25 March 2003
Defense Department Briefing Transcript
(Coalition forces/pace, military operations, Iraq/acts of battlefield
perfidy/appeal to surrender/possible use of WMD/strength of Republican
Guards, Iraq/losing control, coalition air attacks/avoiding civilians,
President Bush/visit to Pentagon, Basra/reports of popular uprising,
U.S. media/perception of military operations, Iran/support for armed
Iraqis, U.S. casualties, POWS/Red Cross access, surrender
negotiations/Iraqi military leaders, humanitarian relief/mine
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff briefed the media at the Pentagon March
Following is a transcript of the briefing:
DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OPERATIONAL UPDATE BRIEFING
BRIEFERS: SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD;
GENERAL RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
PENTAGON BRIEFING ROOM, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA
1:30 P.M. EST, TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2003
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. It's now about five days since the major
ground forces entered Iraq. It's almost four days and 30 minutes ago
that the air war began. We're still, needless to say, much closer to
the beginning than the end. The men and women in the uniform, the U.S.
and coalition alike, are performing superbly. They're doing an
outstanding job. The resistance that's being encountered was expected.
It has not affected coalition progress. Iraqi forces are capitulating
by the hundreds. The total now, as I understand it -- at least early
this morning -- was something in excess of 3,500 Iraqi prisoners of
war and thousands more that have been part of units that have simply
disband (sic). With each passing day, the Iraqi regime is losing
control over more of the country. Coalition forces are closing in on
Baghdad and will not stop until that regime has been driven from
power. Their defeat is certain. All that is unclear is the number of
days or weeks it will take. The threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction will be removed and a regime that is one of the world's
most notorious sponsors of terror will be no more.
This war is an act of self defense, to be sure, but it is also an act
of humanity. Coalition forces are eliminating a regime that is
responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of its own people
and which is pursuing weapons that would enable it to kill hundreds of
thousands more. In recent days, the world has witnessed further
evidence of their brutality and their disregard for the laws of war.
Their treatment of coalition POWs is a violation of the Geneva
To the families of those captured or missing, know that our thoughts
and prayers are with you and with your loved ones and that we will do
everything in our power to bring them safely home. To the families and
loved ones of those brave men and women who have been killed or
wounded, know that their courage and sacrifice are deeply appreciated
by all Americans.
The regime has committed acts of treachery on the battlefield dressing
their forces as liberated civilians, and sending soldiers out waving
white flags and feigning surrender, with the goal of drawing coalition
forces into the ambushes; using Red Cross vehicles to courier military
instructions. These are serious violations of the laws of war. The
regime's actions have had little practical military effect thus far,
but they do serve as a telling reminder of why it is important that
this regime be removed.
Those who behave with such brutality cannot be allowed to possess
tools of mass murder. This is the behavior of desperate men. Iraqi
authorities know their days are numbered. And while the Iraqi regime
is on the way out, it's important to know that it can still be brutal,
particularly in the moments before it finally succumbs. This campaign
could well grow more dangerous in the coming days and weeks as
coalition forces close on Baghdad and the regime is faced with its
certain death. But the outcome is assured.
To the Iraqi people, let me say this: By now you have seen and know
that coalition airstrikes are not aimed at you, they are aimed at the
regime of Saddam Hussein. We are systematically eliminating the
institutions that repress you. As we do so, we are doing everything
possible to protect innocent civilians. Humanitarian assistance, food,
water and medicine is already being delivered, and more will arrive
shortly. A regime that starved its own people so that a dictator could
build many, many palaces, will be removed. In its place, you will
build a free Iraq with a new government based on democratic principles
of political freedom, individual liberty, and the rule of law.
To the officers and soldiers of the Iraqi armed forces: Do not lead
your men into a battle to die for a condemned regime. Do not obey
orders to use weapons of mass destruction. Lay down your arms and you
will be spared.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I would like to add our thanks to the men and women in uniform, U.S.
and coalition, who are performing superbly, and have from the time
this all began.
Operation Iraqi Freedom continues. I don't have much additional
information following CentCom's brief, but wanted to update you on the
On the ground, our forces are nearing Baghdad. They have moved some
200-plus miles into Iraq in less than five days of the ground
campaign. We are now poised for the next objectives and our plan is on
The air campaign is continuing well. We flew nearly 1,000 sorties over
Iraq yesterday, most against Republican Guard units, and conducted
close air support for the ground advance in the south and Special
Forces in the west. Coalition forces have secured the port of Umm Qsar
and are preparing the port for the arrival of humanitarian aid to the
people of Iraq.
I have a pre- and post-strike image for you today. It's of the Special
Security Organization warehouse along the Tigris River in Baghdad. You
can see the warehouse and boat facility destroyed, while the highway
and bridge right next to it remain intact and well-traveled.
Finally, I have three videos for you today. The first video is an
F-117 using a satellite-guided weapon, the GPS weapon, to destroy what
we think is the last active Iraqi GPS jammer that we've been able to
find. That was a three-quarter speed, by the way, because there wasn't
much time between the clouds and when it went off.
The second is of an F-18, destroyed a patrol boat in a canal in
southern Iraq. Please note the three other vessels in the area. Only
the patrol boat is destroyed.
And the third is of an F-15 using a 500-pound bomb to destroy a
Republican Guard tank south of Baghdad. Remember we mentioned we
focused about 50 percent of our air missions on the Republican Guard
in the past couple of days.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Rumsfeld: Before we start, let me just say that, as you may know, the
president was here today and met with the joint chiefs of staff and
with General Franks, General DeLong and General Abizaid by secure
video, and then made an announcement concerning the supplemental. In
addition, I've just come from meeting with a number of the former
Secretaries of State, former Secretaries of Defense, and former
national security advisers who were here to have a discussion with us,
which was, I find, always helpful, and it's something we do from time
Because we have such a large gathering here, I'd like to suggest that,
out of courtesy to everybody, that people ask a single question.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said yourself a moment ago that this operation
could become more dangerous for U.S. and allied troops in the coming
days as you approach Baghdad. There are Sunday morning generals in
every war, and critics are coming out of the walls to criticize this
ground campaign. They say that your imprimatur of transformation is
heavily on it, and there are simply not enough troops and armor on the
ground right now to efficiently take Baghdad or protect your rear. How
would you answer that?
Rumsfeld: First of all, I don't know how anyone outside of the
government thinks they know what my views are, or what General Franks'
views are, or what General Myers' views are. We've all been deeply
involved, and the plan has been a plan that's been approved by all the
commanders and by, needless to say, General Myers and General Pace and
Don Rumsfeld and the president of the United States. And it is a good
plan, and it is a plan that in four and a half or five days has moved
ground forces to within a short distance of Baghdad. And forces
increase in the country every minute and every hour of every day. And
that will continue to be the case. There is a force flow that's been
put in place weeks and weeks and weeks ago, where people were
mobilized, people were trained, people were -- equipment was loaded on
ships, ships were leased, ships were sent over, ships moved into
position, ships were unloaded, personnel were airlifted over to meet
with their equipment. And every hour the number of U.S. and coalition
forces in that country are increasing.
So I guess how I would respond to what you say are some folks who are
concerned about that is that the people who are involved in this, the
-- General Franks and General McKiernan and General DeLong and General
Abizaid and Admiral Keating, General Moseley, are very comfortable, as
are the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who have met with the president twice
in the last two days and discussed it.
One question. You want to comment on that?
Myers: You bet I do.
It's a plan that's on track. It's a plan everybody had input to. It's
a plan everybody agrees to. I've been on public record that I think
the plan as finally formulated and, as put together by General Franks
with some help and some advice by General Franks and his commanders,
is a brilliant plan. And we've been at it now for less than a week.
We're just about to Baghdad. Some of the biggest losses we've taken
are due to Iraqis committing serious violations of the law of armed
conflict in the Geneva Convention by dressing as civilians, by luring
us into surrender situations then opening fire on our troops. So this
is a plan that is very well thought out, and that will play out, I
think, as we expect.
Q: Mr. Secretary, are there indications -- have you seen indications
that the Republican Guard units that are ringing Baghdad have been
authorized to use chemical weapons in the event that U.S. forces
advance to a certain distance from the city center? Around the city?
Rumsfeld: There has been intelligence scraps -- who knows how accurate
they are -- chatter in the system that suggest that the closer that
coalition forces get to Baghdad and Tikrit, the greater the likelihood
and that some command and control arrangements have been put in place.
But whether it will happen or not remains to be seen.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there is reported to be a popular uprising in Basra,
but the popular uprising apparently is not only targeting some of the
Iraqi forces but also some of the coalition forces. And we have
reports that at least one British coalition force member has been
killed. Can you comment on what's going on there?
Rumsfeld: I have not seen these reports, but I can tell you roughly
what's going on there. What's going on is that forces came in --
coalition forces came in from the south; they're moving towards
Baghdad. They essentially bypassed Basra. The British forces now have
the task of dealing with the remaining capability in Basra. We have
intelligence information saying that the Fedayeen Saddam people -- I'm
not going to call them troops, because they're traveling in civilian
clothes and they're essentially terrorists -- have been moving south
into some areas, including Basra, and that they are in some cases
pretending to surrender and then shooting people. They do not
represent a serious threat to the success of this campaign. What they
do represent is a terrorist-type threat, and there will very likely
continue to be people -- until the regime is gone, until it's finally
tipped, until there is absolute certainty that Saddam Hussein is not
there anymore, I suspect that some of these dead enders will be down
there shooting people and doing that type of thing. That's basically
what's going on.
Now, if your implication in your question was that the uprising was
against the United States or the coalition forces, I suspect that's
not true. I mean, these people have been repressed by the regime of
Saddam Hussein and they now have people in there that are shooting
them if they try to desert, if they try to surrender, if they try to
escape. These are Saddam Hussein's people in there shooting people if
they try to leave the city. Now, therefore, an uprising -- anyone
who's engaged in an uprising has got a whale of a lot of courage, and
I sure hope they're successful.
Q: And you think that Saddam Hussein is in the middle of it?
Rumsfeld: One question. One question.
Q: Mr. Secretary -- (inaudible).
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Mr. Secretary, as the nature of the questions before have
indicated, and you yourself have anticipated, is at the first sign of
any difficulty or casualties, there have been a number of critics,
some of them laymen and some of them retired military officers, senior
military officers, voicing the kinds of concerns that Charlie did.
Without again restating it, would you say that you have perhaps not
adequately managed the expectations here of -- in the sense that some
people believe that just five days into this, the war might be going
badly, and you're trying to make the point that we're much closer to
the beginning than the end. Do you need to do a better job in giving
the American people and the public an idea of what to expect in the
days and weeks ahead?
Rumsfeld: I don't know how to answer that, really. If you go back to
the Afghanistan situation, it was only a few days into it that it was
described by one of the newspapers here as a "quagmire." And it was a
matter of days later that things looked quite good and, as I recall,
Mazar-e-Sharif fell, and then the other cities began to fall.
I can't manage what people -- civilians or retired military -- want to
say. And if they go on and say it enough, people will begin to believe
it. It may not be true, and it may reflect more of a misunderstanding
of the situation than an analysis or an assessment of it, but there's
no way anyone can affect what people say. We have a free country. In
Iraq, they can affect what people say because you get shot if you say
something they don't like. We don't do that.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: General Myers?
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: But it seems to me that anyone with any sense of what's
taking place recognizes the complexity of this task, the importance of
it; the fact that we're there to eliminate the weapons of mass
destruction in that country and to put in a regime that will not
threaten its neighbors. These are important things to be done. They're
not things that are done easily. This is a sizeable military that the
coalition forces are up against. They are -- unlike 1991, they
recognize that the task is not to put them out of Kuwait and then let
them go about their business; the task here is to not only deal with
them throughout the country, but to see that the regime is changed. So
you're going to get a different level of intensity.
And certainly General Myers and I and General Franks all have
indicated from the outset that this is a tough business, and wars are
unpredictable and there's lots of difficulties.
(To General Myers.) Do you want to comment on that?
Myers: No, I think with as much coverage as we have of the war,
primarily because of the decision to embed a lot of reporters with it,
you know, we are -- we're watching this thing, what happens, pretty
much 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
And I think that lends this perception that it's been going on a long
time and a lot is happening. If you look at the -- a lot is happening,
obviously -- but the big scope of things, we're on track, we're on
plan, we think we have just the right forces for what we need to do
I would remind people that forces are still flowing to the region. As
the secretary said, we're putting thousands of more each day. It was
always the plan. That will continue, probably, to be the plan. Depends
on the situation --
Rumsfeld: If you think about the difference, in World War II, there
was no television. People had radios. People would go to the movies
because the beginning of the movie would be a 15-minute preview of
what took place, not the day before or the minute before or the hour
before, or what was taking place at that moment, but it was a summary
of the week's news of World War II.
And now what we're seeing is every second another slice of what's
actually happening out there. It is a breathtaking sight to see it. It
tends to be all accurate, but not in an overall context. And it does,
as the general said, leave people with the impression that it's been
going on for days and weeks and months. And it is -- it was one
o'clock (pause) --
Rumsfeld: -- Friday --
Rumsfeld: -- that the air war began. (Laughter, cross talk.) It even
seems like weeks to me. (Laughter.)
But it is really just such a brief period, and they have moved so far
on the ground and made major accomplishments in the west, made major
accomplishments in the north, and clearly have caused the Republican
Guard to pull in closer to Baghdad and Tikrit.
And the difficult task remains. The Republican Guard units -- setting
aside the Special Republican Guard and the Fedayeen Saddam group,
which are different; they're more fanatical, I would say -- Republican
Guard group are military, and that's where the difficult task begins.
And it is starting with the Medina Division south of Karbala.
Q: Mr. Secretary, we hadn't heard much from Iran in this entire time.
I'm wondering if you can characterize what (sic) you think Iran is
looking at this conflict and if you believe any troops with an
allegiance to the Iranian government are inside Iraq at this time.
Rumsfeld: Well, there's no love lost between Iran and Iraq. On the
other hand, both are states that have sponsored terrorism and the --
thus far, Iran has not done things that are making our life more
difficult in Iraq. We hope that continues to be the case.
With respect to the latter portion of your question, we do see
Iran-sponsored forces, Iraqis but sponsored and armed and housed
previously by Iran, in the country in relatively small numbers, which
Q: Mr. Secretary, could I just follow up on -- (name inaudible) --
question a little bit. Is it possible that you did raise expectations
beyond reasonable levels by talking about a shock and awe campaign? I
mean, wasn't the impression put out that, you know, 3,000 bombs are
going to fall in the first 48 hours and the regime is going to
Rumsfeld: Not by me, not by General Myers.
Q: Well, General Renuart came and gave a briefing along those lines.
Rumsfeld: Well, there were a lot of bombs dropped. The reality is that
they were dropped on military targets and regime-controlled targets
and they were not dropped on innocent men, women and children. And --
Q: No, I was asking you if you may have created the impression in the
public minds this was going to be over in four days.
Rumsfeld: I thought I answered that.
I certainly did not. General Myers certainly did not. Is it possible
that someone might have said something that led some person to believe
that? I suppose so. But realistic people -- why would we have put in
train the hundreds of thousands of people to go do this task if we
thought it was going to be over in five minutes? I mean, it's just
unrealistic to --
Q: Mr. Secretary, if I could go back to Basra for a minute. As you
said -- or, the initial decision was to bypass Basra. Apparently, the
British have now decided that they're going to undertake some specific
tactical missions there, military missions, so there apparently is a
little bit of a change of plans. Can you just explain what's your plan
for dealing with cities? Would you -- do you anticipate continuing to
bypass cities or try to stabilize them as you go along, given what
appears to be some kind of guerrilla threat?
Myers: Well, it depends on the situation on the battlefield at the
time and where we are in our plan of execution. It was planned to, in
fact, to bypass Basra early on. And the British forces, as they have
done, have come around Basra at this time. And then we have to deal
with the situation we find. Clearly, as the secretary said, the people
in Basra I think for the most part would be happy to be done with this
regime. But they're not going to do so as long as they think there's a
shred of evidence that there's going to be some threat against them.
If you remember in '91, hundreds of thousands were killed because they
thought they had a chance for a popular uprising, and it didn't --
they didn't get -- the backing didn't materialize the way they thought
it was going to materialize. And so I think we have, rightly so, some
very cautious people. Now we'll go to the next phase once we've got
the environmental situation under control in the oil fields, once we
can start bringing humanitarian supplies up, once we can start getting
water up to some of the cities where their -- the water supplies have
been disrupted, which is all working in a train. Now we'll look at
working those Fedayeen Saddam and Republican Guard that may have come
down in civilian uniforms to keep a gun in the back of the other
people. And we'll start working that. And that's what you're seeing
Q: General Myers?
Q: Mr. Secretary? Mr. Secretary?
Q: Question for General Myers?
Rumsfeld: Let's give General Myers --
Q: I have one for General Myers, too, Mr. Secretary.
Q: Well, wait --
Q: I will. We'll wait, too.
Q: General Myers, you talked about how in the last two days a lot of
our targets have been against the Republican Guard. In 1991 the U.S.
military didn't want to go into Kuwait until 50 percent of the armor
of the Iraqis had been destroyed. Is that sort of the template you're
using here and we won't really move to close with the Republican Guard
until half of their armor is destroyed?
Myers: I'll tell you what. I'm just not going to get into that. That
gets into some of the operational details, I think. But it'd be at a
great disadvantage to our force. But the situation is different, we
think. Their overall strength, their training, and their morale is
different than it was in '91. And we're going to take advantage of
that in ways that I just can't go into.
Q: Thank you, sir. Just going -- just a moment, please. (Laughter.)
Going back to an earlier question --
Rumsfeld: We'll be right with you -- (laughter).
Q: Can you give an update for any family members on the effort to
retrieve the soldiers who have been killed in action and just that
process? And is there any possible way that you could use the
International Red Cross to retrieve the -- like, the soldiers that we
saw on television? And how disturbed are you about the fact that they
are showing the remains of these soldiers on national television?
Myers: The -- clearly, what we expect from the Iraqi regime is to
treat any prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
And part of that is that the International Red Cross ought to have
access to them.
In fact, we are doing that with the enemy prisoners of war we have,
that are nearing numbers now close to 4,000. We will ensure, I think,
maybe even today or tomorrow, we'll have International Red Cross in
there looking at the condition of the Iraqi prisoners of war we have.
We expect the same thing. Of course we're concerned about our
prisoners of war, our missing in action, and it's been our government
policy for forever to continue to try to repatriate them and find out
what happened to the missing.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Sir, why --
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you, sir. Going back to the questionof the
intel chatter and the possible use of weapons of mass destruction, the
chemical weapons, against our troops, you and General Myers have often
said if that should ever happen, we would use every means possible to
retaliate. My question is, what more can you use that you're not now
using to retaliate if it should happen?
Rumsfeld: Go ahead.
Myers: Okay. There are plans that General Franks has put together to
address that situation. And the one thing we're not going to do is
tell you what they are, Ivan, right now, because we haven't seen use
of WMD, so far as we know, at this point. But when we do, we have
plans to deal with that.
Q: General Myers, I want to ask you about the expectations question.
The DIA director a couple of weeks ago said in a press interview that
while the Pentagon is preparing for stiff resistance, there is a very
real likelihood that resistance could collapse very quickly. A couple
days before that, Vice President Cheney said that he did not expect a
long, bloody fight, and that even significant elements of Republican
Guard are likely to step aside. At this point of the conflict, do any
of those predictions seem to be bearing out?
Myers: Well, I would say, given the fact that we're 200-plus miles
inside Iraq at this time, on the doorstep of Baghdad, that we really
haven't engaged on the ground the Republican Guard divisions. So --
we've put helicopters against them, attack helicopters, we've put air
against them, we've put some artillery against them, but we haven't
engaged them in a classic battle. So their mettle has yet to be
tested. We're going to have to find out.
Q: What does the intelligence show -- it's a follow-up.
Rumsfeld: No follow-ups.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: Let me just make a comment on this, it keeps coming back up,
about expectations. Analysts say what they say. And quite honestly,
they seem to me to be all over the lot. They're not all in one little
box of "It will be over in 15 minutes." If some analysts want to say
it's going to be a cakewalk, and it turns out not to be a cakewalk,
the fact of the matter is we have said repeatedly we can't say how
long it will last. We do not know. It is not knowable. I've said I
don't know how many times, "Days, weeks or months." "Don't know.
Same thing like the cost. I notice today everyone was saying, "Oh my
goodness, they did know what the war was going to cost." And I have
said repeatedly we don't know what the war is going to cost, and the
truth is, we don't know what the war is going to cost. You can't know
it, it's not knowable.
The budget figure the president announced up there is not the cost of
the war; the budget figure he announced up there is the cost
-- some money that State needs, some money the CIA needs, some money
that Homeland Security needs, some money that this department needs to
carry us from the beginning of the global war on terror, starting
October 1st of this fiscal year, through where we are today and,
hopefully, through the rest of the year; and some money to flow forces
overseas. And we can't tell you -- if you can't tell how long it's
going to last, you sure can't tell what it's going to cost.
But now -
Q: But that budget was based on the war plan --
Rumsfeld: Shhh! (Laughter.) Shhh!
Now, if -- if people have a tendency to want to gravitate toward some
analyst's expectation which is unreasonable -- which may be
unreasonable, given the fact we're four days into it, it's a little
early to know if it's unreasonable, but let's pretend it's
unreasonable, then I would not follow that analyst and I would try to
listen to what we're saying from this podium as to what we think.
Q: Could you explain what's going on with the -- a British spokesman
came out and said that elements of the 51st Division have pulled back
to Basra. This is a regular army division. We were led to believe that
this was a division that abandoned its post, that the commander
surrendered to U.S. forces and they abandoned their post and went back
home. Were they under -- were they forced back there by Fedayeen? Were
they regrouping on their own? Are there other groups that you've seen
abandon their posts that are somehow regrouping? And does this force
you to rethink the way that you're taking prisoners, which is you're
-- from what I gather, you're trying to cull out the ones you want and
let the rest of the ones that you don't think will present a problem
Myers: I think we think the 51st has surrendered; that some of their
equipment may have been used by the Fedayeen, perhaps, or other folks
the Fedayeen brought with them. I mean, supposedly there were some,
maybe, perhaps Republican Guard members who changed to civilian
clothes and came south.
But I have seen no reliable evidence yet -- and it may be because we
haven't seen it yet -- that the 51st has reconstituted. Most of them
ran away. Some of their equipment may still be there. They did have a
tank battle today with some of their equipment. We think it was the
Fedayeen, again, manning some of this equipment, perhaps Republican
Guard, and they were defeated by the British.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: General Myers?
Q: On the surrender of Iraqi forces, I was wondering, since you were
saying they were surrendering and then going back and firing on the
U.S. troops, I was wondering what the latest is on negotiations with
Iraqi leadership, and if there is some concern that those negotiations
might also be some of sort of ruse, that they may not be serious about
Rumsfeld: I don't know of any negotiations with the leadership in
Iraq. There are military leaders that have talked about surrendering.
Some have actually done it. Others may be engaged in a ruse. That's
possible. All the kind of ruse we've seen has tended to be a very
small handful of people, Fedayeen Saddam types, in civilian clothes,
pretending they're giving up.
Yes? (Cross talk.)
Q: General Myers, can I keep you back on the question of humanitarian
relief enough to just clarify a couple of things? You said at the
beginning food, water and humanitarian relief is already being
delivered. Is any of that other than the initial supplies, MREs and
water that troops are taking in with them -- any real humanitarian
And what is your view on the challenges to getting humanitarian relief
into the country along the whole line of -- towards Baghdad as long as
there is this rear action by these other forces? Because you seemed to
indicate humanitarian relief first, then you would turn around and
deal with the Fedayeen, and of course international aid workers are
very reluctant to go into hot zones.
Myers: Well, of course the first thing we had to do to get significant
humanitarian aid in was to clear the waterway leading up to Umm Qasr
from the mines. And as you know, we found boats with mines that had
yet to be laid, but indications they may have laid some mines. And so
we're a day or two away from General Franks declaring that waterway
cleared, so we can bring in ships, major ships, then, that have been
loaded, are just awaiting clearance into that part. That's part of it.
There has been a combined effort between Central Command forces and
the Kuwaiti government to put a pipeline in from Kuwait up to the
border. It will initially go into the Umm Qasr area -- after that, we
don't know -- to bring fresh water in.
And clearly one of the things that's keeping the humanitarian aid from
the people in the South is the Iraqi regime itself. As you mentioned,
it's the Fedayeen Saddam and others that are keeping the Iraqi people
from getting the food, the water, the medicine they need.
Rumsfeld: The humanitarian disaster that existed, existed under the
Saddam Hussein regime. The people needed food. They were starving. And
the money was going into weapons of mass destruction.
Second, the military -- coalition forces have brought in massive
humanitarian assistance as they have come in, quite apart from what
the general's talking about, involving the port. They have been
bringing in food and water and medicine as they have come in to all of
those areas. And the people that are embedded with those units know
Third, the environmental disaster that occurred in Kuwait when the
Iraqis touched off all their oil wells was averted.
Fourth, there was a concern about internally displaced people or
refugees fleeing into neighboring countries and Turkey, Jordan and
It has not happened. The last count of refugees was several hundred,
not tens of thousands, as was the case previously. Why is that? It is
because there is not a humanitarian disaster at the present time in
those areas. What -- the area that we're not controlling, there could
still be a great many people without food, as was the case under
Saddam Hussein. And they may not be able to flee or get to medicine
because they may have guns at their heads and they're being told they
can't leave the cities.
Now, I think there's some very clear indicators of what's taking
place. And if we look at them and track them, we'll have a good sense
of it. I must say, I also have a feeling that the American people have
a very good sense of what's going on there. It may be that some
analysts might not, but the American people do. What do they see? They
see young men and women in uniform out there performing incredibly
difficult tasks. They're doing it courageously, they're doing it
tirelessly, they're doing it with great success. And the fact that a
few analysts say, well, my goodness, it should have been faster or
slower or this or that, I do not think is affecting the judgment of
the American people, who are having a chance to see what your friends
and peers, who are out there watching what's happening -- and they're
seeing that reported every hour of every day.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you say what's being done to provide more
security for the supply lines, which some critics -- active duty
officers and former officers -- say are lightly defended and spread a
bit too thin?
Rumsfeld: Do you want to comment on that?
Myers: Well, I -- the problem you have is you get into operational
details very quickly. But let me assure you --
Q: Well, can you say -- are you providing more security for the
support there --
Myers: There is a -- there has been and there is a plan to provide
security for the lines of communication. I mean, it's obvious when you
go that far, that fast into a country that you need to protect your
lines of communication. This is not a new requirement. This is
something that General Franks and his people --
Q: Did you leave them too lightly defended, as critics charge?
Myers: In my view, no.
Rumsfeld: We've got total dominance of the air. It is not air
superiority, it's dominance. They have not put an airplane up.
Q: But the Fedayeen are chipping away, it seems, at --
Rumsfeld: And these are ones and twos, and that you're going to live
with, like we live with in Afghanistan; that's -- we live with in some
major cities in the United States.
Myers: There are plans being put in -- or, plans in place to deal with
those onesies and twosies.
Rumsfeld: We're going to make two more questions.
Q: You used the word a few minutes ago --
Rumsfeld: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Q: General Myers?
Q: General Myers?
Rumsfeld: No. No. The man next to you, who's been so quiet and
courteous and patient and -- (laughter) --
Q: Very patient. A British-related question, if I may. You talked
about the British campaign as well to try to help in Basra with this
supposedly popular uprising. I wonder how important is that not just
strategically, but also to try to get a message out, not just to the
rest of Iraq, that it is popular to rise up, but also to the rest of
the world, who look perhaps with a little suspicion at the term "war
of liberation" because there's not an awful lot of people willing to
be liberated at the moment, it seems.
Rumsfeld: (Sighs.) I guess those of us my age remember uprisings in
Eastern Europe back in the '50s, when they rose up, and then were
slaughtered. And I am very careful about encouraging people to rise
up, unless -- I mean, we know there are people in those cities ready
to shoot them if they try to rise up. We know there are people in that
city ready to kill them if they try to escape.
Now, until you're arranged so that you can actually go to those cities
and deal with that problem, of the Special Republican Guards, SSOs and
the Fedayeen Saddam people who are in those cities, putting a gun to
their heads, unless you're ready to deal with that, then I am very
reluctant to run around the world encouraging people to rise up.
People will rise up. But, let there be no doubt: these are a repressed
people. And -- but I hope and pray they'll do it at a time when there
are sufficient forces nearby to be helpful to them rather than at a
time where it simply costs their life and it's a wasted life.
Q: General Myers --
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: General Myers?
Rumsfeld: Last question.
Q: General Myers, a couple days ago you met with reporters for
breakfast, and at that time laid out roughly what you described as the
campaign, an initial air campaign, how it would be like nothing we've
ever seen before, that if it was successful it would essentially shock
the leadership into submission, quickly. It would be a short conflict.
To what extent have you seen that shock, and what specific signs can
you point to that that's succeeded?
Myers: Well, we talked about a campaign that would start with a lot of
violence in both the ground and the air. Obviously, we haven't met
much resistance on the ground, and the air campaign is going as
planned. And I would say, Eric, that I will stick by any statements I
made at any breakfast about the -- about how the plan is going. And I
did not -- I hope I did not imply any time line with that. I've never
talked about a time line, I don't think. You can go back and check the
record, but I don't think I've ever talked about a time line, because
I -- it's just -- it's unknowable. It is unknowable.
Q: Do you believe you've shocked this regime? Are there signs of that?
They continue to broadcast, they continue to issue orders, apparently;
they continue to function, albeit at a degraded level. And I
understand there's only -- it's only four days into the air campaign.
Myers: I guess it depends how you look at it. If I were in Baghdad and
I was looking south and I saw a U.S. Army division that is on the
outskirts of Baghdad, I think -- you know, I don't know that that
would be shock, but I'd certainly be a little concerned. (Laughter.)
And they'll have a lot more to be concerned about shortly.
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.
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