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25 April 2003

Defense Department Briefing Transcript

(Iraq/Operation Freedom; Iraq/captured leaders; Iraq/coalition
contributions; Iraqis/freedom of expression; Iraq/Interim Authority;
Afghanistan; Iraq/order; Iraq/firefights; Iraq/co-opted ambulance;
Iraq/cluster bombs; North Korea/diplomacy; Iraq/Chalabai;
Iraq/POWs; Rumsfeld travel/Persian Gulf; Iraq/Iran; Tarik
Aziz/surrender; Iraq/neighborhood influences; Guantanamo/prisoners;
Iraq/WMD; Iraq/terrorism; Iraqi leaders/criminal charges;
Guantanamo/juveniles; Iraq/Garner meetings; Iraq/U.S. presence;
Iraq/stabilization; Iraq/Speicher case; Kuwaiti/POWs; Iraq/prisoner
proceedings; Iraq/collateral damage; Iraq/coalition size) (7530)

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Air Force General Richard
Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed the media April
25 at the Pentagon.

Following is a transcript of the briefing:

(begin transcript)

United States Department of Defense News Briefing
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers
Friday, April 25, 2003 -- 11:59 a.m. EDT

Rumsfeld: Yes, it's still good morning. The number of officials of the
former regime now in the hands of coalition forces continues to grow.
This week, Saddam Hussein's trade minister was captured by coalition
forces on the Iraqi-Syrian border. His director of military
intelligence was captured near Baghdad. His deputy chief of tribal
affairs and a former senior member of his Revolutionary Command
Council were both apprehended by Free Iraqi Forces and turned over to
the coalition. The commander of his air defense force was taken into
custody West of Baghdad. The former head of the American desk of the
Iraqi Intelligence Service was also captured after a shoot-out with
coalition forces in Baghdad. And yesterday, of course, the former
deputy prime minister and confidante of Saddam Hussein, Tariq Aziz,
was taken into custody.

We now have, I believe, 12 of the 55 Most Wanted officials in custody,
as well as a number of other officials who were not on that original
list of 55. Most are being apprehended with the help of ordinary
Iraqis. I expect that with the help of the Iraqi people, many more
will be captured in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, the situation in Baghdad is improving daily. The power and
other services are slowly being restored. The capital is beginning to
move again with commerce. Our coalition in Iraq now includes some 65
or 66 nations, and a growing number are on the ground in Iraq helping
to provide food, water, medicine, trucks, generators, field hospitals,
mine-clearing, and other humanitarian assistance.

In Karbala, over a million Shi'a Muslims were able to complete their
pilgrimage without interference from Saddam Hussein's regime, for the
first time since 1977. That is an important accomplishment, a sign
that free expression and religious liberty are returning to Iraq.

One of the most important aspects of a free society is, of course,
free expression, including the expression of minority views. One of
the ways that minority opinion can be expressed in free nations is
through protests and demonstrations.

Here in the U.S., for example, the majority of Americans supported the
war in Iraq, but some opposed it, and some took to the streets to make
their opposition heard.

The same is true in other democracies. On Tuesday, for example,
hundreds of people marched in Moscow to celebrate Lenin's birthday and
called for a restoration of the Soviet Union.

So the fact that demonstrations are taking place is a sign that Iraqis
are embracing that right of free speech, a right restored by coalition
forces. But it should not be taken to indicate that the majority of
Iraqis oppose the coalition objectives in Iraq. It may seem like that,
watching television from time to time. But I believe that a majority
of the Iraqis are pleased to be rid of Saddam Hussein's regime.

And far from wanting coalition forces gone, they have been asking
coalition forces to help restore order, to assist with basic services
-- water, food, electricity and the like. They want the coalition to
help to provide stability and security as Iraqis form an interim
authority and eventually choose a free Iraqi government. And then they
will want us to leave, to be sure, and that's what we would want as
well.

This much is certain:

A vocal minority clamoring to transform Iraq in Iran's image will not
be permitted to do so. We will not allow the Iraqi people's democratic
transition to be hijacked for -- by those who might wish to install
another form of dictatorship.

Our policy in Iraq is simple. It is to stay as long as necessary to
finish our work and then to leave Iraq to the Iraqi people as soon as
that work is done.

General Myers.

Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Though our force -- focus has been on Iraq these past weeks,
operations in Afghanistan continue. Today coalition forces operating
near Shkin, Afghanistan, were fired on by approximately 20 enemy
personnel. The resulting firefight cost the lives of two (sic --
spoken incorrectly, only one killed) U.S. servicemen. Additionally,
some U.S. and Afghan soldiers were wounded. We engaged the enemy from
the ground and from the air, and continue to look for them.

I want to extend my condolences -- our condolences to the families and
friends of those killed and wounded.

In Iraq today is D-Day plus 37. As the secretary said, humanitarian
operations continue to expand and life throughout a liberated Iraq is
returning to some semblance of normalcy.

However, coalition forces continue to encounter pockets of resistance
from Iraqi paramilitary forces and from foreign fighters, but these
threats are being dealt with as they come up, one by one.

This morning, a 20- to 30-man Iraqi paramilitary force attacked a
coalition patrol northwest of Mosul. Coalition forces killed several
of the attackers and destroyed two of the so-called technical
vehicles, the trucks with the machine guns on them. A two-man enemy
paramilitary element was engaged in south Baghdad; one was killed, one
was captured.

On April 18th, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit were led to this
vehicle, that's on the slide now, clearly marked as an Iraqi Red
Crescent ambulance at a hospital in Mosul by the hospital staff. When
the Marines opened the ambulance doors, there were no medical supplies
or stretchers. What they discovered in the interior was electronic
equipment. This ambulance was modified by the former Iraqi regime for
use as a signals intelligence collection vehicle. The vehicle was
capable of intercepting and direction-finding different types of
electronic radio signals. Obviously, as we've been -- that's a shot of
the antenna up there in the upper part of that vehicle.

Rumsfeld: Just so there's no confusion, Red Crescent is the name of
the Red Cross in that part of the world.

Myers: And this should not be surprising because we've been talking
about them using hospitals and schools and this type of equipment for
some time. But we thought these pictures would be, would leave the
conclusion pretty well self-evident.

Rumsfeld: We also had instances of this in Afghanistan, where the
Taliban and the al Qaeda were using Red Crescent buildings and
facilities, as well as vehicles, to attempt to provide them cover so
that they could go out and kill innocent men, women and children.

Myers: At the last press briefing, I was asked about cluster
munitions, and we talked about them briefly there. Coalition forces
dropped nearly 1,500 cluster bombs of varying types during Operation
Iraqi Freedom. Most were precision-guided. An initial review of all
cluster munitions used and the targets they were used on indicate that
only 26 of those approximately 1,500 hit targets within 1,500 feet of
civilian neighborhoods. And there's been only one recorded case of
collateral damage from cluster munitions noted so far.

We used cluster munitions against surface-to-surface missiles, radar
sites, air defense sites, surface-to-air missiles, regime mobile
communications, aircraft, armor, artillery, troops, and other select
military targets. Because the regime chose to put many of these
military assets in populated areas, and then from those areas fired on
our forces, in some cases we hit those targets knowing that there
would be a chance of potential collateral damage.

Coalition forces used cluster munitions in very specific cases against
valid military targets, and only when they deemed it was a military
necessity. These are tough choices. And it's unfortunate that we had
to make those choices about hitting targets in civilian areas, but as
we've said before as well, war is not a tidy affair, it's a very ugly
affair. And this enemy had no second thoughts about putting its own
people at risk. Indeed, multiple civilian casualties were clearly a
high priority for the regime so as to put pressure on the coalition.
Now they will not be able to do that any longer.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, on North Korea. The president and you and Secretary
Powell have said repeatedly the United States wants to settle this
face-off with North Korea over nuclear --

Rumsfeld: Wants to do what?

Q: Wants to settle the face-off with North Korea peacefully. Having
said that, the recent pointed statements by North Korea that it has
nuclear weapons and might do whatever with them and is reprocessing
plutonium, is that drawing closer, perhaps, the military option? Is
the military option, I guess, moving closer to possibility with this?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't think I'd want to say that. The president's on a
diplomatic path. Clearly, the recent discussions have not moved the
ball forward. But Secretary Powell and the president are working on
the matter, and the hope is that it can ultimately be resolved through
diplomatic means.

Q: Does the military option remain open, sir?

Rumsfeld: I'm not going to discuss the subject beyond what I've said.
I'll leave it to the president and the secretary of State.

Q: Mr. Secretary, would you tell me what the department's relationship
and the administration's relationship is with Ahmed Chalabi? How do
you view his role in the new Iraq? And does it bother you at all that
he's a convicted felon in Jordan and that Jordan's King Abdullah views
him as a charlatan?

Rumsfeld: No, I suspect that every -- first of all, the Iraqi people
are going to decide what the Iraqi government is going to look like.
There have been people inside Iraq who have resisted the regime and a
lot of them were killed. A lot of them were imprisoned. A lot of them
were tortured. A lot of their families were murdered and killed. It
was a brutal regime. There are a lot of people outside of Iraq,
Iraqis, who have resisted the Iraqi regime over a period of some
decades. They are now, in reasonable numbers, returning to Iraq. And
there will be a process that will sort through who will eventually
move into positions of responsibility, first in an interim authority
of some kind, and then later in a more permanent government.

I suspect that anyone who puts their head up will find that it's a lot
like the United States and other countries where people can express
themselves. And someone will not like them. Someone will say something
about them that is unpleasant, and it'll get printed in the press, and
it'll get carried on television that we're for this person, not that
person; that person's a good person, that person's a bad person. And
that'll go on.

And there will be a natural sort that will take place, and that's a
good thing. And the people left standing, who garner the greatest
amount of support, will end up being the ones that ultimately will
take responsibility, as long as they adhere to the basic principles
that we've put forward; namely, a country that's whole, free, at peace
with its neighbors, doesn't have weapons of mass destruction and is
respectful of all the rights of all the people of that country.

Yeah?

Q: Quick -- may I do a follow-up, Mr. Secretary, quickly, on the same
thing? But it seems in this case the United States is supporting
Chalabi and his followers by offering logistical support.

Also, you didn't answer the question that he is a convicted felon in
Jordan. That's not just "people don't like him."

Rumsfeld: I'm not going to get into the background of any of these
individuals. They all have their opportunity to make their case and to
present their case and to try to persuade other people in that country
that they are someone that merits their support.

And I will say that the -- Mr. Chalabi is a member of the Leadership
Council of the Iraqi opposition. They have selected their leaders. He
is one of, I believe, six. Is that correct?

Myers: I don't know the number, sir.

Rumsfeld: But -- and all of those people are involved in this process.

The United States has obviously supplied some assistance to a variety
of people -- Shi'as and Sunnis and people from inside the country and
people from outside the country. Why did we do that? Well, we did it
because we believe that the Iraqi people ought to have a role in
freeing and liberating that country. And indeed, a lot of Iraqi people
did have a role in that, and it was a good thing.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary, with regard to the growing list of high- profile
former Iraqi government officials that you have in custody, I guess
they are determined to be prisoners of war. Where they are being held
and sort of how you are handling them and determining what their
future is going to be remains an open question. Have you done thinking
on those things? What is likely to happen to them? What, if anything,
are you getting from them, at this point, by way of guidance or
insight into the things that you are most interested in?

Rumsfeld: We have acquired, scooped up, have custody of a large number
of people, Iraqi people, even some non-Iraqis. We've got a number of
Syrians and other nationals that were in there doing things they
shouldn't have been doing. The number is somewhere between 7,000,
7,500, I'm going to guess. They're in various locations. I think we're
probably down to one or two enemy prisoner of war camps.

Myers: That's probably right. Yeah, we had some locations where we had
collection points, and then kind of probably consolidated. Maybe three
at this point.

Rumsfeld: We still have some others in custody in other parts of the
country. We're not inclined to tell you where, but we have them. We're
keeping the hard cases separate, for the most part. We are
systematically going through the less-hard cases and releasing people.
I believe we've released over a thousand people already, probably
ordinary foot soldiers who were part of an element that surrendered,
and when we had a chance to vet them and take a look, why, we said,
gee, let's send them home and get them out of here. And as others have
been brought in, we've been moving others out. So we've been, I think
almost every day, moving out something in excess of 100, which is a
good thing. We, obviously, don't want to hold any more people than we
have to.

You can be certain that the people who we have reason to believe have
information are being interrogated by interagency teams, and they are
in fact providing information that's useful.

Q: Mr. Secretary, last week, General Myers mentioned that you were
planning a trip to the Middle East. Have those plans been firmed up?
And --

Rumsfeld: (To General Myers) Did you act as my travel agent?

Myers: I did. I was -- yes, sir, I was your travel agent for a day --
I admit it. (Laughter.)

Q: He didn't book your tickets. But can you give us a sense of where
your travel plans stand at this point, and what would the objectives
be?

Rumsfeld: I may very well take a trip. I'm not inclined to announce
where or when. And the purpose would be closely tied to the places I
might visit and the time I might visit. (Laughter.)

(To General Myers) How did I do? Is that about roughly what you said?

Myers: I didn't even say that much, I don't think! (Laughs; laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, the vocal minority that you mentioned in your
opening statement --

Rumsfeld: Yes.

Q: -- clamoring for an Iranian-style government, is it your impression
that those are people who are acting -- you know, speaking from the
heart, or do you think that the government of Iran is fomenting this
sort of sentiment? What role is Iran playing?

Rumsfeld: Oh, there's no question but that the government of Iran has
encouraged people to go into the country, and that they have people in
the country attempting to influence the country.

My impression is that the -- the Shi'a in the country are Iraqis, and
the Shi'a outside the country, from Iran, are Persians. And my guess
is that the Iraqi people will prefer to be governed by Iraqis and not
by Persians.

Q: What is the extent of the Iranian activity? Is it money? Is it
agents of influence? Describe what's going on.

Rumsfeld: You know, they have organized elements that they send into
the country to attempt to assert influence.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you shed any light on the specifics of Tariq
Aziz's surrender and perhaps the significance of that?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I could, but I don't know why I would get into the
tick-tock of who did what to whom, and how it worked. But he's in
custody.

Q: Hold on  -- 

Rumsfeld: And the significance is -- (laughter) -- let's just hold on
--

(Laughter.) I'd never say that to you. (Laughter.)

(Cross talk.)

Q: I think he was directing that to me.

Q: Well, I was sensing a one-word answer -- (inaudible). (Laughter.) I
wanted to get the jump --

Myers: Preemptive questioning.

Rumsfeld: There you go.

You know, he clearly is a very senior person in -- was in that regime,
and we intend to discuss with him whatever it is he's willing to
discuss with us.

Q: And following up, there was another get, Farouk Hijazi, reportedly
coming from Syria into Iraq -- most recently Iraq's ambassador to
Tunisia. Is this a sign that Syria is cooperating, kicking people out?
Any details on that get?

Rumsfeld: (Pauses.) It's hard to tell. There's no question but that
with the neighbors, you see a mixture of things. You see some things
that are something that was going on, that was adverse to the
interests of the Iraqi people and certainly adverse to the interests
of the coalition, that in some cases have stopped. So you would say,
"Gee, that's a good thing. That's a plus."

And then there are some things that are still continuing which are
minuses. So it's a mixture of things that you see, and it's not a
perfectly clear picture as to either the country of Syria or Iran.

Q: Well, what are the minuses, sir?

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said a number of times that U.S. forces would
stay in Iraq only as long as necessary.

Rumsfeld: Mm-hmm.

Q: General Franks was quoted in an interview today as saying that that
could be a year or two. Does that sound about right to you?

Rumsfeld: I can't guess. I mean, the people kept saying, "Gee, how
many casualties will there be?" And someone guessed 3,000. Well,
there's -- it was so far off that it's just unbelievable. They guessed
how long it would last, and people were way off on that. I can't tell
you. It --

Q: (Off mike.) -- situation.

Rumsfeld: You think so? My -- I think it's a very difficult thing to
guess, and I don't have to guess, and it doesn't do any good to guess.
We're going to go in there, and we're going to do what we need to do,
and we're going to get it done, and we're going to get it done well,
and then we'll leave.

Q: Mr. Secretary  -- 

Myers: I think what General Franks said, if I remember right, was,
when asked the question, well, it could be a month or two, or a year
or two. He was just saying we don't -- what he was saying is, we don't
know. And so I wouldn't focus on the "year or two" any more than I'd
focus on the "month or two." I think it's exactly as the secretary
said. I mean --

Q: Mr. Secretary, with these officials that you -- that have been
taken into custody now, do you have any more sense than you did, say,
a week ago on whether the old leadership of the regime is still
intact, whether they went to ground together, whether there was any
kind of plan? Or is it like each man for himself now? Is that what it
appears like?

Rumsfeld: I think to suggest that the top 55 are all housed in the
same location is -- would clearly be not the case. I'm going to guess
some got over some border and are being -- finding haven someplace. I
would guess that still others are -- we found, and still others are in
the country in various places, probably trying to be inconspicuous,
and we'll eventually find them.

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: Oh, I would doubt it, but I couldn't rule it out. It's just
not knowable by us.

Q: Mr. Secretary, when it comes to the senior regime leaders that have
been captured, such as Tariq Aziz, are they considered prisoners of
war? Are they subject to the protections of the Geneva Convention?
Will they be visited by the Red Cross? Will they be possibly moved to
Guantanamo? What's going to happen to them?

Rumsfeld: Lots of questions. With respect to Guantanamo, the answer is
no. We intend to not take people, regardless of what they're
characterized as, from Iraq or from any other country to Guantanamo
Bay at the moment. Could it change? Possibly. But my preference is not
to. And I would guess I'd have a voice in it, and I would discourage
doing that.

I think that it's hard to characterize all of them in the same way. I
mean, some of them may very well be people who were military. Let me
--

Q: Well, say, take Tariq Aziz, for example.

Rumsfeld: Well, let me -- some of them are military, and they would be
considered enemy prisoners of war. We were in a war. Some others might
have been in civilian garb, like the Fedayeen Saddam, and the question
is, what are they? And the lawyers will sort all that out.

What we do know is that there are people who in large measure have
information that we need, and we need that information so that we can
track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country. We need
that information so that we can track down the terrorist links between
Saddam Hussein's regime and various terrorist networks. And we need it
to track down other people. We need it to find records so that we can
go through this process of "de-Ba'athification," if there's such a
word, trying to eliminate the influence of the Ba'ath Party in that
country. There's lots of very important projects we've got.

And the first order of business is, in my view, to stop holding the
ones we don't need. And that's why we're working through 200 or 300 a
day, trying to sort them and get rid of them, let them go back home
and live their lives if we don't need them.

Conversely, we -- the ones -- we sort out the high-value ones, and get
interrogation teams working together that information. And clearly,
Tariq Aziz falls in the latter category.

Q: Is he a POW, subject to the protections of the Geneva Conventions?

Rumsfeld: These are lawyers are going to sort through that. Was he in
the military? He always -- every time I was ever with him, he always
wore a camouflage uniform and a pistol on his hip. Does that make him
military? I don't know. He was deputy prime minister; he was, I
believe, foreign minister. But the lawyers will figure that out. I
don't have to worry about that stuff. (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, is the U.S. considering possible criminal charges
against any of these Iraqi leaders? And if not, at the conclusion of
any conflict, wouldn't they be subject to release?

Rumsfeld: There are rules that apply to people depending on which
basket they're in. It's true that when a war is over, there is a
responsibility to release people who fit in certain categories but not
in others. The lawyers are currently sorting through the question as
to how they want to deal with this. Do they want to have some sort of
a tribunal, should the Iraqi people do it, should some international
organization do it, should the United States do it? I think probably
the latter is not our first choice, but that's going to be decided at
a higher level than this.

Yes?

Q: But at this point, is the U.S. considering possible criminal
charges of some kind against Iraqi leadership who are in custody, as
opposed to a foot soldier?

Rumsfeld: I think I just answered that as well as I can. The lawyers
are going to sort through that and decide. And they'll decide whether
we ought to consider criminal charges, and in what particular venue.

Yes?

Q: Aren't you a player in that?

Q: Mr. Secretary, are you concerned -- regarding Guantanamo Bay, do
you care how it looks to the rest of the world that you're holding
juveniles at Guantanamo Bay without legal representation? And what
assurances can you give the families of those juveniles, who don't
have access to them, that you're looking after their welfare?

Rumsfeld: Well, your question suggests that you know what the rest of
the world thinks and you characterized it. I'm not sure you do know
that. I don't know.

I do know that we care what the rest of the world thinks. We live in a
free system here, and we try to conduct ourselves according to our
values and generally accepted values in the world, which are quite
different from those of the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein and,
indeed, quite different from a number of countries in that part of the
world. So we do care, and that's why we invite in the International
Committee of the Red Cross to meet with and interview and be with all
of the people in Guantanamo Bay. They have reported on that. I'm not
going to characterize their reports. Someone would say, "Well, you
didn't characterize it perfectly." But you can go read it and see what
they have to say. And I think you'll find that the care they are
getting and the treatment they are getting reflects the fact that we
believe that treating people properly is important, and that the rest
of the world ought to know that. We have a long history in this
country. And we are treating those people properly.

Myers: Can I follow on  -- 

Rumsfeld: You bet.

Myers: I would say, despite their age, these are very, very dangerous
people. They are people that have been vetted mainly in Afghanistan
and gone through a thorough process to determine what their
involvement was. Some have killed. Some have stated they're going to
kill again. So they may be juveniles, but they're not on a
little-league team anywhere, they're on a major league team, and it's
a terrorist team. And they're in Guantanamo for a very good reason --
for our safety, for your safety.

Q: Mr. Secretary, please go back to Afghanistan for a minute. General
Myers said that there were 20 people that attacked that American
patrol. Does that number surprise you? Does it concern you? Is that
suggestive of the security situation in that region?

Myers: Yes, the security situation is still dangerous in Iraq, and
we've said that consistently. And there are groups. And I think as far
as our forces are concerned, the more the better, because we can deal
with them quicker that way. So, no, it's not a concern from a military
point of view; it's a concern, overall security situation. We need to
keep dealing with this, of course.

Q: Mr. Secretary, General Garner said yesterday in Iraq that the
interim Iraqi civilian authority may be up and running as early as
next week. That seems to be a little faster than some people
anticipated.

Rumsfeld: Yeah.

Q: How will that happen? Who will make up that  -- 

Rumsfeld: It won't.

Q: It won't. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: I talked to Jay on the phone, on the Secure
Videoteleconferencing System (SVTC), Dick and I did this morning. As a
matter of fact, General Garner had a good briefing of the president
and the National Security Council this morning on a secure video. And
I had asked him about that. And what he was talking about was the fact
that there was a meeting next week, the second of the series of
meetings that very likely will proceed as a buildup to the
establishment of an Iraqi interim authority. And I think, in
shorthand, he was talking of a process as opposed to the way it came
out in the paper as though there would be an authority set up next
week. What he meant was they're in the second meeting that is pointing
towards the establishment of that and is part of the process of the
IIA. And he used the phrase "IIA" to encompass the process, as opposed
to the final event, semi-final event of an interim authority, the
final event being the real authority.

Q: Do you-all have any better sense when that interim authority may be
set up?

Weeks? Months?

Rumsfeld: I don't. I don't. I just don't feel like guessing. It really
has got to proceed at a pace that the Iraqi people are comfortable
with. The whole thing to remember about it is whatever is set up will
be interim. And it will not be permanent, it will be temporary. It
will serve for a period. And it will be as representative as is
possible in a situation like we find in Iraq. These are not people who
have enjoyed democracy. They don't have political parties. They're not
organized for this.

And what we're going to have to do is see that interim authority has
enough people representing enough elements in that country that when
it is set up, people look at it and say, "If that's the group that's
going to figure out a way to draft a constitution, that's the way --
group that's going to figure out how you set this country on the path
to the permanent authority"
-- just -- if you go back to Afghanistan, the loya jirga process
produced the interim authority, the interim authority produced a
process that led to a -- will eventually lead to a more permanent
government -- a permanent government. But they've not gotten there in
Afghanistan yet. That's still en route. So it will be time -- it takes
time. And it's going well.

(To General Myers.) I don't know how many days you said it was.
Thirty-seven?

Myers: Thirty-seven.

Rumsfeld: (Chuckling) Thirty-seven days. We're all so impatient about
everything being perfect, but -- and life isn't perfect, life is
somewhat untidy.

Q: Sir, there is -- as you can imagine -- some cynicism about the
plans for Iraq. The Geneva Convention, as we've talked about in here
before, carries with it some requirements of the occupation power. But
in order to be an occupation power, you have to declare that the war
is going to end. And once you become an occupation power, you have
responsibilities and you have some restrictions with contracts and
things like that.

Is there -- I've been hearing lately from some critics of the war that
they're afraid that the Pentagon will never declare -- or General
Franks will never declare a formal end to this; that when they're
ready to leave, they'll just take off and that will be the end and,
therefore, the occupation power, rights and responsibilities and
restrictions will never kick in.

Can you tell us for sure that there's going to be a time when this war
is declared over?

Rumsfeld: I mean, I would guess so. Can I tell you for sure? No. But I
would guess there will be an end. And what we are seeing is we're
seeing a -- this isn't World War I or World War II that starts and
then ends.

Take Afghanistan. We moved from major military activities to a point
where, at the present time, the vast majority of the country is in a
stabilization security mode, it's not in a major military activity
mode, except along the Pakistan border. How it will shake out in Iraq
remains to be seen. I mean, we've said we're still having people
killed. We'll get there.

Q: So there's no attempt to avoid the invocation of those requirements
of the Geneva Conventions?

Rumsfeld: There's no attempt to avoid anything except getting more
people killed, and an attempt to try to get that country and those
people in a process that will produce a free Iraqi government for
those people.

Q: Mr. Secretary, could I ask you about efforts to find weapons of
mass destruction and terrorism? In recent days there's been a flow of
exploitation teams, military and intelligence. Can you give us an
update on what kind of progress, or lack of it, they're making? And
last, have you any update on the efforts to resolve the case of
Captain Speicher?

Rumsfeld: There is a continuing effort to resolve the case of Captain
Speicher. And there's team that's assigned to that. They're working
the problem. They're talking to people. They're investigation sites
where he may or may not have been. And we are always concerned and
anxious to bring back an account for every American -- indeed, every
coalition member. We feel the same way about the Kuwaiti prisoners of
war, which we still don't have closure on, from the '91 war.

Q: How about the weapons and terrorism?

Rumsfeld: There are sites being exploited. "Exploited" is a funny
word, but that's what they put in our memos -- examined, investigated,
explored.

On a continuing basis, we get a report out of known sites. We've done
this many and then out of -- opportunistic people have come up and
said, "Why don't you look here or there?" We've done that many. And
it's still a long road. I mean, we're at a small fraction of the
number of potential sites.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary, in that -- going back to the case of the juveniles
in Guantanamo, why isn't there a formal legal process for adjudicating
those cases, as well as the other -- the cases of the other people who
are contained there?

General Myers said that these juveniles have killed people, but there
hasn't been a trial, there hasn't been a tribunal, there hasn't been a
hearing.

(Pause.)

Rumsfeld: I mean, I'll answer. The president announced a policy. It
has been tested and looked at legally, and we are proceeding on that
basis -- that the people gathered in Guantanamo we would prefer not to
hold. We would like to have arrangements with other countries that
they would take their nationals on a basis where we could get future
access to them, in the event additional intelligence comes up, and
where we have reason to have confidence that they would not simply
release people that are a danger to the lives of American men, women
and children.

Now we're keeping them down there to keep them off the street. These
-- this is a worldwide network that -- the al Qaeda is, and these
folks and the Taliban were part of that and were fighting in
Afghanistan and killing people.

We have them in Guantanamo, they're being examined and interrogated by
an interagency process. The president has several ways he can proceed.
He can put them into an Article 3, United States Article 3, our
Constitution, court; he can establish a military commission and try
them that way; or he can keep them for the duration of the war and
keep them off the street so they don't kill other people.

Now, everything that is being done is being done legally and properly.
And this constant refrain of "the juveniles," as though there's a
hundred of children in there -- these are not children. Dick Myers
responded to that. There are plenty of people who have been killed by
people who were still in their teens.

Q: But there's no -- they're being held indefinitely. There's no
process for handling --

Rumsfeld: I just explained the process.

Q: Well -- I mean  -- 

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said a few minutes ago that you're disinclined
to bring Iraqis to Guantanamo. Can you tell us why is it that
Guantanamo was a good place to have brought Taliban and al Qaeda, but
not to bring Iraqis?

Rumsfeld: The people we brought were people who were part of a
worldwide -- for the most part, a worldwide terrorist organization, or
were participating with the al Qaeda.

The people we've got in Iraq are, in large measure, Iraqi people who
belong in Iraq. And to the extent they have to be held for some period
of time, it's a lot more convenient to hold them in Iraqi prisons than
it is to build prisons in Guantanamo and transport them down there. So
it just seems to me, first of all, it's respectful of the taxpayers'
dollars. Why should we build a whole lot more prisons in Guantanamo
and then pay to transport these folks down there?

Q: General Myers, can you clear up something that you said about --
last -- earlier in the week about the cluster bombs? There was an
incident in which a young girl, apparently -- there was some kind of
munition. Have you any clarity on that?

Myers: Yeah, I do. The information that I had at the time indicated,
the first report, that it -- that this little girl had actually
intended to harm U.S. soldiers. In fact, I think, as we went back, it
was as was stated, I think, by somebody in the back of the room, that
she was trying to return -- and it wasn't a cluster bomb, but it was
return some sort of munition, and it went off.

Q: Was that the one incident that you referenced earlier when you
talked about the cluster bombs?

Myers: No.

Q: Do you know about that incident?

Myers: Not -- well, I don't know what it is, frankly. I know there's
one that they're investigating. It will take them about 30 days to
figure out the details of that.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you give us details on -- (Off mike.)? And can
you elaborate in any way on his significance, because of the reports
that he apparently may have met at some point in the past with Osama
bin Laden, the significance as far as establishing Iraqi times to
terrorist groups?

Rumsfeld: (To General Myers.) Do you remember which one he is?
(Laughter.)

Q: The former intelligence official, sir.

Rumsfeld: We've got a variety of former intelligence officials.

Q: The one that -- (Off mike.).

Rumsfeld: One had the American portfolio and one had been an
intelligence officer and later an ambassador to another country.

Q: That one.

Q: That's the one.

Rumsfeld: That one? Yeah.

Q: Allegedly involved in the alleged plot against  -- 

Rumsfeld: And what was your question about him?

Q: Could you give us more details on his apprehension and elaborate on
his significance as --

Rumsfeld: I'd rather not. He is significant. We think he could be
interesting. But I'd rather not give you --

Myers: He should know a lot of history that would be -- and a lot of
details.

Q: Can you talk about the number of U.S. ground forces in Iraq now?
And do you expect that --

Rumsfeld: I can: 135,000 forces, eliminating the word "ground."

Q: Well, as far as the ground forces, do you expect that number to
stay roughly the same in the coming weeks?

Rumsfeld: It's less than 135(,000).

Q: Rise? Or fall? And there are some who are coming back from the
region, including Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, who are saying you
don't have enough ground forces there to keep the peace.

Rumsfeld: (Pause.) How does one do this? (Laughter.)

Myers: Carefully.

Rumsfeld: Carefully, he said. Yes. Graciously.

General Franks is the combatant commander in that area of
responsibility. He has done an excellent job. He has told us what he
believes is the appropriate force level in that country. We have a
total of U.S. forces of plus or minus 135,000 at this moment, which is
probably as high as it's ever been. And there are some of those people
who are not ground forces, they're pilots. They're air crews, and some
are doing other things, administrative things. So the number of actual
ground forces, to use your phrase, is, I would guess, something less
-- maybe even less than 100,000. I just don't know the number. We
don't divide them up that way; do you?

Myers: No, sir. We also have coalition forces.

Rumsfeld: And we've got 23,000 coalition forces, plus or minus, at the
present time on top of that. And we have, fortunately, a lot of
countries stepping forward with additional coalition forces.

Q: Any sense of how many?

Rumsfeld: Well, we'll announce them as they move in the country.
They're being --

Q: With ground forces, do you expect that number to be down in the
coming weeks, stay about the same, rise --

Rumsfeld: Here we go again. Why can't reporters report on what's
happening instead of what might happen if all these variables happen
to occur? We can't know how serious -- the security problem might
flare up at some point. We can't know precisely the pace at which
General Garner and his folks are going to be able to get local Iraqis
to begin to assume some of those security activities. We can't tell
you precisely how many additional countries are going to be sending in
forces and what day they'll arrive.

Over time, do we want to see the number of U.S. forces decline? You
bet. Are we perfectly willing to put in any number of U.S. forces that
are necessary to provide the kind of security in that country so that
they can get on their way to humanitarian assistance and
reconstruction and an interim authority? You bet we do. And we will.
We'll put in what we need to.

And we happen to have the number that General Franks thinks we need.
And that number will vary up or down, depending on coalition forces
coming in, depending on the security situation. And it's all going
along pretty well, I'd say.

Q: Mr. Secretary, YOU asked the question  -- 

Rumsfeld: I think we'd probably better call a halt to this.

Q: Well, YOU asked the question, though. Can I answer the question you
asked? (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: What do you do with someone like that?!

Q: You said why do reporters -- why don't they just report on what's
happening --

Rumsfeld: I guess I did say that. Did I say that? It was off the
record. (Laughter.)

Q: And the answer is, because you have plans about what you're going
to do in the future, and you're disinclined to share them with us. So
we have to ask them --

Rumsfeld: No, I'm inclined to -- I just shared them with you. I do
have plans, and I just told you the plan! The plan is to increase the
number of U.S. forces, if they're necessary, and to decrease them if
they're not necessary, to get as many other countries participating --
coalition forces -- in there as I possibly can, and to the extent I
can, have fewer U.S. forces, and to the extent I can't -- cannot, have
more U.S. force. That is the plan!

Q: (Off mike.)  -- 

Rumsfeld: I know that leaves people somewhat unfulfilled, but it
happens to be truth. That's ground truth. That's how we do these
things. That's what we do. That's our job.

Q: (Off mike.) -- sir.

Rumsfeld: Yeah.

(Cross talk.)

Q: General Myers, on the cluster bomb issue, can I  -- 

Rumsfeld: Whoa, whoa, whoa!

Q: What  -- 

Rumsfeld: Whoa, whoa, whoa!

Q: On the cluster bomb issue, though  -- 

Rumsfeld: What did you say? Say it again. Hold it. Isn't that what you
said?

Q: (Laughs.)

Q: Hold it. Hold everything. Hold on. (Laughter, Cross talk.)

Q: If you decide to take a trip, keep your head down, will you?

(end transcript)

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