iraq and Afghanistan, in both, but to a greater extent, Iraq. One was the combat cameras, and it has been a very good thing to have that technology and capability. The second thing we did in Iraq, which was distinctive, was we had a substantial number of embedded reporters and they were able to report on a continuing basis what was taking place in Iraq from their perspective. Now admittedly, they did not have a 360 degrees perspective. They weren’t in every part of the country at every moment. All they saw was a slice of what was taking place, but it was an accurate slice. And the combination of those accurate slices from different parts of the country, I think in one moment, there were some hundred of these people embedded and the combination of all of that together created for the American people and the world a view of what was taking place. And the truly wonderful work that the men and women in uniform in Iraq that were performing.
There’s another interesting thing that happened because of the embedded reporters. Most of them had never served in the military. Most of them had never been around the military. Most of them probably didn’t even know people who serve military. And they could not come away from that experience without just having an enormous respect for what you do. They could not do what they did, be embedded, live with you people day in and day out, see their courage, see this professionalism and see the skill, see the capability of all also the compassion and the sense of responsibility and that cadre of people now are out there in the world reporting. And it is a very good thing that collection of those people who provide so much information and most of them are pretty good, and unfortunately a reasonable chunk of them not so good. That group of people who did that have for the rest of their life, have had an experience in very close intimate contact with men and women in uniform, which will benefit them and the organs that they work for over their careers [inaudible]. Question? Yes.
Q: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. The question is when you talk about re-issuing the Southwest Asia Service Medal?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Which medal?
Q: Southwest Asia Service Medal, sir?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I have no idea. I heard the question. I just don’t know the answer. Confession is good for the soul. [Laughter] But I’m plucky, but I’m not stupid. I’m going to write it down. And next time somebody asks me that, I’ll know the answer. Good. Who else?
Q: Good morning, sir. Captain Johnson, Provost Marshal. Sir, here in the Southwest, we’re experiencing some difficulties, particular here in Yuma with the ranges we have. With illegal immigration bleeding through our ranges and impacting our training. Are we talking across the deck to the Department of Homeland Security and the impacts of some of the things that they’re doing to secure the nation’s borders and how that translates into the military -- the influences on the military’s ability to train and prepare for war?
SEC. RUMSFELD: What kind of problems are you having?
Q: Sir, as you probably know, we have a preponderance of the training ranges, specifically aviation ranges that the Marine Corps owns and resides here in Yuma. We’re having lots of problems with the illegal activity coming through our ranges and fouling the areas so that the great aviators that we have have come here to Yuma to train in the environment we have are not able to go ahead and do so because the ranges are fouled -- humans that are on the ground -- and are at risk if they do drop bombs.
SEC. RUMSFELD: It is an enormous problem for our country. We are a magnet. I suppose because of the attractiveness of living in this country and the opportunity that are here, a great many people want to come here, people get in the queue from nations all across the globe to apply for the opportunity to live here and work here.
I have a friend that used to talk about – if you want to know what’s really happening give it the gate test. And I said, well, what’s the gate test? And he said what you do is you pick up the gate and you see which way things are moving. And people are smart, but they want to leave some place that’s less attractive, and get to some place that’s more attractive. Money also – you can tell what’s happening - money is a coward. And pick up the gate and look which way money is going. Is investment going into an area or is it going out of an area. That’s one of the encouraging things I see about Iraq, as a matter of fact. And they now have a stock market and you can see money flowing in in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The problem of our borders has been a problem in my entire life and I’m sure before that. We don’t live in a police state. We don’t have – we have borders that are essentially porous. People do move back and forth across them illegally, and that happens in the north and it happens in the south. It also, I’m sure, happens on the coast, at the ports. And the question that society has to balance is how much investment and how much time and effort do we want to put in preventing unauthorized, if you will, movement of people and things through ports or through borders and what’s the cost benefit ratio. I was not aware that it was causing a serious problem with respect to the ranges and I suppose what you need is the risk of actually killing people on the ground who are on a range, when they should not be on a range, and that’s a serious problem. It’s a serious problem for us and there are folks who do need the training, as you said. It’s also a serious problem for the people down there on the ground. I’d like to check into that and learn more about it because I was not aware of it. Question?
Q: Mr. Secretary, I’m Staff Sgt. [inaudible] with [inaudible]. My question is how does the administration feel about the press that’s been given about our intelligence-gathering information, our agencies?
SEC. RUMSFELD: About the what that was given?
Q: About our intelligence-gathering agencies about the information that our intelligence agencies gathered?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We have mixed feelings. I have never seen any combat commander who didn’t want better intelligence. I’ve never seen a president who didn’t wish that he had better insights into what was happening around the world. We went through a period in the 1990s where our human intelligence was significantly cut. And we focused much more in the 1990s on satellites, electronic intelligence gathering, as opposed to the human intelligence. Simultaneously during that period, we saw advances in technology and miniaturizations to the point that more and more countries were doing things underground, more and more countries were transmitting on fiber optics, as opposed to in the air.
More and more countries were getting cleverer and trading information about how to deny and deceive. So where we’ve had this proliferation of technologies involving chemical, biological, nuclear and missile technologies, we’ve simultaneously have had proliferation of information on how to best deceive major nations from knowing what it is you’re doing.
So I have a lot of respect for the intelligence community and I recognize what a tough job it is. It is a tough job. It is enormously important and there are clearly some weaknesses in our systems that need to be corrected and we do need strength in human intelligence. I would submit, although this is not something that a policy of the government yet. But I would submit that we need a domestic intelligence-gathering capability as well and that is something that historically we have not had. We’ve had the FBI, which looked at it from a law enforcement standard. So if somebody did something wrong, they should be tracked, arrested, punished.
Of course, when you’re in a global war on terror you’re interested is not the same as if you’re trying to find somebody who stole a car, so that you can arrest them and punish them. You’re interested in finding somebody, finding out from them what it is they know, that you can then use to prevent other terrorist attacks and that’s a very different thing. We’ve never had that. We have had the benefit of two great oceans and friendly countries on either border and we’ve not really for the most part, had to think about that. Today we do.
And so we do need to improve human intelligence. We do need to improve domestic intelligence, but we have to do it in a way that it connects with foreign intelligence but, nonetheless, protects the rights of privacy and the other important values that they have in the country and don’t infringe on the American people’s freedoms in a way that is uncomfortable for the American people.
The third problem that bothers those of us in government is the issue of the balance between the need to know and making information available for people who can then use it to the advantage of our country. We’ve migrated towards better safe than sorry, and we’ve put information in a stovepipe, a compartment. And the people in another compartment don’t know that information and the people in this compartment know things that people in this compartment don’t. And there is not a master way of figuring out, well, who might need to know something. And so we had a situation – if 9/11 is one example, where people just simply apparently there was a breakdown in communication between the CIA and the FBI and people who keep scraps of information, but didn’t have a mechanism to take that information and synthesize it, apparently. It is a worrisome thing for the country when you think of how difficult it is to connect the dots, even after a tragedy like 9/11. Imagine how hard it is to connect the dots beforehand – before such an event. It’s vastly more difficult. And right now the country is going through what I think could be a useful thing. We’re having a debate, a national dialog and discussion on how our society ought to be rearranged with respect to our intelligence collection and analysis and availability to users, the principle user of course being the Department of Defense. The overwhelming majority of the intelligence use is by this department. And yet other departments have needs as well.
So you’ve got a lot of people who were concerned about the problem. They’re discussing it in the executive branch and in Congress they’re debating it and people are coming up with proposals. And we do have to remember that we are in a war. And he who would tear down what is has the responsibility of substituting something better. And we better be careful as we do this, and be willing to make suggestions to be sure. But then to test and say to ourselves, for what real problem is that so-called reform designed to improve? And moving boxes around it isn’t really the answer. The answer is to find ways to understand the advances that have taken place in technology and are significant which changes how we do things, to understand the types of intelligence, the needs we have and to understand the a piece of information…
… or it came from some electronic device, or from some friendly foreign intelligence service. They don’t care. They’re agnostic. All they want is the best possible information and the best possible analysis. So we’ve got a big task in this country. And clearly, there is a disappointment. There is simultaneously a disappointment that we do not have the best conceivable intelligence, which we believe we need, particularly at a time when weapons are becoming increasingly lethal and dangerous. You know you can afford not to know something when someone is planning on throwing a snowball at you, but if you’re talking about the risk