DoD News Briefing 30/1- Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, January 30, 2001 - 2:03 p.m. EST
(Also participating; General Richard Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. In the State of the Union : address last night, President Bush laid out his vision of the task that our country faces and the task that the military will face. The new budget is designed to strengthen the armed forces for today's global war on terror, and to better prepare the armed forces for the wars that we may have to face in the period ahead.
The new budget is designed to help build an armed force that is prepared to contend with surprise -- and let there be no doubt, there will be surprises, undoubtedly somewhat different from September 11th, but surely there will be surprises again.
Our military deserves praise for the early successes in the war on terrorism. But even as we continue that war, we cannot afford to wait to transform our military for the threats of the 21st century.
For 2003, the president will seek what he characterized as the largest increase in defense spending since the 1980s. It's a great deal of money. It's the taxpayers' money. It is not the government's money, it is the taxes that are paid by people who work in Chicago and Dallas and Portland and Seattle. They're hard-earned dollars. But compared with the costs in dollars, if one thinks about the cost in dollars and lives of a conflict, there's no question but that investment before the fact is much cheaper. Seeing that our country has the capability to contribute to peace and stability in the world is the wise and prudent and, in the last analysis, the cheapest way both in dollars and in human treasure.
The president's budget will fund the war on terrorism. It will help to reverse the effects of years of under-investment when the so- called procurement holiday occurred and the draw down from the end of the Cold War overshot its mark. And we will be moving forward with 21st century transformation.
There are those who seem to think that all transformation really is to fire some senior military officer or cancel some major weapon system. I read that from time to time. That's not the case. Transformation is an ongoing process. It is not something that ends; it is a continuum because the world is not static. And it's a process in which we create an effective fighting force with new ways of thinking, with new culture, and with new ways of fighting and, to be sure, in some instances with new weapon systems and platforms, but also how they are used together, as we've seen in Afghanistan.
Our enemies are learning from our successes and their mistakes, and certainly they'll continue to seek new ways to threaten us. The budget will provide resources for precision-guided munitions, as well as funds for defenses against missiles and other asymmetric threats, for unmanned vehicles, and for advanced equipment for soldiers on the ground.
And the budget is also designed to help us manage the department in a more business-like manner. It streamlines and retires a number of defense programs that do not fit with our strategy for the 21st century. It provides funds to fight and win the war on terror, and it provides funds to improve the quality of life for the men and women in the armed services who serve there voluntarily and put their lives at risk. Our budget will include another pay raise for the men and women who volunteer to serve the country. It's an important step forward to help us ensure that Americans will be able to live in peace and freedom in the 21st century.
General Myers, do you have anything?
Myers: Sir, I do not.
Rumsfeld: Charlie, do you have anything? (Laughter.)
Q: Yes, sir, I do! Mr. Secretary, it's been a week now for the dust to kind of settle and the facts to straighten out on what happened in the raid north of Kandahar last week. You all said -- Pentagon officials have said that 15 Taliban were killed and 27 were arrested. And yet persistent reports from the region, including one today quoting security sources, say that in fact, an anti-Taliban leader and perhaps 17 of his men were killed by U.S. forces who were misled by local Afghans.
I wonder if you could comment on that and tell us what you found out?
Myers: Charlie, that investigation is still ongoing. It's being conducted by General Franks down at Central Command. And I can't tell you when we anticipate the results of that to be done, but it's still ongoing.
Q: Well, have you any -- Admiral Stufflebeem almost dismissed it on Monday. Have you any indication at all that in fact you might not have killed Taliban and that through mistake, you might have killed anti-Taliban government forces?
Myers: At this point, no, we have no information like that. But again, I'd just -- I'd wait for the investigation to complete. As you know, the situation over there can be very, very complex with allegiances changing, depending on the situation. And so we'll just have to wait till they work through that.
Q: And just one -- are you still holding the 27 that were arrested?
Gen: As far as I know, we still have the detainees; correct.
Q: General Myers, at the least, this is the first time we've heard that you're conducting an investigation into this incident. Can you tell us what led you or General Franks to decide to do that, when you started it, and what you're exactly looking at? Because I don't think we've heard this before today.
Myers: I think it's been announced before. I can't --
Rumsfeld: I think so.
Myers: -- I think we've said that. If we haven't --
Q: Admiral Stufflebeem certainly didn't indicate that.
Myers: I have said it before -- maybe not in front of this forum, but I've said it to other forums. So --
Q: Well, so could you tell us?
Myers: Well, the motivation, of course, is when you -- when the people that you associate with over there, when they bring up the question, you're obligated to go look at it, so that's what we're doing. I mean, it was just -- I don't think it was any sense on our part that we had done something wrong, it was that when there are allegations, you've got to go run them to ground, so that's what we're doing.
Rumsfeld: I've been involved in some discussions on the subject, and it's essentially this simple: that Tom Franks called and indicated to me that there had been somebody who had contacted somebody in the interim government and said that in their view, there were some people involved in that shoot-out that were killed who were not Taliban or al Qaeda. And that as a result of the contact to CENTCOM, General Franks has decided to conduct an investigation. This was some days ago. It was in a relatively short period after it happened, as I recall. And it's been underway and it is -- I would assume, would be resolved sometime in the coming days or a week or two.
Q: Mr. Secretary, last night at the State of the Union, the president served notice on North Korea, Iraq and Iran and their allies. If the United States should get into some sort of military action with these nations, does the United States have sufficient men and women in uniform to handle this kind of combat, or is there a thought here within DOD, and it is, perhaps, your thought too, that America should re-institute the draft?
Rumsfeld: There have been no discussions about re-instituting the draft. You can be sure that the United States, if it gets involved in additional activities in connection with the war on terror, that we'll have sufficient men and women to do the job.
Q: Secretary --
Q: Mr. Secretary, just one final question on the allegations out of Uruzgan. Do you have any indications that one of the buildings hit was, in fact, a government building, and not part of the Taliban compound?
Rumsfeld: I don't.
Myers: The facts -- the facts that we heard right after the event were that as they approached the compounds, that the folks on the other side started shooting first. That'll have to be verified, but they started the shooting. And the other thing we know is that there were no women and children involved in any of the two compounds. And the last thing we know for sure was what the secretary briefed, I think -- gee, it must have been last week -- on the armaments that -- that were found. And that's -- that's what we know, and I think the investigation by CENTCOM will try to figure out the rest of that.
Rumsfeld: Without repeating all of the facts, the notable facts were the ones that the general mentioned. There were large numbers of weapons, which were confiscated, and no women and children. And as the Americans and the Afghan forces approached, they were shot at by the people in the compound, which is something.
Q: A follow-up: I mean, I know that these reports -- this is sort of a pattern: You strike, and then there are reports that maybe the wrong thing was struck. But in this particular case, our reporter in Kandahar filed a story Sunday with some very compelling stuff from some locals. And now the Reuters story comes on top of this, with security officials. It's very persistent and consistent, and it's hard to believe that, you know, nothing so far. I understand you're investigating, but there aren't any concerns that there isn't any thought that perhaps there might be something to this?
Rumsfeld: Well, all we can say is General Franks decided to have the investigation. That seems to me to be the appropriate thing to do. Second, I don't think that it involves a pattern at all. It seems to me what you may be referring to is that when the Taliban ran the country and we were bombing, there were Taliban reports that were inaccurate. But since the Taliban have been -- left the country and taken out of power, I would not say there's been a pattern of that.
I will say this about the situation on the ground. It is true that there are Afghan factions on the ground that don't get along. It is true that people say things in ways that might -- they feel might advantage them.
Second, there are people who had relationships with Taliban, who want to be a part of the provincial governments that exist. There are tugs of war from time to time. There's no reason that it should have perfect clarity. We're still in the very early period. There -- people are struggling to figure who's going to govern what province and what people are going to serve in those provincial governments. And you have a country that had been run by the Taliban and the al Qaeda for some period of time, so an awful lot of the people there had various connections.
So it is perfectly possible that you could go into a compound, get shot at -- and let's not use the same fact pattern as this; let me -- forget this and don't connect it to the one you asked about. But it's perfectly possible to go in, in a situation, get shot at, shoot back, and end up having someone say that "those people were Taliban" and somebody else say that "those people were people we were engaging in our local government," and both can be true in as a confused a situation as it is in village after village in Afghanistan.
Is that fair enough? Clear?
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: Yes, sir?
Q: Can you bring us up to date on your views on whether or not to treat captives from the Taliban as POWs?
And as a backdrop to that, when the Pueblo crew was captured by North Korea in '68, the North Korean government declared them as detainees and spies, not POWs, and they tortured them. And therefore, one can argue, it's a two-edged sword. If we don't honor the Geneva Convention and treat them like POWs, if our guys get captured, the same thing could happen to them.
Rumsfeld: Fair enough. Let me comment on it.
Q: Can you bring us up to date on that?
Rumsfeld: You bet.
The Pueblo -- very clear situation. Men in uniform on a U.S. warship captured by Korea, taken in, unambiguous as to what they were.
They were people from the United States who were in uniform, with their weapons visible, with their insignia, who had every right to prisoner of war status under the Geneva Convention. No question.
Q: Well, excuse me just there. The Navy originally declared them as detainees. They didn't from the start declare them as prisoners of war.
Rumsfeld: Who's the Navy? Our Navy or the Korean?
Q: The U.S. Navy. They changed the status as the court of inquiry got going.
Rumsfeld: Mmm hmm.
Q: So I'm just trying to get --
Rumsfeld: Okay, let me answer the question though. Then you say, isn't it a two-edged sword, and it's a good question. The fact is, no it isn't. The Geneva Convention talks about lawful combatants and unlawful combatants. And what it does is it elevates lawful combatants, soldiers in a conflict between two countries so that they can be protected. Ours can be protected and other countries' can be protected and have the rights and privileges that accrue to you as a prisoner of war, which are distinctly different. You get a salary. You get accommodations that are roughly like the military that's holding you. You are allowed to have all kinds of special opportunities, musical instruments and things like this. There's a whole list of them that are the kinds of things that a prisoner of war is entitled to.
An unlawful combatant is identified differently for a very good reason, because people who don't wear uniforms, people who don't carry their weapons out, people who don't have insignia are confusing and blurring the line between them and civilians. And terrorists do go around killing civilians. And therefore it's not surprising they did not want to be seen as soldiers. They wanted to be seen as unlawful combatants. And that is the way they dressed. That's the way they behaved.
It would be a terrible thing if we said that the Geneva Convention is -- that notwithstanding the status and standing that a prisoner of war gets under the Geneva Convention, that we should blur that distinction and treat everyone the same, regardless of how they behave. The whole purpose of the Geneva Convention is to have a category for prisoners of war that get a special standing under that, if in fact they avoid blurring the distinction between innocent people, civilians and soldiers.
So the two-edged sword that you mentioned is something that will not be a problem for us because our soldiers behave like soldiers, they look like soldiers, they dress like soldiers. And they don't go around killing innocent civilians.
Q: Well, will they be treated under the Geneva Convention as of this moment? And is there any distance between you and Secretary of State Powell on this issue?
Rumsfeld: No, there is none. The reports to the effect that Secretary Powell did not believe that they should be treated as -- correction -- the reports that Secretary Powell believes that they should be treated as prisoner of wars (sic) is just flat untrue.
I've been in 10 meetings with him on the subject, and he's never said that. He's always said quite the contrary. He has said basically what I have said, that -- and what General Myers has said, is that they have been, since day one, treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Convention; they are being today. And the Geneva Convention rights and privileges that accrue to people in their circumstance will, in fact, be applied in the future. We are adhering to the Geneva Convention.
Q: So there's no change in your eyes?
Rumsfeld: Look, the president of the United States can do what he wishes when he wishes. You know that. He has been considering a couple of legal technicalities, as I've mentioned here, and how he will end up resolving those, we'll know in the next -- in the period ahead.
But I am confident enough, from being in all these meetings, to know that we will end up treating these people in a manner that's consistent with the Geneva Convention, and that they will not be characterized as prisoners of war because that is not what they are, they're terrorists.
Q: Have you given the go-ahead to resume the transfer of prisoners from Afghanistan to Guantanamo?
Rumsfeld: I haven't.
Q: Are you -- is it on your desk as a decision now, or is it still --
Rumsfeld: Ah! My desk is a mess! (Chuckling) I've got so much stuff on my desk! (Laughter.)
I couldn't say if it's on my desk. I know there have been people wrestling with that, and as I mentioned, I think, some days back, I said look, let's just stop the flow in there till we get ourselves arranged. Now they've been down there 21 or 22 days.
They've got a number of cells made. The Seabees are working 24 hours a day. Every day that they've been there, they have made progress. We have not yet ordered the more permanent structures, which we will do. We're trying to get a better grip on the numbers, total numbers --
Q: Total numbers of -- ?
Rumsfeld: Of potential detainees. And, you know, there's thousands of these people that are being held by the Afghans, they're being held by the Pakistanis, they're being held by us. And as we go through and look at them, we're giving a great -- large number back to the Afghans as people that were foot soldiers in the Taliban, and a lot back to the Pakistanis that were foot soldiers in the Taliban, and trying to sort out the al Qaeda and the more senior Taliban.
So that process -- we can't -- and then we're also trying to find out which countries may or may not be appropriate to return their nationals to so that they can process them. We don't want to have any more people than we have to have. And therefore, getting a fix on the total number of people that ultimately would fit, would be appropriate to have at Guantanamo, is an open question.
And I'll be honest; I mean, the number is somewhere between, say, 400 and 2,000. I don't know where it is. I suspect it's closer to the bottom, and therefore, I'm so conservative and respectful of taxpayers' dollars, I'm disinclined to start ordering 2,000 permanent cells for these people.
Q. But you settle all those questions before you resume the transfer, is that what you're saying?
Rumsfeld: No, but I'm trying to get my head wrapped around it so that I'm a little bit further down. I think what I'll do is probably authorize -- as the cells get completed, the temporary cells that they're currently using, as they get completed, we'll probably authorize another tranche of 30 and then another tranche of 30 as the cells are available. One of the problems is, there is an issue of tuberculosis, and there is the question that the cells' proximity to each other suggests that you may need two cells for a person that may have tuberculosis, in which case you can't just go by the number of cells and the number of people you bring in.
So there's a lot of complicated pieces of this. And we're doing it well and we're doing it as rapidly as humanly possible.
Q: Is it likely to be this weekend?
Rumsfeld: That I'll allow some more to come in? I don't know. I'll allow -- we don't want them in Kandahar, we don't want them in Bagram. We're continuing to give people back to the Pakistanis and to the Afghans, and we're continuing to get more from them. As they have others, we're sorting through them. And so we may give back 30 and take 30. And it's very difficult, with that many moving parts, it's very difficult to know exactly how many --
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Mr. Secretary, how was your trip down there? Did you learn anything?
Q: Excuse me sir. Today, entering the Pentagon was observed a number of members of the Iraqi opposition. And, while I would never jump to any conclusions from such a limited fact base --
Q: -- others might suggest that this might be the beginning of some sort of planning for operations in Iraq. Could you help us put that in the proper context? Who were these people meeting with, and what was the purpose?
Rumsfeld: The -- people come in and out of this building all the time, and I would not read anything into it other than that people are coming in and out of this building all the time. And it happens that on this day I believe some members of the Iraqi National Congress are in Washington, and I believe they're making visits to the State Department, the Pentagon and various other locations around town. Who they're meeting with is not clear to me. I don't know if they met with Paul [Wolfowitz] or with Doug Feith or with somebody else. But they are in town. I've heard they were coming here and I heard they were going to the State Department and other places.
(Cross talk.) (Inaudible) -- I'm sorry.
Q: If I could follow up on Jamie's question, yesterday the president said that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq were a part of this "axis of evil" and these regimes posed "a grave and growing danger." He also said that he "will not wait on events while dangers gather," suggesting an immediacy, a gravity to the situation. Is there an increased level in threat from these countries? And if so, is that information coming from these countries or from information gathered from these air-strikes or raids in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: Well, we are gathering additional information every day from a variety of sources. The president's remarks last evening, I thought, had perfect clarity as to exactly what he meant. He said it.
We know that those countries and others have been on the terrorist list. We know that the United States has had a preference that the regime in Iraq not be there. The Congress has passed resolutions on this. And we know that we have Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch in place. We also know that the Iraqi National Congress has had a relationship with the United States government for some time. And I don't know how I could elaborate beyond that -- (cross talk) --
Q: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that some 200 Iranian forces are training fighters in western Afghanistan to take on the interim government there. Do you believe those reports? Do you think that they're true? And if so, is anything being done about that?
Rumsfeld: I can't comment directly on that specific report. We do see things that clearly demonstrate Iran's interest in the western portion -- at the minimum, the western portion of Afghanistan. There have been, as I think I've indicated, reports that they've been supplying weapons, and there's no question but that they've had relationships there for decades and decades. They border that country.
We do not have diplomatic relationships with Iran, and we don't have the kinds of communications that would, oh, enable me to be, you know, precise or reasonably precise as to what it is they have in mind.
We do not believe that it is helpful to have countries -- neighboring countries or other countries supplying individual elements of Afghan forces in that country. The chairman of the interim government has announced and the acting defense minister has announced that they would like to see a national government begin to be formed.
And those things that contribute to a centrifugal effect as opposed to greater coherence and cohesion are notably unhelpful. And there is every reason to believe that Iran fits in the latter category not the former.
Q: Are we to believe from the president's statements last night that that's a possible future target?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think we take the president's words exactly as he gave them.
Q: Can I follow up on that point one second? His words last night implied the use of -- a military threat. And it begged the question whether the U.S. military right now would be ready to conduct two possibly near-simultaneous operations in the Pacific and in the Gulf while Afghanistan was going on. Can you give us a snapshot of the state of readiness of the force and whether -- and to what extent, if any, the Afghan operations have degraded some of the readiness -- mobility possibly or firepower?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, I would not characterize what's taking place in the Pacific as an operation. We have some training going on with the Philippine government. We have the possibility of an exercise. And to elevate to the category of a major regional conflict I think is a stretch.
Q: North Korea is what I was making an allusion to.
Rumsfeld: I see. Well, let me put it this way, and then I'd ask the general to comment. The United States will be prepared to do what the president decides is appropriate and what the rest of the world may impose on us.
Q: Well, from a readiness standpoint though, are mobility assets stretched, the precision-guided weapons stretched?
Rumsfeld: Well, in life, one makes choices. And if things -- if we decide to initiate things and in a manner and in time and with the choices that fit us. If the world decides to impose choices on us, then we'll make choices with respect to the things we're doing and deal with those problems.
Myers: I would only add -- I agree with the secretary that when we're called upon by the president to do whatever, we'll be ready to do that. To say that some of our forces are stretched, in your words, Tony, that may be appropriate for a snapshot in time, but -- and we all know we have certain systems we hadn't bought enough of in the past that are stressed right now. I don't think that has any correlation to what might happen -- happen in the future. And so we'll be -- we'll be ready.
Q: General Myers. General Myers. You were just in Abu Dhabi, if I'm not mistaken, and Jordan. Could you just give us -- remind us of what the sense was of the people that you spoke with there about the prospect of U.S. action in Iraq, what they would feel about the timing of it, how much support the United States could count on from those countries politically as -- politically really, if the United States were to contemplate action there?
Myers: We did not talk specifically about Iraq. We did talk about the global war on terrorism, and their support there is unwavering, and we've gotten great support, and we talked about that. And the people that I visited and the officials I talked to are all very supportive of U.S. goals because, in fact, they're their goals as well. They share the same goals and --
Q: Did you talk about Saddam Hussein?
Myers: Only in general terms, not in terms of going -- having conflict --
Q: What's their view of Saddam Hussein?
MYERS: Well, I think that's pretty well -- I don't want to get into that. I'll let them speak for themselves.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I have a question about North Korea. When you demand inspection on the suspected chemical and biological nuclear weapon site in North Korea? I have another question. In case North Korea refuses the U.S. inspection, then should the U.S. make preemptive strike North Korea?
Rumsfeld: I'm afraid the answer to your question is probably something that the Department of State should respond to. I'm not current on the state of inspections at the present time.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the United States now has troops in a number of countries surrounding Afghanistan -- Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. What promises has the U.S. made to those governments, and how much is it costing the United States in terms of payment or offsets to each of those governments for whatever arrangement the U.S. --
Rumsfeld: Which countries?
Q: Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Rumsfeld: The short answer is I don't know.
The general answer is that Pakistan has been doing a great many things to be helpful to the United States military and government. And -- we have been using their fuel, we have been using their airports, we have used some of their ports, we have used their airspace. We have requested and they have responded positively to supplying their troops along that border. And there is no question but that they have just been enormously helpful.
And we have -- the Congress passed a piece of legislation that authorizes, as I recall, something like $100 million, the larger portion of which for Pakistan and some smaller portion for another country, and some of that money for Pakistan has gone, but it is only a beginning because we do have some financial obligations to them.
What the total number will be, those things are being assessed at the present time.
With respect to the other two countries, I don't know -- I think that the implication that there have been a lot of promises made is probably not correct. I know that I haven't made a lot of promises. What we do have, however, is relationships, for example, with Uzbekistan, where I have been, where they're a member of Partnership for Peace in NATO. We already had military-to-military relationships. We did before this started. We obviously have developed a much closer relationship, and they've been enormously cooperative. And I suspect that we'll have these kinds of relationships for some time into the future. It's good for them, it's good for us, it's good for NATO.
Q: No financial quid pro quo with Uzbekistan, where the U.S. has thousands of forces?
Rumsfeld: I think that characterizing in any one of those instances, as a quid pro quo would be a misunderstanding of the relationship. If we go into Pakistan, for example, and they give us fuel, I don't think of that as a quid pro quo. We pay them for the fuel, or we ought to. In this case we have not as yet because we didn't have a cross-servicing agreement until more recently. But there wasn't -- in none of these instances that I know of did anyone make the basis of their support for us or the war on terror some sort of financial quid pro quo as you're suggesting.
Q: You don't mean to indicate that the United States has not promised to help them financially because they have opened up airfields they had never opened up before? I mean, there have been promises to help them, have there not?
Rumsfeld: Well, I mean, one way of helping is in some cases we have helped their airports. We have fixed runways and we've put in various kinds of instruments that allow airplanes to come in and go out, flight instruments. The thrust of your question, quid pro quo, I think is a misunderstanding of the relationship. I do think those relationships are important. I do think that they're long-lasting. I suspect that we'll, as I say, continue to have very close relationships, and not just military to military, but also diplomatic and economic. And we do know that the United States government has other departments and agencies that have been -- when President Musharraf was here, he obviously met with the Treasury Department, he met with the Congress, he met with the White House, he met with State Department. And I can really only speak for our piece of it.
But why don't we make this the last question?
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: Mr. Secretary, on the widening of -- may I return --
Rumsfeld: Sure. I'm sorry.
I'll come back to you. I apologize.
Q: May I return to the State of the Union? Thank you very much. Last night the president, in singling out North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, that's being interpreted as certainly a widening of the U.S. war on terrorism, if not a pretext to perhaps an actual shooting war, at least in Iraq. And if I could return to the question that Susanne asked, is there any evidence that any of these three countries pose any greater threat than they did on September 10th?
And if the United States doesn't follow up the president's words with some decisive action, would not that in fact weaken his rhetoric, if not the U.S. position in the war on terrorism?
Rumsfeld: Wow. You -- first, you have characterized how the world is interpreting it, and I don't know how the world's interpreting it. He just uttered those words last evening.
Those are all countries that I have spoken about repeatedly; the president has spoken about repeatedly. They are countries that have records of fostering terrorist activity. They're countries that in each case has records of being active in the development of weapons of mass destruction.
If one is concerned about terrorist networks and the violence they can impose on the world and have imposed on the world, and then walk towards that nexus between that willingness to impose great violence and connect it with weapons of mass destruction, all three of those countries being weapons of mass destruction nations, one has to be concerned about that connection.
And does -- what does the implication mean? Well, I think the president is wise and that what he did last evening is a very useful thing. He said to the world: We have countries that have close relationships with terrorists. Take Iran. We know Iran is actively sending terrorists down through Damascus, into the Bekaa Valley, where they train terrorists, where terrorists then engage in acts against countries in the region and elsewhere. This has been going on a long time. It is not a new story. We also know that they have a very active weapon-of-mass-destruction program.
What the president was saying to the world, and properly so, was these circumstance (sic) that exist in the world today are distinctly different than in earlier eras, and they need to be noted. And the world has to understand the potential for not thousands of people to be killed, but for tens of thousands of people to be killed.
And that is a message that he delivered, he delivered it clearly, and he meant it. And it is something that we all have to take aboard and understand -- our nation, other nations that value freedom and are concerned about the fact that there are people who are willing to use those capabilities to the disadvantage of much of the free world.
Q: But he said more. He said to do nothing would be catastrophic. That's pretty -- that's pretty hard. That sort of doesn't put a time frame, but it says we've got to do something.
Rumsfeld: Well, the opposite of that would be to suggest that it would be desirable to say to these countries that we know you have active weapons of mass destruction programs, and we know you have close relationships with terrorist networks or, in fact, in some instances are engaged in terrorism, and we're comfortable with that. And we're not.
Q: But is military action imminent? That's the real thing. He was suggesting it would be military action as opposed to something else.
Rumsfeld: He said exactly what he said. He said it well. He didn't suggest anything. If there was anything about last night's speech, it was that it had near perfect clarity.
Q: But a senior administration official after the speech said he didn't necessarily mean to say military action, but it could be other action.
Rumsfeld: What do you mean, "necessarily mean to say"? He didn't say. He not only didn't necessarily say, he did not say. He said exactly what he said.
Q: He seemed to suggest, and therefore, perhaps it isn't that clear. You say it was perfect clarity. It isn't clear, is it?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think it is. I think if I were in Iran or North Korea or Iraq and I heard the president of the United States say what he said last night about weapons of mass destruction and about terrorism and about terrorist networks and about nations that harbor terrorists, I don't think there'd be a lot of ambiguity as to the view he holds of those problems and their behavior.
Now, what will they do about that is something we'll find out. But it ought to be very clear to them that he is -- he is calling attention to the risks to the world that that relationship poses.
We'll take one last question.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: To turn away from the "axis of evil" to the war against terrorist groups, the president last night mentioned more than a dozen countries where there are operational training bases.
Can you shed some light onto what countries he's talking about?
And then if General Myers can go back for one quick second to the Taliban compound and just at least tell us whether or not the 27 captives have said anything in their testimony that in any way matches what some of these Afghan security officials are saying. I mean, you've had them for a week; you must know something.
Rumsfeld: Well, with respect to the first part of it, we know that over the years, terrorist training camps have been sited in any number of countries, not just Afghanistan, but certainly in Syria, certainly in Lebanon, certainly in Libya, certainly in Somalia, in Sudan. There are some in Asia.
A terrorist training camp is not a 40-story building, it is an area with housing, with storage facilities for weapons, with places where people can be taught how to do the kinds of things that you all and I have read in the terrorist training manuals for the al Qaeda that have been captured. And they can be active and then they can be inactive. And you can go in and bomb them and destroy them and they can be active again in a relatively short period of time, with enough money and with people. But there are a great many countries that have been the sites of trainings for terrorists. As the president said, there have been a great many people who have been trained, and very well trained, and trained to be killers of innocent civilians, using a variety of techniques.
Myers: I would just say the investigation is ongoing. And I think that's probably a pretty good assumption, but we don't know yet. And Central Command is going to be coming forward. That will probably be part of their investigation process, of course.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
Q: Thank you.