DoD News Briefing - Rumsfeld And Gen. Pace
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Monday, Sept. 16, 2002 - 1 p.m. EDT
(Also participating was Gen. Peter Pace, Vice-Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
Last Thursday, the President of the United States told the United Nations that the regime in Iraq is a grave and gathering danger to the world. He asked that the United Nations enforce the Security Council sanctions that Saddam Hussein had violated and ignored for a little over a decade. Iraq, of course, has refused to remove or destroy its weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and Iraq continues to repress its own people.
The President's speech reminded the world that the 21st century has brought a dangerous new national security environment. Our coalition forces have had good success against terrorists in Afghanistan, but global terrorists remain a threat, possibly with still more lethal weapons. In the last century, free nations of the world were dealing essentially with conventional weapons. The potential casualties in a surprise attack were those that are logical with a conventional attack. Going back to Pearl Harbor, the loss was something like 2,400 people, a lot of people, mainly military combatants. As grievous as that loss was, however, it would be considered small in comparison to the weapons of mass destruction that the terrorists could unleash in this 21st century. With chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear weapons, the risk is not of losing additional thousands of people, but possibly tens of thousands, and very likely civilians, innocent men, women and children, as opposed to combatants.
The United States since September 11th of last year has crafted a coalition of some 90 countries, close to half of the nations of the world, in the global war on terrorism. The work of those countries is being seen almost every day. The sharing of intelligence, the pressure that's been put on terrorists, the people that have been scooped up in a variety of raids in more than one continent, the intelligence information that's been gathered as a result of those raids all is helping to achieve the effort. And you'll recall I've talked about the fact that it's like an iceberg in that a great deal of what's taking place in the world is below the surface of the sea. And it is because of that wonderful coalition and the cooperation that exists that we're seeing such important progress take place.
Last week, the President set forth at the United Nations the pattern of Iraqi defiance. The U.N. is now considering what to do about that pattern. The Congress addressed the matter back in 1998 when it passed a joint resolution that declared, quote, "That the government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations. And therefore, the President is urged to take appropriate action to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations." That was 1998 in a joint resolution that was approved by Congress.
In the coming days, the administration will take the President's case to the Congress. As the options are considered and as the President considers his course of action, many will be asking some obvious questions: Why Iraq? Why now? Can we afford it? Why not wait? What are the risks? And these are not inappropriate questions. Some are useful. And certainly they will be commented on by the administration witnesses who will be testifying before the Congress.
When I testify before the House and Senate Armed Services Committee later this week, it will not be an intel briefing. Intel briefings will be generally supplied by the director of Central Intelligence and his deputy. It will not be a play by play as to what the goal is in the United Nations with respect to resolutions and that type of thing. That will be what Secretary Powell will be -- who's working on that -- will be testifying to. It will be a -- an elaboration on the case that the President made to the world. And it will, in the case of the Senate, involve an open session and then a closed session.
It's interesting that as we go through this week and next week, the House and Senate intelligence committees are up there poring over literally thousands, probably tens of thousands, of pages of documentation attempting to connect the dots with respect to what happened on September 11th. The -- this has been going on for months. And the executive agencies have been disgorging documentation at their request by the bucket.
But what will be taking place in the next few weeks in the Congress will be attempting to connect the dots before a tragedy happens, not after a tragedy happens. The goal will be to try to take the pieces and help people understand that it isn't simple -- that there isn't a single smoking gun that everyone nods and says "A-ha! That's it." If we wait for a smoking gun in this instance, it obviously would be after the fact. You'd find it after the fact. You'd find it after lethal weapons were used against the United States, our friends and allies. And that's a little late when you're dealing with capabilities of the lethality that represent these capabilities.
Pace: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Well, I have no significant military activities to report to you today, so we'll go straight to questions.
Rumsfeld: Questions. Charlie.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Saudi Arabia, with many U.S. attack planes on base, said previously it would not allow any invasion of Iraq from its territory. Now the Saudis are saying yes, they will, if such an invasion would be sanctioned by the United Nations. Number one, how do you feel about such a caveat? And number two, does this raise pressure on Baghdad to allow unfettered searches?
Rumsfeld: Well, I've been reading for weeks that the United States is all alone, and oughtn't that to tell us something? First of all, the President has not made a decision to do anything with respect to Iraq, except to make the case to the Congress and to make the case to the United Nations that the United Nations resolutions are being defied and have the effect of damaging that institution's relevance and standing in the world, and that they ought to address that.
Throughout the period of weeks when I read these articles that we're all alone, I have also been in touch with a number of countries, as have Secretary Powell and the President, and the articles have not been accurate. There are any number of countries that are, in one or more ways, in agreement with what the President has been saying.
The truth is, when countries are engaged in elections, people say things that they think they should say. And when countries live close to somebody, like Saddam Hussein, that has threatened their neighbors, threatened their regimes, invaded, used weapons -- chemical weapons against them, they're careful about what they say publicly. And that's fine.
So all I would say is that the impression I've gotten as to the degree of support for the United States and the President with respect to his words and his interests and his hopes and goals is not consistent with what we are seeing privately and --
Q: Well --
Rumsfeld: Now how do I feel about it? Sure, any country that feels it's in their interest -- think back to the global war on terrorism. I've said, "Look, we'll take help any way we can get it, and if someone wants to make it private, that's fine. If someone wants to make it public, that's nice." And it's obvious that help that's private is helpful. And it's -- we've benefited enormously in the global war on terrorism from the intelligence sharing by countries that are ostensibly not helping us.
In addition, any country that does decide to step forward and say that they will help in -- on this basis or that basis, or for this reason or that reason, or in this circumstance or that circumstances, or in any circumstance whatsoever that anyone can imagine, that's all helpful, because it tells the rest of the world that they have some political cover, if you want to use the current phrase. And so we're always pleased when a country steps forward and says something like that.
Q: Does this increase the pressure on Baghdad to perhaps allow --
Rumsfeld: Yes. No question. To the extent the Congress and members of the U.N. step up and acknowledge what the President has said as a fact, which it clearly puts greater pressure on Saddam Hussein, and it puts greater pressure on the Iraqi regime.
Q: But you mentioned the Congress. How about Saudi Arabia?
Q: Does this move by Saudi Arabian increase pressure on Iraq?
Rumsfeld: I said when a country does or when the Congress does -- people of the Congress and -- or people around the world of distinction -- I mean, I see articles by former secretaries of State and so forth, and when they are supportive of what the President is doing and what we're trying to achieve in the Congress and the United Nations, that's helpful.
Q: Mr. Secretary, do you understand the Saudi comments to represent that they will now allow U.S. ground troops to be stationed in Saudi and participate in a ground invasion of Iraq if the President decides that and to launch offensive strikes from Saudi Arabia?
Rumsfeld: The President has not made a decision like that, and --
Q: Can you talk about the Saudi foreign minister's comments --
Rumsfeld: The last thing in the world I will do is interpret any foreign minister's views. We have said from the beginning, they ought to say what they want to say in the way they want to say it, in a way that makes them comfortable. And that's what they're doing. And it's not for me to interpret the minister or the prime minister of any country on the face of the earth. And I tend not to do it unless they specifically ask me to.
Q: Mr. Secretary, a couple of months ago --
Q: Can I ask you on the al Qaeda front: Ramzi Binalshibh -- can you tell us his status? Is he in U.S. government or U.S. military control? And is he a candidate for the military tribunal?
Rumsfeld: The decision on who might or might not eventually be considered appropriate for a military tribunal or military commission, I think is the correct phrase -- I know very few people use that phrase, but I think that's what the military order, that the President signs that -- is a decision for the President. And to my knowledge, he's not addressed this. And I think I would know.
Q: What about their -- who's got control of them?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't want to get into that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, two months ago I asked you if the United States would consider a preemptive strike against North Korea because North Korea was obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and you said at that time, quote: "You gotta be kidding," unquote. In other words, no way. And yet the United States is considering -- underline "considering" -- a preemptive strike against Iraq. What's the difference? And should we, perhaps, also consider taking action against North Korea and Iran, since they were mentioned in the State of the Union?
Rumsfeld: Well, as you know well, the President's remarks to the United Nations and to the country did not address the subject of North Korea or Iran. He did, properly, in my view, characterize those three countries, those two plus Iraq, as the axis of evil. And I think that what's taken place since that speech has been an indication of how useful that speech was because you can clearly see stirrings in various countries, including one or more of those, taking place, and also in some of the other countries in the terrorist list. So it's been -- that speech has been a good thing.
I see distinctive differences in the three myself, as does the President. And the case against Saddam Hussein is encompassed in the President's remarks to the United Nations. He stands in violation of -- 16 times, I think the President said -- resolutions of the world community.
Iran is clearly a country that is harboring al Qaeda. It says it isn't, but it is. It is a country that is developing -- aggressively developing nuclear capabilities and increasingly longer-range ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction. It is also a country, however, that has a population that is in ferment. And there's no question in my mind but that the young people and the women in that country, particularly, as well as others, who are uncomfortable with this tight control by a small clique of clerics that they try to impose on the people of that country -- is increasingly difficult for them to do.
And I have no -- I think most of the world was dumbfounded at how quickly that country turned from the shah to the ayatollahs. I think it's possible that we could be dumbfounded someday to see it turn away from this clique of clerics, because clearly, they're not managing their affairs in a way that's in the interest of the Iranian people.
North Korea is quite a different situation. It is -- all one has to do is look at it compared to South Korea and it just wrings your heart out to see what's happening to those people. They're starving. They're being repressed. They're being treated terribly. There's large numbers in concentration camps and fleeing the country.
I don't know what's going to happen in North Korea, except that we do know that they are one of the world's worst proliferators, particularly with ballistic missile technologies. We know they're a country that has been aggressively developing nuclear weapons and has nuclear weapons. And we know they're a danger first and foremost to their own people, and second, they're a threat principally because of their proliferating activities, as opposed to being a threat to South Korea.
So I see a different situation, and I think the President's approaching it properly.
Q: Can I do a follow-up?
Q: Will you be moving additional forces to the region as these diplomatic efforts proceed at the United Nations?
Rumsfeld: Well, we move forces all around the world all the time. People come, people go. We don't talk about deployments; they happen. All I can say is that I don't know what the President will decide or what the Congress, the U.N. will decide, but whatever they decide, this department will be capable of doing that which it might be asked. But we're not going to talk about deployments, obviously.
Q: What about moving CENTCOM headquarters?
Rumsfeld: CENTCOM headquarters, Tom Franks has been after me to do that ever since I arrived in the department, and there's a certain logic to it. The European Command is in Europe, the Pacific Command's in the Pacific, and the Central Command is in Tampa. You think, my goodness, why is that? Well, it's just history. And it's clearly difficult to deal in those time zones if your team of people dealing in that time zone is physically in Tampa as opposed to in the time zone, in the area of responsibility of the Central Command. So what he's doing is looking at different ways, alternatives of doing things. And what will eventually happen, I think, remains to be seen. But he clearly is developing some capability in that part of the world.
Q: Mr. Secretary, on Binalshibh, the President earlier today, in a speech in Iowa, did talk about him generally, saying that it should -- the capture should send a message to other terrorists. I wondered if you could just --
Rumsfeld: Oh, it does. Let there be no doubt it sends a message to other terrorists.
Q: Well --
Rumsfeld: Oh. Well, look, the more of these people that are rolled up and put in jail and interrogated, the more difficult it is to recruit, the more difficult it is to retain people, the more difficult it is to raise money, the more difficult it is to transfer money, the more difficult it is for those folks to move between countries, the more careful they have to be in everything they do. Well, that's hard work. It's expensive work. It slows them down. It makes everything they do harder.
And so each of these things you read about in the newspaper from time to time not only is what it is, but it is a part of that broader pressure and the difficulties that are being imposed on terrorist networks around the world, and it ought to be thought of in that context. It's important.
Q: Would his capture also perhaps provide the U.S. with some valuable information, do you think?
Rumsfeld: A -- awful lot of the ones we pick up do. They provide it by whatever they have in or around them, the people that were with them, what they say, what they don't say, how they handle themselves, and -- no, we've gathered an awful lot of information that's made life an awful lot more difficult for an awful lot of folks.
Q: Particularly on the 9/11 planning, do you think?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm not going to get into that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, a couple of months ago, you said that the United States would not hesitate to go to other countries in the region or anywhere in the world, sometimes with other governments' permission, sometimes without. And some of the things you've been talking about today have indicated you have done some of that.
But you sent military training teams to Georgia, to Yemen and to the Philippines, and you did those operations, and now all of that seems to be slowing down.
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness, everyone always says this is slowing -- are we in a quagmire again? Have we arrived back in the quagmire?
Q: No, are we in a pause?
Rumsfeld: No, we're not in a pause. There is a lot going on. There is -- think of the iceberg. Let me come back to the iceberg. There is a lot going on. There are more -- 90 nations are involved. Intelligence is being scarfed up all across the globe. There are people who are trying to do things against this country and other free people, and they're having a dickens of a time. Does that mean they won't be successful in doing something bad? No. They may very well. But does it mean there are going to be fewer of it and longer periods between it? You bet.
There is no pause. There is no lull. There is no quagmire. We are picking up caches of weapons in Afghanistan every single day. There's barely a day that goes by that somebody somewhere on this globe isn't scooped up and arrested and interrogated and providing information that's harmful to their side and helpful to our side.
Q: The "Rumsfeld Rules" on this are, you will go anywhere, anytime to pursue these people still -- is that --
Rumsfeld: Well, I mean, examples -- sure. We went to Yemen, and we went to Pakistan with the cooperation of those countries. They've been very helpful. We're working with them. I can list other countries. We've -- we went to Afghanistan without permission, and if there were another situation like Afghanistan, you'd find it there, as well.
Q: Mr. Secretary, how concerned are you that as we continue to turn up pressure on --
Q: Ask Pete Pace a question!
Q: Well, this one is -- (inaudible) -- as we turn up pressure on Saddam Hussein and perhaps the U.N. takes action, that we see a desperation play by him -- perhaps handing off some of his weapons of mass destruction -- his chemical, his biological -- to others who would do this country harm? And doesn't that necessitate a need to move quickly?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, it seems to me what you have to do is, you have to move in a manner and at a pace that reflects the reality that every day, every week, every month that goes by, he gets -- his weapons of mass destruction programs are more fully developed, more mature, are closer to their goal and their establishing whatever it is his different goals may be with respect to those capabilities. Every day that goes by gives him other opportunities to connect with terrorist networks and, as you suggest, either activate Iraqi sleeper cells around the world or connect with networks that have sleeper capabilities in multiple countries, including this one. So that is, on the one hand, one of the things one has to consider. And time, as the President indicated, is not on our side. Time is on the side of those that are attempting to acquire those capabilities. And we have to have that in mind.
Q: How concerned are people in this building about that desperation-play scenario?
Rumsfeld: The people in this building, uniformed and civilian, are systematically thinking through all of the kinds of things that you're raising and dozens and dozens of others -- pages of them -- things that can go wrong; things that can be a problem; things that can threaten our country; things that can threaten our interests, our people, our fiends, our allies; things that can happen that aren't intuitive. And they have been -- it is their job -- our job to do that, to think those things through -- what conceivably can happen? You have to think of specific things, like you've cited one, of which there are dozens. But you also have to think not about specific threats or locations of threats or a specific country or a network, but you have to think through, given the kinds of capabilities that exist in the world, where might they come from that have no connection to anything else, or seemingly no connection, and how might capabilities be used that could surprise people? For example, the use of aircraft into this building was not anything that was on the threat matrix as a likely thing to happen. So the new century forces us to think anew, and we are and our people are.
Q: May I just follow one more time? How likely do you see it that Saddam Hussein would do something like that? I guess that's the real question. How he would do it is another matter. But given the fact that we continue to turn up pressure on Saddam Hussein, how likely do you think it that he would so something like that?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think your question suggests a truth, and the truth is that in Desert Storm, the Gulf War, the stated purpose was not to change the regime. Therefore, that issue was demystified for him. He could pretty much feel that when it was over, he might win or lose, but he'd still be around.
Clearly, if the President goes forward, which he has not decided to do, and if the Congress or the U.N., or whoever else decides there are things that ought to be done, at this stage, there's still the question about regime change in his mind, not whether or not the Congress has spoken on that, not whether or not the President's spoken on that, but it's an open question.
I think that you have to think of that question in this way. The regime is small; it's his family, it's a handful of generals and people who may very well be simpatico with him. It's hard to believe that people are, but let's pretend they are. There are a large number of people in that country who are hostages to him. They do not agree with him, they do not support him. They're frightened to death of him. And he kills numbers of them every year just so he can maintain that level of fear. Those are the folks who would have to implement his wishes. He is who he is. But to be successful in executing the kinds of things that might be done will require that he use other people. And I would think that other people would be very, very careful about their roles in the use of weapons of mass destruction or their relationship with terrorist networks because --
Q: May I follow-up?
Rumsfeld: -- because they would be nominating themselves as part of the regime that ought to get special attention.
Q: May I do my follow-up, sir?
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: I'd like to get some more folks in here --
Q: I'm going to ask General Pace a follow-up when you get to me.
Q: I have a question for General Pace, too --
Q: -- which I'll ask, if I get this one to you first. (Laughter.) The British government is to release next week a dossier or white paper on Iraq. And according to reports in the British press, it's said to include some of the first really definitive evidence that Saddam Hussein trained at least two of bin Laden's top lieutenants. It also purportedly says that Iraq is rebuilding three chem/bio laboratories. My question is, are you aware of any such evidence?
And next week I guess you'll be going to a NATO meeting. Will you be sharing evidence like this, or more evidence with your NATO counterparts as you continue to make the case against Iraq?
Rumsfeld: I am aware of a lot of intelligence information. I have no idea what is in the paper that you've characterized, that might or might not come out of the U.K.
And the answer to the last part of the question is yes, we will be meeting with our NATO friends in the middle of next week, I believe -- yeah, the middle of next week. And there very likely will be an intelligence briefing of some sort that would take place there.
Q: Do you believe, though, that Saddam Hussein has trained top lieutenants to Osama bin Laden?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't want to get into that.
Q: Can I get a question to General Pace?
Rumsfeld: No! (Laughter.)
Q: General Pace --
Rumsfeld: Maybe later.
Q: He's the forgotten man. He hasn't had a question yet.
Rumsfeld: He deserves one. Who's got a question for General Pace?
Q: I've got a good question for General Pace.
Rumsfeld: Here's a question for General Pace.
Q: General, in 1991, the threats of chemical and biological weapons didn't materialize in the Gulf War --
Pace: The what? I'm sorry.
Q: The threat of chem and bio weapons didn't actually come to affect U.S. soldiers in the Gulf War. How much better prepared are they now than they were then? And are there specific technologies that have contributed to that?
Pace: I think the commanders who may be called upon to take action around the world where there might chemicals employed or biological weapons are fully aware of that possibility. Again, the President has not made a decision; our commander in chief has not made a decision. But if he were to employ us in that area and if, in fact, we were to have the working environment we have had this last decade to think through our tactics, techniques and procedures, to think through the kinds of equipment that we need and to work on that -- so I do not want to be precise with you about where our strengths and weakness are, but we are certainly better today than we were in 1991.
Q: You began the war with a discrete list of al Qaeda and Taliban leadership. And could you give us a sense of how many names have been added to that list as you've gone through and interrogated some of your prisoners and what the general status of that list is? From time to time, you've mentioned certain proportions that have been captured and those who have been killed and those still at large.
Rumsfeld: I haven't looked at it lately. I don't know how big it is; I don't think -- it's gotten somewhat larger, I think.
Pace: It may be counterproductive to answer your question because to tell the terrorists who we have and who we don't have and to tell them what we think structurally or how we think they're structured would not be conducive to the ongoing prosecution of the war on terrorism, part of which is the military piece, and the other part being things like happened in Buffalo, in Lackawanna, this past week. There are various pieces of our government and of other coalition governments that are working this very hard. And to be precise about the answer to you question I think would do damage to that effort.
Rumsfeld: We probably ought to get a new category in there, though -- "not heard from for six to eight months." (Isolated laugh.)
Q: Anyone come to mind?
Q: My follow-up question?
Rumsfeld: All right!
Q: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
General Pace, as far as we know, Saddam Hussein does not have a delivery system of carrying weapons of mass destruction to CONUS -- to the shores of the United States -- no ICBMs that can reach us, as far as we know. And yet intelligence sources say that North Korea will have missiles capable of hitting Alaska in 2004 and, with a smaller warhead, the West Coast of the United States. Militarily, could not a case be made that North Korea poses a greater threat to the United States than Iraq does?
Pace: When we assess threats to this country from a military standpoint, we look at two things. One is capability and the other is intent. So does the country you're looking at have the wherewithal to do whatever it is you think they might do? And second, do they have the intent to do it? We don't always know all we want to know about their capability, nor do we always know about their intent.
But clearly many of our friends have weapons, which, if used against us, would be destructive. But they have zero intent to do that. Our potential enemies are the ones who have the capability and the potential intent. And it's this collective work in the coalition and amongst our own intelligence agencies that helps us determine which country has what intent at what time on the spectrum, and why we then give our recommendations to the secretary and the President about what those threats are.
Q: General --
Rumsfeld: Furthermore, the -- September 11th suggested lots of ways to deliver lethal damage to the United States.
In addition, countries have placed ballistic missiles in ships -- cargo ships, commercial ships, dime a dozen -- all over the world. Any given time, there's any number off our coast, coming, going, on transporter-erector-launchers, and they simply erect it, fire off a ballistic missile, put it down, cover it up. Their radar signature's not any different than other 50 others in close proximity. So your comment that they don't have the ability to deliver a ballistic missile to this country is flat wrong.
Q: What, then, are the lessons of September 11th, though, that when it comes to intent and capability, this doesn't necessarily go by country, by sovereign state, but it could be -- for instance, be somebody from Saudi Arabia, a very friendly ally, who perpetrates a serious threat to our country? We're talking about Iraq and Saddam Hussein. We're talking about North Korea. But wasn't the lesson of September that this threat can come from anywhere?
Pace: A lesson from September 11th is that there are other than state actors that are real threats to the United States and to our friends.
Q: If I could follow up North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi is visiting Pyongyang tomorrow. What should be on that? And how concerned are you he might give the world's foremost missile peddler a chance to survive? Why don't we seek the --
Rumsfeld: I missed the last part of the question.
Q: Missile peddler, the vendor of missile technology, the chance to survive. He might -- the Japanese might give --
Rumsfeld: I'm sorry. I don't follow it. Say it one more time.
Q: How concerned are you that he might -- the Japanese prime minister, who is visiting Pyongyang tomorrow, might give North Korea, the world's foremost missile peddler, the chance to survive? Why don't we seek a regime change or U.N. resolution?
Rumsfeld: Well, look, Japan is an important country. It has a very capable military. It has an enormous GDP. It's a country that we value as a very close friend. We have an alliance with them. And all kinds of people meet with other countries. I'm not worried at all that Japan is going to do anything that would be inadvisable from the standpoint of missile proliferation. Indeed, my recollection is Japan's been quite careful with respect to missile -- with respect to banned technologies and avoiding their proliferation.
Q Mr. Secretary, can I ask you one that has nothing to do with Iraq.
Rumsfeld: Do you want to ask Pete?
Q Well, both of you.
Q: Last week several times, American military personnel in Puerto Rico were attacked by civilians who were protesting the continued naval exercises on the island of Vieques. And the reports are that the local police stood by and watched that happen without acting. What, if anything, is the department going to do about that situation, try and force the local police to enforce the law?
Rumsfeld: I had not seen those reports. And any time local police -- and I'm not validating that your report is correct, because I don't know, but obviously, any time local law enforcement officers fail to enforce the law, they're in dereliction of their duty. And -- how to phrase this gracefully -- places where local law enforcement people do refuse to perform their duties obviously are creating an environment that's not terribly hospitable for other people.
How to intend to deal with it was the other part of your question. If it's true, we would look into it and talk to the authorities there and see if we can determine if they're aware of what's going on, and encourage them to fulfill their responsibilities.
Vieques is an important location for us, and we intend to continue to operate on a basis that's consistent with our obligations, and we hope others will continue to cooperate in a manner that's consistent with their obligations.
Q: Mr. Secretary, if I could follow up on that question? The U.S. Southern -- Naval Southern Command has said that they have contacted the police and they have remonstrated with them, they have said they're firing flares at our people, throwing rocks at them; you're doing nothing. And the response has been zero. So what can you do after they have ignored counseling from us?
Rumsfeld: We have a former Southern Command commander here, who's kind of ready, cocked and prepared to respond to your question. (Chuckles.)
Pace: There is a great deal that government agencies can do with and for each other. And any time that one element of the structure that's supposed to provide security to all citizens, whether they're wearing uniforms or not, any time that that does not function properly, there are other elements of the government that are there to deal with that -- not U.S. military; there's a judiciary system and there's the governor of Puerto Rico and there's other U.S. leaders who have those responsibilities. So as a military man, I would continue to go to the civilian leaders who have those responsibilities, through the secretary, to make sure that our folks, whether they're in uniform or not, are properly protected on Puerto Rico or anywhere else in the world.
Rumsfeld: Jamie, did you have a --
Q: I do actually have a question for General Pace.
Q: General, we've been noting the continued strikes in Iraq in both the Northern and Southern no-fly zone. Military -- Pentagon officials have been portraying these as essentially routine. But the toll continues to mount as we look at the targets that have struck in the South. Can you still say that this is a routine level of activity, or has there been an increase in the U.S. response, understanding that just about every time the United States or its allies fly in the no-fly zones, Iraq provides some kind of provocation by shooting at the planes. But still, you decide when you're going to respond and how you're going to respond, and has there been an escalation?
Pace: I would certainly not use the term "routine." Any time we have folks getting airplanes flying over territory where they're being shot at every time they do is not a routine mission, and the response is not routine. And what has changed, I think, and what perhaps you may be referring to, is the number of events, as you look back over the last several years, is about on par with what has happened in the last couple of years. What has changed a little bit is the tactics that are being employed in response to that so that the air defense network in Iraq, which includes the radars and the buildings that have the command nodes in them and the airfields themselves, the response to that by the commanders on the ground has been to go after more of the targets like communications buildings, that are not easily moved, and striking those. So instead of going at the specific radar that was involved, which can easily be moved between the time the missile was fired and the time we're able to counter-strike, they're picking on targets that are still part of that continuum of air defense but that are not going to be (easily/able to be ?) moved and can be struck readily and provide appropriate level of response to that kind of provocation.
Q: Did the recent strikes in the last weeks and months -- have you succeeded in degrading Iraq's air defenses because of that? And does that, in fact, lay the groundwork if there's potential military action against Iraq in the future?
Pace: The recent strikes have degraded the air defense capabilities.
Rumsfeld: Oh, wait -- there's two aspects to that question. One is, have they degraded them on a relative basis, and have they degraded them on an absolute basis, net? Because they are constantly trying to improve them. They have been putting in fiber optic, and they have been doing a whole series of things -- developing queuing techniques.
And I am not in a position to know if they have been net degraded. There is no question but that when a response option is executed, that some of the time but not all of the time, the battle- damage reports indicate that what you intended to do was some percentage accomplished. So you could say that's degrading. Whether it is degrading it faster than it is being improved no one not on the ground is in a position to respond to that.
Q: General --
Pace: That's what the general meant to say. (Laughter.)
Q: General Pace, you didn't really answer whether -- is that laying the groundwork for an Iraqi strike? In other words, why the change on this? Some might say this was just laying the groundwork
Rumsfeld: Well, it can't hurt. I directed it.
Q: Why did you direct it?
Rumsfeld: Because it seemed right at the time. The -- I don't like the idea of our planes being shot at. We're there implementing U.N. resolutions. The -- it's not just the United States. It's the British, the coalition forces involved. And the idea that our planes go out and get shot at with impunity bothers me.
Q: Can you --
Q: When did you direct the change?
Rumsfeld: And I don't like it. I don't like it. And so what we are doing is we are attempting to, in an orderly way, as the general indicated, arrange our response options in a way that we think -- hope -- we hope will be net harmful to their capabilities on the ground. We can't know for sure if it has been net harmful, but our intention is to make it net harmful.
Q: But is this laying the groundwork for Iraq? That's the question.
Rumsfeld: The President hasn't made a decision with respect to Iraq. Didn't I say that earlier? I thought I said that.
Q: When did you order the change?
Q: When did you order this? When did this change take place, Mr. Secretary?
Q: Now? (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Less than a year -- less than a year and more than a week. (Laughter.) I think less than six months and more than a month.
Rumsfeld: But I can't remember. I don't keep track of all -- I don't keep notes.
Q: Can you take my question, please?
Q: Could someone take that question and get back to us?
Q: General, do you remember?
Pace: I remember it happening since I've been here, which was 1 October last year.
Pace: Which is almost a year now. But I don't remember.
Q: Will you take that question?
Rumsfeld: If you want to take the rhythm of what happened, what happened was that after I came, which is the extent of my knowledge -- or recollection, there had been a pattern of responses that had been relatively only marginally effective, both in the North and the South. And we were flying patterns that were getting us shot at. And our responses being what they were, at some point -- and I don't remember, I think it was this year -- at some point -- maybe it was, like, last year -- we decided, after a good deal of talk, General Pace, General Myers, others in the National Security Council, that it really did not make an awful lot of sense to be flying patterns that we were being shot at if in response, we were not doing any real damage that would make it worth putting pilots at risk. So we modified some of our flights to that they were then flying in areas that were less likely to put them at risk and more in keeping with the value of what we were achieving by doing it.
You look at a cost-benefit ratio and you say, all right, you're willing to take that much of a risk because the benefit's this. So we modified it slightly. At some point, after we were able to review it over a period of time, it became pretty clear that there was a way to make the cost-benefit ratio make more sense, and at that stage we then changed it to go back to a set of flight patterns, but attached to those flight patterns, response options that we felt would give us a benefit that would merit the risks that were undertaken. That is kind of what the rhythm over time has been.
(To General Pace) Is that your recollection, roughly?
Pace: Sir, that's correct.
Rumsfeld: Now, what I'd like -- did that answer that question?
Q: Yes, a little bit. Could you explain tactically -- when I went over with your predecessor, they were -- the folks at Incirlik were actually really kind of excited about the work that they were doing, because by taking out these little tactical assets, there was going to be less shooting at them, and these are the things that are so hard to find, if indeed a war comes, whereas the buildings, as you said, can't be moved, and so they're easily targeted, if you need to do that.
So can you explain tactically why going after a stationary target is of more value to the military than taking out the things that are actually targeting them?
Rumsfeld: I wouldn't say it's more valuable. I think both can be valuable. And one of the problems is that over time, the capabilities on the ground change. And, for example, as fiber optic was put in, and as queuing ability was developed and enhanced, what target would cause us the least grief in terms of risk to our pilots changed. And as you work your way through fixed targets, then they're gone -- unless they're replaced. As you attack moveable targets and get them, the question is can you get them faster than they can replace them through the relative porous borders they have with at least three countries on their periphery. So we ought not to think of it as a static situation.
Let me move from the first four rows to the back four rows and ask -- answer a few hands there.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you share what you talked about with the Japanese foreign minister today? And did she offer the Japanese government's assistance in any future operations against Iraq?
Rumsfeld: I had a very nice meeting. I had met her previously at a private conference in Colorado some years back. We had a broad discussion on all the full range of issues. I know she's over giving a talk at the CSIS at the present time. And I don't intend to characterize what she may or may not have said in a private meeting. Just -- I leave that to her.
Way in the back.
Q: Yes. In the President's speech, the message he seemed to be conveying to Iraq was --
Rumsfeld: Wait a second. That speech had the benefit of perfect clarity. What do you mean "seemed to be conveying"? I thought it was -- (laughter) -- I thought it was an outstanding speech, and it was in plain English.
Q: I'll take "seemed" out of there.
Rumsfeld: All right. (Chuckles.)
Q: You can reflect it in the transcript. Said that -- to Iraq: If you don't do what we say, we'll take you down, and that if you do do what we say, we'll take you down.
I'm just wondering what --
Rumsfeld: I'd go back and read the speech again.
Q: The message seemed clear that if Iraq --
Q: (Inaudible) --
Q: The message seemed clear that if Iraq complies, it will still be subject to an effort to change the regime.
Rumsfeld: I think the speech really was sufficiently clear that for me to try to interpret it or add texture to it would not do it credit.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I'm representing a Norwegian newspaper, and I'm sure you are fully aware of this small pocket with pro-al-Qaeda or pro-Taliban fighters in the Kurdish areas of Iraq, in the northern part of Iraq. And the leader of that area, Mullah Krekar, was recently with -- he has got Norwegian travel documents -- he was arrested on Schipol in Amsterdam this weekend. Will the United States demand to meet him or to extradite him or to get him to the United States, anything like that? Will you take any steps towards Mullah Krekar in this regard?
Rumsfeld: The United States tends not to make demands of other sovereign states. Whether or not our law enforcement people are in touch, I don't know of my own knowledge, although I would certainly suggest that they very likely are in touch with the proper authorities in the -- I believe it was in the Netherlands.
And to the -- we find that we benefit from other people's interrogation of people, we benefit from our interrogation of the people. What they may decide I just simply don't know.
There was one here. Yes, sir?
Q: Mr. Secretary, in case of full-scale operation -- military -- against Iraq, could you significantly diminish the civilian causalities in the population? If not, the population would turn against the invading forces.
Rumsfeld: The President's made no decision with respect to what you've asked about. And it seems to me that it's not appropriate to get into speculation about that if you've got things that haven't been decided or thought through.
Q: You mentioned a couple times Iraq's use of fiber optics in their air defense system. Are Chinese entities still helping Iraq with that?
Rumsfeld: They sure did for a long time. Whether they are currently in there, I don't know. (To the general.) Do you?
Pace: No. Do not know.
Rumsfeld: I don't recall.
Q: On Iraqi air --
Rumsfeld: This is the last question.
Q: On Iraqi air defenses, could the strikes against them have the effect, inadvertent or not, of degrading them in a way that would have -- lay the groundwork if we -- if the President went ahead and made the decision to attack? I mean --
Rumsfeld: Well, I think that goes back to the earlier question that General Pace and I both responded to. And there's no question but that to the extent they keep shooting at our airplanes and to the extent we keep engaging in response options and to the extent that those response options are harmful to their air defense, which they are, that that's good. Whether they're going to be net stronger or weaker in the event anything were to occur in the future, again, is a function of what kind -- how fast they're able to rebuild and replace and replenish that capability. So I don't know how one could answer it any more skillfully than the general did.
Thank you. Good to see you all.