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Secretary Rumsfeld's Media Roundtable With The BBC And Voice Of America

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 16, 2002

Friday, Sept. 13, 2002

(Media Roundtable with Nick Childs, BBC, Alex Belida, Voice of America, Mouafac Harb, Sawa news director, Daniel Nassif, Sawa reporter and director of Iraqi Stream.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, on the subject of Afghanistan you've been talking about the various transitions of the operation and a year on now you're transitioning from the full-on military campaign to something that focuses a bit more on the humanitarian side, the reconstruction side. Isn't that in a way the most difficult part when you're wearing two hats, trying to pursue a high-risk military campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban while at the same time trying to bring a sense of normalcy to the country?

Rumsfeld: I don't know that I'd say it's the hardest part. Clearly the Soviet Union found the hardest part the first part, and that's all there was the first part. Trying to do what they intended to do in that country.

We've been successful in the first part in having the Taliban no longer there and the al Qaeda no longer operating effectively.

We have been since the first day engaged in humanitarian assistance and civil action activities admittedly. It was down around the one or two or three percent, and today, over the past period it's probably been about 20, 25, 30 percent of our activities.

As you transition into what we think of as the fourth phase sometime this month or next month one would think, in at least portions of the country. It would probably go to 50, 60, 70 percent of the effort would be in the humanitarian effort would be in the humanitarian and civil action categories and the smaller percentage would be the military activities, actually doing sweeps, finding caches, chasing down al Qaeda and Taliban to the extent we get tips as to where they might be.

So I wouldn't think that it would be the most difficult. I think it's perfectly possible to do both and I think we've been doing both really almost since the beginning although admittedly in recent weeks and months it's gotten a much higher percentage in the humanitarian side.

The important thing about the country is to recognize that it is not even in terms of its security circumstance or the humanitarian needs of the country. It's uneven. And the most difficult area still remains from a security standpoint southeast of Kabul towards the Pakistan border. So we very likely would not transition there into the fourth page. We'd probably stay essentially in the military phase of it.

Q: In this fourth phase do you invasion any significant change in the actual deployment numbers in Afghanistan?

Rumsfeld: I don't. They've been going up. But any dramatic shift in total numbers? One of the things that are helping of course is as we continue to train the Afghan Army that helps in terms of security. As the police force continues to get trained and the border guards continue to get trained, it would be nice if there were additional coalition forces coming in. We've gone from an earlier figure down around 4500 I think up to close to 8,000 plus at the present time, so ours have increased somewhat.

Coalition forces have been rotating in and out for the most part, but overall it's not been notably different with the total numbers. I think the Afghan contribution will increase as we go along.

Q: Can I just ask one question on the subject of Iraq? President Bush has been speaking this morning about the timetable he has in mind. He says he's talking about days and weeks rather than months and years. There have been various reports suggesting a quiet military buildup going on in the Gulf perhaps preparatory to something. Could you comment on that? Is that what we're seeing?

Rumsfeld: I didn't hear the President's comments so I can't comment on them.

The only thing I would add on the Afghanistan situation however, is that we do take very seriously the responsibility that the international community has to contribute to the reconstruction effort in that country and to work with the Karzai government to see that his position and his administration's position is strengthened in the country so that they will be able to begin to provide for their own security and their own future, and we're serious about all the things we're doing, and we've done a great deal and we intend to continue to do a great deal and we're hopeful that the international community will step forward and fulfill their pledges.

Q: Mr. Secretary, in that connection, staying with Afghanistan and reconstruction and security, you've said often, along with other officials, that thing were indeed a lot better in Afghanistan than they were a year ago, but there are some who say maybe they should be in fact better than they are. You have an incident like this tragic bombing in Kabul, you have the assassination attempt on President Karzai. There are suggestions, maybe there's an organized and growing insurgency movement in the country.

What can we do together with our partners to bring stability about, combat that?

Rumsfeld: Well if you look at countries all across the globe you will find there are periodic bombings and periodic assassination attempts and periodic coup attempts. There was a terrible explosion in Pakistan not too long ago. There are people in the world who are unhappy with the status quo and are trying to overthrow it and I think one has to expect that. With respect to Afghanistan specifically, what you have is a very successful military effort to replace the Taliban, the Loya Jurga elected a new government, and it's run the al Qaeda out of the country.

In terms of any large concentrations, that's been accomplished. That does not mean there are not a lot of individuals who are sympathetic to the Taliban still there and in neighboring countries, and indeed al Qaeda in neighboring countries, and I don't doubt for a minute some still there.

But we know that Iran has reasonably large pockets of them, for example. We know that a number of them went into Pakistan and we know that they've tried to go north as well and they've also migrated across water into countries, totally different countries.

They've also gone to school on this. That is to say they've watched how we've done things and how the Karzai government's doing things and then made conscious decisions to try to weaken the Karzai government. I think we have to expect that. It's a tough part of the world.

Q: Is it a mission for troops still? Because I know you in the past, you don't like that sort of police activity. Then it seems to some people this is more a police and intelligence operation, or it's becoming one.

Rumsfeld: Well a manhunt is certainly not what the armed forces of the United States are organized, trained and equipped to do. We may have to learn to do that and we are indeed learning to do it, but what we've got to do is contribute to the security situation and the reconstruction so that over time the people of that country take it upon themselves to provide for their security. And I must say there are some very good signs.

One is the flow of refugees' back into the country. Refugees are people who've had a tough time and if they're making a conscious judgment that things are better there than they are outside where they were, then they're voting with their feet and they're walking testimony to the fact that the circumstances improved dramatically. I think that's an important fact.

Q: So these incidents that occur --

Rumsfeld: Expect them. There are going to be more.

Any knucklehead can throw a grenade or take some explosive and blow up something. It doesn't take a genius. And there are plenty of folks around the world, who like to do that, and they like to kill innocent men, women and children, and our preference is that they not do it. So what we do is create a presence in a way that, you're right, it's not the first thing you'd want to do but we're doing it because someone needs to do it, and until the Karzai government is able to do it why coalition forces are going to have to do it.

There are a couple of other things that are very important indicators. One is there is not a week that goes by that we don't get three or four or five individuals coming up to us and saying look, there are some bad guys there. There are some caches of weapons located here if you want to go find them. And we're finding one or two or three caches of weapons every week. Big numbers. I've released them to the press. Enormous. Hundreds of thousands of rounds of things. It's an amazing thing.

These people don't need to come to us and tell us that, but they are. It's because they're looking at the situation and they say you know, this is an awful lot better situation than it was before. We don't want these folks to come back, the Taliban. Now they'd love to, don't get me wrong, and they'll try.

Q: If I may move to Iraq, Mr. Secretary. The President two days ago at the United Nations made a case how the United Nations failed so far to prevent Saddam from keeping or acquiring weapons of mass destruction. And in 1996 it took a defector, not an inspector, to discover what Saddam is up to.

Why do we have to go and pursue another Security Council Resolution?

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know that we do or don't. I think what the President's decided, that the breach of those resolutions is an offense not to the United States but to the United Nations and to the nation in the United Nations who have taken it upon themselves repeatedly, I don't know what number it is. Fifteen, 16, something like that, resolutions. An enormous number. Sixteen? Yeah. And the nations in the United Nations have said in strident language that Saddam Hussein must do this, must do that, shall not do this. To the extent he has broken I believe all but one, and probably has broken that as well and we just don't know it, failed to live up to those resolutions, one would think that the President did exactly the right thing by very forcefully going to the United Nations and noting for them what they seem to have not registered fully. That is that the Iraqi regime stands in material breach of all of those resolutions.

Now he did not say therefore you must do this or you should do that, the President. He said how do you feel about that? Don't you think you ought to take that aboard? And unless -- If you want this institution to be relevant, if you want this institution to have a role in the world, oughtn't the institution take aboard the fact that they have passed all of these resolutions and they have all been broken? He has not offered a specific resolution to the United Nations that I know of. I know Secretary Powell is going to be working with the countries. There is any number of things the United Nations might decide to do. The easiest would be to simply say that's right and have a finding, again, an additional finding on the part of the United Nations that in fact they have broken all of those resolutions. There are any numbers of other gradations of that. I don't know what they'll end up deciding to do.

Q: We have a policy of the Iraq Liberation Act which was passed by Congress and at the same time we have obligations towards the United Nations and the Security Council. Do you see any contradiction between pursuing a regime change publicly and internationally, in the Security Council, not dealing with this kind of issue? How can the United States kind of merge the two policies together?

Rumsfeld: Well, I guess that's a question for the President, but there certainly isn't any reason that any country in the United Nations can't support the United Nations resolutions which do not involve regime change and simultaneously have a national position which is their sovereign right as the Congress demonstrated, to have a policy that expresses the view that regime change is really the appropriate solution.

The U.S. policy, I'd have to go back and read it, but I don't believe it specifies a specific method of achieving regime change. I think it probably talks about political, economic, as well as the military activity with respect to the Northern No-Fly Zone and the Southern No-Fly Zone. So that has been the policy for a number of years of the United States. I don't find that in conflict. And to what extent it would be merged is of course a judgment for the United Nations and for the President either in agreement or not.

Q: I have a follow-up on the Iraqi issue, if I may. You said once that the mission dictates the coalition and not that the coalition dictates the mission.

Rumsfeld: Uh huh.

Q: What is the mission today vis-a-vis Iraq and what kind of coalition would you envision?

Rumsfeld: I do believe that the mission ought to determine the coalition. To the extent a coalition is fashioned without a mission, it's kind of like a coalition in a government. They get together and they take the things they see and know and come to an agreement and then they agree to govern. And the next day or week or month a new issue comes along and they haven't addressed that, they haven't agreed on that. So pretty soon the government falls.

What we decided was, a year ago, that countries are different. They have different histories, they have different circumstances, they have different opinions among their populations, and that what we ought to do is recognize the urgent thing was to be able to conduct the global war on terrorism was to get people to help and we ought to take their help on any basis that they want to give it.

So if a country's willing to share intelligence but it doesn't have a navy or an army or an air force or it is afraid to say so publicly because the population is very divided on that issue and they want to give us intelligence, my attitude is we'll take it. And the coalition's goal was to find the terrorists and to capture or kill them and stop them, and to stop nations from harboring and providing safe haven for terrorists. And we now have over 90 countries that are helping in one way or another and they're helping in totally different ways. The reason the coalition is so powerful and so broad and so deep is because we aren't asking every country to do exactly the same thing. We aren't asking every country to do everything publicly as opposed to privately. We're not asking them all to freeze bank accounts. We'd like them to, but if they're willing to share intelligence and they're willing to do some other things but they're not willing to freeze bank accounts of terrorists, we can live with that and that's what we do.

You can't answer your question with respect to Iraq until someone makes a decision as to what precisely they think ought to be done with respect to Iraq, and that's obviously not been concluded at this stage. The President's in the process of going to the Congress and going to the world community and saying here's what we believe is the situation and we want to talk with you about it and see what you think about it in a very deliberative way.

Q: On Iraq, sir, one of the things our partners in the international community are apparently interested in is evidence of Iraq's intentions, particularly with weapons of mass destruction. Before they make a decision as to what they might or might not do, do you have fresh evidence that you can make public now on Iraq's intentions with weapons of mass destruction? There have been suggestions that you have some new indications of their plan.

Rumsfeld: I thought the President laid out the case, the public case very very well. He listed a whole series of breaches in behavior. He pointed out that they do have these capabilities. He pointed out that they've already used them against their own people and their neighbors.

When I hear the word evidence it conjures up a couple of things for me. One is that somebody is misguided and is looking for the kind of information that you could take into a court of law and prove beyond a reasonable doubt and that's one mindset kind of under Article 3 of our Constitution in the criminal justice system where the goal is to punish a person, which of course the goal is not here to punish anybody. The goal is to learn information and to have them disarm themselves of their weapons of mass destruction capabilities. There's no debate in the world as to whether they have those weapons. There's no debate in the world as to whether they're continuing to develop and acquire them. There's no debate in the world as to whether or not he's used them. There's no debate in the world as to whether or not he's consistently threatening his neighbors with them. We all know that. A trained ape knows that. All you have to do is read the newspaper.

Now the other reason for asking for more evidence, of course, is to delay it and to not do anything. That's fine. That's a legitimate opinion. These are tough issues. These aren't simple. People ought to have different views and they ought to discuss them and debate them. I've got no problem with people having different opinions on this. I think that's just fine. But to have an insatiable appetite for new, fresh evidence when the landscape is littered with evidence in multiple languages, it strikes me that it would be a mistake to run around in circles trying to do that.

Second, intelligence information is gathered. It's gathered from sources or it's gathered by using methods, as you know well. To the extent you take everything you're able to learn and you disgorge it trying to persuade the last soul on earth that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and has used them and is continuing to develop and build up his capabilities and is continuing to threaten his neighbors, what do you do?

All you do is you absolutely certainly put people's lives at risk if they're the sources of the information. And you almost absolutely deny yourself the future use of those methods of gathering intelligence.

Now that is not a very smart thing to do. In fact it would be a mindless thing to do. Furthermore, if you did it to that person who is seeking that last piece of smoking gun, the last shred of possible thing that we could find, if you gave them that, they'd still want another.

So my view of it is that we ought to make a case. The President's doing that. He did a wonderful job at the United Nations. The Central Intelligence Agency and the Director of Central Intelligence will be making the intelligence case. There is a policy case, which Secretary Powell will be making before the Congress and before the United Nations Security Council. My view on it is that -- You know in life it would be wonderful if everyone agreed with everybody but these are tough issues. These are important issues. And everyone's not going to agree and that's okay. That's the way life is.

Q: How did 9/11 and the Iraqi conflict change the approach to the Iraqi issue? Would you have made that case if 9/11 hadn't taken place?

Rumsfeld: Well, the United Nations has made it repeatedly over a period of a decade, eleven years. We're still flying Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch trying to restrain his ability to attack his neighbors and to repress his minorities. Legislation was passed years before.

You know what's going on is very interesting if you think about it. You think of the books that have been written after major wars like "Why England Slept" or "Pearl Harbor, What Happened?" Then all the analysts go back and they try to connect the dots. They try to figure out what scraps of information were known and why weren't they able to piece it all together and behave in a way and provide the leadership in a way that would have prevented that from happening?

Right now in the Congress of the United States as we sit here, there are hearings going on about September 11th of last year. They are trying to connect the dots. They are trying to find -- We have disgorged thousands of pieces of paper up to the Congress and they have people, dozens of people pouring over these pieces of paper trying to find out who knew what when and how that might have connected and how somebody might have been able to stop something. They call it connecting the dots.

What we're trying to do is help people connect the dots before that happens the next time. That's hard. We don't have thousands of pages of documentation we can disgorge. But what we're trying to do is say to the world and what the President did so eloquently up at the United Nations was to say to the world look, it's a different security environment, it's a dangerous world, the regime is doing what it's doing, and the implications of it in a world of weapons of mass destruction are notably different than they were with respect to September 11th or with respect to Pearl Harbor. It's a different security environment and let's try to connect the dots before the fact.

Now is it possible to connect the dots even after the fact perfectly? No. That makes it 20 times harder to connect the dots before the fact. That's what leadership's about, that's what it's called.

Q: It sounds to me like you're saying the evidence is there, it's time for action.

Rumsfeld: I'm not saying anything like that. That's not my job. That's the President's job. That's the United Nations' job. That's the Congress' job. My job as Defense Secretary is not that at all. I'm just trying to add a little conceptual underpinning to the debate that's taking place.

Q: You said, "those who are asking for more evidence, are trying to delay it?" What is it? And, Who are those people?

Rumsfeld: No. I said there are various reasons for wanting more evidence. First of all, it's human nature. We all would like perfection. We'd like all the dots connected for us with a ribbon wrapped around it.

Second is that people, at least in our country, have a tendency to think of the court of law where you want evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. You want to be able to be certain that you know before anyone's punished. My point is, this isn't punishment. We've got the wrong model in our minds if we're thinking about punishment. We're not. This isn't retaliation or retribution. That isn't what the United States of America is about.

Then I said that some people then, even if they had all of that, would still they'd like more simply because it's human nature and it would delay it and help you not have to make a tough decision.

Q: You said that it's the President's decision as to what action to take.

Rumsfeld: And the United Nations and the Congress, yeah.

Q: Mr. Bush seemed to be saying at the United Nations that it's up to the United Nations to act, but if it doesn't the United States is prepared to. Is that how you interpreted it?

Rumsfeld: I think I'll let his words stand. He's the President.

Q: You have spoken about your skepticism or your concerns about reintroducing an inspection regime because of the level of assurances that you need in terms of seeking out new weapons of mass destruction and what Saddam Hussein might or might not have.

Do you believe that faced with the initiative by Mr. Bush that Saddam Hussein now will be prepared to accept the kind of inspection regime that you would be assured with?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I have no idea.

Q: And Mr. Secretary, what would a regime change in Iraq [mean] for the whole Middle East region? A, to the Arab-Israeli conflict and B, to the democratization of the [inaudible]?

Rumsfeld: I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it's hard to believe you could have a regime that would be worse. The views that the President has expressed and others around the world is the belief that an Iraq that is in one piece, an entire country, an Iraq that does not have weapons of mass destruction, an Iraq that is not a threat to its neighbors, an Iraq that is not a threat to its own people and has respect for minorities and has a system which allows them to have a voice in what takes place in their country would be the model that, the general model that one would want. It would be up to the Iraqi people to figure out what template within those reasonable constraints seemed appropriate.

What would that mean to the Iraqi people? It would mean that fewer of them would get killed every year; fewer Iraqi people would be repressed. Iraq would become a part of the world community and economic -- The Iraqi people are very intelligent, they're well educated, they're industrious. The energy that would flow into that country from an economic standpoint within a reasonable period of time -- It's a wealthy country. I mean they've got oil revenues for one thing, but they also have a good population, a well-educated population.

So how do you measure that? Think of the faces in Afghanistan when the people were liberated, when they moved out in the streets and they started singing and flying kites and women went to school and people were able to function and other countries were able to start interacting with them. That's what would happen in Iraq. It's a pariah state today.

What would it mean to its neighbors? It would mean they were no longer threatened. It would mean they no longer had a neighbor with weapons of mass destruction that were trying to blackmail them and impose their will on them. It would transform that part of the world significantly it seems to me in terms of -- Think of the benefits that would accrue in Jordan, in Turkey, in the neighboring countries because of economic activity and the like. Everyone would be better off except a small clique.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you have to help me out here, and help us out because every day now there's a new report that comes out. General Franks is here, he's meeting with officials, he meets the President, and they're talking plans for Iraq. The next day --

Rumsfeld: That's the press saying that. That isn't General Franks saying that.

Q: Agreed. The next day you have CENTCOM is having an exercise and they're dispatching some of their staff to Qatar. You had a report about equipment being propositioned in Kuwait. It all makes it sound like it's a question of the next 24 hours we're going in.

How do you deal with this sense of imminence? Can you put it in some kind of perspective?

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know quite how to answer the question. First of all, the President is a straightforward person. He has said what he has said. He's taken folks up to the Congress; he's going to the United Nations. He's not made a decision as to what he believes is the appropriate course.

We have -- General Franks has been wanting to move portions of his headquarters from Tampa, Florida over there ever since I've known him a year and a half plus ago. The headquarters for Europe's in Europe; the headquarters in the Pacific is in the Pacific; our headquarters for Central Command is in Tampa.

So if you start trying to read those tealeaves I think you'll have trouble.

How do I deal with it? Very comfortably. Thank you.

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