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Homeland Security

01 March 2003

Transcript: U.S. Wants to Help Philippine Fight Against Terrorism

(February 28 press briefing by Rumsfeld, Myers) (6230)
Following a February 28 meeting with Philippine Defense Secretary
Angelo Reyes, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers both said the United States wants
"to be helpful" to Manila's ongoing effort to combat terrorism within
its borders.
At a press briefing held the same day, Rumsfeld said the "exact
formula" for the U.S. assistance and accompanying deployments of
military forces to take place in the coming year has yet to be fully
worked out. The defense secretary said U.S. forces do not tend to
conduct training under combat situations. He also pointed out that the
Philippine Constitution prohibits foreign combat forces on its soil,
and the U.S. role must be consistent with its proscriptions.
Rumsfeld said he had an excellent exchange with Secretary Reyes at the
Pentagon about the shape and form of U.S. aid and said both sides want
to work out what is achievable, given existing circumstances in both
countries. "We want to be helpful" as the Philippine Armed Forces
pursue terrorism at home and as Manila continues to cooperate in the
worldwide campaign against terrorism, he said.
Ideally, the Philippine Army should have the capability to deal with
terrorists such as Abu Sayyef, Rumsfeld said, and the U.S. military
wants to assist the Army to further develop its anti-terrorism
capabilities. Due to links between Abu Sayyef , al-Qaeda, and other
terrorist networks, he said, it is very much in U.S. interests to find
ways to bolster the Army's institutional ability to deal with the
Rumsfeld said the U.S. assistance -- which is being finalized -- will
have both intelligence and command-and-control components. He also
said one of the purposes of assistance will be to develop
interoperability between the military forces of the two countries. The
goal will be to train the Philippine military so that it will be
"capable and successful" in dealing with the terrorist problem,
Rumsfeld said. Myers said joint training can be a large part of
dealing with the terrorist threat, noting that any U.S. assistance
will be "value added."
Myers said the negotiations between the U.S. and Philippine
governments on this subject have been ongoing for some time, and the
Reyes-Rumsfeld meeting was just another part of it as the two sides
seek to find what Rumsfeld described as their "comfort level."
"All circuits are working" on resolving the final details of the
arrangement, Rumsfeld said, in order to help "a very fine ally" deal
with a very serious terrorism problem.
Following is a transcript of the briefing, as released by the
Department of Defense:
(begin transcript)
DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense
Donald H. Rumsfeld
Friday, February 28, 2003
1:43 p.m. EST
(Also participating was Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs
of Staff.)
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. I had a meeting with -- goodness, it must
have been 15 or 20 of the liaison -- military liaison people that are
at the Central Command. They were in the Pentagon visiting. And had a
chance to shake hands with them and visit with them and thank each of
them -- they must have represented 15 or 20 different countries --
thank each of them for the wonderful relationship we have with their
countries. They came from every continent on earth and are here for
some intensive discussions and sessions.
Second, we just completed a lunch a bit earlier with the minister of
defense -- secretary of defense of the Philippines, Mr. Reyes. We had
a very good discussion. As you know, the United States and the
government of the Philippines have a very long-standing relationship.
It is a close and constructive one that's mutually beneficial.
The Philippines have been not just a part of the global coalition in
the war on terrorism, but have been very stalwart and stand up in
their activities. As we all know, they have some terrorist
organizations in their country. They have been working not only
worldwide with us on the linkages between the Abu Sayyaf and the
Jemaah Islamiya in their country, with al Qaeda and other terrorist
organizations, but they have been working inside their country to
aggressively deal with that set of issues and doing it effectively.
The United States, of course, has a number of exercises with the
Philippine government every year. In addition, last year we had the
Balikatan activity, which was on Basilan island, and was highly
successful in dealing with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization, not
only the cooperation and the support and the training that we provided
in that exercise, was successful in driving out and killing a number
of the terrorists, but in addition, there was a substantial effort
with respect to humanitarian affairs and civil works that has been
helpful with respect to the population as a whole.
For some weeks have been discussing the possibility, the probability,
the certainty of having some sort of a Balikatan, which in Filipino
means "shoulder to shoulder," I'm told, activity in this year, '03. We
will do that. We have -- are still in the process of discussing
exactly how we ought to do that and what shape it ought to take, what
makes the most sense from their standpoint, which is what our interest
is, and what we can do and they can do in a manner that's consistent
with each of our circumstances.
We had an excellent discussion, and I know that those discussions will
continue in the days and weeks ahead. And I suspect we'll have an
announcement at some point in the future as to precisely what that
will be.
General Myers?
Myers: Nothing to add, sir.
Rumsfeld: Charlie?
Q: Mr. Secretary, we were recently led to believe, by Defense
officials, that the new deployment in the Philippines, the new U.S.
military deployment, would go beyond just training and that the
American troops would be actually involved in offensive operations
again Abu Sayyaf, not just return fire if you're fired upon or
threatened. Is that the case? Is that what you want to do, and it's
just such a politically explosive subject in the Philippines that you
haven't come to an agreement on that? Is that not the case?
Rumsfeld: I don't -- I understand that the -- Secretary Reyes had a
press briefing this morning where he discussed some of that.
Q: He did, but he didn't clarify very much.
Rumsfeld: Well, let me see what I can do.  What the heck!
The -- as you know, the Philippine Constitution, which I believe dates
back -- I don't know -- 50 years or something, is fashioned in a way
that it prohibits the presence of foreign forces in a combat role in
their -- on their land, I believe. Now that's not a legal definition,
but it's something like that. The -- therefore, what you described
would be difficult from them from a constitutional standpoint.
They have a variety of things they do in training their people,
including exercises that involve combat situations, which is kind of
the end point of training, from their standpoint, as I understand it.
And what they do is they end up with the end of that process putting
their folks into combat -- into a circumstance that conceivably could
result in combat. You never know when you're dealing with terrorists,
as opposed to something -- an opposing army, navy or air force.
From our standpoint, we can do either. We can do training. We can do
exercises. We can do operations. But what we do is -- whatever it is
we do, we describe in language that is consistent with how we do
things. And we do not tend to train people in combat, if you will. We
do not tend to do exercises in combat. And that is, I believe, what he
explained this morning in his press briefing. So, exactly what the
formula will be, I don't know. We're still discussing that. But there
will be a Balikatan activity in '03 -- I'm absolutely certain of that
-- and it will be one that's consistent with each of our
circumstances. And we will, when we have it, be describing very
precisely what it is our role will be, and whatever that role is, it
has to be consistent with their constitution and their circumstance.
But we want to be helpful.
Q: Is the idea here, sir -- you used shoulder to shoulder -- is the
idea to more aggressively go after Abu Sayyaf; U.S. -- both U.S. and
Philippine groups to more aggressively go after Abu Sayyaf?
Rumsfeld: The -- I suppose the way to characterize it is that the
Philippine armed forces are pursuing the terrorists in their country.
And second, they're cooperating worldwide with the global war on
terror. The United States recognizes the linkages between the
terrorist organizations in that country and al Qaeda and other
terrorist networks in the world. It is very much in our interest to
try to be helpful -- find ways that are comfortable for the
Philippines that we can be helpful to them. And what we will do is we
will -- the perfect world is that they have the institutional
capability to deal with terrorism in their island and, in addition,
contribute to the worldwide effort against terrorists. They are in a
position today that suggests that they would like our assistance in
various ways -- and support -- so that they can develop those
capabilities somewhat more than they currently are. What the model
will be, I don't know. But clearly, the goal of the Philippine
government is to deal aggressively with the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah
Q: Mr. Secretary, officials here in the Pentagon have been authorized
to say over the last few weeks that this would be a joint combat
operation, led by Philippine military assisted by the United States
military. Is it still your understanding as of today this will be some
type of joint combat operation?
Rumsfeld: I don't know who you said was authorized to say that.
Q: They were officials here in the Department of Defense who were
authorized to speak on background and describe these kind of --
Rumsfeld: Huh.  All I can tell you is  -- 
Q: That's still your understanding, at least  -- 
Rumsfeld: I think I've done an excellent job of explaining the
situation. And the fact is that the way you phrased it would be
perfectly comfortable from our standpoint. From their standpoint, it
would be inconsistent with their constitution. Therefore, what we have
to do is find an approach where we can provide the maximum benefit to
them and do it in a way that is not inconsistent with their
Q: Is this a semantic approach, or is this something of substance on
the ground that you've got to work out or an arrangement involving the
actual forces?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think in the last analysis, the United States
government is -- daily demonstrates its inability to deal with nuance.
(Laughs, laughter.) Therefore, I think what you'll find -- (laughter)
-- I think what you'll find is, whatever it is we do substantively,
there will be near-perfect clarity as to what it is. And it will be
known, and it will be known to the Congress and it will be known to
you, probably before we decide it, but it will be known. And it will
have to be something that is consistent with their circumstance as
Myers: And I would also say that our assistance will be value-added,
whether it's what you described or something else. I mean, there are
lots of ways that we can be value-added to assisting, to helping, to
training the Philippine armed forces. And that's what I think the
secretary has asked Admiral Fargo to work that out with the Philippine
government and come back with some proposals.
Rumsfeld: Yes?
Q: Mr. Secretary, could I just take you a little step further on this?
Can you describe what the U.S. objective in this is? Is it to do away
with Abu Sayyaf, or is it just to support -- it's certainly not a
training mission. What is the U.S. objective?
Rumsfeld: There clearly is -- first of all, we have lots of exercises
with them, and the purpose of those are to develop our capabilities
and our interoperabilities, because that's important.
Q: And what will the end result be when this exercise is done? Will
the Abu Sayyaf be taken down? Isn't that really the objective?
Rumsfeld: The goal is to have the Philippine military capable and
successful in dealing with the terrorist problems that exist in that
country. To the extent we can be helpful to them in a variety of
different ways that are consistent with their circumstance, we want to
do that. And we've been doing it. We're doing it today in various
ways, and we will continue to do it.
Myers: And training  -- 
Q: Is it what they want?
Myers: And training can be a big part of that. Do not dismiss the
importance of training. I mean, that's what we've done in other
countries. We're doing that in Georgia today. We've done that in
Yemen. The exercise in training that we had before on Basilan Island
was exactly -- it was 95 percent training with the Philippine armed
Q: General Myers, we're conditioned to think of training as people
going in and helping teach other people to do things, not guys going
in harm's way, shooting at targets --
Myers: That's the kind of training I'm talking about, exactly.
Q: You're talking about live-fire training.
Myers: I'm not talking about combat, I'm talking about training,
because of the things you can do short of combat --
Q: So troops will or won't be involved in combat?
Rumsfeld: Well, we have said that we're in the course of discussions.
I don't know how many times I have to say it. We will announce
precisely what ends up when it ends up. But the discussions are going
on. They have been going on for a few weeks. And at some point we will
have something like a Balikatan '03, that will be related to
terrorism, and it very likely will have an intelligence component, a
command-and-control component, a training component, some exercises.
And whatever it ends up being, it will clearly be consistent with
their constitution and it will be consistent with what we tell you we
are doing.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, yesterday you attempted to provide some  -- 
Rumsfeld: (Inaudible) -- I take it.
Q: -- near-perfect clarity for the nuance in General Shinseki's
comments about the need for a -- size of a post-Iraq force.
Nevertheless, critics of the Pentagon are seizing on Shinseki's
comment, his opinion, as evidence that the Pentagon may be
underplaying or under-representing what the post-war commitment will
be. And General Shinseki -- some of his aides are telling us that he
sort of stands by his opinion that he offered that -- have you --
Rumsfeld: I've not talked to him.
(To General Myers) Have you?
Myers: I have not talked to General Shinseki either.
Q: Well  -- 
Rumsfeld: First of all, people are entitled to their own opinions.
Q: Well, do you find that unhelpful, and do you plan to discuss it at
all with him?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. I'm sure I'll see him. I see him every week
for one reason or another. And I'm sure it will come up. But you mean
did I pick up the phone yesterday and ask him to come and see me or
call --
Q: To discuss whether or not this is helpful to your case.
Rumsfeld: The -- well, if he's right, it's helpful. My personal view
is that it will prove to be high. The problem we have is that anyone
who tries to go to a single point answer has to have made a series of
judgments about a set of six to eight variables, and he has to in
their mind decided, well, this is how that variable is going to be
decided, and therefore, I can come to a single point answer.
I'm not deft enough to take six or eight working variables  -- 
Q: My question, I guess, is General Shinseki in any trouble? You're
his boss.
Rumsfeld: No! Come on! Absolutely not.  No.
John, what are you trying to do, stir up trouble?
Q: Well  -- 
Rumsfeld: No.  Look, he nods yes.  (Laughter.) A few heads going.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the Spanish prime minister has been quoted recently
as urging President Bush -- or at least suggesting that there be more
Powell and less Rumsfeld. And I was wondering --
Rumsfeld: That's not a bad idea! (Laughter.)
Q: -- are you inclined to take that advice?
Rumsfeld: Oh, goodness.  I haven't heard it from the president.
(Scattered laughter.)
Q: Back to the Turkish question. The Turkish parliament tomorrow is
going to make a major decision one way or the other. Can you review
the bidding here in terms of the military significance of having a
number of U.S. forces in the region in terms of how it complicates
Iraqi defenses against the U.S., and might facilitate a quick, rapid
campaign, that the president hopes for?
And, General Myers, could you address that also?
Rumsfeld: I don't think we both have to answer each of his questions,
do you? I think -- why don't you just do it?
Myers: Okay  -- 
Q: (Off mike) -- military refine the point.  You can  -- 
Myers: Well, I think you're right, Tony. I think -- my understanding
is that the Turkish parliament will vote tomorrow. That's the plan
right now. They've been trying to address this issue of U.S. troops,
and overflight, and basing of aircraft in Turkey for some time now, in
case there is conflict in Iraq. Without going into the operational
detail, clearly there are a lot of things that are important about
northern Iraq, and that's why we're in these negotiations with Turkey
right now. And I don't want to get into the operational details of
what that might entail, but --
Q: But aren't you past the point where you needed to get an answer?
Myers: No.
Rumsfeld: We'll be all right.
Myers: We'll be -- yeah.
Q: Well, how long would it take to unload 40 vessels, just kind of a
time line here that --
Myers: You want me to tell the Iraqi regime exactly how long to get
our forces in place? I'm sorry, but I don't want to do that.
Rumsfeld: Don't be sorry.  (Laughter.)
Myers: I don't want to do that, but we've calculated that. There are
-- General Franks, as we speak, is looking at lots of options. My
guess: in the end, we will have U.S. forces in northern Iraq one way
or the other.
Rumsfeld: Barbara, why are you in the back, in the penalty box? Is
there something -- you want to get through the door fast?
Q: You were late, and I have a story I've got to write, and I didn't
want to walk out in the front row.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Just a second.  Wait.
Q: Are you fully satisfied that the Air Force can conduct a complete
and independent investigation of the rape scandal at the academy, or
are you entertaining the congressional requests -- the growing
congressional requests for an independent investigation of the
military academies, the Air Force and others?
Rumsfeld: I have not -- it's not a subject I've gotten into. My -- I
have read what Secretary Roche and General Jumper have said. There --
it seems to me there shouldn't be any ambiguity as to whether or not
they intend to see that there is a full investigation.
I am not knowledgeable about the congressional inquiries or suggestion
Q: The report that they have come out with, saying the Pentagon ought
to conduct its own IG investigation of the academy, rather than leave
the Air Force to investigate itself.
Rumsfeld: I wonder why we have IGs for each of the services, then, why
the Congress required that we each have IGs if they don't have a
function relating to their service. I mean, if -- there is a
departmental IG, and there are independent commissions that do things
from time to time on subjects that lend themselves to that. But the
reason we have service IGs is to investigate service matters, to --
there are occasions when it is appropriate to use the departmental IG,
rather than the service IG. But I haven't seen any of the facts that
one might suggest would lead you to do that at this stage.
Q: The last month has been one of the busiest, if not the busiest, in
the no-fly zones, against Iraqi targets, after they have, according to
the different releases by CENTCOM, provoked the United States. The
U.S. has gone after a series of repeater stations, some days hitting
five and six at a time. Is there a correlation between these strikes
and sort of future planning that the United States has with regard to
Rumsfeld: I don't know that the number is up.  Is it up noticeably?
Myers: I'd have to look at the facts. But the primary -- we patrol the
no-fly zones in accordance with what is called for in previous U.N.
We respond when we're shot at. And so I think the facts are, we're
getting shot at about two out of every three times that we fly. And
these are responses.
The repeater stations are part of their defense network. And so what
we're trying to do is to have some impact on their defense network
where they can't bring our air crews into harm's way, and that's what
it's all about.
Q: How about the surface-to-surface missile batteries? You hit four in
one day this week, and those aren't threatening aircraft.
Myers: No, but they are -- they have been deployed, some down to the
South, within range of Kuwait, where we have lots of coalition forces;
some close to the Turkish border, where we and our ally Turkey are
located as well. And they become a threat to our forces, absolutely,
because they were new deployments. They were --
Rumsfeld: Yes?
Q: We had been told last week that the Philippine activity or whatever
-- the upcoming program had been agreed upon and was beginning --
would be beginning soon. So has the start of it been delayed by this
disagreement over semantics, or --
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know that it's just semantics. It is trying to
find a formula where we can provide the maximum help in a manner
that's consistent with their constitution.
Q: But again, we were told that that was agreed upon.
Rumsfeld: You weren't told by me.
Q: Well  -- 
Rumsfeld: I mean, you're going to be told lots of things. You get told
things every day that don't happen. It doesn't seem to bother people.
They don't -- it's printed in the press. The world thinks all these
thing happen. They never happened. It's -- everyone's so eager to get
the story before, in fact, the story's there that the world is
constantly being fed things that haven't happened.
All I can tell you is, it hasn't happened, it's going to happen, and
we're worrying through those issues in a very constructive, friendly,
positive way.
Q: What about a delay from the initially planned start?
Rumsfeld: I don't know when the initially planned start was. I know
that most of the things we do start at some level with an idea. This
is -- hundreds of things in this department start with an idea here or
here or here. They then work their way around with other countries, if
it involves other countries, and then they start moving up a process.
And then it leaks and everyone in the world thinks it's this. And then
it goes up another and it gets changed and fixed and it -- then it
leaks again and it's different. And then finally something gets
decided, and it's been fully vetted in the world more than it probably
needed. And then something happens.
And the problem is that people think that news is something that is
announced before it happens, as opposed to something that is reported
when it does happen. And I can't help that. All we can do is recognize
we live in a democracy, we're dealing with a democracy; that's going
to happen. And we'll keep doing our best to get an answer for you, and
when we do, we will be here too, and you'll be the first to know.
Q: General Myers, do you know if it's been delayed?
Myers: Very nice try! (Laughter.) I think the secretary's description
is absolutely right. You remember, this is -- (laughter) -- well
remember, this is an agreement between two governments, and those
negotiations have been, I think, fairly continuous now for some time.
And this meeting today with Secretary Reyes is just one more part of
Q: Mr. Secretary, today you're talking about the Philippines. You
still have troops in Afghanistan hunting down terrorists. What's the
next hotbed of activity that you see? Is Africa a hotbed of terrorist
Rumsfeld: There are certainly terrorists on every continent, and
there's no question but that there are terrorists in Africa. I
wouldn't say it's the next area of activity. I mean, we have activity
there now. We have activity in the Gulf. We have activity in the
Philippines, in Central Asia. This is a global problem. It's got 90
countries involved using all elements of national power to try to find
these people, track them down and get them off the street. I don't
know where the next area will necessarily be.
Q: But as far as what you're seeing in Africa, as far as like
terrorist cells, you have troops in the Horn of Africa.
Rumsfeld: We do.
Q: Well, what's the assessment?
Rumsfeld: The assessment is that there are terrorists in Africa and --
and we wish there weren't. But they're in every continent.
Myers: And we're trying to keep the pressure on everywhere we think
it's prudent to do so.
Rumsfeld: Yes?
Q: You owe me a question from the Foreign Press Center, Mr. Secretary.
(Laughter.) My question is, what is the total number of U.S. troops
that will be deployed under Balikatan '03, and what will they be --
Army, Green Berets, Marines?
Rumsfeld: We don't know. Until the details get worked out as to how we
can assist them, we can't know either the numbers or the types of
forces that will be used. At some point when that's sorted through, we
then would announce them. There are exercises that take place where we
can give you numbers, because those things are the kinds of things
that are annual exercises; they're planned in advance. The Balikatan
'02 and '03 were things that were devised since the global war on
terrorism and are in each case distinctively different from the
pattern of regularized exercises.
Q: But I don't -- I mean, you say you can't know -- (inaudible) -- and
yet, we were told 350 Special Operations troops, supported by 400
other troops and 1,000 Marines. Was this made up?
Rumsfeld: And it could be true. We just haven't finalized it. I'm not
saying it is or isn't true. What I'm saying is that we are working
through those details. I can't understand why that isn't acceptable.
Q: Mr. Secretary  -- 
Rumsfeld: You want to say, "Oh, Don, thank you!"
Q: Oh, Don, thank you! (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) That's good -- all together now! (Laughter.)
Q: Oh, Don, thank you!
The briefs on the two ships that were specifically mentioned this
week, that were going to be leaving on Monday, which was confirmed,
are not leaving on Monday.
Rumsfeld: I tell you, the -- here's the way this thing works. You've
got a chairman and a secretary. You've got a combatant commander,
Admiral Fargo, in Hawaii. You've got people that work for him that
deal with the Philippine military. We've got Doug Feith and the Policy
people who deal with the policy level in the Philippines. And all of
those circuits are working on this thing, trying to figure out the
best, most appropriate way that we can help, and participate and
support a very fine ally with respect to a very serious terrorist
problem that exists in their country. How that gets done at the
military linkage level and the policy level so that it's comfortable
for both governments, and comfortable for both militaries, and
constructive and we're spending the money on is something that isn't
done like that.
Q: But I just don't understand how you could have people confirming
that a ship was leaving from this dock on this date with these people,
and now you're saying, but none of that had ever been finalized.
Rumsfeld: I tell you, until something starts and is done, it isn't
finalized. And it isn't. We are -- we have been going through these
discussions about how we can get a comfort level in each country with
respect to this that makes sense. It is not complicated. It is -- this
is exactly the circumstance. It seems difficult to take aboard, but it
shouldn't be.
Myers: And let's be clear, the secretary never made a final decision
on this. He has not -- and ultimately that's where the authority and
responsibility resides. And he's just not decided. In fact, knowing
for some time that Secretary Reyes was coming to town was a good
reason to have these discussions today.
Q: But nuance-wise, did this building just get a little bit ahead of
you? Is that what we're talking about?
Rumsfeld: I wouldn't put it that way. I mean, I think probably
everything you were told was believed completely by the people who
told you those things, and that was their best judgment at that moment
with respect to what was going to happen. It just happens that when
you try to connect the two policy shops and the two military shops,
the connections have not yet gotten finalized. And we can't go do
something that in any way would be considered by the people of the
Philippines to be inconsistent with their constitution. That's --
that's -- that's not surprising.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: Let me -- there was someone with a hand up here.
Q: The president said today that the military is ready to accomplish
any mission that they're asked to. Does this mean that your forces
that are based in the Gulf region and around it are ready to strike
Iraq any minute?
Rumsfeld: Assuming you accurately quoted the president, needless to
say, the president is correct. (Laughter.) Whatever it was he said.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I have a question from our news after it was
announced file as opposed to before --
Rumsfeld: Good.
Q: Today you released the draft military commission instructions.
Rumsfeld: True.  Is it no longer newsworthy?
Q: I would just like to know, does this mean the U.S. is any closer to
bringing anyone before a military commission?
Rumsfeld: That, as you know, is a decision for the president. What
this means is that we have moved another step with respect to military
commissions by drafting the types of crimes and the -- what's the word
-- elements ? that would be a part of this -- and I haven't seen the
release, but I authorized that it go out -- so that it can be out for
comment, as you suggest. You have at do that. It had been widely
coordinated within the government, and now it's at a point where we're
looking for external comments, and at some point it then would be
finalized. That would have to be done before a person was brought --
sent by the president to be put before a military commission. So it
does mean you're a step closer. It does not necessarily mean that
there's a person who's ready to be put into that process.
Q: Mr. Secretary, a member of your General Counsel staff said that one
of the ways that the president -- someone might come before the
president to be designated that way would be that you would make a
recommendation. Are you prepared to recommend anyone --
Rumsfeld: I suppose anyone could recommend. You know, the attorney
general could, the agency could, I could, the White House could, the
president could get it from his own counsel. If you're asking do I
have someone in mind that I'm going to tee up, the answer is no.
Q: Could I  -- 
Q: Can I ask my question now? Are the U.S. forces ready to strike in
Iraq at any minute, once they're given the order?
Myers: I think the secretary said it exactly right. What we're trying
to do is provide maximum flexibility to the president of the United
States, so if he decides a certain course of action is required, we'll
be ready to do that. And we're ready. Rumsfeld: We'll make this the
absolute last question.
Q: Could the  -- 
Rumsfeld: No, I didn't like the earlier one you had. Maybe I'll try
someone -- (laughter) --
Q: I never get a  -- 
Rumsfeld: (Laughing) Sorry! I'm kidding! I'm kidding!
Q: The rules for the military commissions, could that be applied to
Iraqi soldiers or Iraqi military personnel in a prospective war?
Rumsfeld: I forget what it was called, but the president issued an --
I think an executive order -- or a military order, is what it was
called. It seems like years ago now. And whatever it provides -- my
recollection is that it specified no U.S. citizen. That could be
amended; he could change that. But under the current military order,
no U.S. citizen could be. But I think any other national could be.
Rumsfeld: Hm. You say certainly you have in your mind. You know, the
truth is, no, I didn't have that in my mind. I haven't thought much
about it, to be perfectly honest. I would not anticipate that in a --
in the event force is needed with respect to Iraq, and the president
makes that decision, I would not personally anticipate large numbers
of Iraqi soldiers being sent to Guantanamo Bay or being put through --
necessarily put through a military commission. It just happens to be
something that I'm not focused on.
Q: Well, what about leadership, though? You've specifically said and
warned very publicly Iraqi generals or other officials not to take --
carry out certain activities, or they could be prosecuted for war
Rumsfeld: That's true.
Q: Would this not possibly come into play there?
Rumsfeld: It could. This would be one vehicle that would be available
among several others that would be available. There are all kinds of
ways that Iraqis could be brought to justice. They could be brought to
justice in Iraq. They could be brought to justice in other countries.
They could be brought to justice through a military commission, one
would think. They could be brought to justice --
Q: What would you do with POWs in the event of a war?
Rumsfeld: Well, we sure don't want to take lots of them down to
Q: You had that -- this same position during Desert Storm.
Rumsfeld: Yeah.
Q: Is there an agreement with another country to handle that or  -- 
Rumsfeld: There will be provision made for prisoners, and I assume it
will be in Iraq, in the event something like that were to occur.
Q: And it would be dealt  -- 
Rumsfeld: I'm going to close the session by asking our friend General
Richard Myers how old he's going to be tomorrow.
Myers: And I thought we had a relationship! (Laughter.) This is --
(chuckles) --
Q: I think you do, and that was evidence.  (Laughter.)
Myers: I'll be 61 tomorrow.
Q: Whoo!
Q: Some kind of up and out?
Rumsfeld: Just a child.  (Laughter, cross talk.)
Q: You're a child.
Q: Mr. Secretary, do you know that Antarctica is a continent?
Antarctica is a continent, and you keep saying that there are
terrorists from every continent and coalition partners from every
(Cross talk.)
Rumsfeld: Can you assure me there are not?  (Laughter.)
Q: No, but you said that there were.
Q: If you would release a list, sir  -- 
Rumsfeld: I stand corrected.
Q: Do you have evidence  -- 
Rumsfeld: How old are you today?
Q: I'm not at liberty to say.  (Laughter.)
Q: All right.
Q: I don't know.
Q: Happy birthday!
Q: I've seen some of those penguins that look like they might  -- 
Q: Is your birthday tomorrow?
Myers: Yeah.  It is.
Happy birthday.
Q: Happy birthday.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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