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Rumsfeld Stakeout following CNN Interview

NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Sunday, March 23, 2003

(Stakeout following CNN Interview)

Rumsfeld: Good morning.

Q: Good morning.

Rumsfeld: You got to do this first instead of last.

Q: What can you tell us about the soldiers that are reported missing and potentially captured and killed? Can you [inaudible] numbers and all?

Rumsfeld: I can't. I did get a report this morning from the Central Command that some soldiers were unaccounted for, a relatively small number. As I recall it was in the low two digits. And that they were unaccounted for. But what may have occurred since I heard that report at 6 or 7 this morning, I don't know.

Q: I have a couple of questions for you. [Inaudible] at Dover Air Force Base [Inaudible]

Rumsfeld: I have no idea.

Q: [Inaudible] undermine public support of the war?

Rumsfeld: Look, facts are facts. Truths are truths. In wars people get killed. It's a tragedy. My heart goes out to their families and their friends. These are wonderful young people. They're all volunteers and God bless them for their service.

When they're buried, generally, when they're brought back, that's known and services for them around the country are known, and there is no intent to hide anything. It's a normal procedure.

Q: In terms of the numbers of prisoners of war that the U.S. or Coalition forces have captured, just talk about the treatment of those soldiers and what you expect in return on the Iraqi side.

Rumsfeld: The last I heard this morning was there is something in the neighborhood of 2,000 Iraqi soldiers who either surrendered or were captured. They have POW camps that follow along and are set up and are able to provide food and medical assistance to anyone in need. They're being treated according to the Geneva and AID conventions and being very well treated.

The regime of Saddam Hussein has been a vicious one. They repress their own people, they kill their own people. And anyone's expectation for how they might treat our people would have to be based on the reality that we know their past behavior. They've used gas against their own people. They've used chemicals against the Iranians. Their prisons are filled with people, political prisoners that they treat brutally. There are international standards that civilized regimes adhere to, and then there are regimes like Saddam Hussein who killed his own two sons-in-law.

Q: [Inaudible]

Rumsfeld: It will go on until the regime is gone. Its days are numbered. The targeting of the air war is precise, it is against the regime. The images on television tend to leave the impression that we're bombing Baghdad. The coalition forces are not bombing Baghdad. They're bombing the Iraqi regime -- the military targets and the leadership targets, and they're doing it with great skill and great precision, and the air war is being led by General Moseley; the ground war by General McKiernan; and the maritime effort by Admiral Keating, all under the leadership of General Tom Franks. They're doing a superb job. Progress is excellent. It's not knowable how long it will take or how many units will surrender. But what is knowable is that it will end and it will end with that regime gone and the Iraqi armed forces and the Iraqi leadership would be well advised to surrender and follow the instructions we've given them and behave in a way that shows that they're acting with honor and helping us liberate the Iraqi people from a vicious regime.

Thank you.


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