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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Briefing from Camp Victory, Baghdad

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 05, 2003
Rumsfeld:  I had a good visit with Jerry Bremer, and then went over and visited with General Sanchez, and then we visited the people around the building we've known over the years who are helping out.

 

     And then we had a dinner with the British ambassador and the senior team that Jerry Bremer and General Sanchez have.  It ran about an hour and 20 minutes longer than it was supposed to, but it was excellent.  We were able to talk the broad scope of what's taking place in this country.  It's truly amazing the amount of progress that's been achieved in whatever its been - four or five months, depending on whether you start before the war or after the war.  If one looks at any other timeline - the timeline in Germany, the timeline in Japan, the timeline in any number of other countries.  The progress here has been notably better, faster, and at least to my eyes really impressive.  If you think of the political side -- the work that's been done to get the city councils going all across the country, the standing up of a government council, the first reasonably representative thing that's happened in this country nationwide in decades.  The announcement more recently of the appointment of ministers to deal with the overwhelming majority of the ministries.  There are important steps yet ahead and they're in pretty much in the hands of the Iraqi people and the Governing Council. 

 

     The next step presumably would be that they will fashion some sort of a date and an approach to a constitutional convention or populace to produce the drafting of a constitution.  After that, there needs to say, there will have to be a ratification or approving of that constitution and the constitutional process by the Iraqi people, and after that, one would think they would be provided for in the constitution and opportunity for people to elect officials depending on how the constitution ends up being crafted.  They have accomplished three or four steps and have three of four to go, but it's been enormously impressive progress.  If you think of our country, it was sometime in 1776 until I think 1789 before we had a system in place that everyone agreed to.  The amount of time in Germany, Jerry Bremer mentioned today that it took something like three years; I believe he said, to get a currency arranged in Germany.  That was done in the first two or three months here in Iraq.  So there are truly impressive accomplishments.  It is understandable that with so much analysis and so much observation, and so much scrutiny as to what's going on here that the emphasis turns to be on the things that are unfortunate, where somebody is killed or somebody is wounded, or some building is blown up, or someone is critical of the government council, or critical of the coalition.  And that's what happens in a free country.  That's what happens when people are free to write what they want, say what they want, and so what they want.  On the other hand, it tends to create an impression, an imbalance in public perception that is unfortunate. 

 

     These young men and women that are here are doing work that is enormously important.  It's important to the Iraqi people who are free for the first time.  It's important to the region and offers the prospect for something that can happen here that can affect the behavior politically in neighboring economic circumstances of the people of the entire region. 

 

     A peaceful recovering Iraq will make an enormous difference that can be (Inaudible.) of each of the neighboring countries.  It's also important to the world.  We've got an awful lot of people in this world who are teaching people that the thing to do is strap bombs on themselves and go kill people -- innocent women and children.  We need more people who are teaching in schools that it's important to learn math, and to learn languages, and to learn the kinds of things that will enable them to provide for themselves and their families. 

 

     And if you think of the damage that Stalin and the Soviet Union did to the people of Russia and the people of the Soviet republics and the occupied Warsaw Pact countries and what happened to their infrastructure over those many decades, what happened to the lost opportunities, the effects on their lives, the education they didn't get.  And then you think about what happens in a system that's rooted in fear.  What happens to people psychologically if they know that their only opportunity is to acquiesce in that repressive system, their only way they can provide for their families is to be a part of a system that is corrupt, that is vicious, that is picking people up in the night without charges, throwing them in jail and killing them, and yet, to survive and succeed, they have to become a part of that apparatus.  In Russia, they called it the nomenclature --  in the Soviet Union. 

 

     In other countries, here in this country it was the Ba'athists that were privileged, and needless to say that with the wonderful success that the armed forces have here -- the coalition forces -- those opportunities for the Ba'athists ended and there's a lot of them still around and they're unhappy about it and they're trying to destroy the infrastructure of the Iraqis.  They're trying to kill Coalition people and drive them out.  You ask yourself what's the future hold.  Seems to be the future's pretty clear.  The future is that these folks are going to be successful here and this country of ours and the Coalition is going to stay here for as much time is as necessary and not any longer.  We have no desire to have any role in Iraqi oil, or Iraqi resources -- they belong to the Iraqi people, and our task is to try and create an environment that is hospitable for the Iraqi people to fashion a new way of governing themselves and be on our way.  It is tough work.  It's dangerous work.  I stopped over in the tent where some of the folks that were wounded just in the last 48 hours were.  It's dangerous needless to say, but it's getting better every day.  I can certainly see a change since I was here.  You can see a change since you were here.

 

     I'm rambling.  I'd be happy to respond to questions.

 

     Q:  The last time that you didn't spend the night in Iraq.  Is the fact that you are this time dictated by the number of things you want to do or are you (Inaudible.).

 

     Rumsfeld:  No, I'm trying to get to bed. (Laughter.) It's a long way down to Kuwait and my problem with staying here last time was that -- I don't believe the war had even ended -- it hadn't.  When I’m around, it's a problem.  It takes a lot of people to guard me and to look out for you, and my feeling was that they had a lot of hard work to do and it was better for me to get out and not to put them into danger.  Today's situation is very different.  You've got folks here doing a wonderful job -- a lot of people helping the Coalition and Provisional Authority and the circumstance is such that I'm not putting -- I hope I’m not putting a lot of people out and certainly not that I would have --

 

     Q:  Under the heading of getting better every day, do you think that is true for the security situation?  Or is it in fact getting worse or not getting better?

 

     Rumsfeld:  If you look at the data and look at the number of attacks and at the number of incidents, it tends to go up and down in waves and it is you know, it depends on what you baseline is and when you mark it.  But at the moment, the last thing I saw it went like this and it came down and it went up a little, and it came down, and it has held fairly steady ion the last period.  So it's down from where it was here, but it's been fairly level in recent weeks.

 

     Q:  The number of casualties, or number of (Inaudible.)

 

     Rumsfeld:  Those are attacks.

 

     Q:  What about the number of casualties, successful casualties, for instance, if you look at the number of car bombs in the last few weeks, it appears to be rising. 

 

     Rumsfeld:  I'll have to go back and look.  There are casualties every week.  We know that.

 

     Q:  The larger question is if you're balancing the positive that you've just noted in the many things that have been stood up with the negatives in the instability in the security situation, is that threatening to outweigh the positive?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I'm sure there are people who will say that, but the answer is no, not at all.  The number of reconstruction projects that have been done Jerry talked about is 6,000 -- 6,000 individual activities that the military and civilian effort in this country by the Coalition has accomplished.  They have touched the lives of millions of Iraqis.  They've seen the progress.  They've seen things happen. 

 

     Schools are open.  Universities are open. You look at right over here see what's going on in terms of entrepreneurial activities and people in the street selling things, buying things, bartering things, doing things -- walking out relatively freely.  A key measure -- Pat Kennedy from the State Department who works with Jerry Bremer said the thing that he finds impressive, which General Sanchez agreed with -- is the growing number of Iraqis who are walking up to the forces -- civilian and military, U.S., Coalition, and to the Iraqi forces, and telling them where caches are, where people are who should be arrested, telling them what they ought to be looking our for -- that there's a bomb there.  There's no way to capture that in a metric.  That the people here, if you take them aside and ask them will tell you that they can feel the Iraqi people responding and being helpful.  How do you compare it?

 

     Q:  Is it a (Inaudible.) security problem?

 

     Rumsfeld:  No it's not.  It's a problem that has to be dealt with.  It's a problem that ultimately the Iraqi people are going to deal with as well -- with the help of the Coalition forces.  It's all interconnected.  Progress on the political side will contribute to progress on the economic side and progress on the security side.  Progress on the economic side will contribute to progress on the security side.  Progress on the security side contributes to progress on the economic side.  We've got to try to find a way to continue to put sufficient pressure on those that don't believe in a representative system for this country -- the people who want to go back to a dictatorship, the people who are coming across the borders because they want a Jihad, they want to engage in a terrorist act of some kind.  We've got to put enough pressure on them that the good people of this country win.

 

     Q:  Have you been given any indication on whether it was foreigners who came across the borders or whether it was Ba'athists who are behind the truck bombs?

 

     Rumsfeld:  No.

 

     Q:  You don't know which ones they are?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I don't happen to know.  I haven't looked, but some have been caught and some haven't.  Some have been killed and some weren't.  It varies.  We've got every size and shape and nationality you can imagine that have been killed or captured.  The mixture that I've characterized -- it isn't one single thing. 

 

     Q:  Is it time for the Administration to tell Congress and the American people how much more money is going to be needed to sustain operations here for the next year?  What's your best ballpark estimate?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I think very likely the Administration is pulling that together from the different departments and agencies and from Jerry Bremer and from DoD and State, and all the people that are involved. 

 

     Q:  What's your best ballpark estimate?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I'm not going to prejudge what the president decides.  He'll end up taking all of that and putting it together and making a judgment, and make an announcement at some appropriate time.

 

     Q:  Do you think American troops are threatened by forces in this country who may not be al Qaeda, who may not be Ba'athists -- who just don't --

 

     Rumsfeld:  There are certainly threats from the two you described.  There are also threats from criminals who do these things -- that's what they do.  And then there's undoubtedly those who are unemployed who are doing things they shouldn't be doing or doing something for money, but are not ideologically motivated.  It really runs across the spectrum, but the circumstance of this country is so much better today than it was in April. 

 

     It's going to be so much better down the road -- another three or four months and the things you read where people say are "chaos" and "getting worse" and all of that.  It seems to me they tend to be focused in Baghdad and tend to focus in the central region where the bulk of activity is going on.  In the west or the south or the north, it's a relatively different circumstance.  And it tends to be repeated and repeated and repeated in a way that people begin to walk away with the impression that it's deteriorating and that simply isn't the view that I get from Jerry Bremer or from General Sanchez and certainly not the impression that Larry or I or others who have been here before see by way of comparison. 

 

     I think people who come here and stay over a sustained period of many, many months see the improvement.  People who come in and look at it with balanced eyes on an intermittent basis see the improvement.  That is not to say that people aren't going to get killed.  That is not to say it isn't dangerous.  It is.  And it's not to say that there won't be difficulties prospectively.  Undoubtedly there undoubtedly will, but it seems to be the trajectory we're on is a good one.

 

     Q:  Did Mr. Bremer ask you for additional measures that the military should take to enhance security measures here?  Did he ask you for specific additional measures?

 

     Rumsfeld:  We talk almost every day.  So if you asked in this meeting today if he asked me for additional that he doesn't have, no, not that I recall.  We talked about the importance of military police.  We talked about the importance of trainers -- people.  We talked about the growth in the Iraqi capability going from zero three or four months ago up to somewhere around 55,000 today, if you add up police, former Guard, militia, army, facilities protection -- now amazing that increment to go from zero to 55,000 Iraqis with weapons providing, assisting and providing security in this country.  Now, it's a country of 23 or 4 million people, so it isn't where it stops.  It's got to continue to go up as I said on the airplane for those that were there -- the Iraqi side.

 

     Q:  Can you give us a little more clarity on -- talking about --  

 

     Rumsfeld:  I've had so many questions.  I'm here to get educated, to learn and to test and taste what's taking place here.  And I had six, eight, ten people around the table who live here and who are engaged in it and who care about it and who are doing everything humanly possible on the military and civilian side and they gave me the opportunity to ask them questions on a variety of different subjects.

 

     Q:  What about the U.N. role?  Was that discussed and if things are going so well, does it make sense to have a larger U.N. role or is a larger U.N. role here desirable so that it doesn't appear to be such an American operation?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I don't want you to say that things are going so well as though I'm Pollyanna.  I'm not.  I said.  This is a tough business.  It's dangerous, and it's difficult, and it's going to take time.  What I said is that there has been measurable progress.  And that is not a Pollyannaish comment.  And it is not (Inaudible.) It's truthful.  And it would be wrong to begin your question that way.  And I'm shocked that you did it, Jim!  I can't believe you would do that!  (Laughter.)

 

     Q:  What about the U.N. role?  Is there a need for a larger -- 

 

     Rumsfeld:  We discussed it.  And that's being negotiated now with the president and Colin.  They're working with the Security Council members to try to figure out there's a dozen different models that have been used over the last decade.  There are three or four that are currently being used that are different.  And we're going to figure it out.  Does it make sense to have a larger U.N. role?  We think so, otherwise we wouldn't be in there requesting it and suggesting it.

 

     Q:  One of those models actually in Kosovo has NATO commanders in charge in sectors that we (Inaudible.) -- Do you think that's a possibility that the United States --   (Inaudible.)

 

     Rumsfeld:  I don't want to prejudge it.

 

     Q:  But how do you feel personally?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Personally I give my advice in discussions in National Security Council meetings and privately to the president and Secretary of State.  He will negotiate that and figure out how to do it and which model makes the most sense and he comes back and says here's what people think and --   and at some point we'll have one.  My guess is we'll end up with a somewhat larger role, although the U.N. has been involved from the beginning.  The president went to the U.N. and got a resolution.  The U.N. sat down (Inaudible.) -- 

 

     Q:  But do you envision a larger and maybe joint (Inaudible.) --  

 

     Rumsfeld:  I envision exactly what I said.  The president said from the beginning that "the U.N. should have a vital role," I think was his phrase.  Right?  And that's been evolving and we'll see what evolves.  Who wants to guess?  I don't have to be in the guessing business.

 

     Q:  General Sanchez -- he didn't ask for any more troops, did he?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Absolutely not.  This is really a fixation people have.  If he wanted more troops, he would have them, believe me.  And I would send them.  He has said he has about the right number of forces.  We have all said it is healthy and good to enlarge the number of international forces, so we have for four months now been all across the globe been talking to something in excess of eighty or ninety countries and we now have 29 physically involved.  And we want more.  And we think that's a good thing.  But mostly what we want, and what General Sanchez wants and want Jerry Bremer wants is more Iraqi forces.  We want more force protection, more site protection, more border protection, more police protection in cities by Iraqis.  This is their country.  The security of their country, and the political future of their country, and the economic advancement of their country is going to be done by Iraqi people.  It is not going to be done by nation builders.  It is not going to be done by people coming in and fashioning a template and saying "here's how we do it, and therefore you must do it."  They're going to figure it out.

 

     Looks like this will be the last question.

 

     Q:  Do you think that will happen faster than anything out of the U.N.?  Will we get more forces out of the indigenous population before you will out of the U.N.?

 

     Rumsfeld:  "Before" is the word that bothers me about your question.  If you think about it, in three months we've gone from zero to 55,000 Iraqis, and in three or four months --   which one should I be using?  [Mr. Di Rita in background:  May 1, four months].  Ok.  In four months we've got plus or minus 22,000 international troops, and we hope and our looking to get an additional increment from the four, five, six or eight countries, that we're currently in discussions and negotiations with, a few of which are interested in what the resolution looks like out of the U.N. and how that works.  So, that answers your question.  My guess is you're going to see the 55,000 Iraqis go up to 75.000, or 100,000 over some period of time.  Why?  Because it’s their country.

 

     Q:  By the end of the year?

 

     Rumsfeld:  No, come on.  I don't do deadlines.

 

     Q:  You have a goal, though?

 

     Rumsfeld:  And my goal is to always exceed the goal and to do it (Inaudible.) better.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible).

 

     Rumsfeld:  That's a fair question.  I think it helps the Iraqi people.  I think it helps the neighboring countries.  I think it helps some non-neighboring countries feel that it is a truly international effort.  I think it tends to belie the argument that these countries are there to get the Iraqi or these countries are going to stay forever.  People in the United States don't want to stay here forever.  The people in the United States have isolationist impulses.  Our first choice is to not be doing that.  And to have our folks at home.  So the (Inaudible.) of international forces is a helpful thing I believe.  Always have.  That's why we started before the war started trying to get other countries involved.  In fact we even started before the war started and the liaison teams down at CENTCOM were working with the Brits and the Aussies in case a war started to get them involved.

 

     Thanks a lot.