Q: I understand that you came to El Paso to announce something very important for the community here?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, actually I’m avoiding announcements.
SEC. RUMSFELD: What I tried to do is have the services make announcements and the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. But I’ve just been meeting all morning with President Bush in Crawford, Texas, and I came over here to El Paso to meet with the military people here and have an opportunity to listen to some of their questions and visit with them about what we’re doing with respect to the force posture in the world and what their futures look like.
Q: So your trip doesn’t have anything to do with bringing back the 70,000 troops from Europe and other parts and reposition those troops here in El Paso?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No. The process we have for that is called the BRAC process and we’re going to be bringing some forces home from around the world. But where they go as specifically as something that will be worked through by a commission. And then recommendations will be made to the Congress and it’s something that’ll play out over the next year.
Q: By the way, you are removing some troops from South Korea. That means that North Korea is not a big threat anymore?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No. Actually, North Korea is a problem. It is a problem in several respects. It’s a problem because they’re developing nuclear capability and have been doing that for sometime. It’s a problem because they have a large military that threatens South Korea. They are engaged in various type of counterfeiting and other illegal activities and they are one of the big proliferators in the world of ballistic missile technologies. Now, what we’re doing is it happens that we’re removing some troops out of South Korea over some period of time, but what we’re doing is transferring those responsibilities to the South Korea, the Republic of Korea’s army. And we are increasing our capabilities with respect to air power and precision and the net result of it all will be they’ll be a few fewer forces, but the actual capability of the combined partnership we have with South Korea will be considerably stronger than before.
Q: So basically, bringing these troops back to the United States, is for the defense of the country?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the way to think about it is that we used to always look at numbers, numbers of troops, numbers of tanks, numbers of planes. Today speed and flexibility and precision are vastly more important than numbers. And what we we’re doing is we’re arranging our forces around the world in a way that’s in the best interest, of not just the United States, but our allies and friends and partners.
Q: Mr. Secretary, last Tuesday, you warned some senators not to rush and rebuff the intelligence services. And today Senator Pat Roberts announced a plan exactly opposite to dismantle the CIA and minimize the role of the Defense Department and the intelligence services. What is your opinion?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I haven’t had a chance to see Senator Roberts’ proposal. He’s announced some portions of it, but I don’t know if it’s in writing yet and I haven’t had a chance to see it if it is. But I think it’s a good thing that people are making suggestions and recommendations. The so-called 9/11 Commission has made a number of recommendations for reforms. President Bush has made a number of recommendations. And those of us in the executive branch have been studying those recommendations and trying to think through what the details would be – how do you put flesh and bones around those ideas. And I think this is a healthy thing for the country to be doing. I’m glad the Congress is entering into this national debate and discussion and I’m sure that we’ll find our way to some very good reforms for the intelligence community.
Q: But are you in favor of dismantling the CIA?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t know that that’s what Senator Roberts’ proposal does. I’ve read some news articles that say that. But I’m kind of old-fashioned. I like to see the facts and I haven’t seen a piece of paper yet. I think that it’s important for us to recognize that we’re in a war. We need to do whatever we do to make our country stronger and to make our intelligence community better. But we also need to make darned sure we do it in a way that doesn’t damage our country.
Q: Mr. Secretary, when do you think we and the whole world will know the whole truth about the abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, in a matter of months. We’ll have completed the three or four investigations that are going on. And then there will be criminal prosecutions and those, you know, sometimes they can take six, eight months to play their way out. People then will either be guilty or innocent. But in terms of the major studies that we’ve undertaken, investigations and reviews, they should be completed in a matter of a few months.
Q: Are you aware, Mr. Secretary, of new accusations in a British magazine about the behavior of some medical army doctors – military doctors that condone those abuses?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I am not aware of something in a British magazine, I haven’t seen anything like that. But there have been statements made that have suggested or asked a question, at least, if there were people who were abused, then the next question is: Were there medical personnel who were aware of that and, third, if there were people abused and medical people were aware of it, did they make reports as what might have been appropriate or probably would have been appropriate. And those are questions that the current investigations are looking into right now and they’re important questions.
Q: And we will know…
SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely.
Q: … soon enough.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely. And in every instance where an abuse has been identified, there’s been an investigation in every case where the investigation suggested that the matter required a action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice of prosecution, those prosecutions had been announced and been initiated. And indeed, some people have already been convicted.
Q: Mr. Secretary, maybe the main conclusion or at least one of the conclusions of the study in the investigation is that the conditions for the abuses were created by failure and leadership in the military. How do you interpret this and what you will do to correct these things?
SEC. RUMSFELD: That’s a fair question and a good one. Let me first explain why I will answer the way I will answer. I’m in the chain of command and if I say something that prejudges the outcome of it, it could effect what the prosecution might or might not happen. And people could be – who were guilty, could be let go if I made some preliminary judgments out of order. Now therefore, let me answer it this way, already the investigations we’ve initiated are specifically looking up and down the chain of command to see if what happened, in fact, and then above that was there a lack of supervision, was there a lack of training, was there an inaccurate or imperfect instructions or guidance given. And throughout this process, that’s been a fair question. And already some of the senior people have been disciplined.
Q: So you were not aware of a failure of leadership at the time?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I was certainly not aware of it, no.
Q: The fight for Najaf, Mr. Secretary, seems to be escalating or intensifying. What can be done to stabilize the situation in Najaf and that part of Iraq that costing so many lives and so much problem?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, what you have there is you have a fellow named Moqtada al-Sadr who has a militia. And he took over major portions of the city. The Iraqi forces and coalition forces have now moved him out of most of the city. There are still too big pockets where his forces exist. The Iraqi government has told him to leave and to disarm. They’re in the process of working with him to try to see that’s achieved. Simultaneously, the coalition forces are moving forward and taking military action as appropriate. How long will it take, I don’t know. Iraq’s now a sovereign nation, and the prime minister and the minister of defense are doing a good job, in my view. And I think that they deserve a lot of credit for the leadership they’re providing.
Q: Mr. Secretary -- I have a couple of [Inaudible] yeah, OK. Can I ask you two more questions?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure.
Q: Do you have – the administration have a definite, a specific plan to end the mission in Iraq and bring the troops home?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes, indeed. We have a plan to train up Iraqi forces, police, border patrol, counterterrorism, Army, National Guard and train those folks up so that they can assume that responsibility. We’re already ahead of plan. We transferred sovereignty to the government. They now are planning for elections in January. And we have a coalition of nations, I think 32 countries, that are now participating there in Iraq and assisting in training and equipping the Iraqi security forces. And as fast as they are able to take over that responsibility, the United States and the coalition countries will be passing that responsibility to them. And it is that trajectory that we’re on. It’s a process that’s been going on now, roughly, for a year. It’s going well. It is a bumpy road, as it always is as a country goes from a violent dictatorship to a democracy. But the promise has been good. If you think about the schools are open, hospitals are open, clinics are open. They’ve got an interim government. They are building up their security forces. They have a stock market. They’ve even got a soccer team in the Olympics.
Q: But no date yet – a specific date?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, no. You can’t know that. And it would be unwise to pick one. If you go back and think about it, some years backs, United States government went into Bosnia and they announced that they’d be out in eight months by Christmas. We still have troops in Bosnia today. So I think making artificial guesses like that is not a prudent thing to do. What we do know is we’ve got a good plan. It’s fully agreed upon with the Iraqi government, it is in place, it’s going forward. They just elected a constituent assembly and we’re on a path to take a 25 million nation, move them from a dictatorship to being liberated towards a democracy and our country and the men and women in uniform over there can be very proud of what’s being accomplished and the wonderful job they’re doing.
Q: Tell me about the Hispanic soldiers that are serving in the Army and the Navy and the Air Force. How important is their role?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, it’s enormously important. I go to base after base. I go to Iraq and Afghanistan and into the Horn of Africa and around the world, into Korea and I don’t go anywhere that I don’t find Hispanic men and women in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines. And God bless them, they are doing a superb job. Everyone’s a volunteer. Every one of those young men and women put their hand up and said, “send me, I want to serve.” And we appreciate it a great deal. They’re doing a wonderful job for our country. And we thank their families, too, because I know their families also serve.
Q: Do you want to take the opportunity also to send a message to the families that lost loved ones in the war, Hispanic soldiers?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Indeed. Every person in this country that reads of a death or a wounded soldier, and I go to Walter Reed and Bethesda hospitals to visit the wounded soldiers. And no one can help but feel heartbroken at a life that’s not going to lived fully, at a life that will be lived differently because of a wound. We have to be so grateful to them that they volunteer, that they recognized how important the work they were doing is and that their lives and their wounds are not in vain, that in fact our country and every generation in our country’s history we’ve had people who have served and the result has been that today there is a free Japan and a free Germany. These were fascist countries. And today they’re bulwarks of democracy – South Korea, look at what’s going on in North Korea. Here’s South Korea, a vibrant economy, a democracy, contributing in the world and it’s because of the coalition of countries that went in there 50 years ago and helped preserve that country’s freedom. And I think in 10, 15, 20 years, people will look back on Iraq and Afghanistan and the 50 million people that have been freed and we’ll see countries that are not terrorist countries, not terrorists launching attacks on America, as came out of Afghanistan almost three years ago now and harbored terrorists. And Saddam Hussein was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers and shooting at U.S. and British aircraft almost every day. We will look back – the world will look back on the young people who served there and gave their lives with an enormous debt of gratitude.
Q: Two more questions, please. About Kerry’s record, John Kerry’s record, some people are criticizing his record in Vietnam. Do you think Mr. Kerry served this country well?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I’ll tell you, I have decided, at the president’s request, to not get into politics at all. And the president’s decided that what’s going on in the world is so important that it be non-partisan and he’s asked Secretary Powell and me to not get involved in political issues or political campaigns. And as a result, we’re not even going to be attending the Republican Convention, so we avoid it completely.
Q: Mr. Secretary, are you going to be at his side, if he’s re-elected four more years?
SEC. RUMSFELD: President Bush?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, come on now. I’d have to talk to President Bush and my wife both.
Q: OK. Thank you.