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Rumsfeld Media Availability with Italian Minister of Defense

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
May 10, 2002 12:45 PM EDT

(Media availability with Italian Minister of Defense Antonio Martino)

Rumsfeld: Greetings!

We have had a good session. As a matter of fact, I -- Minister Martino of Italy and I had a visit yesterday as well, but we've just completed a meeting with our respective staffs and had a good discussion on a -- about NATO and our partnership there, about the role that Italy is playing in Operation Enduring Freedom, and the activities they have with respect to the International Security Assistance Force. We talked about a broad range of issues. And I'm delighted to have the minister here. He's a good friend. And I would ask him if he would like to make a few remarks, and then we'll turn to questions.

Martino: Just to add that as usual, as has happened before, it was a pleasure to have this meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld and the feeling that I'm talking to an old friend and we share so many views, we have so many things in common. I'm looking forward to a continued relationship of friendship and in the defense of the common values that we share for a long time.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

I don't see Charlie.

Q: He's not here.

Q: He's not here today.

Q: He's not here today.

Q: Go to Barbara instead.

Rumsfeld: Barbara! (laughs) She's not -- she doesn't look like Charlie. (laughs)

(laughter)

Q: Thank you. Can I ask you a question, Mr. Secretary, about Iraq, something different, at the moment? You've expressed a lot of skepticism in the past about the resumption of inspections and whether or not they can be effective. And as the United Nations moves next week towards imposing more flexible sanctions on Iraq, an easing of sanctions, do you also have skepticism or doubt that these new, so-called smart sanctions will be full proof, or do you have any concerns that Iraq may use it as an opportunity to get dual-use military- capable equipment into the country?

Rumsfeld: Well, I'm not an expert on the -- what will eventually evolve in these discussions that have been going on. I'm familiar with it at various stages

But Iraq has a lot of border. They're porous borders. Quite apart from what's permitted and not permitted, there's a great deal that's moving across their border, and it is common knowledge in the world that Iraq has an enormous appetite for weapons of mass destruction and military capabilities. They've used them on their neighbors. They've invaded neighbors, and they -- Saddam Hussein has declared a number of neighboring states as being illegitimate.

So I -- with respect to dual-use capabilities, we know of certain knowledge that -- the reality is that there are things that can be used both very effectively for civilian purposes and very effectively for military purposes. There are also things that can be converted from seemingly innocent purposes to clearly not innocent purposes.

So if the question goes not to what's going to happen by way of the vote, but to a question as to whether or not it's likely that those borders will be sealed and prevent things that will enhance Iraq's military capability. I think the answer is it will not. I think the discussions are useful, and certainly the United States has been participating in those, and I'm -- have every confidence that things will be better than they were. But there's no question, if you have a determined dictator, as we do with Saddam Hussein, that he's going to continue to improve his military capability, as he has been in recent months.

Q: What has he done in recent months, sir?

Rumsfeld: Well, he has been bringing things in that he has been converting to military purposes.

Q: You mean dual-use technology that he's using to weaponize any particular --

Rumsfeld: It is technology that becomes dual-use when it's converted for a military purpose.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yes.

Q: Can I ask you a question on Afghanistan? Could you fill us in on the latest on the British search? They found a big cache of weapons. And also, what are your thoughts about turning attention to the warlord Hekmatyar and any -- does that signal any kind of new direction for the war?

Rumsfeld: There is no question but that a sizable cache has been located. It is not unusual that that's the case. We have been finding them, as you know, periodically over recent months. There is no doubt but that there are many, many more of those caches of -- whether its mortars, artillery pieces, missiles, small arms, ammunition. We found large -- truckloads -- numerous truckloads full. And it is a useful thing to be conducting these sweeps. These sweeps will likely continue, and I suspect we'll continue to find those types of caches.

I don't know that I have anything to say about the Hekmatyar issue.

Q: But do you think that it -- many people, including Human Rights Watch, have labeled him a notorious criminal, and he deserves to be a military target. Will the U.S. military become more involved in searching for warlords, like these notorious types?

Rumsfeld: We have made no changes in our policy whatsoever. The policy of the United States is to do exactly what we've said on repeated occasions: to find the al Qaeda and the Taliban and to kill them or capture them and to see that they aren't able to destabilize the interim -- Afghan interim authority; and to try to contribute to a security environment through the International Security Assistance Force and our forces and the regional political leaders that have militias, their forces, where we have people working with them; to try to create an environment in the country so that refugees can return home, so that humanitarian assistance can be provided, schools can be opened and the interim government can begin to find its legs and contribute to a civil society.

Q: (In Italian)

Martino: (Begins in Italian) -- I answer in Italian.

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Martino: (In Italian)

Q: The Army has concluded its investigation into the Crusader, the talking points, the whole Crusader incident. In your view, does Secretary White bear no responsibility for this episode?

Rumsfeld: Well, you know, I'm the secretary of defense, and if someone in the department does something that one would wish they hadn't, that's my responsibility. So, too, if something happens in the Army, it's his responsibility. On the other hand, he was without knowledge of what took place, and in my view, he has addressed the subject. There's been an inspector general's report, which I have not read, but I have had it summarized for me by the deputy general counsel, and I'm aware of the statement that has been made, and I believe that it has been handled properly.

Q: Is the matter now closed, or will there be any other disciplinary action taken?

Rumsfeld: In terms of disciplinary action, my understanding is that -- one of the individuals who was involved directly at a senior level has submitted his resignation -- voluntarily, I should add, to his credit -- and is departing. The -- whatever else might be done with respect to legislative liaison and how it's organized and its size and those types of things, I think, would not -- fall in the subject of disciplinary. So the answer to your question is, this would complete whatever might be done disciplinary -- from a disciplinary standpoint, although I would not say it's necessarily all that that will be done.

Q: Are you heading for a showdown with Capitol Hill over the Defense budget?

Rumsfeld: Oh, wouldn't you love that, Jamie?

Q: (chuckles)

Rumsfeld: Wouldn't you love it? (chuckles)

Q: (laughs)

Rumsfeld: No, I don't think so. I think a showdown is -- you mean like "High Noon," with pistols and things? I doubt that.

I think what'll actually happen is that the constitutional system that we have will work, and work well. And we will use our best judgment, make decisions, recommend them to the Congress, and then provide the persuasive presentations that will end up persuading a sufficient number of the members of the House and Senate that our position is a sound and rational one from the standpoint of the United States armed forces, and that we'll end up prevailing.

Q: Minister, did you discuss about the financial terms of the Italian participation into the Joint Strike Fighter project?

Martino: Well, the details of the participation of Italy in the Joint Strike Fighter project are certainly not to be discussed with the secretary of defense. This would be dealt with at the technical level.

What I did do is I informed the secretary, and he already knew that we have submitted the project to the committees in both houses for the approval of the project.

Rumsfeld: Last question.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the IG report said that Secretary White had directed his staff to continue to answer questions saying the Army supported the Crusader after Secretary Wolfowitz told him that it was about to be cancelled. Does that --

Rumsfeld: I -- just so we get everyone on the same wavelength, I don't believe that's correct.

Q: You don't believe that he told his staff to --

Rumsfeld: I don't believe that your characterization of the statement that was made by the Army is correct.

Q: It is correct.

Q: That's what was in their press release this morning.

Q: Yeah, that's what their press release said but -- (inaudible) -- your understanding of what he said -- does that -- (inaudible) --

Rumsfeld: My -- well, let me give you my understanding. My understanding is roughly this -- and I think that press release probably says something reasonably close to it -- I hope it does -- if it doesn't, Torie, raise your right arm when I misspeak -- (soft laughter) -- that the Department of the Army, including the secretary, continued to support the president's budget, which included Crusader, until he was advised explicitly to the contrary -- that a final decision had been made. And at that point, he discontinued supporting what had been the president's budget and began supporting the president's budget reflecting that decision.

Q: So you don't see his actions as undercutting your authority at all?

Rumsfeld: I don't. (soft laughter)

Q: Can we ask the minister one more question?

Rumsfeld: You bet.

Q: Sir, could you just help us understand Italy's current position -- the government position on accepting any of the Palestinians that have come out of the Church of the Nativity? Is your government willing to accept any of those people into Italy?

Martino: Well, first of all, let me say that as minister of defense, I'm not competent in that area. And I've been away from Italy for a few days, so I don't know what the government's official policy is, but I have a pretty good idea. And the idea is: We shall do what we can -- what is necessary to help the peace process resume, to solve this impasse in the situation, which means that the -- (inaudible) -- we probably accept -- I don't know under what legal position, one or more of these terrorists. I doubt that that's going to be the last step in the decision. I am sure that -- having these people come -- go to various countries is only one step towards some other kind of solution. That cannot be a long-lasting idea of having those people live in other countries.

Q: Would you have them in some sort of confinement in Italy, or would they be allowed to be free?

Martino: You would have to ask my colleague of the interior. He has control over the police forces. I don't know what decision has been made.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much, folks.

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