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13 November 2003

Iraqi Security Forces Assume Increasingly Important Role

Rumsfeld says Iraqi troops improve coalition's access to intelligence

Total numbers of security forces are on the rise in Iraq as 118,000 Iraqi troops have assumed their duties alongside coalition forces, according to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In a series of media interviews November 10, Rumsfeld stressed the importance of the Iraqi forces in bringing security to Iraq.

Responding to questions about the recent recruits' ability to rise to the task, the secretary told WEWS-TV in Cleveland that, "There's no question but they can. In fact, they're already doing a wonderful job." He noted that "They have better language skills. They have better situational awareness. They know the territory. They know the people."

Rumsfeld went on to add that "as a result of doing joint patrols with Iraqis, we're finding that the intelligence we're getting is increasing. They're able to find out information that our forces, which go in there for a period of time and then leave, really would have much more difficulty finding out."

The secretary said that this improved intelligence is also helping coalition forces in addressing the security threats posed by terrorists. "Every week ... [coalition forces] may be capturing or killing anywhere from 100 to 200 of them on a fairly regular basis," he told KSDK-TV in St. Louis.

Following is the text of Secretary Rumsfeld's interviews:

(begin text)

U.S. Department of Defense News Briefing
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Monday, November 10, 2003

(Interview with Michael Putney, WPLG-TV, Miami.)

Q: The post-war effort in Iraq has been quite difficult, of course, with criticism growing against the Bush Administration. Some of the sharpest criticism has been directed at the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Political reporter Michael Putney is standing by right now with a live interview with the Secretary. Michael?

Q: Christy, we do have a rare opportunity to speak directly with Secretary Rumsfeld who is in Washington. Mr. Secretary, good afternoon. Michael Putney at Channel 10 in Miami. How are you?

Rumsfeld: Excellent. Good afternoon to you.

Q: We're delighted to have this opportunity to spend a couple of minutes. My first question, frankly, however, is are you doing an end-run around the Pentagon reporters who cover you almost on a daily basis and trying to put a more positive spin on events in Iraq than perhaps they would give you?

Rumsfeld: Hardly. The Pentagon press corps is a good press corps and they do a good job. What we've got, however, is a situation where we are making progress in Iraq as part of the global war on terror. It's a tough business, it's dangerous, and people get killed and wounded. Every time that happens your heart goes out to the families and loved ones of those involved.

But the reality is that the people who go over to Iraq and come back -- congressional delegations, Republican, Democrat, House and Senate -- in every instance, they find a situation there that is notably different than was their impression from watching the media here in the United States. Now I don't know why that is, but it's a fact.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yeah.

Q: At the same time, Mr. Secretary, your Deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, was there last week at the Al Rashid Hotel and there was an attack and, in fact, one American officer was killed. Mr. Wolfowitz was shaken up. Isn't that evidence that in fact things are not as peaceful there as sometimes you would like to see them portrayed?

Rumsfeld: It seems to me that doesn't really follow.

The fact of the matter is in any major city in the world, there are attacks of various types that take place.

We know that about 95 percent of all of the incidents that take place in Iraq take place in Baghdad and the triangle north up to Tikrit. The north is calm, the south is basically calm, the west is basically calm. There are a series of serious attacks in that concentrated area. So there's no question, I just got through saying that it's a dangerous situation and people are being killed and wounded.

But the fact is, in that country, we're making enormous progress. In terms of essential services, schools are open, hospitals are functioning, people are out on the streets eating in restaurants, and life is going on, and 23 million people have been liberated.

Q: Mr. Secretary, very briefly, I don't pretend to speak for the people in south Florida, but the Miami Herald editorial page often does. Let me read you something the Herald editorial page ran yesterday. Here's what they said:

"Americans have a right to be dismayed over the conduct of the occupation thus far and skeptical about plans for the future. Maybe, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said, Iraqi troops will be ready to assume a bigger role in pacification, but it is worth keeping in mind that unjustifiable optimism has been a hallmark of this entire effort."

What's your response, if you could, in about 30 seconds?

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't think they could find any evidence that I have been unjustifiably optimistic. In fact, from the very beginning we've said it's going to be a long and difficult effort, that it's a tough business dealing with terrorism. The terrorists have the advantage, they can attack any time, any place, using any technique, and it's not possible to defend everywhere.

The people who write things like that, it seems to me, have the obligation to come up with some better idea. The only choices we have is either take the battle to the terrorists or think we can retreat to the United States, hunker down, and hide, and pretend that 9/11 never happened. So I don't think there --

Q: I don't --

Rumsfeld: Go ahead.

Q: I'm sorry, I was just going to say I don't think that either the Miami Herald or most people in south Florida want to hunker down, we don't want to hide. We certainly, our thoughts and our prayers are with our troops and, in fact, with our leaders in Washington.

Mr. Rumsfeld, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

Q: Thank you.

(Interview with Ted Henry, WEWS-TV, Cleveland.)

Q: U.S. troops [inaudible] Iraq raiding several homes in the last 24 hours, soldiers capturing three men just north of the city of Baghdad, accusing the three of belonging to a crime ring funded by Saddam Hussein's political party. Also, 35 people are in custody in connection with last month's attack on the Al Rashid Hotel. And a senior Iraqi oil official escaped an assassination attempt earlier today. It's believed that the man may have been targeted because of his cooperation with our country, with the United States.

There are so many questions concerning Iraq right now in the news. Will more U.S. troops be deployed there? What about the reconstruction effort? To get some answers we're going straight to the top right now, an exclusive interview right now with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld live in Washington.

Secretary Rumsfeld, first of all, thank you for joining us on Live On 5.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much. I'm happy to do it.

Q: You met last Friday, I know, with Arizona Senator John McCain who takes great issue with you regarding our troop levels in Iraq today. He says we're not nearly high enough, that we need to dig in deeper. Is he wrong on this?

Rumsfeld: Well, he's a fine man and he's a good friend and is an able Senator. We had a good discussion about that. I had General Pete Schoomaker, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and General Pete Pace, who's the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and we had a good discussion about it. We pointed out that the Iraqis now represent something like 118,000 security forces in the country. Four months ago, it was zero. So, in effect, we've added 118,000 troops to the 130,000 the United States has and the 30,000 or 25,000 that the other coalition countries have. So the total number of forces in the country, in that sense, Senator McCain's right. We do need more forces, and as a result, we're adding more Iraqi forces.

Whether or not we need --

Q: I'd like to ask you a follow-up to that specific point, if I can. First of all, you said a lot of nice things about Senator McCain. He wasn't quite so charitable towards you. He didn't mince any words about you, even calling you, at one point, irresponsible by being willing to hand things over to ill-trained Iraqis - in his view, anyway.

Can these new Iraqi soldiers and police be prepared enough to help us rather than hinder us?

Rumsfeld: Sure. There's no question but they can. In fact, they're already doing a wonderful job. They've been out on joint patrols with coalition forces. They have better language skills. They have better situational awareness. They know the territory. They know the people. And as a result of doing joint patrols with Iraqis, we're finding that the intelligence we're getting is increasing. They're able to find out information that our forces, which go in there for a period of time and then leave, really would have much more difficulty finding out.

The other thing I'd point out, there's no question but that the Iraqi forces are not as well-trained or equipped as our forces are. But on the other hand, some of the tasks that they're doing don't require people to be as well-trained or as well-equipped as our forces.

For example, if your task is to protect a site, a building, or a location, you don't have to have the maneuver capability and the extra equipment that the United States forces do. So the capability, it seems to me, depends on the task.

Q: I'd like to ask you one last question if I can, Mr. Secretary. It's a personal question.

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Q: Why do we not see our dead returning home and being afforded high-level funerals from time to time with the President, with you, in attendance? We're a country in mourning, after all.

Rumsfeld: Well, I think you'll see the President and me tomorrow and many members of the Department of Defense involved in Veterans Day activities and talking about these important issues.

Back, I think, in 1991, a policy was adopted to provide the kind of privacy for families that when they receive their loved ones' remains back in the United States, they asked that it be done in private, as I understand it. That has been the policy for over a decade.

Q: Real quickly, I know the time is short. How do we take on a faceless, nameless enemy with the insurgents in Iraq today?

Rumsfeld: You really have two choices. We're engaged in a global war on terror. Either we take the battle to them as we're doing in Iraq and in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, or we just sit here like we did and wait for them to hit us and think we can hunker down and hide and hope it will go away.

Well, it's not going to go away, as the Saudis found this week. The terrorists are determined to inject fear into the lives of free people, and free people can't live with fear. They alter their behavior to the point that they're no longer functioning as free people. So we have no choice, it seems to me, but to follow through. We're going to prevail in this conflict, and the American people, I think, have a good center of gravity and understand that.

Q: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. You've been very generous to afford us this opportunity today. Thank you for being with us on Live On 5 in Cleveland.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

(Interview with Karen Foss, KSDK-TV, St. Louis.)

Q: Thank you for joining us, Secretary Rumsfeld. Of course, many Americans were very relieved in early May when the President said the major combat in Iraq was all over, and yet today, we have half again as many troops there, increasing fatalities. Are we, in fact, seeing a resurgence, do you think, of major combat?

Rumsfeld: No. We're in a low intensity conflict. The President was correct, that major combat operations did end about May 1st. And you indicate that we now have half again as many troops there. That's just not correct. At the end of the war, we had about 150,000 troops; today, I believe, we have something like about 128,000 troops. So we've come down somewhat. The coalition has stayed about the same at about 25,000 to 30,000. What's changed dramatically is that the Iraqi security forces have now gone from zero up to 118,000 Iraqi security forces -- border patrol, site protection, army, civil defense and the like. So, we have many, many more forces if you count the Iraqi forces, which, of course, one must.

Q: And which were trained by the coalition forces?

Rumsfeld: They have been trained by coalition forces, exactly.

Q: What is al Qaeda's role, do you think, in the latest hostilities we're seeing there? And what evidence do you have of a link to Saddam Hussein's loyalists?

Rumsfeld: Well, there's no question but that al Qaeda operatives have been in Iraq and are there today, and we have information about linkages between them with others. There's another terrorist network called Ansar al-Islam that was in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein period, fled into Iran, and now has reentered Iraq and is operating in the country and working, we believe, with some of the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, the so-called Ba'athists.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I believe we lost part of your answer there. Would you mind going back over that and explain to us what you see is al Qaeda's role in the hostilities and what the linkage is to the Saddam Hussein loyalists?

Rumsfeld: Yes. Al Qaeda had operatives in Iraq and they do today. They have some linkages, we believe, with other terrorist networks, including Ansar al-Islam, which is a separate, a partner really with al Qaeda, I suppose, at this stage. And to what extent they have linkages with the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, I do not know.

There is a good deal of intelligence that speculates that there are loose linkages of one type or another, but there are those groups -- the Ba'athists, the foreign terrorist networks, and, in addition, there are a good many criminals who were let out of jail by Saddam Hussein during the war or prior to the war.

So, there's a large number of people that have to be dealt with and our forces, the coalition, are out dealing with them on a regular basis. Every week, anyway they may be capturing or killing anywhere from 100 to 200 of them on a fairly regular basis.

Q: -- our problems and the flareups we've seen lately are in the so-called Sunni Triangle. Paul Bremer has suggested that he expects even more unless we have improved intelligence. It sounds almost like a direct challenge to you.

Rumsfeld: I don't know if it's a challenge to me. It's a challenge to our country and the world. We've got 32 nations in there that are working to deal with this problem. The Central Intelligence Agency has the task of trying to fashion intelligence and gather it in a way that it become actionable. We've been fortunate that because we have so many Iraqi security forces, they are helping to provide intelligence to our forces in ways, really, that coalition forces couldn't do. The Iraqi security forces know the language, they know the neighborhoods, and they know the people, and as a result, we've been able to increase our ability to find actionable targets.

Q: One last thing, let me ask you about this. Congressman Lacy Clay from Missouri, along with several other congressmen have signed a letter urging the Bush Administration to ask for your resignation. What is your response to that?

Rumsfeld: I haven't seen it. I haven't heard about it.

Q: Do you have a feeling that your leadership is weakening the administration on this conflict in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: No. I think it's the season for that type of thing.

Q: And do you see yourself going ahead with this operation?

Rumsfeld: Oh, indeed.

Q: And the administration?

Rumsfeld: Absolutely.

Q: And the Administration? Very good. Thank you, Secretary Rumsfeld.

(Interview with Don Shelby, WCCO-TV, Minneapolis.)

Q: I may have my figures not exactly right, sir, but the most recent figures I've seen is that there is an intended cutback from about 130,000 troops down to 100,000 and that comes as some good news to the people of Minnesota who have had troops over there for extended tours -- National Guard and Reserve troops. Is there anything more definitive you can tell the families here about the tours of duty that these individuals will continue to serve and when they might be coming home?

Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, I can say something definitively, and that's that the young men and women in the armed forces are doing an absolutely superb job for our country. We're so fortunate to have each one. They're volunteers. They step forward and say they want to do this, to participate, and we're enormously grateful to them.

Second, the forces that are there now, I've been told that they will serve up to one year in-country in Iraq, and so they have a good sense that, at or before one year, they will be coming back to the United States.

For the most part, the forces there now will be rotating back into the country in February and March and April and May, in that period. We will then be replacing those forces with rotational forces that will be of a size that will fit the security situation. And, of course, we won't know what that security situation's going to be for sure until we're there. So, I wouldn't want to predict an exact number of U.S. forces that would be going back in.

Q: General Abizaid today spoke directly to some of the individuals who may or may not be responsible for some of the guerrilla attacks, saying they were going to come down fairly hard and followed suit pretty quickly with some attacks.

Have you used and do you intend to use General Abizaid, fluent in Arabic, to speak directly to the people of Iraq via television and explaining not only the purpose that the United States troops are there, but that the quicker that it is all pulled together, the quicker we would leave?

Rumsfeld: I'm sure General Abizaid has spoken to the people of Iraq already. We have Iraqis who are involved in the Governing Council, the Ministries, who speak to the Iraqi people. And, of course, Ambassador Bremer, from time to time, speaks to the Iraqi people as well.

Q: There is some calculus, as I understand it, in the decision-making that the Pentagon, you and the President have come up with in deciding what the benchmarks will be for the attainment of objectives and goals for the liberation of Iraq or the democratization of Iraq. Is there a negative threshold, Mr. Secretary, that, at some point, you would look at and say it is costing too much? Is there also that side of the equation when you look at the opportunity and also the difficulty in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: No. It seems to me that we're making progress. It's difficult, dangerous business and there's no question but that wonderful young men and women are being killed and wounded in that country, but they understand the mission, they're all volunteers, they believe in the mission.

I go out to the hospitals here at Walter Reed and Bethesda and visit with the wounded, and there's no question but that they're proud of what they're doing. They believe it's the right thing to do, and we're so fortunate to have them.

The strategy here is to be successful, and I believe we will be successful. The Iraqi people have to assume responsibility for the sovereignty of their country. They'll have to assume responsibility for the security of their country. We're helping them get along that path so that they'll be able to do just that.

It seems to me that the fact that we've been able to accomplish so many benchmarks in record time, in terms of a new currency, a Cabinet of Ministers, the Governing Council, the Central Bank has been established, the schools are open, the hospitals are open. In three-quarters to four-fifths of the country it's a very peaceful, calm place. Ninety-five percent of all of the attacks are taking place in Baghdad and the area up north to Tikrit, and clearly that's a dangerous part of the country. But it is not the entire country.

Q: You've said, the President has said, and it's been said often, this is going to be a tough campaign; in no uncertain terms, a long hard slog. At the same time, some terrorist organizations, including Osama bin Laden and the leadership of al Qaeda, have said that the American people don't have the staying power. They don't have the stomach for a long protracted war if you kill American soldiers in a piecemeal basis.

Do you have an observation about whether the American people have the stomach for a long, drawn out conflict?

Rumsfeld: I think the American people understand that the terrorists are the ones that killed 3,000 innocent men, women and children on September 11th. They understand that it cost the United States, besides the 3,000 fine people who were killed, it cost hundreds of billions of dollars. And you simply, there's no choice but to take the battle to the terrorists where they are. It's an awful lot better to be fighting them in Iraq than to think we can just hide and pretend they're going to go away and hunker down here in the United States and hope they won't hit us again, when we know exactly the fact that they will try to hit us again.

So our task is to go out and break up those terrorist networks.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'm told we've run out of time. Thank you very much for yours.

Rumsfeld: Thank you so much.

(Interview with Mike Landess, KMGH-TV, Denver.)

Q: Since we set up this interview last week, I've been asking colleagues and neighbors and perfect strangers what they would ask the Secretary of Defense if they could. Let me share a couple of them with you and ask you to respond if you would.

One question that was asked probably the most is, is there more we can do to stop the almost daily attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq? They specifically mentioned the bombing in the Fallujah area.

Rumsfeld: And, of course, the answer is yes. There are things we can do and our forces on the ground are doing them. They're adjusting their techniques and their procedures to fit the security situation as it evolves.

The terrorists go to school on us, and when we do certain things, they watch and then they make a judgment how they can be more effective. We do the same thing on them. We go to school on what they're doing.

As a result, for example, I looked at a weekly summary the other day and we had captured or killed some 200 people and, in addition, taken in literally tons of weapons that had been captured. Out of some, I think they said they discovered some 75 improved explosive devices out of what they believe to have been something like 118, the remainder of which were exploded, but 75 weren't. So we just have to keep improving those odds, and our forces are getting better and better at what they're doing, even as the terrorists are changing their tactics.

Q: But you imagine they will see more bombing?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm sure. That's what terrorists do. They go around trying to kill innocent men, women and children. They've killed something like 86 Iraqi security forces. They've killed hundreds of Iraqi citizens -- police academy bombings. They've also of course attacked the UN and various other non-profit organizations, humanitarian organizations that are working in the country. So, I think one has to expect that they will try to continue it. What we have to do is to see that we keep increasing the security forces of the Iraqi people. We're now up to 118,000 of them, and they're going to have more forces there than we will in a few months.

Of course, having more Iraqis out on the street providing security for the country is an important thing because they have situational awareness, they know the language, and they're also offering excellent intelligence as to how we can find more terrorists and deal with them.

Q: What about more bombing from the American forces such as we saw in Fallujah? Would you see more of that?

Rumsfeld: Any time we can find a target, you bet.

Q: All right sir.

With more and more mothers and father serving in the military at the same time, are you satisfied that everything that can be done is being done to accommodate special needs? And let me tell you where I'm going with this.

Simone Holcomb is a specialist in the Army, and her husband are both serving. They're out of Fort Carson here in Colorado. They have seven kids. She comes back to Colorado after a family illness that leaves her kids with no one to care for them. The Army says now that she has to go back, in fact she's facing a court martial. There's a judge in El Paso County saying he's going to take her kids away if she does. Her husband is supposed to come back in a month but he can't come back before then.

When the stories like that play in this market and in this state, people scratch their heads and say, "That ain't right."

Rumsfeld: First of all, a story gets played and I can't, I would be making a terrible mistake if I, by anything in my answer, indicated that that story is necessarily true. I don't know that it's true.

I do know that the Army has procedures whereby families are advised and worked with so that they have arrangements for situations like that. I also know the Army is humane and they're interested in their forces and they certainly want to do what's right.

So my guess is that the Army is working with that family to try to find a reasonable solution to it.

Q: Is that something that on your end someone could take a look into? I'm sure this family would be thrilled to find out that someone has checked this out.

Rumsfeld: I'm sure that it's been widely publicized and certainly it's a very difficult situation. My guess is that the Army is already working on it with that family, but I would just have to find that out.

Q: I'm putting you on the spot and I hope you'll forgive me for that.

Rumsfeld: No, not at all.

Q: Let me go on to another -- All right.

What can we do now that some of our allies seem to be content to sit back and watch us try to carry the ball as we're going through Iraq -- and Afghanistan, too, for that matter - but Iraq specifically. How difficult is that for you and your department to try to continue to see some successes?

Rumsfeld: Well, if you think about it, President Bush has put together one of the largest coalitions in the history of mankind. There are 90 countries in the global war on terrorism.

Second, we now have 32 or 33 countries with forces in Iraq and other countries, another 14, that we're currently talking to about putting forces in. There are still additional countries that are assisting with humanitarian assistance and with financial assistance. So, there's a very large, broad coalition that's working on Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, plus the larger coalition for the global war on terror.

There are a lot of people running around saying, "Why does the United States go it alone?" But we're not going it alone. We haven't gone alone from the beginning of it.

Second, you asked me how we feel about it. We'd love to have every country in the world helping because it would be able to get the job done faster and better. But I'm 71 years old. I've seen a lot of conflicts and I've never seen a conflict where everybody agreed. They simply don't. There are always going to be countries with different views, and sovereign countries can make sovereign decisions. That's their right and history will judge them for how well they did, just as they judge all of us for how well we did.

Q: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Thank you very much.

Rumsfeld: Thank you. Appreciate it.

(Interview with Walter Jacobson, WFLD-TV, Chicago.)

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yes, sir.

Q: Thirty-eight Americans already this month; 33 last month in Iraq, American casualties. Is there any way to stop it?

Rumsfeld: Well there is, and our folks are doing a wonderful job out there. The young men and women in uniform are really serving our country brilliantly, and we're grateful to them.

The leadership, the military leadership is adjusting their tactics and procedures and techniques to fit the evolving security situation on the ground.

As you know, a terrorist can attack any time, any place, and it's not possible to defend every time and every place, so I'm afraid the reality is that there will continue to be attacks.

On the other hand, progress is being made. Something like 95 percent of those attacks are all occurring in a relatively small area in Baghdad and north up to Tikrit. The bulk of the country's relatively peaceful.

Q: If you know where they are and you know what they're doing, why is it so difficult to put an end to it? Particularly since your general theory has been preventive warfare is a positive thing. Have you considered going in with guns ablaze and stopping it that way?

Rumsfeld: Well, you have to have actionable intelligence to do that, Walter. You know, if you think about it, think of Chicago. Crime doesn't stop just because we know crime's going to occur and crime's there. People are going to do things and it's not possible to go down to a zero level. And the idea of guns blazing&the overwhelming proportion of the Iraqi people are peaceful and friendly and warm and responsive to the coalition.

Q: When will our troops, do you think, begin to come home? And I don't mean the reduction that you're planning now from 130 to 105 - I mean all of them.

Rumsfeld: We're not planning a reduction from 130 to 105, Walter, just for clarity. When the major conflict ended in May, May 1st, we were at about 150,000 forces. We're today about 128,000. Looking into next year, there's speculation that if the security situation permits it, we might be able to move down in that neighborhood of 100, 105,000.

What's really happening, however, is the total number of security forces are going up every day. We now have 118,000 Iraqi security forces that are working with the coalition forces so that the total number of security forces has gone up considerably. We think that with the Iraqis, going out on joint patrols, we've found that they provide better intelligence and it may very well be that that will improve our ability to track down the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime and the foreign terrorists.

Q: Are you becoming impatient with the members of Congress, both parties, who seem to be becoming impatient with both you and the President?

Rumsfeld: Well no, I'm not impatient. You know, we have a Constitution and the Congress is Article 1 of the Constitution. They have an obligation to represent their people and say and vote in the way they believe is in the best interest of the country. They don't agree with each other. There are 535 of them, and on any given day you'll not find unanimity up there, so why would one expect there would be unanimity with respect to decisions that are made in the executive branch?

Q: I guess you wouldn't expect it. You also wouldn't expect leading Republicans to be as harshly critical as they are becoming increasingly of the administration.

Rumsfeld: I don't know that that's the case. You say increasingly critical. It seems to me that overwhelmingly the majority of the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, are supportive of the President and they just, as a matter of fact, passed an $87 billion emergency appropriation bill by substantial margins, which was to enable the President to proceed with his efforts in Iraq and to try to get that country back on a path of taking over its own responsibility for its security and its sovereignty.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you seem, if I may say, unfazed by the criticism. The national polls over the weekend were showing 51 percent now disapprove the way the war is being conducted versus only 47 that approve. That says that the population is beginning to feel more doubt about the way the problem's being handled. Would you agree with that?

Rumsfeld: I think that first of all, polls go up and down from day to day and week to week and I think once you start trying to change your policy every time you see a poll change, why, you wouldn't have much of an Administration or a country.

The fact is, we just had a bad week. We had a tragic day or two with one helicopter being shot down and a number of people killed. And, obviously, if you take a poll off something like that, people are going to be concerned. But I think the American people have a pretty good center of gravity and they're not likely to blow with the winds even though the polls flop around from time to time.

Q: Briefly, Mr. Secretary, the crisis in Saudi Arabia. Are you finding that the terrorists, the al Qaeda forces, are more threatening to this country than the insurgents in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: I think that terrorism can strike anywhere in the world. We've seen it in the Philippines, we've seen it in Bali, we've seen it in Saudi Arabia, we've seen it in Iraq and Afghanistan, we've seen it in New York City and Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Terrorists are being trained to go out and kill innocent men, women and children, and we really have a choice. We can fight the terrorists here in the United States or we can take the battle to those terrorist networks and attempt to break up the networks and to take care of the countries that are providing havens for terrorists.

I think that the President's policy is the right policy. I think we'll find that we'll be successful in that policy. And I think we're just darn fortunate. Tomorrow's Veterans Day and I think of all the veterans over the years who fought in wars that were unpopular and wars that people were concerned about and who gave their lives and their loved ones, and I think we're a wonderfully fortunate country that we have people who are willing to volunteer and step forward and serve their country and help protect our freedom.

Q: One more thing. What are you thinking about the Supreme Court decision to listen to cases brought by the Guantanamo prisoners about being held in captivity?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm not a lawyer. My guess is there are some new issues that are evolving when you go from a more conventional conflict to a global war on terror. It's understandable that there would be some legal issues that need to be considered and weighed and looked at by our court system, and I think that's all part of the Constitution. And I'll be interested to see what they decide. I'm comfortable that what's been decided has been correct, and we'll see if the Court validates that. Thus far, they've been very supportive.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

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