(Senate Stakeout with Senator John W. Warner; Gen. Peter Pace, Vice Chair, Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. John Keane, Acting Chief of Staff of the Army)
Warner: The Secretary has had another briefing with the Senate. The Senate has had a busy week. We had the Deputy Secretary before the Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, tomorrow have General Dayton and his associate in the civilian side under Bremer will before my committee and the Intelligence Committee. So we’ve had a full week and consultation by the Department of Defense.
Rumsfeld: Questions...? I’ve got Gen. Jack Keane the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army and the Vice Chairman Gen. Pete Pace.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Senator Biden says that you’re not telling the truth about the troops in Iraq. Maybe you believe that the (inaudible). Is Senator Biden right? Are you not telling the truth?
Rumsfeld: I didn’t hear him say anything like that. I hate to comment on something I didn’t hear. I heard him questioning you yesterday and Paul Wolfowitz yesterday.
Pace: He was mostly concerned about the cost that we had not provided him with what the total cost was.
Rumsfeld: What I did hear him say this morning on CNN was something quite different. What he said, I believe and I’m – I don’t have quote but it’s very close. Something to the effect that the Secretary of Defense told the American people that we’d be down to 30,000 troops by the end of the year. I never said anything like that. I can’t imagine where he found it or where he got it but I’ve written him a note suggesting I’d like to see where he – has transcript of me saying anything like that because I never said it or thought it that I know of.
We’ve always recognized the difficulty of projecting numbers of troops, we’ve recognized and avoided projecting the length of time the war would take, how much it would cost. These things are very difficult to pin down, the only thing I’ve ever said on cost was that at a certain moment when I was asked I could say, reasonably, precisely that the current burn rate was "X". And it changes, two months later it might be "Y" but I’ve never suggested that I or anyone else in the department had the ability to look into the future and predict with anything approximating perfect certainty what the world’s going to look like out there.
Warner: This gentlemen, Mr. Secretary.
Q: Thank you Senator. Mr. Secretary, apparently David Keys has returned from Iraq? The first question is have you met with him?
Rumsfeld: I have.
Q: Assuming (inaudible). What has he told you about the search of weapons of mass destruction and/or WMD programs?
Rumsfeld: He’s told me that he has a greater degree of confidence today than when he first arrived and the rest of it’s classified and he’ll be briefing the Senator’s Committee tomorrow morning.
Q: And do you think... the obvious question - are you closer to catching Saddam today than you were yesterday?
Rumsfeld: You know I’ve always fascinated by that question. It’s such a funny question. How can you know if you’re closer until you catch him, you can’t know, you get all these leads and all these suggestions and somebody says I think this or maybe he’s there and so you work it out and eventually if everything works out you catch him. And in this case we have not caught him, therefore we’re obviously are not close or we are close but we don’t know because we haven’t caught him. We’ll only know when he’s caught how close we were. We do know that we were close with respect to his sons.
Q: Should Admiral Poindexter keep his job, and what do you think about the fallout from (inaudible - re: DARPA Futures Market)?
Rumsfeld: I cancelled it an hour after I read about it. I did so, unfortunately not with a great deal of knowledge because it was to soon. I cancelled it because it was clear that even if it happened to have been a brilliant idea, which I doubt, it would not have been able to function in the environment that it was created, so I cancelled it. And I hope to have a chance this weekend to read about it and learn more about it and see what I think of it and how it happened and whether it made sense or didn’t make sense but it was pretty clear to me it ought to have been cancelled so I did so.
Q: Mr. Secretary can you tell us anything about the intelligence you’re getting on the ground in Iraq with respect to what we’re learning about Al Qaida in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: Pete you want to respond to that?
Pace: Most of our intelligence right now is focused on the Ba’athist triangle between Baghdad, Fullajah and Tikrit and we’re focused on getting the mid-level leaders of that organization or the ones whose causing us the most trouble on the battlefield. I mean on-going operations right now are focused on that and are in fact producing great results. We have not been tying the strings together between organizations yet.
Rumsfeld: We are getting a lot of walk in traffic with ideas, thoughts, suggestions, tips, leads… An increasing amount of walk-ins.
Q: Mr. Secretary what can you tell us about the troop rotations. I was at the Schoomaker confirmation hearing yesterday, virtually every Senator including the one standing next to you talked about it, let’s get these troops home, they’re tired.
Warner: I didn’t say they were tired. I said yesterday, that the Department of Defense is working on an orderly rotation policy. They would soon be making it public. This policy was briefed in detail to the Senators upstairs just now, we covered it but I’m not certain that Mr. Secretary or Gen. Keane you’re ready to release the details yet.
Keane: No, we have – Senator we have released the details. The troops, their moral is magnificent if that’s what’s behind your question. And we have plenty of evidence of that, General Pace was in Iraq recently, I was in Iraq recently and a number of other leaders are and obviously we trust the judgment of our field commanders who report as such. Those soldiers and Marines over there that are on the ground as well as some sailors and some airmen – the American people have every right to be so proud of what they’re doing. I mean demanding, difficult conditions and what they’re about is protecting America and they know it. I have never, ever seen such intensity and focus on the part of our soldiers that I have seen in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Why? Because they know they’re protecting the American people and that is different from anything we’ve been doing recently.
Rumsfeld: I would add that retention is up in each of services I believe and recruitment is up in each of the services. One would think that those would be reasonably good indicators, although I do suspect there is a lag to some extent so it may be that that’s the case.
I would also add we redeployed over 159,000 soldiers, sailors and Marines since the major combat ended in Iraq.
Warner: Thank you Mr. Secretary.