Rumsfeld at Camp Pendleton Town Hall Meeting
Secretary Rumsfeld at Camp Pendleton Town Hall Meeting
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Tuesday, August 27, 2002 - 5:05 p.m. EDT
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much. Well, this is quite a sight, and I must say that General Hagee and General Bowdon, General Mattis, Mr. Congressman -- Congressman Issa, nice to see you here -- thank you for your support of this base and the men and women that serve here.
It's a great opportunity for me to have a chance to be here, to have a -- look you in the eye and tell you how grateful we are to each of you for your service to our country. It's an amazing thing, when you think about it, that our country does not have a draft. We don't have a conscript military. Each of you is here because you stepped forward and decided that you wanted to serve your country. Not just you, but your families, your spouses and your parents and your children all also sacrifice and serve. I know that, the president knows that, and indeed your country knows that. So I thank each of you for all you do.
There's no question but when the situation calls for action, for honor, courage and incredible commitment, there's a reason why the call goes out to send in the Marines. It undoubtedly has a good deal to do with the training that I saw today out there on the crucible course, the pride that each of you properly has for what you do, what you have done, and what you're currently doing.
You're America's force in readiness. You've been that way for 200 years. Whenever our country's interests are threatened, whenever freedom is at risk, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, to Inchon, to Vietnam, to the Persian Gulf, to Afghanistan, you've been there.
I don't know whether to believe it, but I'm told you folks are called the Hollywood Marines. And I suppose that's because the movies are the only other place where things get done so fast by so few and so well.
But we know that today's global war on terrorism is not a Hollywood picture. It's real, it's dangerous, and many of you have been there and seen that and served. There's no question but that it's different than anything our country has faced previously. There's also no question but that success, victory will take time, will take patience and, as you already know, it will take courage. But we can be certain of this much: In this war, when all is said and done, we will have won. We'll win because we must; we'll win because our freedom and our way of life depend on winning.
We face adversaries that are determined -- let there be no doubt -- terrorist movements and terrorist states that do not directly challenge armies or navies or air forces. Instead, they hit and run. They attack innocent men, women and children. They hide in caves. And they launch terrorist attacks in ways that are admittedly difficult to defend against. Terrorists have a wonderful advantage: They can attack at any time, at any place, using any technique. And as you know from your roles in force protection, it is difficult to defend at every place, at every time, against every conceivable technique. They think and fight differently than other adversaries that we've faced.
And to defeat them, to prevail, we have to fight differently, as well. In Operation Enduring Freedom, Marine Expeditionary Units used to taking beachheads instead deployed hundreds of miles from the sea into a landlocked country thousands of miles from the United States. And there, working with the Army, with Airborne and Special Operations forces, you and your colleagues help to drive the Taliban from power and to put al Qaeda on the run and, in fact, have liberated the Afghan people.
In 10 short months, Afghanistan has been transformed from a nation ruled by terrorists to one that is on its way -- it's not there yet, but it's on its way to being a free and self-sustaining nation where people are able to live without fear. I'm asked, "How long do you think we'll be in Afghanistan?" And of course, it's not possible to answer that question. We went there to stop the terrorists from using it as a terrorist training camp and from launching attacks across the globe and from sending terrorist cells into 40, 50, 60 countries around the globe.
And we'll stay there as long as it takes to see that the Afghan government, the transitional authority, has the ability to provide for their own security and to develop an Afghan national army and a police force and border guards so that they can assure that they will not again become a terrorist training camp.
You folks have every right to be proud of your accomplishments. In the early months of the war, the Fighting 13th helped to kick off Operation Anaconda. In the Sha-i-Kot Valley, they assaulted enemy positions and helped flush out al Qaeda and Taliban. The 15th MEU seized a forward operating base and established a secure airstrip for the hundreds of follow-on forces that came in. They secured Kandahar Airport and destroyed Taliban convoys, providing aerial reconnaissance and combat air support. The president and I and the American people appreciate the courage and your able, dedicated service to our country. And we, as I said, appreciate the sacrifice of families, as well. I know they miss you when you're gone. I know they worry. And sometimes they endure long periods of separation. So they do also serve. And you have our gratitude for all you do for us, as well.
While the conflict in Afghanistan may be the first battle of the 21st century, it certainly won't be the last.
The war on terrorism will not end soon. The terrorists who attacked us on September 11th, for them it was the opening salvo. They do intend to strike again, we know that. And as President Bush has said, "The advance of human freedom depends on us, our nation. Your generation, will lift the dark threat of violence from our people and our future."
The advance of human freedom does depend on each of you. All over the world, people long for what you defend -- liberty, democracy, tolerance, a future without fear. And that's why we'll prevail. Your spirit, and the spirit of the men and women standing watch for liberty at this moment all across the globe are our guarantee that in the 21st century, the American people will continue to live in freedom.
So thank you, each of you, for all you do for our country and for the world. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Now, I see folks standing up front with microphones, so I'd be delighted to respond to some questions from the troops.
Right here. That will do it. No, that didn't do it.
Here's a question. Give me an easy one! I've had a tough day. I've been at it all day. (Laughter.)
Q: My name is Lance Corporal Godfrey, from 7th ESB. (Cheers.) We've been told when we go to Iraq, we'll have other countries supporting us. How important is this? And if they don't support us, what are we going to do about that?
Rumsfeld: Well -- (laughter) -- now, if had he been from the press, I would have said I don't answer questions on Iraq. I leave that to the president and the vice president.
The president's not made a decision with respect to Iraq. There's a discussion, a debate, a dialogue taking place in our country and the world, as it properly should be taking place. These are important decisions they're important issues. And we've moved into a new national security circumstance environment in the 21st century. In the last century, when we were dealing essentially with conventional weapons, we had the luxury, the ability to -- and all democracies did. Democracies don't attack other countries, we know that. But we had the luxury of being able to sustain an attack. And to be sure, at Pearl Harbor we lost several thousand Americans.
In the 21st century we're dealing not simply with conventional capabilities, but potentially with unconventional capabilities, with chemical and biological and radiation and nuclear weapons.
That creates a different circumstance. There you're not talking about sustaining an attack and losing hundreds or a few thousand, you're talking about risking the lives of tens of thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands of people.
And as a result of that changed security environment, our country is now -- the Congress, the press, the academic institutions, other countries -- are considering that fact, that new reality, that new situation that we're living with, and balancing the advantages of acting against the advantages of not acting; the disadvantages of not acting against the disadvantages of acting. And it is an important discussion, an important dialogue that's taking place; it ought to happen. We do need to take some time and think these things through and consider them.
And so too as to your question with respect to other countries. Other countries are going through those same kinds of considerations. The United States, since September 11th, has put together a coalition of nations that today numbers something like 90. Close to half of all the nations in the world are cooperating today in the global war on terrorism. That is a breathtaking thought. Half the countries - I think there's something like 184 countries on the face of the Earth, and 90 are involved, in one way or another, with the global war on terrorism. It shows that the cooperation, the coalition, the support is broad and it is deep and it is making the difference.
I don't know what decision the president will make with respect to the question you posed. I don't know how many countries will participate, in the event the president does decide that the risks of not acting are greater than the risks of acting. But then what's important, it seems to me, is making the right decisions and the right judgments, and I've found over the years that when our country does make the right judgments, the right decisions, that other countries do cooperate and they do participate; and that leadership in the right direction finds followers and supporters, just as the leadership of the United States in the global war on terror has found some 90 nations to assist and to cooperate.
Questions: Yes, sir? Where do these people get all these muscles? (Scattered laughter.) Look at the arms on him! They must have 15 weight rooms around here. This guy's got muscles in places I don't even have places. (Laughter.)
Q: Good afternoon.
Q: Good afternoon, sir. Lance Corporal Cyprian, Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Pendleton. (Cheers.)
Q: Sir, are we looking at coordinating with civilian law enforcement to fight the war on terrorism?
Rumsfeld: The armed forces of the United States do cooperate with civilian law enforcement.
As you know, we have a law here in this country called posse comitatus, where our military has not taken a lead role in internal security of our country. And instead what we've done is we've participated in a supporting role, so when there's a - firefighting to be in the West, as there is today, men and women from the armed services assist and participate in a supporting role. To the extent there was force protection and security requirements at the Olympics, men and women from the armed forces assisted there, but again, in a supporting role, supporting the local law enforcement, the state law enforcement people, and that type of thing.
And I personally do not know whether or not those requirements will ever be changed, but none of us who look at that today see any need for a change in the posse comitatus law and the supporting role of the men and women in uniform.
We have a -- opportunities from time to time. As you may recall, the president asked the armed services to help out with airport security immediately after 9/11. But again, it was on a temporary basis, for a period of months. They're now out of the airports, and civilians are taking over their -- those jobs.
We have a few people left assisting on borders and Customs and INS. But there again also, we have an understanding that they'll -- uniformed personnel will withdraw from those essentially civilian tasks and not perform them, except on an emergency temporary basis, as was the case over the past several months.
Questions: There's an arm. Yes, ma'am? Right back there. Oops.
STAFF: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Yeah, right there. Good.
Q: Good afternoon, sir.
Q: My name is Corporal Della Lopez , and I'm with the Marine Corps station in Camp Pendleton. (Faintly audible "ooh-rah.") My question for you today, sir, is --
Rumsfeld: No, give her a better one than that! (Laughter; cheers of "ooh-rah!") I noticed I didn't hear any of that when they said I was an ex-Naval aviator, either. (Laughter.)
Q: My question for you today, sir, is, in this time of national crisis and with the inevitability of terrorist attack, is there going to be any military policemen on our vulnerable borders? And why isn't there any now?
Rumsfeld: There are some military folks participating on borders. For one thing, we have the Coast Guard, and the United States Navy assist the Coast Guard with respect to the ocean borders. We currently, on a temporary basis, have -- relatively small numbers -- I could be wrong, but it's going to be plus or minus 1,600 people -- who are participating in the border patrol. But again, those are all tasks that can be performed basically by people who are hired and managed through civilian agencies.
You folks have been organized, trained and equipped to be warriors; to fight. And to the extent you are then moved into tasks that are not essentially military tasks but are essentially civilian tasks, it distracts from your work, in my view. So we've -- we're in the process of attempting to move as many activities into the civilian area as is possible -- in the contractor area. We have people, for example, that are in the Sinai, in Egypt. And I think something like 350 of them are doing things that civilian contractors could do very easily. And so we're in the process of shifting that over.
We want to see that we have the force that we need, that's organized and trained and equipped and ready to perform military tasks. And to the extent possible, functions that are essentially civilian can be performed either by civilian employees of the government or by contractor employees of the government. And I think that the task of border patrol fits in that category.
Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. My name is Master Sergeant Lequist, 1st Intelligence Battalion. (Cheers of "ooh-rah!") Part of the mandate you accepted when you took your current position, sir, was the transformation of the military to meet current and future threats. Could you comment, please, on the progress you feel you've made, and specifically, what changes you see for my Marine Corps?
Rumsfeld: OUR Marine Corps. (Cheers; Sec. Rumsfeld chuckles.)
You are right; on September 11th of last year, I gave a talk about transformation and walked through a series of things that I felt were important, one of which was homeland security.
It was the next day that the Pentagon was attacked and the World Trade towers were attacked.
We, as a country, have great respect for the defense establishment, for the men and women in uniform, for the civilian people and the contractors that make up this wonderful, important institution that contributes so much to world peace and stability.
The reality, however, is it's big, and big things don't change easily. We still have an acquisition system that takes years and years and years, notwithstanding the fact that technology is changing in 18, 20, 24 months. We have a budgeting process that takes forever. We have any number of things that are too slow, too sluggish, not agile enough, not fast enough. And so I have been focusing very hard, as the president has, on attempting to find ways to get the Congress to allow us to change; find ways to get this institution, the contractor community, functioning in a way that reflects the 21st century instead of the 20th century.
If you ask me specifically about the Marine Corps, which you did, one change is already being made. I don't know why, but for whatever reason, I was kind of surprised when I heard it, the Marine Corps decided some decades back that when Special Forces were created, that the Marine Corps wouldn't participate and that the Marines would not be called upon to have people engaged in the distinctive tasks that the Special Operations people perform for the United States and, frankly, that they perform very well in Afghanistan in Special Operations.
The commandant of the Marine Corps -- as the September 11th attack hit -- and I talked, and the Marine Corps has now already decided that they're going to reverse that prior decision from decades back and that Marines will participate in a variety of different ways.
Another way that the Marine Corps, it seems to me, is going to change somewhat is that, for example, we have, as a country, an obligation to help train other countries to be better military people, better soldiers, better sailors, better Marines. And it turns out that every time, since I've been back as secretary of Defense, that we get asked to train somebody, like the Afghan national army, it ends up that it's Special Forces people that are called in to train them.
Well, now I've got to believe that the Marines are capable of training people too. (Cheers.) I thought so. And I think we're going to find that as we go forward, Marines will be asked to work with other countries. It will take some language skills that may not be there at the present time, that will have to be developed. But one of the things we can do for our own interest and our own security is not to go into a country like Afghanistan and plan to stay there to provide security, but go into a country like Afghanistan and help that fledgling government begin to develop the kinds of military capability so that they'll be able to provide for their own security. And I see that as a role that Marines can certainly play.
The one thing I do know, as good as fighters as Marines are, and as well-trained as you are, and as properly proud as you are, when a combatant commander gets into a dust-up, he does not ask where are the Marines or where's the Army or where's the Navy, he's looking for the ability to put lethal power on a target, and he doesn't care where it comes from. And that means that we've got to be able to fight joint. We're not going to be fighting Marines, and we're not going to be fighting Air Forces in the air, we're not going to be fighting the Navy only, we're going to be fighting joint, and that means that these people here and all across the country in the United States Marine Corps, as we go forward, are going to be engaged in more joint exercises, in more joint training, and to the extent we end up in conflict, you will be fighting joint in conflict.
Q: Good afternoon, sir. Lance Corporal Arthur (inaudible), Marine Corps Air Station Headquarters Squadron. The time that I've had in the Corps I've realized that we're taught to do more with less. When are the other departments going to use this and save taxpayers' money? (Laughter, cheers, applause.)
Rumsfeld: I tell you, I ought to take you back to Washington with me. (Laughter.) I've been going around that department and across the government as a taxpayer and saying, "By golly, we've got to find ways to show that we're respectful of the taxpayers' dollars." We must. And it is enormously important.
There is something -- I've been in government for 25 years. I was out of government for 20-plus years, in business. I'm back into government. Anyone in a family knows how to watch what they do and spend money intelligently. Anyone in business has to, or they go out of business. There's something about government that -- that - there too often is not that pressure. The way we're organized in the government, every dollar is in one pocket or another pocket or another pocket, and you can't use this for that; you have to use it for this, you have to go up and say, "May I?" to the Congress. And it makes it very difficult to be wise about the expenditure of money.
A skipper of a Marine base, at the end of the fiscal year, does not have a lot of incentive to manage his money intelligently, because he can't keep it. If it -- sometimes, if it doesn't get spent, then the next year they get a lower budget. And if it's okay to buy this with it but not that with it, they're not able to make the switches.
And I -- all I can say is, the other departments of government in the last year and a half have been held pretty much flat, and the Department of Defense has not been held pretty much flat. The Department of Defense has gotten substantial increases - increases for modernization, increases for transformation, increases for pay, as you all know, and -- (shouts from service members) -- and before anyone asks me -- and we darn well have to do a better job on housing. (Cheers, applause, shouts.)
Q: Good afternoon, sir. Corporal Dester , 1st TSB. (Cheers.)
As a Marine, I served on 15th MEU, sir. I don't if you get a lot of thank-yous, but I thank you for giving the opportunity -- I think I speak for the others, including the LARs -- I thank you for giving the opportunity to go into Afghanistan to take care of what we had to. (Cheers, applause.)
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
I've got an old wrestler's neck, and I can't turn around very far without turning my whole body, and I'm scared to death to turn my back to this crowd. Are there any questions behind me, back there? (Laughter.) Not a question.
That's -- that's a very disciplined group. What did General Mattis do to them? (Laughter.)
Mr. (inaudible): We feed 'em -- (inaudible).
Rumsfeld: There's a question.
Q: Good afternoon, sir. My name is Corporal Jacobs with 9th Communications Battalion. (Cheers of "ooh-rah!") Part of my job in the Marine Corps is information security, and I was wondering, since the advent of September 11th, what kind of role terrorism has played -- the so-called cyber terrorism in the United States of America and what type of devastation we might have suffered.
Rumsfeld: Well, that is an important question. If one thinks about it, there are relatively few armies or navies or air forces that are likely to attack the United States in the period immediately ahead. Conversely, there are a variety of so-called asymmetric threats that exist: terrorism, to be sure; weapons of mass destruction; ballistic missiles, for which we have no defense; cruise missiles, which are enormously flexible, in terms of what they can do -- they can be launched from a land, sea or air with a conventional or an unconventional warhead. They're highly accurate.
And there's cyber attacks. And a country like the United States, which is more dependent on high technology than any nation on earth; that is a military that's more dependent on satellites and on information and communications and situational awareness than any military on the face of the earth also has, as a result of that tremendous capacity and technological competence, a degree of vulnerability. So to the extent you're dependent, for example, on GPS -- global position systems -- to the extent they're jammable - and they are -- there's a risk of their being jammed and you being denied the ability to use them. And the same thing's true of our incredible laptop systems and communications systems that we have in all of our activities and that can be affected by that.
We have thus far been reasonably fortunate, but we are continuing to recognize that that's a threat, that there are capabilities that exist that are capabilities that exist that are readily transferable across the globe, that can attack information systems in a variety of different ways. And our task is to stay ahead of it. And that's something we just have to be willing to invest to do. If you think back, it wasn't too many years ago when the satellite went out and people lost their pagers. And to the extent people were dependent on their pagers, it suddenly affected their circumstance in a rather dramatic way.
Same thing when cell phone circumstances are changed, and they're not operating. So this is something that we have to pay attention to, and indeed we are.
Way in the back.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: You sound terrific.
Q: My name is Corporal -- (inaudible) -- First Intelligence Battalion, (ooh-rah), (shouts). My question to you, sir, do you think the people's opinion on war on terrorism is waning, sir?
Rumsfeld: No. I think that sometimes we, we -- you know, I'm trying to think back, and I'm going to be wrong by 10, 15 percent, but it -- we were attacked on September 11th. You folks started doing your work in Afghanistan on October 7th, and if I'm not mistaken, it was maybe November when the New York Times wrote a big article about the United States military was in a quagmire. We were bogged down. Nothing was working right. What a shame. Hand wringing took place. And then in short succession, Mazar-E-Sharif fell, and Kabul fell, and Konduz fell, and finally Kandahar fell. And the country was liberated. The patience of the American people is extensive. It's there. The American people have a good center of gravity. They've got good judgment. They've got an inner gyroscope. That's what makes democracy work.
The impatience that you sense, and the so-called waning of support is not something that is -- that I find to be the case at all across the country. I find it to be in the media from time to time, because they're -- they've got the task of having news 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And if some bomb isn't dropping, or something isn't exploding, it isn't terribly newsworthy.
Now, our task is not to be newsworthy. Our task is to stop terrorists, and the way you do that is to put pressure on them, and put them on the run. In the case of Afghanistan, yes, it meant dropping bombs and it meant chasing them out of caves. And it meant chasing them on the ground. But the war on terrorism, as we said from the outset, is like an iceberg, and you're going to see just the top piece of it, and the bulk of what's going on is going to be below the surface. And the task is to put pressure on the global terrorists wherever they are. Just dry up their finances, to make it difficult for them to move money, to arrest them all across the country.
There have been over 2,000 who have been arrested so far to - the task isn't to arrest them and engage in law enforcement, our interest is not law enforcement, our interest is arresting them, detaining them and interrogating them and finding out what they know so that we can stop other terrorist attacks. And when you stop a terrorist attack, it's not like a bomb exploding, it's not like something being shot at on the ground, so it isn't terribly newsworthy.
But in Afghanistan, some of you folks found a laptop, and that laptop gave us information that stopped three terrorist attacks all the way across the globe in Singapore, where there was unambiguous information that terrorists on that laptop in Afghanistan were planning to attack a military target in Singapore, an embassy in Singapore, and a Singapore target in Singapore, and it didn't happen. It did not happen. And it was not terribly newsworthy that it did not happen, but it was terribly important that it did not happen.
So I -- listen, you can trust the American people. They're going to have the patience to do whatever makes sense for this country. (Cheers, applause.)
There you are! I was looking for you! Where's the mike? Here he comes.
Q: Test, test. (Laughter.) Sergeant Cobb, H&S Battalion -- (inaudible) -- Com Company, 1st Platoon. Okay, thank you.
Rumsfeld: Give it to him! Come on! (Cheers.)
Q: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, okay. Whatever.
Sir, my question is, we know that the war on terrorism is a sustained conflict; that means we don't know how long it's going to take. Now, if we go into Iraq -- I've got actually two questions -- well, three. If we go in Iraq, do you believe --
Rumsfeld: You should be in the press corps too. (Laughter.) He's got one question, one follow-up, and a follow-up on the follow-up. (Laughter.)
Q: Okay, the first question is, do you believe that if we go into Iraq -- if we do -- it's just your opinion, sir --
Rumsfeld: What do you mean "just" my opinion? (Laughter.)
Q: Expert opinion, sir.
Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Where'd you find this guy? (Laughs; more laughter.) Let's take back the "ooh-rah"!
Q: Do you believe that will be a sustained conflict? And question number two, do you believe that we can actually hold - that we can fight two sustained conflicts on two different fronts? Do we have the resources and the manpower? And do the other countries backing us up have it?
And question number three is, if you would mind, after this, could you do a photo shoot with me, sir?
Rumsfeld: Is that kinda like having my picture taken, or is it a video or something? (Laughter.)
Q: Video camera -- you see it right here, sir.
Rumsfeld: What is it, video or a camera?
Q: It's video, sir.
Rumsfeld: I had a feeling that might be the case.
I'll think about the question third --
Q: Thank you, sir.
Rumsfeld: -- and we'll see how we work out.
I tell you, I'm not going to answer the Iraq question. If I do, that's all anyone wants to hear about, and the frenzy on this subject, it seems to me, is not useful. I think what's important on Iraq, and on other important questions about terrorist states that are seeking to have weapons of mass destruction, is that our country engage in a somewhat elevated, thoughtful discussion about what free people ought to do, given the circumstance of the 21st century.
And the second question I'll answer directly. You can be darn sure that you folks will not be asked to do anything that we won't be able to do, do darn well, and win. (Cheers, applause.)
Question? There you are.
Q: Hi, sir. Good afternoon. My name is Lieutenant Commander George Walowitz and I'm visiting here.
Rumsfeld: So am I! (Laughter.)
Q: I'm just south of the beltway at Quantico, Virginia.
Q: I couldn't agree with you more, American support is not waning following the disaster that happened last year. But I think what is waning is, you talked earlier about European and coalition support. My question is, given the climate of the global political, economic and social situation with our allies and our coalition members, should we not raise the bar of concern about the long-term consequences, because we can't even see -- here we are, not even at the anniversary date, and last year we had unanimity and multilateral support, but we can't even muster bilateral support for the Iraqi question. And what do you think might be the long-term consequences, if we act unilaterally, with our coalition partners?
Rumsfeld: (Short pause.) Let me think -- or as President Kennedy used to say, "Let me say this about that." The first thing to keep in mind is, that the president has not asked our friends in Europe, or our coalition, to support him with respect to a decision on Iraq because he has not made a decision on Iraq.
Second, as to whether one ought to or ought not to act unilaterally, there is always an advantage in having everyone agree with you. That would be nice if, for whatever reason, at a magic moment, when a key decision was to be made, if you could look around and see everyone nodding and saying, "Yes, that's the right thing to do. This is the right time to do it. That's the right way to do it. And yes, we want to be supportive and do it with you."
Think back over history, however. When has that ever been the case? It is almost never the case that everyone decides at roughly the same moment that roughly what you're thinking about doing is roughly the right thing to do and roughly the right way to do it. That is most unusual.
There was no global coalition on the global war on terrorism until the president made a decision that we would go after terrorists where they exist, we would go after havens, countries that were providing sanctuary to terrorists, and then we went out and built that coalition.
And I would submit that in the event that another decision has to be made, and the president makes it, regardless of what it's about or where it is, that he will find his way to the right decision, and other countries will find their way to the right decision. And we'll find that in a relatively short period of time, there will be support across broad areas for doing the right thing.
There have been so many times in history where -- I mean, just go back to -- you can't go back. I can go back to the buildup to World War II, but I don't suppose anyone else here can. But I remember, and during that period, the voices of concern about what Adolf Hitler was doing were very few. There was not unanimity. There were all kinds of diplomats running around, holding meetings with him. There were people saying, "Don't do anything; he'll stop. He won't do anything terrible." And as he -- they occupied one country after another country after another country, it wasn't till each country was attacked that they stopped and said, "Well, maybe Winston Churchill was right." Maybe that lone voice expressing concern about what was taking place was the right voice.
So, in unanimity, we often find an absence of rigorous thinking. And it's more important -- it's less important to have unanimity than it is to be making the right decisions and doing the right thing, even though at the outset it may seem lonesome.
Rumsfeld: Is everyone getting a good suntan? (Cheers.) I mean, I don't want to keep you out here too long, but --
Q: Sir, Colonel Matt Blackledge, assistant chief of staff, G41 -- (inaudible). It's not a logistics question, it's not about Iraq.
In today's Early Bird there was an article about the spouse of a young sailor killed on 9/11 at, I believe, at the Pentagon, who is still working with INS to get her citizenship. Recently, the president instituted a policy where Marines or anyone from the services on active duty applying for citizenship can get that expedited. Can we get the president to expedite that policy for those who lose their loved ones in combat?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know if I can, but I can sure give it a good try. (Cheers.) Thank you. (Applause.)
Q: Sir, Lance Corporal Bollinger with Marine Corps Base. I'm a nuclear-biological-chemical defense specialist, sir. And I was wondering, is there any steps being taken to help the protection of civilians in the case of a nuclear, biological or chemical defense -- or an attack?
Rumsfeld: There are steps that have been taken. And the Office of Homeland Defense, soon to be the Department of Homeland Security, is in fact working with the Department of HHS and, indeed, with the Pentagon, to develop teams of people who can provide that type of assistance in terms of U.S. non-military population. It also, of course, is something that the Department of Defense has to be attentive to in terms of deployed forces.
Q: Good afternoon. Lance Corporal Jonathan Lee 2-11. (Cheers.) I wasn't so bright, so I wrote down all the questions I wanted to ask you. (Laughter.) Question number one: Do you feel that if we do go to war with Saddam Hussein that the president will consider fighting other countries in the axis of evil?
Next question: Do you feel --
Rumsfeld: No, no, no, no, no, no. It's late in the day. I'm going to answer them one at a time.
MORE ....... time.
Rumsfeld: The circumstances of the countries in the axis of evil are notably different. The situation in North Korea is a dangerous one for the people of North Korea because they're starving. Many of them are trying to flee the country. And their circumstance is tragic. They have a terribly repressive regime, and it is the kind of a situation that could just kind of collapse internally.
The situation in Iran, a second country in the so-called axis of evil, where the president has again in my judgment done exactly the right thing by talking to the people of that country. It has a situation that's very different from either Iraq or North Korea. The women there and the young people there are in ferment. They're creating enormous pressures against the small tight group of clerics that are running that country with the Revolutionary Guard, and who knows? I can't -- I don't do predictions. But Iran strikes me as a place -- if you think how quickly it turned from the Shah of Iran to the Ayatollahs. It is not beyond imagination that it could flip back almost as rapidly. I believe that the people there are intelligent. They're industrious. They're being denied access to the rest of the world. Their economic circumstances is nowhere near what it would be if they were free to interact with the rest of the globe and make the kinds of contributions that they're being prevented from making because of the clerics that lead that country.
So I think it's a quite different situation and I think it would -- it, it's proper to characterize them the way the president did. It would not be right for those hearing that to assume that in each case, the circumstances are similar because they're notably dissimilar in my view.
Q: Second question, sir, is do you think that, like, intelligence in the Marine Corps, that we are at a disadvantage for letting the American public media know what gone on that is being just displayed all over the world on channels like MSN, CNN and MSNBC? Do you think that's a tactically sound thing to do? Though was in the planning stages, if we were going to do it, don't you feel that somebody would probably know what we're more or less going to do?
Rumsfeld: (Sighs.) Yes. (Laughter and applause.)
There are two kinds of surprise. One is tactical and one is strategic.
It's pretty clear that in a free country -- and we -- you know, in life, you get the benefit and you get the burden. And under our Constitution, we've got free speech, and we've got a free press, and we have benefited enormously from that, as a people. The competition of ideas, the fact that we're forced to be challenged, we're forced to defend ideas and to compete intellectually as to things that ought to be done or might ought to be done or shouldn't be done, and to have that all aired has been, net, a big plus for our society and our country.
The reality is that with 24-hour news seven days a week - I can't understand it, but for whatever reason, there are people who have access to classified information, who make a conscious decision that they're going to give it to members of the press or to people who are not qualified to have classified information. I think it's disgraceful. It's a violation of federal criminal law. They ought to be prosecuted and thrown in jail. (Cheers, applause.)
Q: Tell 'em!
Rumsfeld: And I have a feeling that if any of the people who compromise classified information had children who were on the front lines and in the lead elements going into battle -- that was compromised because of their release of classified information, that they'd think twice instead of doing something that's so fundamentally wrong, so outrageously wrong, and so illegal.
Now what does all that mean? If you separate out classified information, which is one thing -- and the press don't invent classified information; the press is given classified information by people who have been charged with handling it in a responsible way and don't handle it in a responsible way, and thereby put people's lives in jeopardy. And it is those people that we ought to be focused on, it seems to me.
Now what about the effect of all of it? In every war, in every battle, it takes a certain amount of arranging prior to the battle, prior to the war. And I guess that we live in this world we live in, where so much is known so fast. I looked the other day at one of our airfields that we use in the Middle East, and there was a commercial satellite photograph on one of the television channels, showing exactly where our fighter aircraft and where our refueling aircraft were located on that airport -- this is on a television station -- from a commercial aircraft -- a commercial satellite, showing where our planes were and how they'd move, how one was there yesterday and was not there today, and noting that.
We're currently engaged in Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch, as you folks know, in Iraq, and our planes are getting shot at almost every day or every other day, by Iraqi surface-to-air weapons. When they are operating, they leave bases in that part of the world and fly into Iraq, in the north and in the south. Before those planes -- coalition planes, U.S. aircraft, British aircraft -- before they cross the border into Iraq, the Iraqis know it, and they have taken steps to move their mobile radars and their mobile missiles, so that our planes can't find them, can't attack them and can't kill them.
How do they do that? Well, they undoubtedly have people sitting near the bases, or some distance from Iraq, with cell phones, using technology that they didn't invent -- we did -- and that they buy on the open market, phoning in and saying, "The planes have left and they're headed this way." Now, can we live with that? You bet, we'll live with it.
Next question. Back here.
I wish we didn't have to live with it.
Q: My name is Sergeant Gossom, from Maintenance Battalion and GSM Company. (Cheers). All right, I have a very simple question for you, sir, it's not really as long as some of them --
Rumsfeld: You notice how the sergeant got the corporal to sit down? (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you. All right. (Laughter.) Many Marines -- And I can't really speak for civilians; I really don't know what's going on in their heads -- but many Marines feel like that September 11th, since then we have not retaliated to the extent that we should have. Now, you said it yourself, sir, that there's a lot of speculation that there will be another attack on this September 11th, which is right around the corner, and if not then, soon enough after that. What will be the proper retaliation if another strike is done by the terrorists on the same scale as last time?
Rumsfeld: Well first, let me say, Sergeant, that I don't think what this is about is retaliation. I don't think it's about retribution. I think it's about self-defense. It is that we are determined, as free people, to be able to get up in the morning and say what we want and go where we want and live how we want and have our children go off to school and know they'll come home. And that is what we seek.
There are people who tried -- who did kill more than 3,000 Americans on September 11th. There are people out there today, thousands of al Qaeda who have been trained and have moved around the world into 40 or 50 countries, who are determined to kill more innocent men, women and children. They do not have an army or a navy or an air force that we can attack. If they did, we would have done so. There is no "front" to this war. Our task is to put pressure across the board. Who do you retaliate against because the al Qaeda flew airplanes into our buildings and into the Pentagon and into Pennsylvania? Well, you do what we did; we went to Afghanistan and we said to the Taliban, "You folks have been housing al Qaeda while they trained terrorists. You ought not to be doing it. You're not going to do it anymore," and they're not doing it anymore. (Applause.)
We are tracking al Qaeda and other terrorists all across the globe today. It would make you feel good if you could retaliate against something, if you could find some target to vent against. But there aren't targets like that. They're in caves, they're in tunnels. They're blended in to the communities. There are al Qaeda in the state of California, I don't doubt for a minute; they're in state after state across this country. They're in country after country across the globe.
And it isn't a matter of retaliating against them, it's a matter of finding them, interrogating them, stopping them, killing them if you have to, capturing if you must, and seeing if we can't put so much pressure on these terrorist networks that we're able to defend the American people and our friends and allies across the globe. (Applause.)
Q: Sir, Agent -
Rumsfeld: Make this a good one, because I'm getting the hook.
Q: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
Rumsfeld: I can feel it. They're over there looking at me like it's time for me to let you folks get out of the sun.
Q: Agent Three Reed, 1st Medical Battalion, 1st FSSG. (Cheers.) Sir, my question is, with the change of presidency in Colombia, what is the U.S. policy or what are they going to be doing with their pursuit of democracy, his change on his views?
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
The answer is this. We -- there is a new a president. He - I don't believe he's taken office yet, but if he hasn't, he will in a relatively short period of days or weeks. He was in Washington very recently, and I had a chance to visit with him -- the president of Colombia-elect. He is a serious person. He is determined to retake his country.
Colombia is an interesting place. It is not unlike a number of countries of the world where there are relatively large areas that are not governed; they're simply not under the control of the government. And as we know, in Colombia, the revolutionaries, the narco- traffickers, the terrorists, who take hostages for money, have taken over a relatively significant chunk of that country. It is a -- as a result, a dangerous place. It's a place where people are making money through narcotics. They're making money through terrorism. They're making money through hostage-taking. And it needs to be stopped.
And this president has -- we -- our country has cooperated with them essentially with respect to the anti-drug effort. We have not been cooperating with them particularly with respect to the other aspects of interrelated crimes, namely hostage-taking and terrorism.
My impression is that the Congress of the United States is going to change the current legislation which restricts what the United States can do. For example, at the present time, if we supply intelligence information to the government of Colombia so that they can go after narcotic traffickers, which is legal for us, we can't do that if the government wants to go after a terrorist or wants to go after a hostage-taker, which is -- doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And my impression is that a number of these people are engaged in more than one of these crimes, and as a result, I suspect that what we'll find is the law will get changed, we'll find ways to be more cooperative with the government of Colombia, and that president, if he's successful, will be able to retake his country.
I'm going to leave. I want to thank you. I appreciate what you're doing. And God bless you all. (Cheers, applause.)