03 September 2002
Defense Department Briefing Transcript
(Iraq/U.N. weapons inspections, Iraq/Powell, Iraq/regime change,
Iraq/public debate, Bush administration/warmongers, Cheney/Iraqi
nuclear weapons, Congress/war powers, U.S. military/Iraqi operation,
U.S. military/warfighting resources, Saddam Hussein/Rumsfeld,
Iraq/threat, al-Qaeda, terrorism/Special Operations Forces,
al-Qaeda/gold/Sudan, Special Operations/stress, Rumsfeld/press) (7780)
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Air Force General Richard Myers,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed the news media at the
Pentagon September 3.
Following is the transcript:
DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OPERATIONAL UPDATE BRIEFING
BRIEFERS: SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD;
AND GENERAL RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
PENTAGON BRIEFING ROOM, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA
1:00 P.M. EDT, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2002
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
Rumsfeld: General Myers?
Myers: Well good afternoon. And thank you, Mr. Secretary.
While things in Washington have in some respects been somewhat quiet
during the traditional summer lull, the war on terrorism has
continued. In Afghanistan, coalition forces over the past month have
found several caches of weapons, to include totaling five truckloads
of 82mm mortar rounds, 107mm rockets, machine-gun rounds, 105mm tank
rounds, aerial rockets, and small-arms ammunition. We also recovered
some caches totaling three truckloads of RPG rounds, rockets with
fuses, heavy ammunition and anti-personnel, anti-tank mines.
In other operational news, on Saturday, August 31st, a U.S. patrol was
attacked between Jalalabad and Asadabad with a command- detonated
mine. The explosion occurred five meters in front of the convoy, but
there were no U.S. casualties.
And finally, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the September
11th attacks, I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize another
outstanding group who have been also very busy here in August and over
the past year, and that's the civilian contractors who have been
working on renovation of the damaged wedge. I think all of us here in
the building and the armed forces around the world appreciate what
they've been doing this past year to make sure we're going to be ready
for September 11th.
Rumsfeld: Since our last visit, I -- Dick Myers and I went down to
Crawford, of course, and met with the president and discussed a series
of Defense Department-related matters. I went from there to Fort Hood
and had a very good visit with the troops there. Later in the week I
was able to visit Fort Irwin in California and see an exercise that
was taking place. I went to the Naval Station in San Diego and visited
the Naval Space Systems Command, among other things. Saw the -- met
the troops aboard the Bonhomme Richard and the Constellation; visited
the Naval Air Station at North Island, where I used to live during
World War II, which was enjoyable for me. And then, of course, we went
up to Camp Pendleton and had a session with the Marines. So it's been
a good number of stops during that period. I always find it's
enormously helpful to me to have a chance to visit with the troops and
talk to them and respond to questions and get a sense from them as to
the things they're thinking about.
And with that, I'll be happy to respond to questions. Charlie?
Q: Mr. Secretary, much has been said and reported about alleged
differences between you and the vice president, on one hand, and
Secretary Powell on the other, on a possible preemptive invasion of
Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Secretary Powell indicated
over the weekend that he is willing to -- in fact, wants inspectors to
go back into Iraq. Do you think that there's anything that inspectors
in Iraq could do to change this administration's policy to remove
Saddam Hussein from power for a regime change?
Rumsfeld: Well, with respect to the first part of the question, I came
to this town in 1957 to work up on Capitol Hill, and I don't suppose
there's been a year in the period since that there haven't been
stories just like the ones you're citing here that there are
differences of opinions. The truth of the matter is that the
president's national security team meets together frequently. We do so
in person, we do so on the phone. We have excellent discussions and it
is a very friendly, professional and constructive set of discussions
that take place in that process.
I don't know of differences that -- there are always differences of
perspective, there are differences of -- institutional differences
from time to time. But the president is the president. He is the one
who ran for that office and was elected to that office. He's the one
who makes decisions and calibrations and guidance, and he does it very
well. I don't know quite why it is that it seems so much easier for
folks to personalize things rather than to go to substance.
The subject you raised second, with respect to inspections, is clearly
a complicated set of issues. And my understanding -- and I hate to
even talk about this because someone will contrast it with something
that somebody else said that I haven't read or seen and attempt to
find a seam between what I'm going to say and what somebody else may
have said. But it obviously has been the position of this
administration to favor inspections. It is the Iraqis that ended the
inspections. That we all know. We protested when the Iraqis threw the
The Iraqis made a conscious decision to tell the international
community that the arrangement that they had entered into at the end
of the Gulf War involving inspections, and the other undertakings with
respect to not developing weapons of mass destruction and the like --
they made a conscious decision at various points to negate those
agreements, to tell the international community that they no longer
would abide by them. And so the offense, if there is one, is committed
against the United Nations and the international community.
Would it be nice if they had not thrown the inspectors out? Yes, that
would have been preferable. Would it be preferable for inspectors to
be able to have any-time/any-place access so that at least some
additional knowledge could be gained? Sure it would. Are the Iraqis --
do they have a pattern of denying that? Yes, they do.
Q: Do you think it's possible for inspectors to go in there -- you've
repeatedly said you don't -- do you think it's possible for inspectors
to go in there and somehow change this administration's push for a
regime change in Baghdad? Do you think it's possible?
Rumsfeld: I just simply don't know. Those are judgments that the
president will have to make. First of all, I think that the
intrusiveness of any inspection regime that would be sufficiently
permissive to enable the rest of the world to know that in fact the
U.N. resolutions were being fulfilled and lived up to would be such
that it's unlikely for the folks there to agree to it. And I haven't
seen any inclination on their part to agree to anything except as a
ploy from time to time to muse over the possibility we might do this
or we might do that and kind of play the international community and
the U.N. process like a guitar, plucking the right string at the right
moment to delay something. But it would clearly have to be a -- for --
to fulfill the import of the U.N. resolutions and the understandings
that were agreed upon, it would require an inspection regime of such
intrusiveness that it -- at least thus far, it's unlikely, I think,
that those folks would be inclined to agree to even half of it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, if I could just follow up on -- the other thing that
Colin Powell said in that BBC interview over the weekend --
Rumsfeld: I must confess, I did not see the full interview. I saw a
snippet on television and therefore am purposely not commenting on his
statement, because I haven't had a chance to read it. I'm just stating
what the president has said and what our policy has been and what I
see to be our current policy. And anyone who goes out of here thinking
that there's some difference between anything I'm saying and what
Colin said I think is -- would be a total misunderstanding of the
Q: I'm not trying to draw a distinction between what you said, but I
just want to point --
Rumsfeld: Well, but I want to make sure everyone understood that.
Q: I want to point to something he said and then ask you what flows
from that, which is, in answer to the question from David Frost about
whether the rest of the world agreed that Saddam Hussein was, in fact,
a clear and present threat, Powell said, "I think the world has to be
presented with the information, with the intelligence that's
available, that debate is needed within the international community so
that everybody can make a judgment about this." And my question is,
when might we see some of this intelligence, some of the hard evidence
about the threat from Saddam Hussein, other than the general
statements that have already been made?
Rumsfeld: Well, needless to say, I agree with what Colin said in the
quote you just indicated. I think those are decisions that the
president will make. I believe very strongly that we are living in a
new security environment. The president believes that and has said so.
It is notably different; it's different in a variety of different
And the debate and discussion that's taking place in the world I think
is a healthy one and a good thing. And I think it'll be taking place
-- it's taking place here in Washington. It's taking place in other
capitals. It very likely will take place in the Congress, when
Congress returns and begins to have the hearings that they have
indicated that they may very well have. And I know the president has
indicated that he wants to be cooperative and have administrative --
Q: But -- but he --
Rumsfeld: -- witnesses participate in those. And one would think that
it would be in that context that the discussions about what the fact
patterns are would be most appropriately presented.
Q: Well, let me just ask you, is there hard evidence, are there -- I
don't know -- intelligence, are there photographs, is there other
intelligence, are you assembling that kind of information so that when
the appropriate time comes the president will be able to make the case
and convince the world?
Rumsfeld: Well, you're suggesting the president wants to make a
particular case. But what the president wants to do is to -- and will
do, in his own time, is to provide information that he feels is
important with respect to any judgment he decides to make. And he has
not decided what judgments he may make. But he certainly would
underpin those judgments with factual information.
Q: Tariq Aziz said this morning -- he characterized you and several
other people in the Bush administration as warmongers, as using the
issue of inspections as a pretext to try to topple the regime. And he
said he is willing to sit down and talk about all of the issues
involving Iraq. Do you take that to be a serious offer? Do you take
that to be further maneuvering, as you indicated earlier?
Rumsfeld: Well, I have met with Tariq Aziz a number of times, both in
Baghdad and in Washington and elsewhere. (Pauses.) And clearly, he
does the bidding of his master, Saddam Hussein. They have over a good
many years demonstrated a wonderful talent and skill at manipulating
the media. And they -- and international organizations, and other
countries. When it's the right moment to lean forward, they lean
forward. When it's the right moment to lean back, they lean back. And
it's a dance. It's a dance they engage in. They will go week after
week after week stiffing the international community, the U.N. and
others. They then will find that things are going in a way that
they're uncomfortable with, and then they will throw out an
opportunity of one sort or another and get people -- hopeful people
leaning forward, saying, "See, there's our opportunity. We do have a
chance to work with those people. All we need to do is be more
accommodating to them." And therefore they'll swing the discussion and
the debate that way. There might be inspections. The inspections might
be this, that or the other thing. And then you'll find at the last
moment they'll withdraw that carrot or that opportunity and go back
into their other mode of thumbing their nose at the international
Where they'll be at any given moment is, of course, something that's
entirely up to them. But at least thus far we do know certain facts.
We know that they have rejected inspections. We know they have not
lived up to their obligations under the U.N. resolutions and the
agreements that they signed at the conclusion of the Gulf War.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: In your view, what would be the merit of inspections if they in
fact verified disarmament and left Saddam Hussein in power? It would
not seem to achieve your goal or the administration's policy goal of
Rumsfeld: Again, that's a call for the president, really; it's not for
me. The policy of our government has been regime change. It's been
regime change by the Congress, by the successive executive branch over
the past two administrations. And it was rooted in several things. It
was rooted in the conviction that the world would be a better place if
there were a government in that part of the world that was not
developing weapons of mass destruction, was not on the terrorist list,
did not pose threats to its neighbors, did not repress its people and
subject its minorities to abuses and did not have any development of
weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, inspections have a role with
respect of one of those elements, and obviously the world would be a
better place if those folks were not developing weapons of mass
destruction. But the other elements of the problem would remain.
Q: Along that line, Mr. Secretary, Vice President Cheney said last
week that Iraq was once close to producing or obtaining nuclear
weapons, and said that they're getting close again. What evidence does
the U.S. have that Iraq, Saddam Hussein, may be getting close again to
obtaining a nuclear weapon?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think I'll leave that for the coming days and weeks. I
mean, we know the obvious. We know that they were a lot closer than
any of the experts had estimated they would be with respect to a
nuclear weapon, and that was discovered during the post- 1991 period
by actually seeing what was there. To the extent inspectors have been
out now for a number of years, we know that we don't know what's taken
place during those period of years. To the extent that they have kept
their nuclear scientists together and working on these efforts, one
has to assume they have not been playing tiddly-winks, that they have
been focusing on nuclear weapons. And so we know what we know.
We know that they have an enormous appetite, that they were very
close, within a short period of time, to having a weapon. We know that
our estimate had been that it was multiples of years compared to what
it actually was; and therefore, we know we weren't very good at what
we were supposedly doing -- that is to say, estimating that. And we
also know that since the end of the Cold War, that the proliferation
of these technologies has been pervasive. And we know that they have
porous borders. And we know some other things, but those are the kinds
of things that would come out if and when the president decides that
he thinks it's appropriate.
Q: If I could follow up, when you said you'd leave that for the coming
days and weeks, does that mean the administration intends to in the
coming weeks reveal some of this evidence that maybe --
Rumsfeld: Those are judgments that have to be made down the road
depending what the president decides he wants to do.
Q: Mr. Secretary, about the vice president's speech, twice last week
he said that the consequences of inaction against Saddam Hussein far
outweigh the consequences of some preemptive strike. Yet we repeatedly
hear from the president that he has not made a decision and that he's
a patient man. In your assessment, is there a mixed message here, or
are we just reading it wrong?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, any time four, five, six, seven people all
talk and they talk about these subjects and they are asked specific
questions by people that are cast in a certain way and the question
contains a reference to something that someone else said, not the full
context of it, not the whole text, but some blurb or piece that
happened to appear on television or happened to appear in the
newspaper, and then somebody responds to that, why, it is -- there's
no question but that if every -- someone wanted to take all the column
inches or all the minutes on television by the top people in any
government at any given time on the same subjects and ignore how the
question was asked and ignore the context of the quote, that you could
end up juxtaposing things in ways that would sell newspapers, by
saying, "Aha! There's a disagreement there. He said this; she said
that. What about this? What about that?"
That's baloney! These people meet together all the time. They know
what each other thinks. Do they sometimes say things one way, and
someone else might have said it some other, different way? Sure they
do. But what's important is what the president says. And what's
important is what the president decides. And what's important is the
documentation that's provided at some point, if he decides that he
feels that's appropriate.
And I think also what's important is that people lift their eyes up
off their shoelaces and go back to the fundamental and the fundamental
issue is that we live in a different world today. We live in the 21st
century. We're not back in the 20th century, where the principal focus
is conventional weapons. We're in the 21st century, where the
principal focus must be weapons -- unconventional weapons -- weapons
potentially that could involve killing not hundreds of people but tens
of thousands of people -- chemical weapons, biological weapons,
potentially nuclear weapons.
And that means that we have to take that aboard as a people, and we
have to talk about it, and we have to consider it. What does it mean?
How does it conceivably affect our behavior? There are clearly risks
to acting in any instance. But there are also risks to not acting. And
those have to be weighed. People have to talk about them
intelligently. These are important subjects for Congress, for the
press, for the academic institutions, for the world community. And
that's what this process is.
And I keep hearing people say, "Oh, Europe's unhappy with this" or
"Somebody doesn't agree with that" or "Some general said this" or
"Some civilian said that." I think what's important is the substance
of this discussion. And I see too little attention to it and too much
attention to the personality aspects of it, if you will, and to the
trying to juxtapose what one person said against what somebody else
said for the personality aspect of it, rather than for the substance
of it. And if you think about our circumstance, when the penalty for
not acting is September 11th, if you will, or a Pearl Harbor, where
hundreds and a few thousand people are killed, that is a very serious
thing. You've made a conscious decision not to act. And the penalty
with that, for those people, it's a hundred percent. It's not one
thousand or two thousand, it's that person is gone. If, on the other
hand, the penalty for not acting is not a conventional or a terrorist
attack of that magnitude, but one of many multiples of that, it forces
people to stop and have the kind of debate we're having. What ought we
to be thinking about? How ought we, if at all, to be changing our
behavior? How ought we to live in this new 21st century world? What
does it mean that tens of thousands of human beings can be killed in a
biological attack if we allow it to happen as a society? Are we
comfortable with that? Is that something that we've decided that it's
so disadvantageous to take an action without proof that you could go
into a court of law and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that something
was going to happen, that the capabilities existed for -- of absolute
certain knowledge, and that the intent to use those was imminent and
clear, and you don't -- you may not have the type of certain
knowledge. You may want that kind of knowledge in a law enforcement
case, where we're interested in protecting the rights of the accused.
You may have a different conclusion if you're talking about the death
of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women
and children. We're not talking about combatants here, we're talking
about the kinds of people who were killed on September 11th. So it is
that construct that needs to be considered. And it ought to be -- it
ought to be talked about and well read through and thought about, it
seems to me.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: You -- you said just now that one of the reasons Saddam is so
dangerous is because he's threatening his neighbors. Now the very
neighbors say that they don't feel threatened today because of
containment and they oppose a military intervention. So what do you
say to them?
Rumsfeld: Well, I suppose -- first of all, it depends on who you're
talking to, and it depends on when you're talking to them, and it
depends on whether you're talking in public or in private. All anyone
has to do is go back and read the statements that Saddam Hussein has
made about the "illegitimacy", quote-unquote, the alleged
"illegitimacy" of his neighboring regimes, and the hostility he feels
towards them. So it seems to me the truth is self-evident.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned Congress several times, as you already
have said, that's coming back today and tomorrow. And of course you
and the president have also said that you believe Congress should be
consulted. But do you think it's prudent that you should seek the
consent of Congress? Do you think it's a wise idea for Congress to
approve an action before it might be decided?
Rumsfeld: The -- under our Constitution, Article 1 is the Congress of
the United States, the people's branch. They're there for a reason,
and there is no question but that they have a role. What that role is,
is a subject for lawyers; how they want to execute it is a subject for
Congress; how the president wants to interact with them is a subject
for the executive branch. And that will all play out over the coming
days and weeks. But there's no question but that the Congress has an
important role, in my view.
Q: But not just legally whether they should give their consent, but is
-- politically is prudent? And I would also wonder what General Myers
thinks -- would it be valuable to have the consent of Congress, not
just whether --
Rumsfeld: I think I've answered it as well as I can. I think that the
exact formula that the president or the Congress prefers to take is
something that will evolve in the coming days. With respect to the
first part of the question, unambiguously, the Congress has a role.
It's for them and the president to define it.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: General Myers, General Zinni, about 10 days ago, made a speech in
which he said that the people who are most enthusiastic about taking
action in Iraq have not themselves been in combat, or something to
that effect, and that generals, as a group, tend to see it
differently. And he even listed a few, most of them retired, actually.
Do you have any thoughts about -- I'm sure you've seen what he said.
Do you have any thoughts about what he said?
Myers: I've only seen what was reported that he said in the paper.
I've not seen his actual remarks. And so it's hard to comment. He made
his remarks -- I think I've stood up here before and talked about the
Joint Chiefs of Staff and others involved in all our processes in this
war on terrorism, and that I don't think -- I think people tend to
read things into statements that really don't reflect the true nature
of the deliberations and advice we're providing.
But, I don't know what else to say about it. Everybody's entitled to
Q: But do the responsibilities of -- you know, for military officers
mean that they have any different perspective in this instance than
civilian leadership might have?
Myers: Well, I think in some cases it may be slightly different, but
not different than the civilian leadership of the department. I don't
know anybody that cares more passionately about the people of this
department than the secretary and the deputy secretary and those
civilian leaders. So in one sense, no, and in another sense, in terms
of just pure military expertise, I think the military brings something
to the equation that's valuable, and we do so in a very unconstrained
Q: General Myers, a couple of days ago there was a story reporting
that many military officers in the Pentagon are concerned that if we
mounted a military operation against Iraq, it would be a huge
distraction and drain on resources from the search for al Qaeda and
the greater war on terrorism. Is that an issue that you and other
members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are discussing? Is that a serious
Myers: An issue that we discus and that the staff works almost
continuously is how U.S. armed forces are used around the world. For
those parts of the force that are under particular stress, what steps
can we take to mitigate it? If we're asked to do something else,
whatever that is, are we prepared to do that? Do we have the
logistics? Do we have the command and control structure? Do we have
the people? Do we have the right skill sets? And if not, then how do
we -- that's something we talk about all the time. We talk about that
with the secretary. We don't just talk about it, but the secretary
probes us to respond to lots of those types of questions. So that is
not unusual -- that that goes on. It goes on -- it went on before
September 11th. It's -- it'll go on as we continue this war.
Q: Well, but would a major regional conflict be a serious drain on the
resources that are being devoted to the war on terrorism, or is the
war on terrorism using so few of those resources that there are plenty
Myers: Let me just say it this way: that if you go back to the
Quadrennial Defense Review, in the defense strategy that was laid out
in that review, it says we want our forces to be able to do a series
of things. And in that series of things, we cover the cases that you
just mentioned -- the war on terrorism, another major regional
conflict, and we think we can do that. And we've looked at that
several times, and I've stood up here and I've said that we have the
resources to do -- now does that -- to do what we need to do.
Does that mean we're not going to have to prioritize, that there won't
be certain resources that will be -- could possibly be in scarce
demand, given different scenarios? Well, sure. But that's what we do.
We do that even today. So --
Rumsfeld: Plus homeland security, which Dick might have mentioned,
plus some other, lesser contingencies, such as Bosnia and the other
things we're doing.
Myers: Yeah. It's not just a war on terrorism; it is -- as the
secretary said, it's -- if you go back and read the QDR and take the
-- I don't want to go through that now. But if you take the defense
strategy out of that, which does include homeland security for the
first time as a mission that we need to put resources towards and
which we're doing in a fairly major way that we have not done in the
past, at least accounted for them -- we put forces toward it, but we
never accounted for them -- I think we have a great strategy with a
very good way to account for how busy people are going to be.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could I just ask you quickly, would you feel that
you have failed in your job if you left office and Saddam Hussein was
still in power?
Rumsfeld: No. Look -- (laughs) -- it is an interesting question. I
haven't thought about it that way. But there is a constitution, and
the president is the president, and the president and the Congress
make those kinds of judgments; secretaries of Defense do not.
I have a set of statutory responsibilities. And I have obligations to
the president, and I have obligations to the Congress under their
statute, and I have various international responsibilities. And to the
extent I do them in a manner that is consistent with the best
interests of our country, then I'm happy and feel that I've been
successful. And to the extent that I ever felt that something was
being done in a way that I did not feel in the best interests of the
country, it would be my obligation to step aside. But that -- I don't
feel that way at all. I feel we've got a very orderly process that is
benefiting from 24 hour, seven day a week examination by everybody in
the world, to look for flaws and little things on it that might be
questioned or elaborated on. And that's fine, too. That's all part of
the Constitution, too.
Q: Following the heightened sensitivity to the threat since September
11th and linear and perhaps logical inferences about Saddam Hussein's
pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, is there any concrete
difference in the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in Iraq today than
there was, say, one year ago today?
Rumsfeld: Well, without putting an adjective to it, the short answer
is yes, there is a difference today from a year ago. When you're
dealing with any entity -- let's call it the moon -- that --
(laughter) -- give credit -- give credit where's credit's due -- where
there -- where you know of certain knowledge that the moon has in the
past had weapons of mass destruction capabilities and that the moon
has been continuing free of inspections and with relatively open
borders, with a great deal of dual use capabilities, has been
proceeding aggressively to further develop those capabilities and make
them more mature, more robust, with greater lethality, greater
distances and greater variety, then one has to say that the situation
has changed, and not for the better.
Q: Mr. Secretary -- or either one of you -- could you help us put just
a couple of newspaper accounts into perspective? One is the New York
Times story today that suggests some Special Operations commanders,
having concluded on their own that bin Laden is dead, would like to
see their Special Operations forces doing more special things
somewhere else. The other one was in this Israeli newspaper, a report
over the weekend that says Syria has allowed 150 to 200 al Qaeda,
including, perhaps, some top leadership, to locate in a Palestinian
refugee camp near Sidon, in Lebanon. Can you help us put those two
stories into perspective, maybe?
General Myers, maybe you could take the first one. It's up to you.
Myers: In terms of the question about Special Operations Command and
any analysis, to my knowledge and to the knowledge of the commander of
Special Operations Command, there's been no analysis done by anybody
in his command on whether or not I think the story went that bin Laden
was killed in Tora Bora. I don't think there's -- there's nothing to
back up the fact that that's been analyzed to any degree that I'm
aware of or that General Holland is aware of. To the rest of the
story, I mean, I don't know. I -- depends who you talk to. I suppose
everybody's got ideas.
The one thing that we have to keep in mind, though, is that as -- we
found the adversary, in this case al Qaeda, being very adaptive, very
flexible. And as we pursue one line of tactics and techniques and
procedures in operating against them, they will -- they will change,
and they'll morph into some other capability. And we've got to be able
to react to that. And I think clearly, I would expect the folks in the
field to understand that, and we understand it, as well. So there are
always opportunities to change the way we're doing business or change
priorities, and it's something we do routinely. We've done it since
September 11th; we'll continue to do that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what about al Qaeda in Lebanon?
Rumsfeld: I don't think I care to get into it. We do know that al
Qaeda are all over the world. They're in 40 or 50 countries,
unquestionably. They have dispersed, in many cases out of Afghanistan,
where there were high concentrations. But to be perfectly
straightforward, they also dispersed before we went to Afghanistan.
They trained thousands of terrorists in those training camps in
Afghanistan and dispersed them around the world even before the
beginning of kinetics on October 7th of last year.
So they are in a lot of countries. I don't doubt for a minute that if
they're in that many countries, they're in a third of the countries of
the world, so you can name any number of countries where they might
Q: Follow-up on the Special Forces. To either of you, is there a plan
or consideration being given to a wider role for Special Forces in the
overall war on terrorism? What might that entail? And would that
overlap somewhat into what are traditionally law enforcement
Rumsfeld: Well, let me just start in on it. Number one, Special
Operations -- you're talking Special Forces or Special Operations?
Q: Special Operations.
Rumsfeld: Special Operations are in limited supply. And clearly, in
the global war on terrorism they have a role that is different and
more extensive than they might in a more conventional conflict. So we
need to see that we have the right numbers and in the right places,
working on the right problems. To the extent they're in places that
it's not useful or doing things that are less useful, one would
obviously find ways to replace them from those functions and have them
do the higher priority activities.
One of the things we've done early on, of course, was for the first
time in history to get the Marine Corps to develop a closer
relationship with Special Operations people and allow Marines to be
drawn into that pool. So we've expanded the size of the pool.
Another thing we've decided to do, some weeks or months ago, was to
recognize that there is a seam between what conventional forces do and
what Special Operating forces might do, and to find ways to have
people in the more conventional force activities move slightly over
and be able to pick up earlier some activities that previously or
maybe initially had been done by Special Operating forces, and have,
therefore, a way for the Special Operating forces to be somewhat --
freed up somewhat earlier. And we've been looking at a host of things
With respect to law enforcement -- doubtful. I mean, law enforcement
is law enforcement. Certainly in the United States we have people that
do that. With respect to other countries, what is law enforcement, it
varies from country to country how they're organized, how they're
equipped, what their laws require. In friendly countries, to the
extent they have good law enforcement capabilities, we always prefer
to use that, their capabilities. To the extent they don't have good
law enforcement capabilities or they don't have good
special-operations capabilities, we have a pattern of trying to help
train them and assist them and maybe give them some intel if they're
friendly countries. If they're unfriendly countries, then -- like
Afghanistan -- then we do something else.
Q: But you've described this as an unconventional war on terrorism.
Does that mean that America's unconventional forces may have to become
even more unconventional themselves and perhaps go covertly into
countries where we have not declared war or they are not invited?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that we -- our thinking has evolved in a way
that I'd want to get into that.
Q: Mr. Secretary and General Myers, you started off by kind of giving
us your progress report on the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, but it
doesn't appear that we have done much in finding large numbers of al
Qaeda or Taliban recently, and our troops seem to be becoming the
target. You know, we may be the hunted rather than the hunter. Are we
shifting into an uncomfortable stage in that conflict?
Rumsfeld: I don't think the question's accurate, first of all. We may
not be finding large numbers, but that's because we've been
successful, not unsuccessful. We've been successful in dispersing
large numbers wherever they were, and what's left are bits and scraps.
And we've been arresting and detaining people in Afghanistan almost
every week. I keep looking at the number of detainees, and the
number's going up, not down. So it seems to me that your assessment is
Second, you say they're targeting Americans. There's no question but
that Taliban and al Qaeda would like to target Americans, not just in
Afghanistan but in the United States and other countries around the
world. And periodically, they'll be successful. And it's our task to
see that we keep them on the move and keep them on the run.
Afghanistan is essentially in a circumstance that it's moved from
being a country occupied by the Taliban and the al Qaeda to a country
that is now governed by a transitional government under Mr. Karzai. It
is not a perfectly tidy place, but it is a very stable place, for the
most part, around the country.
The southeastern area, area southeast of Kabul, is clearly not stable.
And there are competing warlords in that area.
Does that mean people aren't going to get killed from time to time?
No. They will. Does it mean there aren't going to be land mines from
time to time? Of course there will be. It's a country that's been at
war for decades. There are more land mines in that country than there
are people. There -- it's one of the most heavily armed populations on
the face of this earth.
And you're quite right; every once in a while, a rocket gets fired
off, or an RPG gets fired off, or someone gets shot at and -- by
someone who's a Taliban or an al Qaeda in the local area.
But on the other hand, four, five, six times a day locals are coming
up to the U.S. forces in that country and saying, "Look, come here.
There's some bad guys over here. We'll point them out to you. There's
a cache of weapons in here." And they'll find hundreds and hundreds of
weapons. We find caches of weapons that -- not because we're geniuses,
but because people come and tell us, "There they are. Look! Pick them
up. Get them out of here. We don't want them here." People are going
I think your question was, you know, seriously flawed. (Laughter.)
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: But that question was to Dick.
Myers: Nice answer, sir.
Myers: We'll stick with this.
Q: Can we get a clarification here, real quickly -- just a
clarification? You said that Special Ops troops -- they may be moved
around to higher-priority things. Is one of the less useful jobs the
hunt for bin Laden, even though the fact is that you still operate
under the assumption that he is alive?
Rumsfeld: Look, the senior al Qaeda and the senior Taliban are still
people we'd like to find. And to the extent we should use law
enforcement, we do. Should we -- extent we use the agency, we do. To
the extent we use Special Forces or Special Ops, we do.
That list of -- whatever it is at any given time -- 12, 15, 20, 25
people are still of interest. One has to assume that these folks have
knowledge, training, access to bank accounts, access to individuals
who were trained and may be in sleeper cells, and that to the extent
there are going to be additional terrorist acts, that one or more of
them have a reasonable probability of being involved in it. Therefore,
they are of interest.
Q: Have you seen evidence that gold is being transferred to the Sudan
in any quantity from al Qaeda coffers?
Rumsfeld: Not that I know of.
Q: General Myers, you very carefully indicated earlier -- or you just
sort of avoided specifically addressing the issue of stress on Special
Operations. They are stressed now, are they not, because of the many
different things that are being asked of that command? And that is a
concern, is it not, of the Joint Chiefs as more and more things are
asked of this particular specialized soldier?
Myers: We have a lot of forces really busy. The Special Operations
Command has lots of forces that are very, very busy. In fact, they're
in, you know, about 140 countries, 143 countries a year. So they're
continually out there with our allies and partners in training
exercises and so forth.
Like any force, some parts of it are more stressed than others -- let
me just say that -- and that they have to be carefully husbanded more
than others. But it's not true as a general statement to say Special
Operations Command is stressed at this point. There are pieces of it
that are stressed. But you can go to any community in armed forces,
you can pick out pieces of it that are working very hard right now
just because of the nature of the requirements.
Q: General Myers, are they still operating in Yemen? Are they still
doing training or some other kind of cooperative anti-terror activity
Myers: Yes, they are.
Q: Is it the training part or is it some new effort?
Myers: Let me check on that. We'll get back to you on exactly. I know
some training is finished, and I just need to find out what's --
Q: Mr. Secretary, don't you feel a little bit foolish about lecturing
Rumsfeld: No! (Laughter.) Well what's the question?
Q: Don't you feel a bit foolish about lecturing the press about the
"frenzy" over Iraq when you went and spoke to the troops who might
have to fight there, and that was the first thing they wanted to know
about, and Vice President Cheney came out and made two hard-hitting
speeches on Iraq? In retrospect, don't you think maybe that subject
wasn't entirely just a press-generated frenzy?
Q: Now we're going to be here -- (off mike) -- (laughter) --
Rumsfeld: Did I use the word "frenzy"?
THE PRESS: Yes!
Q: Many times.
Q: You said it to the president as well.
Q: Caught on tape.
Q: You said it to the president.
Q: The president repeated your word.
Rumsfeld: Well, let me have an agonizing reappraisal here for --
(laughter). Or as one used to say, let me look down the long tunnel of
retrospect and see how I feel about that today.
No, I don't feel even the slightest foolish, I mean, really, really.
Not even close. What is the right word for what's been going on? I
don't know. I have been, as an idealist, always hopeful that the issue
would be seized, discussed in a thoughtful, constructive way. And I
have been discouraged, but not surprised, I suppose, that it tends to
always get tugged down to be particularized. It tends to be constantly
cast in personalities. And -- do I fault the press? Never! (Laughter.)
Could I have found a better word than "frenzy"? Maybe. "Feeding
frenzy" would be -- no that would be wrong, too. (Laughs.) I don't
know what the right word would be.
But it -- there's no question but that this world of ours is living in
a different time. This country of ours is. And the people deserve to
have some time and reflection on what are critically important issues.
And they ought to have the benefit of being able to think them
through. The Congress, the American people, other countries, they
ought to have the benefit of being able to think them through without
being constantly blown from side to side with trivia and irrelevancies
and misinformation by the juxtapositioning of one person's statement
against another person's statement. Maybe "frenzy" isn't the right
word, but I have seen some darned good commentary on television, and I
have seen some excellent articles in the press. So I don't mean to
paint a brush over this. I really don't. But I think this is
important. And I think it is being excessively simplified,
personalized, and in some instances, trivialized.
Now, have I gotten myself into deeper water?
Q: We'll get back to you on that. (Laughter.)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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