Defense Department Briefing, October 2, 2003
U.S. Department of Defense News Transcript
(Participating were Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
On Tuesday we had a very good meeting -- hearing, I should say -- with the House Appropriations Defense Committee. Six or seven members of that panel, Republicans and Democrats alike, had arrived back just hours before from Iraq. One after another, they spoke enthusiastically about the progress that they had witnessed with their own eyes -- progress which, several of them emphasized, was a surprise to them and was notably different from their assessment of the reports that they receive in the media.
I should add that the next day we were all struck by the total absence of coverage of that hearing and the favorable reports that these six or seven members brought back and articulated in the hearing. I saw nothing in any of the four or five papers that I read or on any of the television shows which I occasionally have on. So I guess good news is not news.
The message we delivered to the Congress is that the funds the president requested are vital to our success in the global war on terror and to our ability to finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that we're able to bring the U.S. forces back.
Of the 87 billion (dollars) he requested, almost 66 billion (dollars), or 75 percent, is for the troops. The remaining 21 billion (dollars) is to help Afghanistan and Iraq secure their nation's freedom.
In Iraq, the president has requested 15 billion (dollars) to speed repairs on Iraq's starved infrastructure and 5 billion (dollars) to help the Iraqis assume responsibility for the security of their country.
Some have properly asked why the American taxpayer should pay $20 billion to train Iraqis to provide for their own security in that country and to repair Iraqi infrastructure. It's a fair question. The answer is, so that Iraqis can take responsible for their -- responsibility for their own security and for the reconstruction of their own country as quickly as possible, and U.S. forces and coalition forces can turn that responsibility over to the Iraqis.
The $20 billion the president requested is not intended to cover all of Iraq's needs. The bulk of the funds for Iraq's reconstruction will come from Iraqis -- from oil revenues, recovered assets, international trade, direct foreign investment, as well as some contributions we've already received and hope to receive from the international community.
But today Iraq is not generating anywhere near enough income to provide for its own security or to get on a path of self-reliance without help. The funds the president has requested are intended to help Iraq begin generating income, attract foreign investment and provide the security in that country so that they can rebuild their own country. The investments the president is requesting are a critical element in the coalition strategy. The sooner the Iraqis can defend their own people and generate revenue, the sooner they will be self-reliant and not dependent on either foreign troops or international assistance.
The Marshall Plan after World War II cost roughly 90 billion in today's dollars. It helped transform a region that has been a source of war and instability for decades and turn it into a place of peace, prosperity and a source of mutually-beneficial trade for the American people.
If we succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is conceivable that they can also become places of peace and prosperity, and friends and allies in the battle for freedom and moderation in that part of the world. That's the goal. That's why the funds for DOD and the funds for the Coalition Provisional Authority are inextricably linked.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and good afternoon everybody.
Like the secretary mentioned, the supplemental is a vital part of our future success in Iraq, and every piece of this supplemental is important to the security of Iraq. Every piece adds to the security of Iraq.
Today is D plus 198 in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and while there is no question we have faced some challenges and we've got some ahead of us, we have really achieved numerous successes and expect the situation to continue to improve. I've spoken to many different forums over the last six or seven months, explaining that we're in this for the long haul and that we have dedicated young men and women doing an enormous job over there, and that we'll get the job done.
It's been a while since I've been out here, so I thought what I'd do is step through a few of these successes just to say where we've been.
In terms of electricity, the Task Force Restore Iraqi Electricity has recently been established. It's a group of military engineers deployed with the sole purpose of helping the Iraqi people get their lives back to normal. On September 30th, power output in Iraq increased to 3,900 megawatts, compared to 3,300 megawatts at the end of August.
In the information front, the Iraqi people now have a choice of news programs. Our presence in Iraq has fostered an environment with over 160 newspapers now available. Some of the folks that have just visited from Congress showed us some of those newspapers the other day. Radio and TV stations are continuing to increase, and a number of trained professionals are arriving in Iraq to help assist in that particular project.
In terms of intelligence or valuable tips, Iraqi citizens are turning in former regime loyalists who are working against the future of Iraq. And there is a definite rise in those willing to come forward with information on subversive activities.
Universities. Schools are opening all across Iraq, and Iraqi women now have free access to all university courses for the first time.
Hospitals. Medical care is improving. Coalition forces have helped distribute medical supplies throughout the country. And now every hospital in Baghdad is open.
In terms of patrols, just yesterday two anti-coalition individuals were caught in a Baghdad area planning to fire a mortar. Our snipers wounded these individuals and then followed them to their compound. A search of that compound and the neighborhood resulted in finding those individuals along with 12 other Iraqis. And while patrolling these side streets they found two trucks. One truck was filled with 800 57-mm rockets, and the other truck with 750 rockets. And as they began to search further, an apparent detonating device was found as well. The explosive ordnance teams that were there diagnosed this -- these trucks, of course, as potential bombs that were in a pre-assembly state. And another two individuals nearby were apprehended for interrogation as well.
Telephones. The first call from Mosul to Baghdad was made yesterday using the restored fiberoptic phone line network.
In terms of protecting Iraqi borders, operations to protect the borders have been ongoing for sometime in order to prevent foreign fighters from coming into Iraq from the neighboring countries. And recently in just the last several weeks we've made big strides, particularly on the western border.
In terms of energy and looting and sabotage, in conjunction with coalition forces, Iraqis are protecting the Iraqi oil infrastructure. The coalition's operation called Power Crude has arrested smugglers and confiscated contraband and detained ships with illegal cargo. Attacks on the infrastructure do continue, and our efforts will continue as well to stop them.
In terms of political recognition, the Governing Council is now recognized with seats in the Arab League and in OPEC.
On the religious freedom front, everyone in Iraq is free to openly practice their own religious beliefs regardless of their faith or their sect.
And in terms of security, as the secretary said, there are over 49,000 Iraqi police on duty throughout Iraq. There are over 12,000 in the Facility Protection Service and the Civil Defense Corps and the new Iraqi army and the border guards. All are training to prepare themselves for service. And there's more in the pipeline. Iraq is now the second-largest member of the coalition.
All this to me is real progress. However, we're still a nation at war. Our soldiers continue to make the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those who are wounded in action, and our thoughts always go out with them and with their families. And we do have hard challenges ahead of us. This is not to say that there are not going to be many more hard and tough times. But we do have fantastic men and women, both civilians and in uniform over there, who are doing truly heroic and Herculean work.
And with that, we'll take your questions. Charlie?
Q: Mr. Secretary, without going into details of the investigations into the three Gitmo workers who have been arrested, are you concerned that there's a broad and concerted effort by other countries and perhaps Muslim or terrorist groups to break security at Gitmo? And are any new efforts being made to recruit Arabic translators in the military as a result of this?
Rumsfeld: As you suggested in your question, investigations are underway and it's not appropriate for me to discuss them. Historically we know that when you are in a war and you have enemies, that they are going to seek to find ways to advantage themselves and disadvantage you. It's been so throughout history. So it ought not to be any great surprise that from time to time there will be instances where this occurs.
Dick, you may want to comment.
Myers: And obviously, we had, I'll just say, things in place, counterintelligence capabilities in place to try to prevent this. We have a vetting process and so forth. And I think the fact that some people have been apprehended and alleged with these very serious crimes is an indication of some of the good news. We also, clearly, will look at all our procedures for vetting. SOUTHCOM has a team down there right now because of this to look at the various aspects of that. But it should not be a surprise that in a time of war, that people try to infiltrate this way, and it wasn't.
Question: Can --
Q: Apparently there is an extreme shortage -- excuse me -- of Arabic speakers in the U.S. military. Are you moving to address that even more rapidly now?
Myers: We were well before this happened. It is a language skill that has been in short supply, certainly probably not just the military, but throughout a lot of government agencies, and we've got to do everything we can do to find people to help. And I -- you know, as I've mentioned before, in my last trip to Iraq there were those two Iraqi-American women from Michigan who were over there to help fulfill that function, essentially as volunteers, who left their families, left their jobs and went to be with one of our battalions. So we're looking for all sorts of ways to fill that -- fill that gap.
Q: Can both of you absolutely assure Arab and Muslim members of the U.S. military that they are now not being profiled in any way? And given the fact that you both say this is not a surprise, nonetheless, the first arrest occurred many months ago, in July; the most recent arrest, this month. So clearly the situation has been going on for some time. I'm wondering how it is, then, that you still have confidence in the task force commander down there and why you haven't relieved him or others of duty.
Rumsfeld: When something like this occurs, two things happen. General Myers has mentioned both. One is that there are investigations taking place of individuals who are alleged to have been engaged in activities that are other than are proper. And the second is that you -- one reviews their procedures to determine how things are being done and is it possible to do them in ways that you can totally prevent any type of an individual achieving advantages that we don't want them to have, which is very difficult to do, historically. There always seems to be something that happens. But it is something that concerns us. It's something that is being reviewed -- the procedures. And that's the proper way to do it.
Q: Sir --
Rumsfeld: I think raising the question you did about profiling is not a useful thing to do. I mean, the fact of the matter is that there are a variety of vetting procedures, and people who happen to be of one religion -- I don't think one has to assume that they have a monopoly on this type of activity. Plenty of people have done things that are from every conceivable religion in this country, and so too people in and out of the service. So I think that that would not be a useful way to approach it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, David --
Q: Why is it that you still have confidence in the commander there? Why have you not relieved him of duty?
Rumsfeld: I don't know how else I could -- how I could be clearer. What they are doing is reviewing the procedures to determine are there ways that we can do this in a better way. That's what we always do. We -- you learn from experience and you have lessons learned. The implication that every time something happens in the world, you should fire somebody is kind of a -- not a -- kind of a mindless approach, it seems to me -- the implication of it.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: David Kay reportedly is telling closed-door sessions of the Congress today that it's possible that Saddam Hussein did not have chemical nor bacteriological weapons when U.S. forces invaded, that he may have tried to pull a huge bluff, try and stall our forces. Is that true, and do you feel the same way?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that David Kay is saying that.
Q: Well, how do you fell about it? Is it a --
Rumsfeld: I've answered that question 15 times. You know what the answer is. David Kay is proceeding in an orderly way -- I'll take it from the top if you want. He has a large -- hundreds of people working on this activity. He is reporting through the Central Intelligence Agency. He is, for the first time, back for an interim discussion with the members of the Intelligence Committee. He's presented a report that I got up there, but have not had a chance to read, nor have I talked to anybody who's had a chance to read it. And he undoubtedly is answering questions to the best of his ability to the appropriate houses of the Congress -- committees of the Congress. And we'll see what happens.
Q: After you read it, will you tell us about it?
Q: Mr. Secretary, I wanted to follow up on one of the good news stories out of Iraq that I've seen in several newspapers. I'll refresh your memory -- it was in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters News Service and USA Today, among others. It's a story that General Pace and others have talked about, how well the training is going to go for the new Iraqi army. In fact, it's on track to accelerate the training of the troops well ahead of time. The number, I think, is 40,000, but you all could correct me on that.
What I'm interested in knowing, sir, is that -- I know the training -- the type of soldier the Iraqi will be is going to be different than the American soldier --
Rumsfeld: Different than the last Iraqi soldier.
Q: One would hope. But the 40,000 figure in a year or so of training is far greater than, say, the amount of soldiers that the U.S. military trains every year for Army combat-type of operations. So, could you explain to me a little bit how you train 20,000 here -- again, I know highly-trained soldiers here -- compared to 40,000 in a year, and what challenges or what opportunities that may present?
Rumsfeld: There are a lot of challenges. And I think that one ought not to paint a picture that is at all a shiny brick road -- or a yellow brick road into a wonderful future. It's hard.
First of all, the vetting problem is a difficult one. One has to go through an intake process where you gather these people, then you have to vet them and determine how do you feel about them. Then, you have to assess them as to their capabilities -- current capabilities prior to any training. And a lot of them have served in the military. Most of them were draftees. We're doing that not just for the army. We're doing it for the police, we're doing it for the civil defense, we're doing it for site protection and we're doing it for the border patrol. The -- and in each case, we're going to end up with people, some people, that shouldn't be there. And what they're -- you're going to have to do at that stage is clear them out. And you're going to end up with a whole range of people who have different levels of skills. And their people who are doing the training are going to have to figure out a way to get some of them into more advanced capability, and some of them into less advanced capability, in which case that's fine. They end up doing things that are appropriate to each level of skill. And I think that one size is not going to fit all here.
Q: (Off mike.) -- about the training, sir?
Rumsfeld: I just -- yes, indeed. Yes.
Q: Is that correct, sir, on that figure, it is 40,000?
Myers: It is 40,000 by -- by next summer.
Rumsfeld: That's a target goal.
Myers: That's our target goal.
Rumsfeld: It's not accomplished. (Laughs.)
Myers: And it's not accomplished yet. And what -- and what the secretary said, the point that I would like to emphasize, is that for the most part, these are people that have had some military training. So we're not starting at a zero base line. And that's why we can bring so many on line so quickly.
Q: But they won't be the type of training, let's say, a U.S. Army soldier would be receiving, when --
Myers: Well, in many cases it's going to be -- it's going to be like that. They'll -- we think -- well, I have to ask General Abizaid. But I think next summer when these folks come on line, they'll be like the Afghan national army. Now, there we started with a much different base line. And those people are already -- over 5,000 -- are already in combat with our forces. And they have -- if you ask our forces how did they do, they don't just say they're doing well, they say they're doing very, very well. And they're respected by their Afghan people.
So it's going to be -- you know, these people start -- the Iraqis start with this basic military training, they know how to handle rifles, they know the basic things, and we can -- we can take them the rest of the way. They're going to be pretty -- you know, they're going to be reasonably effective right out of the chute, would be my guess.
Rumsfeld: There's no shortage of ammunition.
Myers: Or rifles. (Laughter.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, I wonder -- the European Union has announced that its members combined would be prepared to contribute about $234 million to Iraqi reconstruction. That's peanuts compared to what the United States is contributing and to the need as assessed by the World Bank. And I just wondered, are you -- are you disappointed in that, surprised by it, and what does it say about the possibilities at the donors conference?
Rumsfeld: I'm not disappointed and I'm not surprised, and I think it says very little about the future. I'm not involved in the fundraising, particularly. Dr. Zakheim does a good deal of assisting Treasury and State, which are the lead agencies in this. I've heard people characterize that as a(n) EU willingness to step up to the plate. And I don't call 200-plus million dollars chicken feed, as you do, but maybe you come from somewhere other than Chicago.
Q: Compared to the U.S.
Rumsfeld: Second, the EU countries will individually contribute. And I suppose one could then see if EU as an entity decides to give more, and then some day you'll be able to add it all up and see what the did the EU countries give, what did the EU give at the outset, what did EU give later. And then we'll have some way to judge it, and then you can decide whether or not it's chicken feed.
Q: Mr. Secretary, George Will, today in his column, argues that mature Americans, he says, understand that to govern is to choose, always on imperfect information. And he says that Americans expect trustworthiness from their leaders, but not necessarily infallibility. And he poses a question, which I'd like to pose to you, I mean, to whit, "Why is it so difficult," he writes, "for the Bush administration to candidly acknowledge that much prewar intelligence about weapons of mass destruction was wrong?"
Rumsfeld: Well, I didn't see the article. But I don't know that it is hard, I would think it might be premature. And I think, furthermore, that assessing intelligence with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight is kind of a parlor game around this town. And my impression is that we don't have 20-20 hindsight at the present time.
And I suppose how you would assess the intelligence community's product would depend on what your expectation level was. And for those who have been around intelligence for a good long period of time and looked at the products, and critiqued them, and evaluated them, and then gone back and looked to see, after the fact, how did they do -- I've never seen anything that was perfect. It just -- it just doesn't happen that way. It is a community-wide assessment that is done. People have a chance in that assessment openly to critique it and comment on it and take a footnote and say, "I don't agree with that." And we've seen many of those publicized as these things have become public. And then the collective judgment, with a footnote saying "I don't agree with that," end up getting circulated. And it is off of that that policymakers use their judgment, as you suggest the article suggests.
Now, David Kay tells us he has not completed his work. So with respect to the WMD portion of the intel -- which I don't know that that's what the column referred to -- did it?
Q: He was talking about weapons of mass destruction.
Rumsfeld: Weapons of mass destruction, okay. It seems to me that until -- we've got, I don't know, what is it, 1,200 people out there in the ISG? --
Myers: Yes, sir, roughly, 1,200.
Rumsfeld: -- 1,200 people, at considerable expense, out there doing their job. And they have come back to us with some sort of an interim report, which, as I say, I've not yet read. But they have a lot of work left to do. They have a lot of people yet to interrogate. They had a lot of leads still to worry through. They have a number of suspect sites that they have not yet visited. It's quite low at this stage, but there are still a few. And I don't think the administration is having trouble coming to conclusions. I think that what I've said, I believe: We'll all know. We'll all know exactly what that group finds, and the best information available will be made available to the president to the administration, to the Congress and to the country. And trying to, you know, make an early decision on it, it seems to me, would be not something that I'd have the confidence in doing.
And I also am slow to judge on something like that. I -- I think the -- there's an awful lot of wonderful people in the intelligence community, who do a darn good job. And we -- there have been a number of attacks on this country and neighboring countries and friendly countries that have been stopped. There have e been a lot of good things that have come out of intelligence gathering. You ask anybody who deals with intelligence, "How do you feel about it?" and they're going to wring their hands and say, "Well, it's not as much as I wish," and you talk to a commander on the ground, and he says, "Oh, I need more actionable intelligence." I've felt that way, Dick's felt that way. But for someone to, you know, leap to a conclusion that it's time to critique the intelligence community on that subject, I think, is premature.
Q: Well, I mean, accepting your -- you know, that perfection is the enemy of the good, isn't the administration's credibility suffering, though, because it doesn't appear at this point that the intelligence was off the mark by a little bit, but more likely that it was off by a mile?
Rumsfeld: Well, how can one answer that, other than to say it's not clear that it was off by a little bit or a mile at this stage. That's yet to be seen. If it is off by a lot, that will be unfortunate, and then we'll know that. But why should someone think that it's suddenly, today, October 2nd, is the time we should bring down final judgment on this, when we know for a fact we've got 1,200 people out there working in the heat, in very difficult conditions, interviewing and interrogating a pile of people, chasing down leads and suspect sites? It seems to me it wouldn't be a responsible position. Someone outside of government can opine that way, but someone inside of government has a responsibility, I think, to the people to try to do it in an orderly way.
Dick, do you want to --
Myers: No, exactly right. And David Kay and his group have been working, I think, three months. Saddam Hussein has worked over a decade to deny and deceive the U.N. And again, this is one of those things I think we ought to make sure what we're saying. And it's going to take time.
Q: Mr. Secretary, do you, based on what you know today, still believe that Iraq possessed chemical or biological weapons at the start of the war?
Rumsfeld: I -- let me put it this way. I read the intelligence. The prior administration read the intelligence. Secretary Powell read the intelligence. The president read the intelligence. So you have two successive administrations. The people at the U.N. read a great deal of the intelligence. There was no debate as to whether or not Saddam Hussein had these programs under way in the U.N. The only debate in the U.N. was whether or not you should wait longer and allow another resolution before deciding that the inspectors weren't finding it.
Now is it possible that all of those people are wrong? The implication of your questions are that that's possible. Will we know more soon? Yes, we'll know more soon.
I have not seen anything that leads me to believe that the intelligence that I relied on is necessarily, in the aggregate, inaccurate. I expect there to be considerable variations between what the intel suggested and what is eventually found on the ground. That's been true with intelligence since man began trying to gather intelligence. But I am -- I believed it then. I believe it now. We'll all know in good time. And it seems to me that that's the way we should walk at this thing.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there was --
Q: A question for the general, please, if I could. A question for the general. General, you said in your opening remarks that progress was being made in stemming the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, especially from the West. Earlier this week Deputy Secretary of State Armitage talked about foreign fighters coming into Iraq through Syria. To what extent are these foreign fighters coming into Iraq through Syria? Is there any evidence that the Syrian government is in any way supporting them? And is there evidence of terrorist training camps inside Syria, whether supported by that government or not?
Myers: Some of that gets into sensitive intelligence that I can't go into, but I think -- and I didn't hear Secretary Armitage's remarks, so let me start from there.
But I think we have said before that we know that foreign fighters come in through Syria. How much the Syrian government's involved in that is less known. And we see, in some cases, some steps taken by Syria to stop this at the border. In other cases, we don't. So it's an uneven picture, and -- but there's been a lot of attention paid to the border recently, from the Iraqi side, by coalition forces and by Iraqis. And that's what I was referring to. We think we're in a much better position today than we were just two or three weeks ago.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there was a report today that in the $87 billion request is a request for hundreds of millions of dollars more to continue the search for weapons of mass destruction. Could you explain, you know, what that would be used for, what it's needed for, why it's needed and how much it is?
Rumsfeld: It's classified.
Q: Can I ask why that would be classified?
Rumsfeld: I don't classify these things, but that portion of the bill is classified.
Q: (Inaudible.) -- parts of it that aren't classified; for instance, perhaps salaries of people that are doing the search?
Rumsfeld: I have no idea how you'd do that, but I'm advised that that portion of the bill has some classified sections in it, and I'm sure that they have classifications for good reason.
Q: Numbers that aren't classified and that maybe you guys have been a little less accurate on are the actual costs of Iraqi reconstruction. And just five or six months ago --
Rumsfeld: Who are "you guys," and what are the inaccuracies?
Q: Andrew Natsios from USAID said March 23rd that the cost of Iraqi reconstruction to the United States would be $1.7 billion. Obviously, that number's a lot higher. There are many comments from people throughout the administration, including you, suggesting that the cost of reconstruction would be lower. Now, I understand that you guys didn't know what you'd be getting into when you got into Iraq, because you didn't know the situation on the ground with regard to their infrastructure -- you all have said that a great number of times. The criticism that is now coming out from Capitol Hill is that this was some sort of a bait-and-switch that was: we want to do this; let's go ahead and do it and downplay what the costs will be; get Congress to buy in and then have to go in there.
Rumsfeld: Okay, let me start trying to disaggregate what you're saying. I don't know what Mr. Natsios said. Is that his --
Q: USAID administrator, yeah -- 1.7 billion --
Rumsfeld: Right. But he is administrator of AID, and he has to know that the total cost, to use your phrase, of reconstruction in Iraq is not 1.7, and I just can't believe he said that.
Q: I'll be happy to send you a transcript from Nightline, where he did.
Rumsfeld: In any event, the only estimates I've seen are $50 (billion) to $75 billion by various international institutions, and that is a guess. And think of the range -- 50 to 75. (Chuckles.) It is obviously a guess. Now, those people who do that obviously have some basis for saying that. I don't know that that number's right. We've never said that that number's right. We have -- I have said that that's the only number I have heard. No one I know believes that the United States taxpayers ought to pay any significant fraction of that. We do know that the funds for whatever the number may prove to be, the bulk of it's going to be paid by the Iraqi people.
Q: The $20 billion --
Rumsfeld: Just a minute.
Q: -- is a significant fraction of --
Rumsfeld: Just a minute. Just a minute.
It's going to be paid by the Iraqi people, and it's going to be paid over a period of years. The taxpayers of the United States don't have an obligation to go in and refashion Iraq into a 21st century country. It suffered under 30-plus years of Saddam Hussein with a Stalinist-like economy, denying the infrastructure, building palaces, killing people, torturing people. And it is no one else's job to go in and fix that.
Now, what will actually happen? We want to help get it jump-started. So the money is going to come from Iraqi oil revenue, as everyone has said. They think it's going to be something like $2 billion this year; they think it might be something like 15 -- 12 next year; they think it might be something like 18 to 20-plus the next -- 19? --
Myers: Nineteen --
Rumsfeld: -- the next year. And you start adding that up, and if their government -- to operate their government is something like $15 billion, in a year or two they begin to get some margin where they can begin investing themselves.
Now, the international community ought to supply some of those funds. We ought to supply some of those funds. The international financial institutions have indicated at the right moment they will supply some of those funds.
Myers: Direct foreign investment.
Rumsfeld: Direct foreign investment is going to be a significant part of it.
Now, it just is beyond comprehension that anyone thought that the total cost of rebuilding Iraq is going to be a billion-seven. Here's a man who lets contracts for large sums of money and, therefore --
Q: He said that's what the cost to the American people would be for it.
Rumsfeld: I'd have to see it to believe. But --
Q: Right. Well, so what about this idea of the bait and switch, because some of us are getting e-mails from your critics on Capitol Hill saying that this was an intentional bait and switch, that you --
Rumsfeld: We've been asked over and over again if we would give what we thought the total costs would be, and we've all said the truth, that is to say we don't know. We've cited the numbers that some so-called experts have come up with, that's all.
We have also -- the president has also said that the $20 billion is basically for providing for Iraqi security of various types, electricity, water; the majority of the funds go to those three areas. And then there are some other items that have been widely discussed.
Any implication -- first of all, we were criticized for not knowing -- not giving answers because we didn't know the answer. Everyone I've seen who gives answers have been wrong. Repeatedly during the war, the questions came from you: How many casualties will there be? How much will the war cost? How long will it take? Every single time we answered: We can't say that. And everyone in this country who stood at these podiums and answered those questions, have been flat wrong. And frequently they have been wrong fast. And it's -- there are so many variables involved that people with good judgment don't try to say, "I'm smart enough to take all those variables and make an appropriate estimate and come out with a single-plan answer." So I haven't done that. So when you say "you guys", I don't buy it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what do you make of the latest out of North Korea and the statements that they're making about reprocessing spent fuel rods? Is this just rhetoric? Is this something the American people need to be concerned with?
Rumsfeld: I think clearly the American people need to be concerned about North Korea. I -- when you say "the latest" out of there, I don't know they've said latest. They say something almost every day. And it -- it's things that the Department of State is working through. There are meetings periodically among our friends in China and Russia and Japan and South Korea. But I think that anyone who listens to the -- all of the things that come out of that country and registers them has to be concerned about what one's hearing.
Q: Can you still solve it diplomatically, do you think?
Q: Mr. Secretary, the United States has a request to South Korea to send the combat troops to Iraq. Would you be specific? You know, what size of troops the United States asked?
Rumsfeld: No. What the -- what the Department of State and the Department of Defense have done is they've gone out to most of the countries of the world, and they have said, "Look, this is a problem that's important," and we are fortunate that we now have 32 countries with troops on the ground in Iraq. We have another 10 or 12 that are currently under discussion. We have still another large number that are providing various types of humanitarian assistance in hospitals and free fuel and water and a variety of things as well as international institutions that are doing that. And our attitude on that is that countries ought to do that which they think and feel good about doing themselves. It has to fit their circumstance. Some countries have prohibitions on these things, some countries have greater resources than others. And we are looking for assistance. We've been looking for assistance since before the conflict started. I've been amused when I read that there's no plan -- how can there be no plan? And finally, some newspaper squirrels out the information that we've been in discussions with the U.N. World Food people for weeks prior to the beginning of the war to make sure that there was no humanitarian crisis. I forget which -- the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal. Someone had a very big article on that which revealed that we had -- they didn't want the planning to be known because there was no -- it wasn't clear there was going to be a war. And they didn't want to feel that it would look like they were complicit in having a conflict, which is very understandable.
Q: Mr. Secretary, a while back there, you were enjoying rock- star popularity. Now you've got critics taking pot shots at you left and right, some even --
Rumsfeld: It's the season.
Q: -- calling for your resignation. How do you account for that?
Rumsfeld: Well, that's life, isn't it, Jamie? You know, it's life that --
Q: Ridin' high in August, shot down in --
Rumsfeld: Life's a roller coaster.
Q: Sir, can I just ask that you reconsider your --
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you elaborate on your statement about if it was off by a lot, that would be unfortunate? Unfortunate in what sense, and for whom, regarding the estimates, the intelligence on --
Rumsfeld: Well, certainly for the Iraqi people. If, for example, Saddam Hussein, for whatever reason, refused to allow the inspectors in and do what other countries have done -- South Africa, Ukraine and others have just said, "We want to be inspected. Come in and inspect us so we can show the world that we've done the right thing." If he refused to do that, which he did -- everyone knows he submitted a fraudulent report -- if he refused to do that and the effect of it was to deny the people of his country billions of dollars over a series of years, one has to ask what was in his mind. Why would he do that? Why would he then engage in a series of covers to systematically try to prevent the inspectors from finding out what was taking place? Why would he do that?
Q: Maybe he didn't know.
Q: To maintain personal prestige in the region?
Rumsfeld: And the effect of it? Think of the harm to those people.
Q: So when you say "unfortunate," you don't mean --
Rumsfeld: I just said that.
Q: -- you don't mean to the people who put together the U.S. intelligence estimates.
Rumsfeld: No. It's unfortunate for the Iraqi people. They were denied billions of dollars. If it happens to be true, which we have no reason to believe yet at this stage that it is true, but if it were to be true, the fact of the matter is the real damage he would have done would be to the Iraqi people by his unwillingness to cooperate with the United Nations, not through one, two, three or four resolutions, but through 17 resolutions.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.
Q: Can I ask if you would reconsider this classification issue? May we not have some number that tells what the cost of the WMD search is? (Laughter.)
(No audible response.)
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