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Ambassador Paul Bremer Interview on CBS Face The Nation

Presenter: Ambassador Paul Bremer
July 20, 2003

Mr. Schieffer: Good morning again. Ambassador Bremer is in the studio with us this morning. Joining in the questioning this morning – well, Prime Minister Blair was here earlier in the week so we thought it would be a good idea to have Katty Kay of the BBC to join us this morning. Welcome to you both.

Ambassador Bremer, let’s get right to it. Three more Americans killed today in Iraq – it’s now 37 that have died in combat, I guess, since May 1st when the president said combat operations were over – more than 94 people dead in all since that date. And we’re seeing this morning, again, one of the largest demonstrations ever, I think we have some film of it here. Shiites turning out this morning, some estimates put that crowd as large as ten thousand marching to the U.S. headquarters to protest the presence of Americans there. If you were an American sitting at home this morning watching this program, what would you make of those pictures and these continuing casualties?

Amb. Bremer: I think it’s important to step back a little bit here, Bob, and look at where we’ve come from. First of all, in the last three months we have liberated 25 million people in Iraq. While it’s very hard to know exactly how to measure public opinion there, because there’s no really good polling, the fact of the matter is that in all the polls I’ve seen the vast majority of the Iraqis prefer to be free and are pleased that the coalition freed them.

Now, we have an ongoing problem of security in a very small part of the country. Most of the country is quiet. The north is quiet, the south is quiet, the Shia heartland, which is all of the area south of Baghdad down to the Kuwait border. We have a limited problem of some bitter-enders, some small remnants of the old regime who are using professional military tactics to attack and kill our soldiers as they did this morning.

Mr. Schieffer: So you don’t think this is a coordinated campaign?

Amb. Bremer: No, there’s no –

Mr. Schieffer: You don’t believe this is a guerilla war, that’s suddenly we’ve moved into a phase of guerilla wars as the top general are now saying?

Amb. Bremer: I’m not going to argue about how you define it. The fact of the matter is that we are facing a small group of bitter-enders who are basically trying turn the tide of history.

We’ve thrown out Saddam and Saddam, dead or alive, is finished in Iraq. We will prevail against these professional killers. They are in a small area of the country. That’s the place where the unrest is and we’ll deal with it.

Mr. Schieffer: Well, you said that you thought that it was quiet in the north, but as I understand it, these two men that were killed today were – that took place in the north. It was not in the area where the other trouble has been.

Amb. Bremer: No, eighty-five percent of the attacks against the coalition since June 1st have been in a small area between Baghdad and Tikrit. That’s where the attacks are taking place. This is an area that we did not fight over during the war. This is the area of Saddam’s traditional tribal and political support. We are seeing remnants of the old regime regrouping in squad-level attacks against our soldiers and we will deal with it. They present no strategic threat to the coalition.

Mr. Schieffer: I don’t dispute at all what you’re saying. But some have said that there’s actually more trouble than we know about because they say that the military is not reporting these attacks unless someone is wounded or killed. Is that not correct?

Amb. Bremer: No, we keep very close track of the attacks on the coalition and we know what the statistics are –

Mr. Schieffer: But do you make that public?

Amb. Bremer: Well, that’s for the military to do but I see the statistics every day. I have a meeting every day with the commander of the military forces there, General Sanchez. We have seen, as the military has said, an up-tic in the attacks against the coalition but a lot of those incidents are because we initiated them. That is to say we’re going out and trying to find these guys. So you have to be very careful when you start looking at these numbers – a lot – most of the attacks, most of the incidents between our forces and there’s are because we are now initiating, we’re on the offensive and we’re going to stay on the offensive until we dominate these people.

Mr. Schieffer: Katty.

Ms. Kay: Clearly, it’s very important to find Saddam Hussein for the security of the Iraqi people and to give them confidence in their future. What more – until Saddam Hussein is found, what more can you do to try and co-opt the Iraqis into helping with, when it comes to intelligence, when it comes to people that might be looting, when it comes to security, when it comes to people who might be planning attacks against Americans. Because it seems to me that without the cooperation, more cooperation from the Iraqi people, it’s going to be almost impossible to bring security.

Amb. Bremer: Well, as a matter of fact, we’ve seen a substantial increase in cooperation from the Iraqi people. We’ve started to see Iraqi people coming in and telling us where the bad guys are, more than was the case a month ago, more than was the case two months ago. We’ve got people coming into police stations, we’ve got people coming into tactical commands saying these people are bad and we need to go after them.

Secondly, we are going to be raising an Iraqi civil defense corps, made up of Iraqis who are going to be working with us directly in this military part of the operation.

Thirdly, we are raising an Iraqi police force of some sixty-five thousand to help us police the cities and the villages in Iraq.

And finally, we’re raising an Iraqi border guard.

So, we’re going to be making more use of the Iraqis as we go along. And that’s the military side.

Ms. Kay: But people who work with the Americans risk being seen as collaborators. They’re still clearly very terrified of Saddam Hussien rising up like some sort of Lord Voldemort from the cracks in the pavement over there. I mean, this is a real issue, the fear that they have of Saddam Hussein.

Amb. Bremer: Well, of course we recognize the importance of getting a hold of Saddam Hussein or killing him, which is why we have placed a $25 million reward on this head and $15 million on each of his sons’ heads.

These attacks that we’re seeing basically are attacking our successes. We had an attack yesterday, for example, against a guard guarding a bank. Well, we introduced a new currency without a problem. The currency has been stable. We have made the central bank independent. We have approved a new budget. All of this in the last two weeks, and, of course, they go after us there. We had an attack on a police academy in al-Falouja ten days. Well, we’re standing up police and they’re going after our success there.

We had an American soldier killed on the campus of Baghdad University two weeks ago. Why? -- because all 22 universities are now working in Iraq. All of – 90 percent of the primary and secondary schools are up and running; they are holding final exams. We are succeeding in education, we are succeeding in bringing up the police, we are succeeding in the economy and these bitter-enders don’t like it so they go after us.

Mr. Schieffer: Mr. Ambassador, you’ve been saying this morning, it’s no secret you’re on all the Sunday talk shows this morning and we appreciate you dropping by here, but you have been saying, you said earlier, that you’re not going to get into numbers. You don’t think we need more troops, you think the number of troops is adequate at this point. But it would appear from a long distance that the main thing that the American troops have been engaged in because they have to right now is protecting themselves and our own installations. Doesn’t that mean that you’re going to have to bring in some more troops from someplace?

Amb. Bremer: Well, first of all, that’s not what the American troops are doing. We’re conducting raids, very active raids in one operation we ran in the last four days we pulled in over 800 detainees, Iraqis, Baathist, said feddeim Saddam (ph). It’s not as if we’re sitting back and doing nothing. We’re taking the battle to the enemy and we’ll continue doing that.

Mr. Schieffer: Well, I don’t say that as criticism, but it just seems obvious that that’s what a major part of their job is. It has to be.

Amb. Bremer: Well, of course in any military, force protection is an important part of their job. But I don’t want to leave the viewers with the impression these guys are simply sitting down somewhere. They’re not, they’re going out after these guys and they’ll continue to go after these guys.

Now, when we bring up some of these forces that I was talking about earlier, particularly the Iraq civil defense force that we talked about, we will be able to use them on convoy security, root security, site security, the kinds of things that our soldiers are doing that will free some of our soldiers to go out and be still more aggressive.

So we have very much in mind the need to take this battle to the enemy.

Mr. Schieffer: You’re here to brief the president. Are you going to tell him that we’re winning the peace in Iraq?

Amb. Bremer: Absolutely. I’m absolutely confident that we are on track to conduct a political, economic and military strategy that is going to leave Iraq consistent with the president and prime mininster’s view with an elected, representative, democratic government in Iraq which is something they’ve never enjoyed before and which will be a model for the Arab world.

Mr. Schieffer: As you see the situation now, where do you think it will be three months now and six months from now?

Amb. Bremer: In three months we will have made significant progress in the security areas. I already mentioned getting the new Iraqi army started and the police. We will have restored I think many of the basic essential services and water and electricity and power to pre-war levels, which is not much, by the way. In many ways what we’re dealing with here is an economy that was devastated not by war, but –

Mr. Schieffer: You think you’ll have the electricity on and the water running in three months.

Amb. Bremer: The electricity is on and the electricity will be at pre-war levels within six to eight weeks and we’re confident about water as well. We will get back.

Ms. Kay: There seems to be a lot of discussion in Washington this week about the need to internationalize the force that is in Iraq and try and get more of the international community to cooperate. How much does the bitterness that was created towards America in the pre-war period make that harder?

Amb. Bremer: Well, you’d obviously have to ask the countries that you’re alleging are bitter. I don’t know the answer to that.

But we’ve got 19 countries already with troops on the ground –

Ms. Kay: But far fewer troops. The ratios of troops, of foreign troops to American troops is like this (holds up hand).

Amb. Bremer: Well, we’re the world’s great power, we’re going to have to keep having the most responsibility with our British colleagues there.

But, we have 19 countries on the ground now. We have 37 countries that have pledged almost three billion dollars in reconstruction assistance to the Iraqis. It’s sort of a myth, I find, as I walk around Washington that we’re doing this alone. We’re not doing this alone and we, of course, would welcome more assistance and we’ll get it.

Mr. Schieffer: We heard a lot about weapons of mass destruction. Obviously we haven’t found any. Do you think what it will come down to is that we will find that they had a program to build weapons of mass destruction or do you think they actually had weapons of mass destruction? We know they did a long time ago, but –

Amb. Bremer: Right. It’s been, as you know, the consistent view the last two administrations, both parties, all of the members of the security council, that he had programs –

Mr. Schieffer: But talk about now.

Amb. Bremer: My belief is we will find evidence of programs in biological and chemical weapons when the job is –

Mr. Schieffer: But not necessarily the weapons themselves?

Amb. Bremer: Well, let’s wait and see what the team comes up with. You’ve got fifteen hundred guys who are experts over there. I’m not an expert, I’ll wait and see what they say.

Mr. Schieffer: Ambassador Bremer, we want to thank you. You have, I would say, probably no one would question this, the hardest job in the world right now. So, we want to wish you the best.

Thanks so much.

Amb. Bremer: Thank you.

Ms. Kay: Thank you.

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