Rumsfeld Calls Helicopter Downing 'Tragic Day'
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2003 -- In response to news of a U.S. helicopter
being downed in Iraq today, killing 15 soldiers and injuring 21,
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said, "It was a bad day, a
bad day, a tragic day for those people."
Rumsfeld appeared on "Fox News Sunday" today.
"This is a tragic day for those young men and women who are serving
our country so wonderfully," Rumsfeld told host Tony Snow. "My
prayers and sympathy go to the families and loved ones of those
that were killed and wounded."
The helicopter, a CH-47 Chinook, was transporting troops to the
Baghdad International Airport, reportedly on the first leg of a
trip home for rest and recuperation leave for some of the soldiers.
The aircraft was assigned to the 12th
Aviation Brigade, which was operating in support of the 82nd Airborne Division Task Force, U.S.
Central Command officials said.
An aerial quick-reaction force immediately was dispatched to
the scene, and a ground force secured the site, located near Fallujah.
Officials said the wounded soldiers were evacuated to nearby medical
facilities for treatment.
Rumsfeld said the motivation for the attack is easy to figure
out. "We know why they're doing it," he noted. "There are criminals
in that country who will do things for money. There are foreign
terrorists in that country, like the Ansar al-Islam, which have
come back in from Iran and are trying to kill people. And there
are the remnants of the Baathist regime, and they want to take
that country back."
But they won't succeed, the secretary said. "They're not going
to come close to taking that country back," he said. "They are
the ones who want to have the kind of a dictatorship that Saddam
Hussein had. That's shown on the film clips on this station of
people cutting off fingers, cutting off hands, cutting off heads,
throwing them off the tops of buildings, cutting off tongues --
that is what those people want."
Commenting on reports of people dancing in the streets after
the helicopter was downed, including a young man dancing around
and laughing with an American soldier's helmet on his head, Rumsfeld
said, "There are 23 million people in that country who have been
liberated. The overwhelming majority is very much in support of
the coalition. They want Saddam Hussein gone."
Asked if more Americans are being killed in Iraq because the
enemy is getting better organized and more sophisticated, Rumsfeld
called that assessment "fair," and explained how the coalition
forces are countering the threat.
"The coalition forces are out attacking these remnants of the
Saddam Hussein regime, and they are finding them, and they are
capturing them, and they are killing them. There are additional
people being killed and captured every single day in that country,
and their numbers are going down."
He said in the final analysis, the Iraqi people are going to
defeat the remnants of Saddam's regime. "We now have over 100,000
Iraqis who were serving in the army -- the police, the site protection,
the civil defense, the border patrols," Rumsfeld noted. "It's gone
from zero up to 100,000. Our plan is to take it in excess 200,000
by next year.
"It will be Iraqis that will be out killing and capturing the
remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, as they are today," Rumsfeld
continued. "There have been 85 of these Iraqis killed already who
are involved in these security forces."
Snow told Rumsfeld that some people accuse him of not having
a plan in Iraq. "We had a plan," the secretary said, adding that
the Wall Street Journal printed a big expose showing how the U.S.
was working with the World Food Organization well before the war
ever started to avoid a humanitarian crisis.
"How do you go from zero to 100,000 Iraq security folks who have
trained to be in the army, the police, the border patrol, the site
protection, the civil defense, if you don't have a plan?" Rumsfeld
"Our plan has produced a Central Bank in a matter of months," he
noted. "It took years in other countries -- in Germany or Japan
or Bosnia or Kosovo. We have a new currency in circulation; we
have a governing council appointed; they have appointed ministers.
All of these things have happened in two, three, four, five months."
Asked if the United States is getting help from Muslim nations
in its fight against terrorism, Rumsfeld said several Muslim countries
and people in those countries are cooperating.
"The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, nor do they
believe in terrorism," he noted.
Rumsfeld added that since the Saudi Arabian government was attacked,
the Saudis have been "more aggressive than ever in the past in
arresting, in capturing, in prosecuting, and in cooperating with
intelligence matters, and it's been a big help."