DoD News Briefing 29 Jan - Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, January 29, 2003 - 2:18 p.m. EST
(Also participating was Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. In response to questions on Secretary Rumsfeld's meetings with the Congress and the Joint Chiefs a fact sheet is at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan2003/d20030129consultations.pdf. Additionally, the fact sheet referred to by Gen. Myers on weapons caches is located at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan2003/d20030129weapons.pdf.)
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. In the State of the Union remarks last evening, the President made clear that Saddam Hussein poses a "serious," to quote him, "and mounting threat to our country, [and] our friends and our allies" that cannot be ignored. As the President pointed out, the Iraqi regime has not accounted for some 38,000 liters of botulism toxin, 500 tons of Sarin, mustard gas, VX nerve agent, upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical weapons, and a number of mobile biological labs designed to produce biological weapons while evading detection. His regime has the design for a nuclear weapon; it was working on several different methods of enriching uranium, and recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa. The regime plays host to terrorists, including al Qaeda, as the President indicated. Saddam's regime hides military equipment in or near mosques, hospitals, civilian homes and has a history of using innocent civilians as human shields. That is why, as he said, our nation and the world must not allow a brutal dictator with a history of reckless aggression and ties to terrorism to dominate a vital region and threaten the United States.
For those who counsel more time for inspections, the President responded that we have given Saddam Hussein more than a decade to give up chemical, biological and his nuclear weapon program. Yet nothing to date has restrained him: Not economic sanctions, not diplomacy, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities. He's now refusing to cooperate with the 17th U.N. Security Council resolution. As Mr. Blix's report pointed out, at what point do reasonable people conclude that we know his answer as to whether or not he intends to cooperate and voluntarily disarm? As the President made clear, the dictator of Iraq is not disarming; to the contrary, he is deceiving. His time to do so is running out. It's up to Iraq to prevent the use of force. And let's hope that they do so.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And good afternoon.
First, operations continue in Afghanistan. On Monday, a U.S. Special Forces unit was engaged by enemy forces near Spin Boldak and returned fire. Then, they detained an individual following that exchange of gunfire. Later that afternoon, using information gained from the detainee, coalition forces, including Afghan National Army forces, engaged enemy forces in a cave complex near Spin Boldak. A quick reaction force with full air support moved into the area, and U.S. forces dropped nearly 20 Joint Direct Attack Munitions bombs on the targets. Yesterday, more than 500 coalition forces continued operations in that same area near the Adi Ghar mountains.
In the course of those operations, they detained a number of individuals and recovered several small weapon caches, as well as bomb-making material and cell phones, as they searched some of the 30 caves. We believe there are more than 100 additional caves in the area, so operations will probably most likely continue for the next few days.
Also yesterday, coalition forces recovered a cache near Qalat, which contained more than 1,000 82mm mortar rounds and 300 rockets of the 107mm variety -- 300 rockets. This is in addition to eight weapon seizures made last week, which included small arm rounds, rockets, rocket launchers, mines, machine guns, artillery rounds and more. And we have a handout available after the briefing, if you wish, with a complete list.
And finally, we continue our deliberate movement of forces to the Middle East.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I realize that intelligence is a touchy issue, but there are major questions about the information that Secretary Powell will provide to the Security Council next week, I believe it's February 5th. People in this building, including you, have said that you have proof that Iraq is still cheating the inspectors in even the most recent inspections. Will the information that you provide, including perhaps satellite photographs, will it be more directed to show that the Iraqis are still cheating the inspectors? Or, will it provide direct information of weapons -- that the Iraqis still have these weapons? Can you give us some information on this?
Rumsfeld: Well, the President outlined a good portion of the case yesterday evening. The agency, Central Intelligence Agency, is in the process of developing the final materials that will be used by Secretary Powell. I do not -- and they're in the process of declassifying certain things, and I do not know what that final draft will look like; I've seen earlier iterations, but there is -- there certainly will be information that will be provided as they go through that declassification process.
I think the way to think about it is this; there's two... there's one threshold issue, and that's the issue of preemption. It is difficult for all of us who have grown up in this country and believed in the principle that unless attacked, one does not attack -- other countries have had different approaches, but for the most part, our country has had a view that that was the way we did things; it was other countries that have attacked us, for the most part, and initiated conflicts.
The question, though, is, in the 21st century, with biological weapons, for example, that could kill hundreds of thousands of people, what does one do? Does one wait until they're attacked, or does one look at a pattern of behavior and a pattern -- a fact pattern, and draw a conclusion?
And so that key threshold issue is one that our country, the people of our country and the world, have engaged. And because it's new and because it's difficult and not easy, and we have not -- we've had September 11th and some 3,000 human beings, innocent men, women and children of all nationalities and religions lost their lives. A biological attack that killed 300,000 or more would affect people's judgment about whether or not they would prefer that their government act before the fact. And there is no doubt in my mind but that the overwhelming majority of the American people would prefer that their government take the kinds of steps necessary to prevent that type of attack. So that's the first issue.
The second issue is people are kind of looking for a photograph or a thing that they can hold up and say, 'Aha! That proves something.' As I've said here, the Congress spent months trying to connect the dots after September 11th, trying to figure out what happened. How did all of those things go along, and how could we not know it and stop it? And wouldn't we have acted preemptively to stop it, had we been able to figure out how to stop it?
It's hard to connect the dots even after the fact, these many months, with going over thousands of documents up there on the Hill. Now they've appointed another commission to look at it. It's even harder to connect the dots before something happens.
But if you think of this fact pattern, you have a country that had chemical and biological weapons and an active nuclear program, according to the U.N. inspectors who were in there, and according to information and documents that were found. You have a country that was asked by the United Nations in the 17th resolution to declare what they have -- after lengthy diplomacy, lengthy economic sanctions -- to declare what they have, bring it forward so that they can be disarmed. You have a country that agreed to do that. And then you have a country that declined to do it, by filing a declaration that was fraudulent, by taking steps to inhibit the inspectors from doing their work in a reasonable way, by behaving totally differently than South Africa or Ukraine or Kazakhstan, which invited inspectors in, showed the world what they had, had them dismantled and disarmed, totally opposite. They're telling their people to lie to the inspectors, they're telling their people to hide things. They are taking documentation and putting it in multiple locations. You have a country that is out in the world buying things that are necessary for the development and progress in their chemical, biological and nuclear programs. And they're doing it not openly and saying it's dual use material and we're doing it innocently, but clandestinely, and paying more money than they need to.
So if you work your way down there, and then you say to yourself, 'this is a country that's not a normal country.' This is not Canada, or Australia, or some country that behaves as a good citizen of the world. This is a country that has used chemical weapons against its own people, that's used chemical weapons against its neighbors, that fired ballistic missiles into four countries in the region, that's threatened the United States of America, that has relationships with terrorist networks.
Now, what does all that force a person to think? It seems to me that at some point one has to say, 'what ought a person to think about all of that?' And that's -- that to me is evidence as hard as a photograph. And indeed, it is critically important for people to engage it in that fact pattern and come to their own conclusion about how do they feel about that.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: But -- but Old Europe, as you put it earlier this week, is looking for something hard --
Rumsfeld: You had to do it, didn't you, Charlie? (Laughter.)
Q: Well, I --
Rumsfeld: You had to do it. You had to do it.
Q: Well, are you -- if you're not going to provide a smoking gun, such as a -- a photograph, what -- how do you -- how do you plan to convince these people to go along with you?
Rumsfeld: The Secretary of State will be making a presentation to the United Nations, and the President will make a judgment, and the Security Council, undoubtedly, will be making a judgment, and individuals will be making a judgment. And it's a tough set of issues that people have to engage and wrestle with. And on the one hand, there's a risk of acting, and on the other hand, there are risks of not acting. And the risks of not acting include the potential of the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
Myers: I just might add that when we talk about Europe, it's certainly not all of Europe. We have great support out of many European countries.
Rumsfeld: The vote in NATO, the day that that subject came up, was 15 to four. And the questions came out of the press corps, "Well, Europe's against you." Well, Europe's not against us. The vote was 15 in favor of our -- 14 other countries and ours, in favor of our position, and there were four countries that were on the other side. And it seems to me that simply because one or two countries are against, it's a mistake to think that that means all of Europe, because there are any number of countries that have been very helpful and are participating in planning; both planning in the event force has to be used, and planning in the event that there is a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, in terms of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Mr. Secretary, on Monday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said that if attacked by the United States, since Iraq could not counterattack against the United States directly, that Iraq might launch some sort of attempted strike in Kuwait and other Gulf States that are helping the United States.
Two questions about that. First off, what is the --
Rumsfeld: They've done that before. That wouldn't be their first time attacking their neighbors.
Q: What is the administration's response to that threat? And is the United States prepared to and capable, of course, of defending Kuwait and the other Gulf States that are helping us with this?
Rumsfeld: There's no question but that there are a whole series of things that can happen, and that they have been examined by General Tom Franks and his associates, and by the chiefs and the chairman and the vice chairman here, and that those possibilities have been considered and addressed.
Q: You consider it a serious threat, obviously?
Rumsfeld: I consider any threat serious.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I have a question for General Myers. But before that, I'd like to defer to a visiting correspondent, who's bona fide, who has a question for you, then I will ask General Myers my question, if I may.
Rumsfeld: I get the feeling he's taking over the press briefing! (Laughter.)
Q: But you always ask me to ask General Myers a question.
Rumsfeld: Sure. That's good.
Q: Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what hard evidence does the administration have showing a direct link between Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda?
Rumsfeld: The -- I have here listed a series of facts that the agency provided me as to their assessment and evidence with respect to the relationship. I won't repeat that. I can say this, that every day that has passed since I did that, the evidence has grown. And one of the elements of Secretary Powell's presentation will be on that subject.
Q: My question for General Myers, then, if I may. General, talking about what's going on in Afghanistan, CENTCOM says this is the biggest military action since Tora Bora. Is this a sign of things to come? Is this the type of warfare that we're going to expect over there, where forces -- the unfriendlies are still grouping in Pakistan, coming across, maybe going into the caves, and then fleeing back for what they hope will be safe refuge?
Myers: I don't know, but I think, you know, that's what we've been describing for some time. You've got three-quarters of the country that's reasonably stable. You've got the eastern part of the country, which has elements in it and just across the border that can attack, and they are doing that -- not just against U.S. forces, but against the interim administration, as well. So, I don't think this is going to be -- I don't know if it's going to be typical or not, but we certainly expect conflict in that part of Afghanistan. But just let me remind you, even in that part of Afghanistan, we have one of these teams out in the provinces to try to help move into stability operations and help the people in terms of roads, and hospitals, and schools and wells and those sorts of projects.
Q: It is the largest military action in almost a year, is it not?
Myers: I think we said since Anaconda, I think is what they've been saying.
Q: General Myers -- (inaudible).
Q: General -- (inaudible).
Q: Go ahead.
Q: I want to get back to the intelligence question a second that Charlie raised. Last night after the State of the Union, Senator Levin, in a small group of reporters, criticized the administration, and some of your past statements for implying that the U.S. has given the U.N. inspectors a great deal of intelligence on sites. And he said only a very small fraction of the suspect sites on the U.S. IC's list have been shared with the inspectors to date; he emphasized only a small fraction. He contrasted that with your statement about a week ago saying that a great deal of information has been shared. Can you address, then, and, you know, give us a feel for what percentage of -- a percentage of the sites on the master list suspect sites have been shared?
Rumsfeld: The responsibility for dealing with the inspectors on sites is with the Central Intelligence Agency, as I've indicated previously. I have said that their cooperation has been considerable. And it has been. I was in the briefing that Senator Levin and others received the other day. Colin Powell and John McLaughlin and I briefed in the Senate. And he asked that question. And Mr. McLaughlin answered the question. And he is the expert. And his answer was that they had given a great deal of information to the inspectors. They have given probably as much or more information to the inspectors as the inspectors could digest. They have been very detailed. They have provided road maps and specifics and dos and don'ts as to how to do some things to actually have the best chance of finding things. So have the British. And the implication to the contrary, according to John McLaughlin, is not correct. The Department of Defense's responsibility is to offer technical assistance, technical support -- reconnaissance, aerial capabilities -- and we have done that. And we have offered U-2s. The U.N. inspectors have thanked us and requested them. And they were not -- the Iraqis have prevented their use and have been uncooperative with respect to it.
Q: General Myers, Mr. Secretary, the U-2, what would it give the inspectors if, in fact, it was allowed, in terms of capability that they lack today?
Myers: Well, I can tell you that I think when UNSCOM used them, they used them to monitor sites, pre- and during and post- inspection. And they thought they were very useful; that's why they wanted them back. So -- but we would use -- whatever the U.N. would want to use them for, we'd be happy to provide that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, without getting into specifics of Secretary Powell's --
Rumsfeld: How did you get a camera into my private office?
Rumsfeld: Who in the world let you in there --
Q: Inside the Pentagon.
Rumsfeld: Is that right?
Rumsfeld: Son of a gun. (Laughter.)
Q: Yeah. Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Thank you? I didn't have anything to do with it. (Laughter.) I wasn't there.
Q: Anytime you'd like to be on -- (laughter).
Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Okay.
Q: Without giving specifics about Secretary Powell's presentation, judging by the link that you say is between al Qaeda and Iraq, do you -- are you convinced that Iraq is actively working with al Qaeda?
Rumsfeld: The -- I think -- the last time I got into this subject I asked the agency for a piece of paper as to what they had declassified with respect to that relationship. I read it here. For the next month, various senators and various press people were indicating that I had said something that the agency didn't believe. It was not true. And it was a lot of fun for people, and it was inaccurate.
I have said that it's the agency's job to do that. I know what they say in the classified, and I know what they'll say unclassified. But if I say it, some character in here or outside, will say, "Gee, here's a wonderful opportunity. Let's see if we can find a little daylight between the Pentagon and the agency." So I'm not going to discuss it.
Q: But I'm asking your personal -- personal impression of what you see. Do you believe that there is an active link between Iraq and al Qaeda?
Rumsfeld: I know what exists. And I agree with the President when he spoke last evening on the subject.
Q: But don't you believe if the American people are about to commit their sons and daughters to a war against Iraq, that in order to make that decision, the American people have the right to know these facts?
Rumsfeld: They certainly ought to have as much information as can possibly be given, and they will.
Q: And at this point, it doesn't include information that would definitively define relationships, for example, between --
Rumsfeld: I have said this will be an element of Secretary Powell's remarks to the United Nations Security Council, and it will.
Q: General Myers? A question for General Myers. The Coast Guard announced today they're sending eight cutters, 600 people, to the Persian Gulf, which I understand is the first time they've been dispatched to a combat zone since the Vietnam War. What's the thinking behind that, and what's their mission going to be?
And can you also address the recent -- today's announcement, a call-up of Guard and Reserves and what those two will be doing. Will they be going to the Gulf, or will they be filling in for other troops?
Myers: For the Coast Guard, primarily for port and harbor and waterway security. That's what they do best.
In terms of the Reserve call-up, they're going to be doing what previous Reserves. They could be going to many locations -- some here in the United States, some overseas. Not all to the Middle East; some could be going to the Pacific Command, other commands that need augmentees or to beef-up their forces in one way or another. So it could be a whole -- a whole myriad of reasons.
Q: The Coast Guard deployment, is that at all aimed at trying to increase protection against suicide boat attacks, such as was conducted against the USS Cole?
Myers: I think that's certainly a part of it. And that's what they would help with. And clearly, there's a real threat there.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the White House has said that there is now still a window of diplomacy that remains open. I wonder about how long can that window remain open? Is there a point at which it should be closed because the military now being deployed there might lose their edge if they wait there for months?
Rumsfeld: It will remain open as long as the President wants it to, and that's his call.
Q: But in terms of the military losing its edge, I wonder if General Myers can --
Rumsfeld: We're not going to talk about the military losing their edge. There are obviously some times that are better than others, but -- and we make judgments and rotations and plans and contingencies to deal with those things.
Myers: There are certainly some good training areas over there, and other, so we'll be able to mitigate this --
Q: And one follow-up --
Myers: -- if it were an issue.
Rumsfeld: No, no. That's two already.
Let's do this one.
Q: Thank you. Do you believe Iraq represents an imminent threat to the United States?
Rumsfeld: You know, that is a question that is coming up quite a bit, and it's an important question.
Clearly, it's been -- what's been going on there has been going on in large measure for some 12 years. In a different way, it's been going on since the inspectors left -- free play for them.
Every day, every week, every month that goes by, let alone years, their programs are maturing, and their relationships exist, and they have intelligence agents around the world, they have relationships with terrorist networks, and they have opportunities to do things.
Now, at what moment was the threat to -- for September 11th imminent? Was it imminent a week before, a month before, a year before, an hour before? Was it imminent before you could -- while you could still stop it, or was it imminent only after it started and you couldn't stop it, or you could stop one of the three planes instead of two or all three? These are very tough questions.
And plans change. We know that the al Qaeda plans sometimes took a year to develop, and they were -- the cells existing around that waited impatiently until the time was perfect, and then they acted.
We have -- we know we have imperfect knowledge of everything that goes on in the world. We know that. We know that an attacker can attack at any moment they want. And we know the lethal effect of an attack might not be 300 people or 3,000 people, but 30,000 people. How do we, how do you, how do all of us, how do the people in the world decide the imminence of something? And I would submit that the hurdle, the bar that one must go over, changes depending on the potential lethality of the act.
Q: But as you see it now, do you believe that Iraq does present an imminent danger, imminent threat?
Rumsfeld: The President has stated -- our job here is to be prepared to do what we're asked. The President has stated that he considers the Saddam Hussein regime a danger to the United States and a danger to the region; that it has weapons of mass destruction, that it is developing still more, and that it has linkages to terrorist activities; and that every other effort has been exhausted -- the diplomatic, the economic, limited military activity in the Northern and Southern low -- no-fly zones; and that the string is running out.
Q: General Myers?
Rumsfeld: And it is what he thinks that is the most important, certainly not what I think.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Based on what's happened in the past, as well as on what may be happening right now, how concerned are you, or are you at all concerned that the U.N. weapons inspectors may have been penetrated by Iraqi intelligence?
Rumsfeld: Well, here you have a big country. It's a dictatorial regime that attempts to assert control over everything. And there is every reason to know that the inspectors have a very difficult time arriving anyplace that it wasn't expected. They have a very difficult time talking to anybody that hasn't been programmed to talk to them. How that happens, certainly one possibility is penetration.
Q: I have a question for General Myers. Are there U.S. military forces on the ground in the Kurdish part of northern Iraq now?
Myers: I think we've -- well, I don't think we want to get into where our forces are right now, but there are not significant military forces in northern Iraq right now.
Q: Not significant? Can you bring us up to date on the latest arrangements with Turkey for permitting U.S. forces to transit their territory in preparation for --
Myers: Again, I think I'd let Turkey characterize that. We've got a strategic partnership with them. As you know, I just returned. There's continuing dialogue with that and there's lots of different aspects. It gets fairly complex, and I'd let the Turkish government or the TGS respond to that.
Rumsfeld: Way in the back.
Q: General Myers, last week you mentioned in an interview that you had seen, I think it was, hints of intelligence that there was some instability within Saddam Hussein's regime. Can you bring us up to date on that, whether you've seen anything more over the last week, any more flesh on that bone?
And Secretary Rumsfeld, if you've seen those reports and what you make of them.
Myers: I haven't seen anything since then, I mean that would be significant, no. No.
Q: Can you just elaborate, then, on what those hints were?
Myers: I -- no, I'd prefer not to. That just would not be useful in terms of the effects we want to have.
Rumsfeld: I think the way to think about it is this. We see a lot of intelligence about morale, or what people are doing or thinking. And -- until the President decides that the chances of doing it peacefully have been exhausted, and says that, we will not see a lot of other countries standing up and saying, we agree, because at the moment they have nothing to agree with. When he does say that, if he must say it, other countries will stand up. And they will stand up and say, we want to be helping. And they will do it because they will see that it has tilted, that the diplomatic possibility or the economic possibility or the flow of forces and the pressure, the threat of force, isn't doing it, and force will have to be used.
The same thing's true internally. At some moment it will tip. Once the people -- the people in that country would be foolish to stand up and oppose the regime until they were convinced that force would be used, or that the leader would leave. And at that moment where they are convinced of that, where the center of gravity of their conviction moves from expecting that Saddam Hussein will always be there, over to concluding that he very likely will not be there, at that moment you will see a good deal of movement. And knowing what combination of things would lead to that conviction on people inside. But think of how fast Iran moved from the Shah of Iran to the ayatollah. And the small clerics. Think how fast it could change back. Think of Romania. Think of East Germany. Think of how surprising it was that, when you look externally, something looks firm and solid and real. And then in minutes, hours, days it just dissipates. It collapses.
Now, is that a possibility, that people will, in varying degrees, move away from a vicious dictator, who has denied them billions of dollars of oil revenues, who has murdered and done all the things the President indicated last night? Certainly that's a possibility.
Q: General Myers?
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: General Myers, in the last briefing you said that Iraqi officials who employed human shields would be in violation of international law and could be subject to war crime tribunals. But given this a regime that has shown relatively little concern for international treaties and resolutions, and they, in fact, go ahead and use human shields, how might that hinder a[n] air campaign against Iraq?
Myers: Well, I think it would be a very dangerous situation; it depends on if you know about it or not. Obviously, all of our planning will be done to minimize innocent civilian casualties. So, I mean, potentially, it could have an issue. But also could be that you don't know about it. And, you know, it depends how they want to use them and how they want to portray it.
Q: What about the inspectors --
Rumsfeld: Yeah. Just a minute. We're trying to share it around a little bit.
Q: This is going to seem off-point, but I think it ultimately comes back to Iraq. For the two years you've been here, you've talked about a series of changes in law and administrative practice that add up to giving you more flexibility in how you run the place; military personnel, civilian personnel, budget reprogramming and so on. One of the things that's proven very contentious, particularly in the Congress, and that gets us back to Iraq -- I mean, we spent the whole time here talking about some very heavy lifting that the department and Congress are going to be doing the next several months. Given that, it's hard to see that you can really spend much capital or much of your energy the next several months pursuing these, you know -- I mean, reprogramming thresholds? Really! Come on. Help me understand -- no, help me put it in context here.
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, when September 11th hit, everyone said, "Don't even try to continue with transforming this department. Throw in the towel; fight the global war on terrorism; deal with Afghanistan." And it was a five-minute decision, and the first four were for coffee. We had to keep trying. We have to keep moving the transformation of this building and this institution, or we're not going to be able to do what we need to do in the 21st century. And so, too, with respect to the authorities. We're going to be working with the members of the House and Senate, and there are a lot of members who understand how critically important it is that this department be able to do things and function, and get ourselves properly arranged for the 21st century. And I believe we'll have a good deal of success. And let there be no doubt, we're going to be pushing hard on it and using whatever capital we've got.
Myers: Can I chime in just for a second?
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Myers: We did the same thing in World War II; we transformed while we were fighting a global war, if you will. I agree with the Secretary; it's absolutely imperative that we do this. This is not... this is not an option. We came into this century not particularly well-prepared for the security environment that we found ourselves in. We kind of knew that; September 11th told us for sure we knew that, and that there was a sense of urgency that we had not had before regarding that. So, we've got to be able to do this. And it's not -- nobody said it's going to be easy, but that's what we've got to do, and we've got to do it across the spectrum of things to include the -- making sure that there aren't so many strings on the way the department acts that we just can't react to the security environment we find ourselves in, or we'll not be effective.
Q: I'd like to take this -- it's sort of a meta issue on the intelligence sharing with the American public.
Rumsfeld: What kind of an issue?
Myers: Don't use these big words, Pam! (Laughter.)
Q: The overarching philosophical issue on the intelligence sharing. What the administration is doing right now is essentially asking the American public to support a possible war with Iraq that could be extremely costly in terms of money, American lives, Iraqi civilians, environmental issues. And reasonable people do disagree, including General Zinni and General Schwarzkopf, as to what kind of threat is posed right now. And apparently, the administration is sitting on some intelligence that it believes weights the issue in the opposite direction.
And the question I want to ask you is, why should we trust the administration on this, sight-unseen, with its intelligence? Because I understand that much of it won't be shared with us.
There is a long tradition, and I think a very healthy one, of American people not trusting government but, rather, saying, prove it to us before you ask us to make this question.
And please don't say, you know, "It's either trust or trust Saddam Hussein," because I don't think that's a fair decision -- or a fair question to ask.
Rumsfeld: Did you think I was going to answer it that way?
Q: Actually, Wolfowitz did answer the question that way last week, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz.
Rumsfeld: And he's not here to defend himself.
Q: (Chuckling) No. Just thought I'd broadside --
Rumsfeld: Why should the American people trust their government, is the question, I guess. The -- first of all, they don't have to trust their government blindly. The leaders have the responsibility to persuade, and persuasion means you marshal facts and you marshal argumentation, and the combination of the two results in persuasion.
It seems to me that the logic pattern that the President went through, and that I have outlined somewhat differently here today, and the enormous amount of facts that exist, force people to say, "What do I think about that?" And they don't have to trust, they can come to their own conclusion; indeed, everyone must come to their own conclusion.
We have a constitutional system where we elect leadership and we put responsibility and authority in their hands, subject to a host of checks and balances. The Congress has voted overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution, joint resolution. The United Nations voted unanimously in the Security Council for Resolution 1441, citing the Iraqi regime as being in material breach, and indicating that a false declaration would be further material breach, and that lack of cooperation would be still further material breach.
And it's the kind of thing that everyone would love when they make a decision -- to have perfect knowledge. When you get married, or what college you're going to go to, if you're going to go to college, or what you're going to do on a tough business issue or a personal issue, you almost never have personal -- perfect knowledge. It's not the way the world works. And if things -- the only way you get personal [perfect] knowledge is to wait until Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. That's when you get perfect knowledge. That's after the fact. And after the fact in the 21st century, in the world of weapons of mass destruction, biological weapons that can kill tens of thousands of people, after the fact is too late.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said in response to the first question that there are risks to action as well as to inaction.
Rumsfeld: Sure are.
Q: Could you outline a few, the biggest risks to action?
Q: And specifically, could you address the intelligence assessment that Saddam Hussein is more likely to use weapons of mass destruction or give them to terrorists if he is attacked or cornered?
Rumsfeld: I sat down, oh, many, many months ago and wrote down a list of risks of acting, and I presented them to the President, and I brought it back and Dick Myers and Paul Wolfowitz and Pete Pace and others took it and added some things I hadn't thought of.
And they run the gamut. They run the gamut from concerns about some of the neighboring states being attacked, concerns about the use of weapons of mass destruction against those states or against our forces in or out of Iraq, either in Iraq or in neighboring countries; concern about Saddam Hussein using weapons of mass destruction against his own people and blaming it on us, which would fit a pattern; and concern about environmental issues that were raised here, that he could do what he did to the Kuwaiti oilfields and explode them, detonate, in a way that lost that important revenue for the Iraqi people. Many things that have been mentioned here.
The cost was mentioned here, and that is not something that one ought to worry about, because the cost of 9/11 was so much greater than the cost of a conflict in Iraq that it dwarfs it. And those who are suggesting that because, I guess, OMB speculated -- and you can't know, because you can't know if it's going to last four days, four weeks or four months, so when someone speculates that it could cost as much as -- I think they said $47 billion, compare that to what happened, what the cost to our society was with September 11th, and then multiply that by a factor of 10 or 20. It makes the raising of the cost issue, it seems to me -- it weighs much less than the other kinds of concerns I've just cited.
The list goes on for four or five pages, and they're all the kinds of things that General Franks has to think about, has to think about carefully, has to plan for and is, in fact, doing so.
While I mention General Franks, let me just say one last thing, and then we'll adjourn.
Q: Can I just follow that up quickly? What do you say about the assessment -- intelligence assessment that he's more likely to use WMDs if attacked than if he's not attacked?
Rumsfeld: I think that he already used weapons of mass destruction on his own people and his neighbors. So I think that it's entirely possible he would use them regardless of whether he was attacked or not attacked.
Q: But he didn't in the Gulf War.
Rumsfeld: I understand. And it is possible he would use them. That is a reality. Is it possible he wouldn't? Yes. He didn't use them in the Gulf War. In the Gulf War, his regime was not being threatened. His regime would be threatened in this instance, and therefore his calculation might be somewhat different.
On the other hand, he can't use, himself, weapons of mass destruction. He has to have people to do that for him. And let there be no doubt; the message to anyone in that chain of command, at the highest level or at the lowest level, is: Don't even think about it. Don't go near it. Disobey the orders, because we will -- if force is used, and he uses weapons of mass destruction, anybody connected with that process will wish they hadn't been.
Q: General Myers --
Rumsfeld: I'm going to finish my thought and then we're through.
Someone mentioned General Franks, or I did. I'm not -- I don't want to be critical of any one person or any newspaper, but we're going into a difficult period. And accuracy and precision on my part is important, and accuracy and precision on your parts is important. There's just an awful lot of mischief taking place around here.
I read an article that said that I overruled General Franks and -- because I was disagreeing, we were disagreeing, and I put General John Abizaid in as his deputy, so that we could keep track of what he's doing. That is absolute hogwash.
The truth is that what happened was that Paul Wolfowitz came to me and said that General Franks had come to him and said, "How do you think I could approach the Secretary of Defense about the possibility of my getting General Abizaid as my deputy, one of my deputies?"
And Paul said, "I don't know. He's not going to like it, because he likes him as director of the Joint Staff. He's doing a terrific job there. Dick Myers isn't going to like it, and Pete" -- (laughter) -- "and Pete Pace isn't going to like it. So you, General Franks, better figure out a way that you can make it so persuasive that you can get the secretary, the deputy secretary, the chairman and the vice chairman to agree to let this fine talent leave the Joint Staff" -- where he was doing tremendously important work and exceedingly well -- and go -- "and that he is the only one in the entire armed forces, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, that can do that job for you. And that's not going to be an easy sell," he told Franks.
So, General Franks comes sidling up to you and sidling up to me and sidling up to Paul, and we said, "No! We need him here." And so, he goes away, and he comes back a week and a half later and does it again. He sidles up to all of us and he was persuasive. And finally we said, "Well, maybe. But not now." And we kept delaying it.
So, why do I say this? The article left the --
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Who said that?
Q: Why? It's just a lot of inside baseball and --
Rumsfeld: No, it's not. It's a principle. And it's very important. There's obviously people running around this building saying things that aren't true and trying to make mischief. And people are believing them and writing them without checking it, and it's harmful and it's not helpful. You call it inside baseball. I think it is a bad practice, and I think people ought to check their sources a heck of a lot better over the next month or two than they generally make a practice to check.
Some of you!
Q: Wait, to give you a chance here, because the major criticism I've heard in this building since you've been here, Mr. Secretary, is -- let's give you a chance to respond -- is that you tend to ride roughshod over your military leadership. And some of the people around you, I won't mention their names, but some of your civilian close aides are equally tougher. And many of the military people are unhappy because they feel they're out of the loop, they feel you don't take them into your confidence, all of the above. Now, would you please respond to that, because that's coming up over and over and over again.
Rumsfeld: I'd be delighted to.
I'm going to guess, but I don't believe --
Q: (Off mike) (Laughter.)
Clarke: [Joking] It's not just the military! (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Oh! Ow! (Groans.) (Cheers, laughter.)
(Cross talk.) (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: The truth is that I don't believe -- I could be wrong, but I don't believe that a chairman or a vice chairman have probably ever been as deeply involved in every decision that's taking place in this department as is the case today. I keep reading, in two newspapers particularly, that Rumsfeld doesn't meet with the chiefs. I did not bring down the paper, but it is -- the number of meetings that we have had with the chiefs in the past two years has been an average of about -- a chief, or two, or three or all -- has been something like every other week. And that does not count the meetings that we have every day, two or three times, with the chairman and the vice chairman.
So it is a myth. It is false. It does not matter what you are hearing about the absence of interaction.
Second, with respect to the people --
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Yes, I'm coming. I'm coming to that. With respect to people's impressions, everyone can have their own view. I have received on occasion from people, military and civilian, work that I was not impressed with. And have indicated that. And there have been times when I've sent things back six, seven times. Why? Well, because it strikes me that it's terribly important that we do things well and we do them right. And I have sent things back on the civilian side, and I have sent things back on the military side. And I will keep right on doing it.
Now, it's no fun for somebody to have their work sent back four or five times, six times, seven times. I know of one case --
Myers: Was that me?
Rumsfeld: No! (Laughter.) Just a minute! Just a minute! (Laughter continues.) And if that disturbs people and their sensitivities are such that it bothers them, I'm sorry. But that's life, because this stuff we're doing is important. We're going to get it done well. We're going to get it done right. The Constitution calls for civilian control of this department. And I'm a civilian. And believe me, this place is accomplishing enormous things. We have done so much in the last two years. And it doesn't happen by standing around with your finger in your ear hoping everyone thinks that that's nice.
General Myers, feel free to say anything you want. (Laughter.)
Myers: It's -- just to piggyback --
(Off mike joking, laughter.)
Myers: No. Just to piggyback on that last piece -- (laughter) -- you know, the work we do, in all seriousness, I mean, I don't know if there's more serious work that you could do for your country than the work that's done here in the department. So it's got to be done right. It affects people's lives: Our citizens, perhaps folks in other countries as well. So, the processes we go through, the insistence on high standards by the Secretary is absolutely right. And I don't know of anybody that resents that. And I would tell you, if General Pace or I had -- were asked to spend any more time with the Secretary, and if he consulted any more often, we'd have to start going home with him at night and get into bed with him. (Laughter.) And so -- and that's probably not going to happen, although I'm not sure. (Laughter.) So -- I mean, I feel like I'm in every decision, some of which he wouldn't even have to consult the military.
Q: He's a tough son of a gun, he's got a reputation of being a real rough guy, and he'll take to the woodshed people with four stars on their collars, it doesn't make any difference?
Myers: (Pause, laughter.) I think he's done it just right. So let's -- (laughter).
Q: (Ann ?) says we ought to take the chairman and the rest of the chiefs and their extended families out of the country and interview on this. (Laughter.)
Myers: You can do it if you want to, I mean it's the same answer.
Rumsfeld: Yes, you could get any one of those people that I deal with and talk to them privately any time you want. The problem is, you're hearing from people that for the most part I don't deal with, it seems to me.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you clarify one point you made earlier?
Rumsfeld: I could. And then I'll take you, Tom. You've been persistent, and I apologize.
Q: Okay, thanks very much.
Regarding anybody who might carry out an order to use weapons of mass destruction, could you elaborate on what you're talking about there? You said anybody that did carry out such an order would wish he hadn't. What are you talking about specifically?
Rumsfeld: Boy, I'm late for a meeting.
Just that. (Laughter.) Believe me.
Q: It's actually a question for General Myers --
Myers: Oh, oh.
Q: -- who may have committed some news here. You said that an insignificant number of U.S. forces are on the ground in Iraq. What are those insignificant forces doing? And when you refer to these insignificant forces, the Iraqi opposition says that three U.S. military cargo aircraft landed yesterday in Northern Iraq. Is that what you're talking about?
Myers: No, I'm not talking about that. I'm not aware of that, actually. And I'm not going to go into any more detail on that. I mean --
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Nor would he want them characterized as "insignificant." They're individually.
Q: How about a rough number?
Q: (Off mike) -- significant number is that?
Q: How about a rough number?
Q: More than five?
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.