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Media Stakeout Following Secretary Rumsfeld's HASC Testimony

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 18, 2002

Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2002

(Media stakeout following the testimony at the House Armed Services Committee. Also participating was Representative Duncan L. Hunter, California)

Hunter: Ladies and gentlemen, we had an excellent hearing today in which the Secretary and General Myers laid out I think a very compelling argument against doing nothing. They laid out the military situation with respect to weapons of mass destruction in their programs that are being carried on by Iraq with a history of violations of U.N. Resolutions and the aggression of Iraq in the last 10 or 15 years. The prospect of having an unbalanced Middle East with an Iraq that has nuclear weapons and the prospect for Iraq having nuclear weapons to go along with the weapons of mass destruction including chemical and biological weapons in the next five to seven years.

So I think the Secretary laid out a very solid set of facts for us today. We built upon a secret hearing that we held this morning for some 83 Members of Congress preceding the secretary's visit. So we'll ask the secretary to make a short statement to you. He only has a couple of minutes. And respond to a question or two.

Rumsfeld: I can't imagine anything I can say that I haven't already said.

Q: Sir, [inaudible] private support [inaudible] countries. Can you just name the categories of aid [inaudible] ?

Rumsfeld: We are, needless to say, comfortable that in the event the president decided it was appropriate to take some action that that could be done. We are talking to other countries to see various ways they can be helpful as well and seeking that type of broad support that the president proposed at the United Nations.

Q: [inaudible] special operations forces [inaudible] Do you have a plan to consolidate [inaudible] ?

Rumsfeld: General Franks is doing a terrific job and General Holland's doing a terrific job with Special Operations, and when we have something to announce with respect to command arrangements, if in fact we ever do, we'll announce it. We don't have anything to announce today.

As the General said, we're still worrying our way through some of those issues.

Q: [inaudible] Germans [inaudible] Iraq [inaudible] ?

Secretary Rumsfeld: Are you trying to get me to say something undiplomatic?

Q: [inaudible] what if the countries do not [inaudible] ?

Secretary Rumsfeld: Oh, I think they will. It's the right thing to do.

Q: [inaudible] change?

Hunter: I'm convinced there's a need to keep Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear systems. I think it's very clear that he is going to acquire those systems in my opinion in the very near future. Looking at all of the classified information that we've had and also the open information that we've had. So I think it's necessary to do what it takes to make sure that we don't pass on to the next generation this problem of having a Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons.

The real answer to that question is the nature of the target. Whether or not we could destroy that complex, which is a pretty extensive complex, and I'm talking about the nuclear, biological and chemical complex, without having to have a regime change. I think that's a question that goes to an analysis of the target and something Congress is going to have to discuss.

If it takes a regime change to eliminate the prospect of nuclear weapons, my answer is yes. And I think a number of Members, having heard the classified briefings this morning and having heard the Secretary and General Myers today would share that view.

Let's take one more question for the Secretary. The Secretary has to go. He's 40 minutes late and he bids you farewell.

I'll be happy to answer one more question then I've got to go.

Q: [inaudible]

Hunter: I think first you already have a U.N. mandate to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear -- We already have that. And you already have a vote by Congress for a change of regime, a 1998 vote. And we have clear violations of the U.N. Resolutions that are before us now. In fact even following the receipt of a letter saying they would comply with U.N. Resolutions, it was pointed out by the Secretary since they gave us a letter saying they wanted to comply with Resolutions they've now fired at us on two occasions while we're enforcing the present Resolutions in the no-fly zone. So they sent a letter saying we want to comply, and they then pulled the trigger and tried to shoot our planes down. So I see Congress acting and this country acting in its own security interests.

I think Kofi Annan was correct when he said that the President's speech galvanized the world community against Saddam Hussein. I think in fact it did that. And I think we'll have lots of people working with us in a coalition. But if it has to be a lonelier operation, in the 1991 operation we had a tremendous number of allies, nonetheless, I think the United States is going to undertake it. Thanks you and --

Q: [inaudible]

Hunter: Well, I think they're two separate people, but I think they both have, there's a valid reason obviously because of the enormous tragedy and the enormous destruction that Osama bin Laden handed to the United States in the attacks on the U.S. is obviously, he is a tremendous enemy of the United States. But similarly Saddam Hussein in attacking his neighbors, in gassing his own people, in trying to assassinate an American President and in invading Kuwait and in killing American troops in that operation and even today and yesterday in firing on American aircraft certainly has established himself as an adversary of the United States who is dangerous now, but potentially is extraordinarily dangerous upon the acquisition of a nuclear system.

Q: [inaudible]?

Hunter: I don't think we have to waive them to decide whether or not we're going to act against either one.

I think one point General Myers made clearly and the Secretary made in this hearing was that the United States is strong enough militarily to take on both challenges, and we better fold up here, but we'll take one more.

Q: [inaudible]

Hunter: The Members of the House, we've had an excellent, several classified briefings. We had one last week. We had one just before the Secretary came in. We had 83 Members that attended this morning at 8:00 o'clock. So we're getting a lot more information which is important. This is going to be a very important decision for Members of the House and they're educating themselves very rapidly and spending a lot of time on this, so yes, they do have classified information.

Thank you very much, folks. I appreciate it.

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