Rumsfeld Arrives in Baghdad to Visit Troops, Meet with LeadersBy Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 13, 2004 - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Baghdad today for a surprise visit to U.S. troops and to meet with military and Coalition Provisional Authority officials.
Rumsfeld, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers, arrived in Iraq at about 12:30 p.m. local time. He immediately met with Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. civil administer in Iraq.
"General Myers and I decided we thought it would be a useful thing for us to go to Iraq and to meet with some people who have been involved in various aspects of things that are important to us," Rumsfeld said while en route.
The secretary stressed they were not visiting Baghdad to inspect progress or do any sort of review of operations. "We're not on an inspection tour, we're not inspectors, we're not inspector generals," he said. "We've got talented people throughout the government, in and out of the government for that matter, who are addressing these things in an orderly way."
The secretary also was firm in denying he was traveling to Iraq to gauge the reaction to the release of photos of American soldiers apparently abusing Iraqi prisoners.
"The idea that I could go in there and do a 'Gallup Poll,' it's not possible," he said "I'm going to be there a relatively short period of time. I'm one person; I'll do my best."
For security reasons, officials are releasing no further details of the visit.
Rumsfeld and Myers departed for the highly secret mission to Iraq aboard a U.S. Strategic Command E-4B National Airborne Operations Center immediately following their joint testimony to a Senate committee on Capitol Hill May 12.
This was the first time Rumsfeld and Myers had flown together, officials said. The two generally fly aboard separate planes due to security concerns. This was also the first time Rumsfeld has flown aboard the National Airborne Command Center, a modified Boeing 747 jet designed to serve as a survivable mobile command center in a national emergency.
Speaking to reporters aboard the plane, Rumsfeld and Myers were hesitant to pass judgment on the soldiers depicted mistreating Iraqi detainees in photographs from Abu Ghraib prison here.
Both men said they were concerned any comments they made could potentially harm efforts to prosecute wrongdoers.
"The worst possible outcome is that (the alleged abusers) get off, that somehow through all the discussions that we've been having and somehow releasing evidence that we have that people who deserve to be punished somehow are released," Myers said. "That is a real legitimate worry for anybody in the chain of command."
"We have to avoid command influence," Rumsfeld said. "We have to avoid saying things that end up having guilty people released from penalties because of our words."
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