Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More

World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers

US Department of Defense News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers

News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing - Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Tuesday, January 7, 2003

(Also participating was Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)

Rumsfeld: Well, good morning, and happy New Year.

Ever since the global war on terrorism began, we have pointed out that it is a war unlike any other war that our country has ever fought, and that victory will require new ways of thinking, new ways of fighting, as well as a good deal of patience and resolution.

In the 20th century, for the most part our country faced armies, navies and air forces. And today we face adversaries that do not engage us on traditional fields of battle; rather, they target innocent men, women and children. The challenge we face in the global war on terror is to root out those terrorists and terrorist networks that threaten our people; to find them, disrupt them, capture, drive them from their safe havens, and prevent them from murdering more of our citizens.

Over the past year, men and women in uniform have done a truly remarkable job, notwithstanding the fact that the Department of Defense is, for the most part, still organized, trained and equipped to fight armies, navies and air forces, not to target small cells or even individual terrorists. One of our most important goals, then, is to transform for the 21st century, and one of the key areas where we're doing so is in the U.S. Special Operations Command. In Afghanistan and elsewhere, we've seen the indispensable role that Special Operation Forces have and are currently playing.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Today we're taking a number of steps to strengthen the U.S. Special Operations Command so it can make even greater contributions to the global war on terror. In the 2004 budget, we are requesting an increase in Special Operations Command's budgets; that added funds are needed to pay for equipment losses that occurred in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and for additional equipment as well as additional forces. Some of those new troops will be assigned to the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which specializes in flying combat forces behind enemy lines.

Others are needed for operational planning and will be assigned to the Special Operations Command and the regional theater command headquarters.

Special Operations Command will function as both a supported and a supporting command. Since 1987 the Special Operations Command has been organized as a supporting command, meaning it provides warriors and materiel to the various regional combatant commanders, who then plan and direct missions. By organizing at SOCOM headquarters in Tampa, as well as at smaller theater Special Operations commands in regional theaters, the Special Operations Command will have the tools it will need to plan and execute missions in support of the global war on terror. This expanded operational role will be in addition to the current role it plays as a supporting command.

The Special Operations Command will also continue its efforts to work with the various geographic unified combatant commands and U.S. allies to disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks. To assist it in its expanded mission, over time, the Special Operations command will be divested of various missions, such as routine foreign military training and civil support, that can be successfully accomplished by other forces, U.S. forces and/or agencies.

The global nature of the war, the nature of the enemy and the need for fast, efficient operations in hunting down and rooting out terrorist networks around the world have all contributed to the need for an expanded role for the Special Operations forces. We are transforming that command to meet that need.

General Myers?

Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and good morning.

As we begin the new year, our military forces are poised around the world, ready to meet any threat.

Specific to the Persian Gulf, the flow of forces to the region continues. You've seen a few units depart for the Gulf and can expect that deliberate force flow to continue. And while there has been no decision about Iraq, we want to ensure that we are prepared to provide the president as much flexibility as possible.

In Afghanistan, I'm pleased to announce that today the 5th Battalion of the Afghan National Army graduated 452 newly trained members. Meanwhile, the 6th Battalion, with over 700 participants, is conducting its seventh week of training.

And I think I'll stop there, and we'll take your questions.

Rumsfeld: I should add that at the conclusion of our briefing, we have a couple of senior Defense officials who will be available on a background basis to discuss the Special Operations Command and various changes that will be undertaken as a result of the comments I just made.

Charlie's not here?


Q: With all these stepped-up deployments to the Gulf, does that essentially make war with Iraq inevitable?

Rumsfeld: No. The situation is as I've described it and as the president has described it. He went to the United Nations, and he has -- because of the emphasis that he has put on this problem, and the Congress and the United Nations in a unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution have put on this problem, we are seeing that Iraq is allowing inspectors in and behaving in a manner that's somewhat different from that which it's been behaving in over the preceding years.

The president is determined to see what takes place, and he's determined to see that Iraq disarms. He prefers that they do so peacefully. And what we need to do as a Department of Defense is to see that we continue, with our friends and allies around the world, to take appropriate steps so that the president will have the options that he may or may not decide to use. And his conclusion is, is that the last choice is the use of military force, not the first choice; and that is why he's preceding as he's preceding.


Q: Mr. Secretary, Happy New Year to you, and General Myers too, sir.

I have an off and off question; off for you and off for General Myers.

Your stated military capability is to -- regarding two major regional wars -- to go to a nation's capital and win the first one decisively. Even though General Myers says we are posed to meet any threat, is America's military now capable, if asked, to go to Baghdad and win decisively?

And to General Myers, a Marine Corps --

Rumsfeld: Wait a second, let's just take that one. And -- now, the last time I was asked this, I responded to a question, and the headlines across the world said terrible, terrible things had come out of my mouth, none of which ever came out of my mouth.

Q: Not guilty.

Rumsfeld: I understand that. But I mean, I could not believe -- it was breathtaking to read what the London Press and some other papers around the United States had banner headlined. And the question comes, how in the world can I come down here, get asked an intelligent question -- perfectly responsible question, give a perfectly responsible answer if that's what's going to happen. It is inexcusable the way that response that I gave was carried.

Now, I'm going to take your question, set it aside, and not talk about any country -- (soft laughter) -- pretend you never said it; you just said, 'Happy New Year, Mister Rumsfeld and General Myers, and would you please, Secretary Rumsfeld, explain what your defense strategy is, and what your force-sizing construct is and how you feel about it?'

Q: I'm glad I asked that question.

Rumsfeld: That's good. I'm glad you did, too.

Now, it is really very clear what we've done. We went from a two major regional conflict strategy and force-sizing construct for the United States of America, which had been in place roughly a decade, and concluded that we were really not organized and arranged to implement that strategy, and that we were short of forces, we were short of airlift and it was time to look at the new world in the 21st century. We did; we spent the better part of six, eight months working on it -- the military leadership in this department, the civilian leadership in this department and we presented it to the Congress, we presented it to the world and to the president, and it is now our strategy and our force-sizing construct.

And it is that we will, as you correctly said, be capable of -- we will recruit, organize, train, equip and exercise so that we will be capable, as a country, of, in two conflicts, near-simultaneously but not completely simultaneous, be capable of winning decisively; that is to say, occupying a country if necessary, and in another case, swiftly defeating and preventing an attack on an ally or friend. And, in addition, be capable of doing several other lesser contingencies.

That's what we concluded, that's what we announced, that's what we are capable of doing today.

That issue has been debated in the press recently, and some very knowledgeable, thoughtful columnists and speculators have said, "Gee, Rumsfeld had to say that, but we're really not able to do that. It's understandable that he said it, but he really was -- probably it was a reach."

Factually wrong. General Myers and his team have in fact engaged in tabletop exercises and examined that strategy, and examined that force-sizing construct and examined our capabilities today, and have come to a conclusion that in fact we are better able to meet our current strategy than we were two years ago capable of meeting our prior strategy.

Myers: Absolutely correct. We've done two of those tabletops since March. So we've done this iteratively as the global war on terrorism has continued. So with that as a backdrop and a context, we've worked through them.

Rumsfeld: Now, that is not a threat, it is not anything other than a statement -- an academic statement of a fact. And it would be a terrible shame if people around the world decided that they wanted to give headline writers free play and let them twist that into something that has nothing to do with what we're talking about, what we think, or what the president may or may not be planning to do.

Q: Since I asked such an intelligent question, may I ask the second part --

Rumsfeld: It was a pistol. I really liked it! (Laughter.)

Q: Thank you. May it go down in history.

May I ask the second part to General Myers?

General Myers, a Marine Corps spokesman said -- and I'm not going to mention a country -- but if the United States should be tasked to engage in urban warfare against a country that marshaled its forces around or in cities, a Marine Corps spokesman said in its Marine Corps urban warfare training, casualties are now down from 40 percent to 20 percent. Is 20 percent a projectable figure for our losses in that kind of a war?

Myers: Ivan, I don't know how you'd know that. To try to come up with any numbers for any conflict is just extremely difficult. And I don't care what model you use, it's probably going to be the wrong answer when you crank an answer out.

We do know that a decision to go into conflict means that we're going to put people in harm's war; it's very clear. But how many casualties would be involved, I don't know. I think on a relative sense that may be a useful thing, but in absolute sense, probably not.

Q: Mr. Secretary, does the United States have current evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, or is it just a strong suspicion?

Rumsfeld: The president has stated what he has stated. The Central Intelligence Agency has stated publicly, as well as in classified sessions, their conclusions. And their conclusions have tended to be, over a period of time, A, that we do not have evidence that they have nuclear weapons; we do have evidence that they have had a nuclear program that was robust; and that they were very skilled in denial and deception. With respect to chemical weapons, we know they not only have had them but that they've used them. And with respect to biological weapons, we have clearly -- the Central Intelligence Agency has said what it has said, and there's no doubt in my mind but that they currently have chemical and biological weapons.

Q: Well, is there -- do you have evidence that they currently have them, or are you just basing it on the fact that they had them?

Rumsfeld: It -- I do not think that if it were the latter, the president would be saying what he's saying or the director of Central Intelligence would be saying what he's saying.

Q: Well, if at some point -- if the president should decide that war is necessary, is it your expectation that he would lay before the Security Council or lay before the public hard evidence that justified that decision?

Rumsfeld: The -- I don't know what his decision will be. The -- first of all, I don't know if he'll decide that force is needed at all. And if it were to be needed, I think he would probably make a calculation as to the advantages that would accrue from revealing intelligence information and the disadvantages that would result from doing so, because to the extent that prior to using force, he were to reveal intelligence information in a way that damaged the ability to conduct the conflict, it would be, needless to say, unfortunately, risky for the coalition forces' lives engaged.

And I don't know what calibration would be made there. On the one hand, you have the advantage of persuading the publics in the world and countries of the facts of the matter, and on the other hand, you have -- by so doing, you weaken your ability to do that which you have decided to do. So I can't speak for what the president will decide.

Q: Sir, I would take you back to a comment that General Myers made in his opening remarks about the continuing flow of forces into the Gulf region.

How soon will we see substantial additional numbers of reservists called up? And can guardsmen and reservists expect to get the normal 30 days notice to get their affairs in order, or will there be a quicker process?

Rumsfeld: I'm not going to discuss the flow of forces, other than to say what I have said, that we are doing it because we are convinced that thus far, the response on the part of Iraq has been a reflection of the fact of their concern about the world's interest in their WMD capabilities and the conviction that the United States has that they should disarm. Therefore, we do intend to continue to flow forces; we have been, we will be, and we don't make announcements with respect to them.

With respect to notifications of reservists and Guard, there are various rules, and requirements and precedents that are followed; some cases it's 30 days, and some cases it's 60 days and some cases it's something else. So we've been alerting people, and then mobilizing them and then deploying them.

Myers: But the concern you mention in terms of getting their affairs in order, if I can tell you, we spend -- the secretary spends an enormous amount of time with myself, with Pete Pace on these issues, with Secretary Wolfowitz, trying to make sure that we do the right thing by our people because we know the impact, and the secretary's very sensitive to that.

Rumsfeld: There was a question for General Myers here.

Q: General Myers, I had --

Rumsfeld: There it is. I knew there was a good one.

Q: General Myers, from an operational point of view as opposed to a political point of view, how challenging would it be to move ahead without a Security Council resolution? Obviously, it would present political issues, but what about from an operational perspective? Would that be much of an additional challenge?

Myers: Now that you mention the -- whether or not there's a second resolution; it's certainly a political issue, not a military issue. I think from a military perspective, the more support you have, of course, in most situations, the better off you are if you're going to conduct a military operation. On the other hand, we are prepared, as the president has said, to act as we need to act. So, we are prepared as a military to do just that.

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Getting back to weapons of mass destruction, it stretches it yet to find any evidence of chemical/biological weapons, or any nuclear program. And I'm just wondering how difficult you think it would be to put together a coalition absent any hard evidence?

Rumsfeld: The -- since the president's presentation to Congress and to the United Nations, countries across the globe have been coming forward and discussing with us ways that they can be helpful. A growing number have offered to be helpful in the event the president -- the situation evolves and it looks as though Iraq will not disarm peacefully; they've offered to be helpful regardless of any other thing that may occur. Still others have said that they want to be helpful and would be able to be helpful if there is additional action by the United Nations of some sort. Still others have come forward and said they would like to be helpful in a coalition effort after hostilities ceased and Saddam Hussein's government was in the process -- and the government of Iraq -- a different government, presumably -- was in the process of disarming. And those numbers in each of those categories have been growing every week.

Q: But again, the inspectors have yet to find any evidence of any program; isn't that right?

Rumsfeld: If you'll recall our discussion about inspections, inspections are designed not to find anything and not to discover anything. That's not why they went in. They're -- they went in not in a discovery process but to inspect. And the presumption is that the country has decided to voluntarily disgorge all of its information and cooperate. And the fact of the matter is, as you're aware from the comments coming out of the U.N. inspectors, that there is an impression that the declaration was deficient. There's -- without me getting into intelligence information or my personal view, all you have to do is listen to what the secretary of State and the inspectors and others in the United Nations Security Council are saying about what's taking place. And I don't think that anyone could reasonably characterize it as a country that has decided to cooperate and voluntarily disarm itself of any chemical, biological or nuclear capabilities.

Q: Mr. Secretary, speaking of a country that is not cooperating, North Korea today is saying that sanctions will mean a war. This is a country that has declared it will not abide by U.N. resolutions, that the U.S. believes already has nuclear weapons, is now intending to build more. It has relationships with terrorist organizations, has missiles that can reach the U.S., and yet the administration seems to view this in such different terms than it does Iraq. Help us to understand why the North Korean case, when they are so bellicose right now and are in violation of all these U.N. resolutions and are apparently getting ready to build nuclear weapons, why is that different?

Rumsfeld: Well, the revelation by North Korea that it has decided to let the world know that it's in violation of -- I think it's three agreements, including the agreed framework -- was quite recent. My understanding -- and I guess it's basically matters that are being dealt with in the Department of State. But my understanding is that the IAEA either has met or is meeting, and that it is a element of the United Nations, and therefore the United Nations is in fact involved in this process in some way. And what pace it will move and how it will evolve over the coming period I'm not in a position to predict.

The situation with Iraq is somewhat different. The state of conflict with Iraq and the United Nations is something that has been continuous since 1990 or 1991, since the conclusion of the Gulf War. And their violations have stretched over a decade or some portion of that decade, particularly the last half of it. And it is a situation that the president discussed yesterday, as I recall, and in some detail. Secretary Powell discussed it, I believe, last Sunday, in some detail. And I think they've explained the differences between the two quite well.

On the other hand, if one looks at our course of action, in each case, it's been one of attempting to proceed down a diplomatic track. It is with Iraq today. It certainly is what the president is attempting to do by working with Russia and China and Japan and South Korea with respect to the problems in North Korea.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what is your reaction to Saddam Hussein's speech this week, in which he called U.N. weapons inspectors essentially spies? And do you this marks a shift in how that regime is dealing with the inspections process?

Rumsfeld: What was the last part of it? Do I --

Q: Do you think it marks a shift in how Saddam Hussein is perhaps dealing with the inspections process?

Rumsfeld: Oh, no, I don't know.

I mean, the problem is that you can see what they're saying and you can see what they're doing. And there's been -- what they're saying has ebbed and flowed depending on who was speaking and what week it was. What they've been doing has been fairly consistent.

Q: If I can follow up on --

Rumsfeld: And I would characterize it as not being forthcoming or particularly cooperative.

Q: Following up on Toby's question, is there a challenge in appearance in the world theater, with all these deployments, that war with Iraq was preordained?

Rumsfeld: No. I mean, if you -- I mean, I really think that the truth has a certain virtue, and the truth is the president's not made a decision, nor have the other countries with whom we work so closely. What does that mean? Does the fact that you are deploying forces, and alerting some people, and stating the truth is that the use of force is a possibility to be sure; that's what the president has said. He hopes he doesn't have to.

But I don't know why anyone would use the word "inevitable." It clearly is not inevitable. The first choice would be that Saddam Hussein would pick up and leave the country tonight. That would be nice for everybody. Or he'd decide suddenly to turn over a new leaf and cooperate with the U.N. and disgorge all of his capabilities. These are terribly dangerous weapons -- chemical weapons and biological weapons.

Q: Mr. Secretary, on biological weapons, British authorities have seized -- or apprehended six suspected terrorists and seized the lethal biological agent, ricin, apparently with the aid of information provided by the U.S. Do you know if these suspects have any connection to a terrorist group -- al Qaeda or any other group -- and if they may have any links to suspected chemical/biological production facilities in the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq?

Rumsfeld: I think I'm going to leave that for others to talk about in good time, in ways that seem appropriate to them.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Congressmen Rangel and Conyers are introducing a bill to institute the draft. And one of their key ideas is to focus attention on what they see as an inequity of casualties in the military. They think that the blacks and other minorities are disproportionately killed, for instance. This was also the argument during Vietnam. I wondered your thoughts on that and also General Myers'.

Rumsfeld: We're not going to reimplement a draft. There is no need for it at all. The disadvantages of using compulsion to bring into the armed forces the men and women needed are notable.

The disadvantages to the individuals so brought in are notable. If you think back to when we had the draft, people were brought in; they were paid some fraction of what they could make in the civilian manpower market because they were without choices. Big categories were exempted -- people that were in college, people that were teaching, people that were married. It varied from time to time, but there were all kinds of exemptions. And what was left was sucked into the intake, trained for a period of months, and then went out, adding no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services over any sustained period of time, because the churning that took place, it took enormous amount of effort in terms of training, and then they were gone.

Now, are we able today to maintain a force that is at the appropriate size with the appropriate skills by paying people roughly what they'd be making in the civilian manpower market? Yes. Are we doing it today? Yes. Are we meeting the recruiting goals? Yes. Have we been able to attract and retain people in the Guard and the Reserves who can augment that force when necessary, such as today? Yes, we have.

Now, the reason, the desire for doing that, the way I read some columns or articles -- and I didn't heed -- read any specific statements by either of the people you're talking about, so I'm not necessarily talking about them -- was not so much the point you raised -- and I'll let General Myers comment on that if he's in a position to do so -- but rather it's the old "no more Vietnam" argument. In other words, it's the argument that unless we have a draft -- correction -- if we have a draft, it will mean that so many people in the country will be involved that it's unlikely the country would engage in a conflict that was not a popular conflict. That kind of was the base that I saw in the press articles.

Now, I don't find that a compelling argument to spend all the money you would spend in churning people through and all the disadvantages that would accrue to bringing people into the service who didn't want to serve in the service. And it seems to me that the way we're currently organized and operating is vastly preferable. We have people serving today -- God bless 'em -- because they volunteered. They want to be doing what it is their doing. And we're just very lucky as a country that there are so many wonderfully talented young men and young women who each year step up and say, "I'm ready; let me do that."

Q: But before General Myers answers, what is your thought of what -- the issue that Rangel has raised that when it comes to casualties, it ends up being that blacks and other minorities, because there are so many in the force, end up having a disproportionate share of the casualties?

Rumsfeld: First of all, I do not know that that's historically correct, and I do not know that even if it were historically correct, that it's correct today. I have seen a lot of data on that dating back into the Vietnam era, and there are some ambiguities about it; there have been some debates and discussions about it. The force mix today is, if I'm not mistaken, and I'd have to go back and look at it, different from what it was back in the 1960s, and I am not in a position to say definitively what the data shows today.

Myers: I agree with the secretary on that last point. I think we'd have to check the data to see what it says, but I'm not -- we just have to check our facts here. [Blacks, who make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, made up 25 percent of military personnel deployed to the Gulf during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Black personnel of all branches who died in combat or non-combat situations represented 15 percent (182) of the total casualties in the war. Whites, who made up 66 percent of the U.S. forces in the theater accounted for 78 percent of the deaths. Hispanics, who were 5 percent of the forces, accounted for 4 percent of the deaths, and Asian-Americans, less than 2 percent of the force, made up less than one percent of the deaths]. The only thing I would say, and I don't think it adds a whole lot, but just a little bit, and that is that I think if you talked to the service chiefs, the joint chiefs of staff, that we feel the all-volunteer force is working extremely well; that it's efficient, it's effective, it's given the United States of America, the citizens of this great country, a military that is second to none. And as the secretary said, it's because people want to serve.

I was in the region, the Middle East region, just before Christmas, and like other trips out there, and like trips the secretary has taken, you don't find these volunteers, no matter what their ethnic background, or race or gender, complaining about, gee, we're a long way from home, gee, when can I go home?, or any of those issues. All they want to do is serve, and they are a very professional cadre.

I mean, it's only, I think -- it's one of the traits of our U.S. military that we can ask of our troops to go out there and be on the one hand very sensitive to cultural issues, on the other hand, be ready to respond in self defense to a very (tricky ?) situation, all at the same time. I mean, these are extremely well trained and well-led troops. Any comparisons between today's force and the Vietnam force would be dramatic, because there is no comparison in almost all those categories I just talked about. So, I think the all-volunteer force has been a success. I don't know why we'd want to step away from that at this point.

Rumsfeld: Go back to one other thing in response to your question. Assume the data's "X" or "Y."

In the case of a conscripted force, whatever the data is, it's -- those people are there not because they volunteered but because they were conscripted, and the -- compulsion was used to get them in there. So whatever the data says, it involves people who didn't volunteer but who were required to serve.

Today, regardless of what the data is, every single person there is there because they stuck their hand up and said, "I'd like to do that." So the argument, it seems to me, is not persuasive.

Q: Mr. Secretary, one more on this subject. The other implication, which you touched on, about this legislation is the idea that the administration, members of Congress, people who are part of the elite, the affluent part of the country, would be less likely or would take more seriously the question of going to war if their own sons and daughters were represented in higher numbers in the military. Could you just address that issue?

Rumsfeld: Sure. You know, we have a Constitution, and the Congress is Article 1. And the president went to the Congress, and the Congress voted overwhelmingly a resolution. It seems to me that the -- I don't know anyone in this building or in the administration who thinks that anyone ought to go to war lightly. I know the president doesn't, and I know I don't.

And the Congress has to -- the House has to go up for reelection every two years. It seems to me that we have a representative system. We have a system that works. It's worked well for 200-plus years.

And the decisions are always tough. I do not know what decision the president will make. All I can say is, I agree with General Myers. The people that are in the armed services today that he and I have had the privilege of thanking are there because they want to be there and are ready and willing and without any question capable of doing whatever the president may ask.

Q: General Myers, can you clarify one thing about -- on the public record about the steady slope -- the steady buildup of forces in the region? Roughly how many U.S combat troops are in the Persian Gulf region today?

There's numbers all over the map: 64,000, 40,000 or whatever. And by early February, what's your expectation about how that force would grow, both in numbers and, more importantly, capabilities?

Rumsfeld: He's got to be kidding.

Q: No I'm not.

Myers: I think the secretary answered that earlier. (Laughter.)

But the issue is, you know -- yeah, I know it's a serious question. It's a serious issue. And we said we're going to continue a steady, deliberate buildup to provide the president the flexibility he needs to do what he thinks he needs to do. And -- but we aren't talking about -- we're not going to disclose from this platform individual deployments, numbers and so forth.

Q: Well, I'm not asking that, but just roughly in the region today, do you have about 40,000? Just --

Rumsfeld: The answer is we're not going to talk about it.

Q: You're not. Okay.

Rumsfeld: Period.

Q: What about capability by early February, though? Do you expect more heavy armor over there, stealth fighters? What?

Myers: I think anything we say from this platform really contributes to the intel collection of the -- of potential adversaries. So if we were to delineate number of troops, types of systems that are postured in the region, it would just not be very useful.

Q: Mr. Secretary, does the recent increase in ill will toward American soldiers in South Korea, does that complicate finding a diplomatic solution to the problem in North Korea?

Rumsfeld: I don't think so. First of all, I don't agree that there is a recent increase in ill will towards American service people in South Korea. They just had an election. People in a free country express themselves. You don't find that in unfree countries, but in free countries people tend to express themselves. And if you get demonstrators, a handful of demonstrators -- I don't know, what is it? -- 10, 100, 1,000 -- whatever the number may be at any given time, is that a good reflection of what the view of the country is? I don't think it is, myself.

And we've had a long-standing relationship with South Korea. The president of South Korea -- president-elect of South Korea has indicated he feels it would be an appropriate time to meet with the United States and discuss that relationship and discuss our force deployments and our coalition/U.N. arrangements there. And we're happy to do that, and we intend to engage the new administration. I don't believe they're going to be in office for another month-plus.

But I think that every time a few demonstrators run out and flap around in the street, I think we need not say, "Oh my goodness! What's happened?" We ought to say, clearly some people are saying what they want to say in a free country, and that's fine, they can say what they want to say.

But I don't -- I think if you drop a plumb line through that relationship, it's been a very good one.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you keep saying that one of the best options would be for Saddam Hussein to just pack up and leave.

Rumsfeld: Do I keep saying that?

Q: You mentioned it again today. Is there any plan to facilitate that? For instance, would Saddam Hussein be given an ultimatum before any military action is taken?

Rumsfeld: What the president might decide with respect to that, I don't know. I just know that the president's goal is that that country not has chemical and biological or prospectively nuclear weapons. And the pattern of behavior over a sustained period has been that the current leader of that country doesn't agree with that. Therefore, if one believes, as I do, that the last thing in the world you want to do is have a war, then the best choice would be for him to leave. So, from time to time it flashes across my mind and it comes out of my mouth and there it is. I still hope that he'll leave. And I hope that the country will be disarmed. And I hope that force will not have to be used. But in the meantime, we'll keep flowing forces.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: I think we're over.

Q: One in the back?

Rumsfeld: Yeah, way in the back.


Rumsfeld: Last question. Way in the back.

Q: If coalition forces invade Iraq, would you see the oil fields as being important in a reconstruction process? And if so, who would control those assets?

Rumsfeld: There's been a lot of musing about this having something to do with oil. It doesn't. I know people have trouble believing that. But I am convinced that oil is a commodity. I'm convinced that it's fungible. And what happens, if people have it, they're going to want to sell it. And the problem with Iraq is not oil; the problem with Iraq is chemical and biological weapons today and the danger of nuclear weapons tomorrow. And that is the problem.

Now, would the assets of that country be important for the recovery of that country? You bet. And there's no question but that they'd be important. And the Iraqi people, and prospectively some Iraqi government that has decided it does not want to threaten its neighbors and does not want to have weapons of mass destruction would, over time, be involved in making decisions with respect to that.

Q: Sir?

Rumsfeld: I thought that was the last question.

Q: This is the last question. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: I stand corrected.

Q: This is the last question.

Q: I've been sitting here with some cognitive dissonance, really, since we started doing the whole North Korea-Iraq thing. And I think there's one thing that you haven't quite addressed, and it's this: On the one hand, we have a buildup going on in the Persian Gulf --

Rumsfeld: (To General Myers) This is for you, because I'm not sure I know what cognitive dissonance is. (Laughter.)

Q: (Laughs.) Because of a --

Myers: You went to Princeton; I mean, I'm counting on you here. (Laughter.)

Q: Let me put it this way. I'm confused -- (laughter) -- because there's a build up in the Persian Gulf because of a potential threat from Iraq, but at the same time, we have in North Korea a very real threat; they have said that they have nuclear weapons and we believe that they do. We're building a missile defense system that's aimed at protecting us from a long-range ballistic missile from North Korea. And yet, at the same time, it's a similar path that's going on -- sort of the diplomatic path. I don't think anybody would argue that going toward all-diplomatic solutions before going to war is unwise; I think everybody would say, yes, that's right.

But, I think to a sort of Joe on the street, they don't understand why there's so much emphasis on Iraq where there's a potential threat, and no military emphasis on North Korea, where there's a real and admitted threat, along with bellicose statements and today this, you know, the raising of the flag of potential war. North Korea seems scarier to Joe on the street.

Rumsfeld: Hmm. Well, I believe you said that the North Koreans have said they have nuclear weapons. It's not clear to me that's correct. They may have, but not to my knowledge. We, the United States government, has assessed that they may have one or two, I believe, nuclear warheads, or weapons of some sort.

Q: Didn't they say, yeah, we do?

Rumsfeld: No, what they said when assistant secretary of State Kelly went to them and said that we see what you're doing here with highly enriched uranium, and they that night said nothing and the next morning came in and said, you're right, we are doing that. And that is a process that will produce nuclear materials, but I -- I could be wrong. If there's someone here who knows to the contrary, tell me.

Myers: That's right.

Rumsfeld: But I don't think they have yet said that. They may, tonight or tomorrow, but --

Q: (Off mike) -- the threat isn't as great as it's being made out to be?

Rumsfeld: No. I don't think anything other than what I have said in response to an earlier question. I think the situations in different countries are different. We live in a dangerous world; it's an untidy world; it is a unpredictable world to a certain extent. There's no question but that each represents a problem, not just for the United States, but for the United Nations, and each needs to be addressed in -- and one size doesn't fit all, nor does -- so it seems to me that the way the president has -- is proceeding is -- sound and sensible and responsible.

(Cross talk.) And thank you very much. Thank --

Q: (Off mike) -- question, Mr. Secretary?

Myers: Can I talk to that?

Rumsfeld: Sure. Sure.

Myers: Ma'am?

Q: Yes, sir.

Rumsfeld: He'll finish that last question.

Myers: When you talk about potential versus real --

Q: Yeah.

Myers: -- I think -- I mean, clearly what Iraq did in its invasion of Kuwait was very real. What they did when they attacked Iran was very real. What they did when they used chemical weapons on their own population was very real. So we're not talking about a potential threat here. They have used weapons of mass destruction on their own population and others before.

Q: But by that argument, you could say the same thing about North Korea in 1950.

Myers: Yeah, and there are other countries as well. And that's why the secretary says -- and the political leadership of the country will work these as not a cookie-cutter approach but a separate -- you know, separate case-by-case issue. And that's what they're doing.

But there's a very real threat when you have a country like Iraq with weapons of mass destruction, and you've got a global war on terrorism going on, and you worry about these weapons falling in the wrong hands. And you're --

Q: Whatever happened on the Pakistani border? Did you figure that out? The guy that shot the American --

Rumsfeld: Is that the fourth or fifth -- (laughter) --

Myers: She has really milked -- she's really milked this --

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

"This Transcript Was Prepared By The Federal News Service Inc., Washington, D.C. Federal News Service Is A Private Company. For Other Defense Related Transcripts Not Available Through This Site, Contact Federal News Service At (202) 347-1400."

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.