CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Aired April 9, 2003 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Good afternoon.
This is a good day for the Iraqi people. There is no question but that there are difficult and very dangerous days ahead and that the fighting will continue for some period. But certainly anyone seeing the faces of the liberated Iraqis, the free Iraqis, has to say that this is a very good day.
Tomorrow will mark three weeks since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, and the progress of the men and women in uniform who make up the coalition forces has been nothing short of spectacular. They drove through the south up, braving dust storms and death squads to reach Baghdad in record time. They secured Iraq's southern oil fields for the Iraqi people, took out terrorist camps in the north and the south, secured large sections of western Iraq, preventing the regime from attacking its neighbors with Scud missiles. They've liberated cities and towns and are now in the Iraqi capital removing the regime from its seat of power and center of gravity.
As Iraqis see the coalition progress, they are losing their fear of this vicious regime. And I think it's safe to say that the mood in the country is in fact tipping, at least in Baghdad. The scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks, tearing down the statues of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad are breathtaking. Watching them, one cannot help but think of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain.
We are seeing history unfold, events that will shape the course of a country, the fate of a people and potentially the future of the region. Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed brutal dictators, and the Iraqi people are well on their way to freedom.
The general who led our war of liberation, George Washington, once said, "My anxious recollection, my sympathetic feeling and my best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever in any country I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom," unquote.
As we watch Iraqis unfurl the banners of freedom today, all Americans share in their joy and celebrate with them, particularly those from Michigan that we've seen on television who are seeing their country, their friends and often their relatives liberated.
Let me say a word to the families of those who have given their lives in this war. As you watch these historic scenes unfold, take enormous pride in the service of your loved ones. They made this possible. Their sacrifice is permitting the liberation of a people and the end of a regime that, thanks to them, will never again threaten the world with its weapons.
And to those Iraqi people who are not yet free, let me assure you that you will be free. I've seen President Bush almost every day since this conflict began, and I can assure you that he is, like the American people, committed to your freedom and to your future and to seeing this effort through. We will not stop until Saddam Hussein's regime has been removed from every corner of that country.
The Iraqi people are understandably elated at the prospect of life without Saddam Hussein. We said from the beginning that he was finished. Now they are daring to believe it. But there is still a great deal of work to do and many unfinished missions to complete before victory can be declared.
Baghdad is in the process of being liberated, although battles continue in and around the city. And the regime has been run out of a number of Iraqi cities and towns, but other Iraqi cities are still being contested and there will still be tough fighting and difficult tasks ahead.
We still must capture, account for or otherwise deal with Saddam Hussein and his sons and the senior Iraqi leadership.
We still must find and ensure the safe return of prisoners of war, those captured in this war, as well as any still held from the last Gulf War, Americans and other nationals.
We still must secure the northern oil fields, which have probably been wired for destruction, as was the case with the southern fields.
We still need to find and secure Iraq's weapons of mass destruction facilities and secure Iraq's borders so we can prevent the flow of weapons of mass destruction materials and senior regime officials out of the country.
We still must find out everything we can about how the Iraqi regime acquired its capabilities and the proliferation that took place by countries in the industrialized world. We need to locate Iraqi scientists with knowledge of these programs.
And we're asking people to come forward and help in this effort. Rewards are available to those who help us prevent the disappearance of personnel, documentation and materials.
Good lives and a better future are possible for those who turn themselves in and choose to cooperate with coalition forces.
We must also capture or kill the terrorists still operating in Iraq and prevent them from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction.
We must locate Baath Party members, records and weapon caches. We must locate the records of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, the Special Security Organization, the Fedayeen Saddam death squads and the Special Republican Guards. We must locate the wealth of the Iraqi regime inside of Iraq and outside of the country so it can be returned to the rightful owners, the Iraqi people.
And we must begin the process of working with free Iraqis, those liberated from portions of the country and those returning home from exile, to establish an Iraqi interim authority and help to pave the way for a new Iraqi government, a government to be chosen not by the coalition, not by the United States, but by the Iraqi people, based on democratic principles of political freedom, individual liberty and the rule of law.
Much work remains, but this we can say with certainty: The tide is turning, the regime has been dealt a serious blow, but coalition forces will not stop until they have finished the job, the regime is removed and all of the Iraqi people are liberated.
And finally to the Iraqi people let me say this: There are a lot of reporters embedded with coalition forces in your country. The reporters should be interested and willing to listen. This is your opportunity to tell them your stories so that history properly records the viciousness, the brutality of that regime and so that history is not repeated.
To the free reporters and journalists in Iraq: This is your opportunity to listen and report. It is an historic opportunity for journalists.
This is also true for Iraqis here in America, who can now speak freely to the press, without concern about their families and friends still in Iraq.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
The chart shows that, in fact, we have made great strides in the last three weeks and it also shows that, while Iraqis are beginning to celebrate in parts of Baghdad and several other areas, there are portions of Iraq still in the grip of fear. Out west small numbers of regime death squads still exist and are harassing travelers and citizens. The coalition may also have to remove regime forces from cities and areas in northern Iraq and to eliminate small pockets of resistance in other areas, and we are currently doing just that.
U.S. special forces have seized a small town north of Mosul and key positions south of Irbil, destroying tanks and trucks and taking several hundred enemy prisoners of war.
More must be done in Baghdad as well. Fighting inside the capital presents a substantial risk to coalition forces and we cannot and must not become overconfident.
Now, I would like to send specific messages to two very different groups. First in Iraq: To those who may be holding any coalition prisoners of war, permit the International Red Cross to visit them. The Geneva Convention requires you to ensure their health and well- being. When the hostilities end, we fully expect to find these young men and women in good health and well cared for.
Now to another group in Afghanistan: To the families of the Afghan citizens accidentally killed in a bombing in Afghanistan yesterday, we send our sincere condolences. The incident occurred after U.S. troops pursued enemy forces in the vicinity of Skin (ph). Close air support was called in and guided munitions accidentally landed on a house, killing 11 Afghan civilians. We sincerely regret the incident.
And with that we'll take your questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the momentous pictures and what's going on in Baghdad and parts of Iraq now. You also mentioned the need to set up an interim authority. It seems as if, as the shooting wanes in coming days, that the humanitarian need will grow drastically. When do you plan to send General Garner and his civil affairs team in from Kuwait to begin doing this?
RUMSFELD: I can't see why the humanitarian would grow drastically; quite the contrary. The humanitarian problem under the Saddam Hussein regime for a decade. The circumstance of those people have been terrible. They have been denied all kinds of things because he was unwilling to cooperate with the United Nations.
Now, what's happening now is that humanitarian assistance is coming in. That doesn't mean that the situation's worse, that means that it's better and it is better.
Let me just give you an example. I tell you what's going to happen is the more people who go into that country and see how serious the situation is, the needs of those people and their real needs, they're going to report there's a humanitarian crisis, the implication that it just occurred. It didn't just occur. When they say some city's been -- one-third of the city doesn't have sufficient water compare that with six months ago when maybe half of the city didn't have sufficient water.
Well, here's just one, in Umm Qasr. It's generally a permissive environment, flourishing somewhat due to an increase of aid and border activity. The population has increased from 15,000 to 40,000 due to the availability of supplies and employment.
Water supply is above pre-war levels, a combination of U.K. pipeline and trucking. Electricity has been restored by U.K. engineers, sufficient food is readily available, medical facilities are sufficient and operating, UNICEF is providing supplies. The port's cleared of mines and open to limited operations, the channel needs dredging. Railway station is cleared by explosive ordnance detachment, rail line is intact from there to Nasiriyah, and they intend to open a line within seven days which will allow movement of bulk water up the Euphrates Valley. So, I mean, there's just one city. I could say the same thing on Basra or Nasiriyah. So the assumption in you question is false.
QUESTION: I didn't mean to assume that. Nonetheless you have said yourself that government service is going to be needed to be set up now that there's a vacuum.
What I meant to ask is, when is General Garner and his team going to begin to go in to begin setting up these government services?
RUMSFELD: General Garner and his team were working here for weeks, they then went to the, I guess Kuwait, and have been there for some weeks. I can remember seeing them off right here in the parking lot on a Sunday morning early. They have out together teams of people to help deal with this problem.
The choice is do you move them once and then have to move them again to the Baghdad Airport area, or do you just wait a day or two and see if, in fact, the Baghdad area is sufficiently secure that they could move in there?
And the answer is, they're going to move to the Baghdad area at that point where the Baghdad Airport is, in fact, sufficiently secure to take a number of civilians who are not in a combat situation, and so that they can continue -- not begin, but continue the process of attempting to move toward a more normal circumstance as the war and the kinetics decline.
There's a lot more fighting that's going to be done. There are more people are going to be killed, let there be no doubt. This is not over, despite all the celebrations on the street. They're going to go in at exactly the right moment and do a very good job.
MYERS: Just to, kind of, emphasize what the secretary just said, it really doesn't matter where General Garner's group is, because they are, in fact, acting now.
The restoration of water supplies in several southern towns, the restoration of electrical power grids -- he's the one that is overseeing that work, and it doesn't matter if he's in Baghdad or if he's in Kuwait, or wherever he is, he's the one charged with those responsibilities. And so just to emphasize what the secretary said, that's being done. So his location is -- shouldn't be of great interest.
QUESTION: The main reason I asked was General Blunt said today that he expected ...
RUMSFELD: Who's he?
QUESTION: The head of the 3rd Infantry Division.
RUMSFELD: That General Blunt.
(LAUGHTER) QUESTION: He said in Baghdad today that he expected the humanitarian aid flights would begin flying into Baghdad, as he put it, within days.
RUMSFELD: Planes are already landing in the Baghdad Airport. They're already going in.
No, the planes are already going in to Baghdad Airport. That isn't the question, the question is do you want to take a large cell of people and put them in there and then provide force protection, in addition to all the other things that are taking place in that particular...
MYERS: Under (UNINTELLIGIBLE) conditions, when you could have them working effectively from where they are.
RUMSFELD: So he's exactly correct.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when peace finally comes to Iran, or at least there is some stability...
RUMSFELD: Iraq, maybe?
QUESTION: To Iraq, but I'm thinking ahead of myself; my tongue is faster than my brain. Let me start again. When peace finally comes to Iraq, at least stability, what's next in the Middle East?
You have thrown down the gauntlet to Syria. Are they in the sights for military action? What about Iran, which to many is the 800-pound gorilla in the Middle East? What's next for us in the Middle East?
RUMSFELD: No one's thrown down the gauntlet. I've accurately observed that they would be well-advised to not provide military capabilities to Iraq. They seem to have made a conscious decision to ignore that.
Senior regime people are moving out of Iraq into Syria, and Syria is continuing to send things into Iraq. We find it notably unhelpful.
The question you ask, however, is not a question I can answer. It depends on people's behaviors, and certainly I have nothing to announce. We're still dealing with Iraq.
QUESTION: You said in the list still left to do that the U.S. military must still capture or otherwise deal with Saddam Hussein and his sons. Do you believe that Saddam Hussein is still alive?
RUMSFELD: Don't know.
QUESTION: Do you believe that he was in that building right before it was taken out?
RUMSFELD: Don't know.
(CROSSTALK) RUMSFELD: That's two.
QUESTION: No, hold on.
RUMSFELD: No, that's not. No hold on.
QUESTION: There's wasn't an answer there.
RUMSFELD: No. Yes, there was. You just don't like one-word answers.
QUESTION: I wondered if I could ask General Myers if you would describe what sort of Iraqi forces are left to contend with in the north. Are they Republican Guards? Are they regular army? Do you have an idea of how many?
And, Mr. Secretary, in light of the criticisms of the supply line and the pause that was reported a week or two ago, are you feeling vindicated today?
MYERS: As far as the forces left to deal with, in Baghdad city itself still the Special Security Organization, Special Republican Guard, the death squads who are probably there and, of course, in other major cities and probably even some of the smaller cities, Baathist party members who use force and fear and intimidation to coerce the population.
In terms of regular army, there are about 10-plus regular army divisions left in the north and perhaps as much as one brigade of a Republican Guard's division up there -- an infantry division that we think is still left in the north.
Now, they have been subjected to bombing by air power and will continue to be dealt with in that way for some time.
RUMSFELD: You're right, there have been a lot of people who've suggested that the force was undersized and that they went too fast and they should have had a long air war first.
I happen to think that it's not a matter for me to be vindicated. I happen to think that General Franks and his team have done an absolutely superb job and the young folks in uniform who have marched to Baghdad and done such superb work in the air and at sea and the leadership they've had with General McKernan (ph) and Admiral Keating (ph) and General Mosely (ph), working with General Franks, has been excellent.
I think the outcome is in the process of speaking for itself, and it's not for me to draw conclusions about it.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to direct this to General Myers.
You particularly addressed your comments to the POW families. Undoubtedly, the families of those POWs are looking at the pictures of jubilation with some mixed feeling. What else can the U.S. military do to help rescue those POWs or to do more than just warn the Iraqi regime, the remnants of it, against doing anything to harm these people?
MYERS: Well, the reason for my remarks and the way I phrased them today was to not let the Iraqi regime off the hook for doing what is the right thing to do, not only by international conventions that they've signed up to, but what any decent folks would do, the honorable thing to do.
Clearly, the U.S. military is very concerned about the whereabouts of these people, and I'm not going to get into any more operational details than that.
QUESTION: But you could assure them that the military is taking some sort of step to rescue them.
MYERS: It's always -- sure. It's always -- one of the first priorities is to rescue our people and bring our people back. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you had used the term tipping point, you said the tide is turning. You've said that you are not going to announce victory prematurely, but it almost sounds as if you're announcing the defeat, with Tikrit still ahead, of the Iraqi army.
RUMSFELD: No. I don't mean to be. I think that it's important to recognize how exhilarated the Iraqi people who have been liberated must feel. And when one looks at their faces and sees their joy, you have to feel it in your heart.
The entire country is not free. There are a number of cities that are still hotly contested and will be for some time. There are some cities that are now under coalition control. There are also some that are partly under coalition control. So there's a lot of work left to do.
And I do believe that we're seeing, in the case of Baghdad, it is tipping. I mean, I think that that's a fair comment. It doesn't mean that it's over and it most assuredly is not over, which is why I tried to properly balance my comment the way I did, saying that there's going to be very tough days ahead.
QUESTION: Is this a matter of weeks or months? And to what extent is Tikrit...
RUMSFELD: You know I don't do timetables. We don't have to. You can't know that, it's not knowable. We didn't know how long it was going to last when it started. QUESTION: How about Tikrit?
RUMSFELD: A lot of experts thought they knew how long it was going to last, but we didn't.
QUESTION: A couple questions. Could you give us a little bit more detail about what you're seeing the regime leaders going into Syria: how many, and over what time period, and if you know any names? Can you also tell us a little bit more about the rewards that you mentioned for the Iraqi people that help the American soldiers?
And, General Myers, can you tell us what happened to the hundreds or thousands of regime royalists that seemed to disappeared overnight from Baghdad? Did you track them on the roads, or did they melt into the city itself?
RUMSFELD: We are getting scraps of intelligence saying that Syria has been cooperative in facilitating the movement of people out of Iraq into Syria, and then in some cases they stayed there and finding safekeeping there, in other cases they're moving from Syria to still other places. We also have seen, in a number of instances, people from Syria moving into Iraq unhelpfully, as well as, as I'd mentioned the other day, night vision goggles and that type of thing.
Rewards: There's several reward programs. I'm not supposed to mention one, the department that has one, but the -- there are at least two other departments besides the Department of Defense who have reward programs.
They're very important. Just to have the opportunity for people to improve their lives and get off a blacklist is important. And there are rewards, and carrots and sticks.
And we need help. We need people to come forward who know where we can find the people who have information on these records so that the Baath Party membership names can be known, and so that the Iraqi Intelligence Services people can be known, and so that the names and faces of the Fedayeen Saddam can be known, and so we can find documentation that they've been spreading around the countryside on their weapons of mass destruction program.
We need help. We need people to come forward and volunteer that information. And we're at a point now where they need not fear -- if they're in one of the liberated areas, they need not fear this regime, because this regime is not going to come back and occupy that country.
QUESTION: Speaking of weapons of mass destruction, how important...
RUMSFELD: I'm sorry, did you want to follow that?
MYERS: Pam (ph) asked what has happened to the folks that were defending -- the loyalists that were defending Baghdad. And I suspect that many were killed in the defense. I suspect some are still fighting in Baghdad. It's also possible that they have tried to leave or blend in if they've lost their enthusiasm for supporting this regime. And we're taking steps to deal with that, in terms of interdicting the roads out of Baghdad.
QUESTION: Speaking of weapons of mass destruction, how important is it, given the original rationale of the war of the disarming Saddam of those weapons, that we find significant caches of weapons of mass destruction?
And secondly, are you concerned at all that...
RUMSFELD: Why don't we start doing one question at a time? There's so many people here, and we're doing two and three -- everybody seems to want to do two.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that...
RUMSFELD: Let me get this one -- write this one down. How important is it that we find a lot, I think you said, of weapons...
QUESTION: Significant caches of weapons of mass destruction.
RUMSFELD: Significant. OK, what's the next one?
QUESTION: Are you concerned that those weapons might have been shipped out of the country and gotten into the hands of terrorists already?
RUMSFELD: You bet. On the latter portion, you bet we're concerned about it.
And one of the reasons it's important is because the nexus between terrorist states with weapons of mass destruction, in this case chemical and biological and nuclear technologies and knowledge, and terrorists groups, networks, is a critical link. And the thought that as part of this process, some of that -- those materials could leave the country in the hands of terrorist networks, would be a very unhappy prospect. So it is important to us to see that that doesn't happen.
QUESTION: What about the rationale for the war? Is it important in that sense that we find them?
RUMSFELD: Look, we are in the process of trying to liberate that country.
RUMSFELD: And at the moment where the war ends, and the coalition forces occupy the areas where those capabilities, chemical and biological weapons, are likely to be, to the extent they haven't been moved out of the country, it obviously is important to find them. But I don't quite get the thrust of the question.
QUESTION: Has the rather sudden collapse of defenses in Baghdad -- do you see any evidence yet that that's energizing the Kurdish, other forces in the north that could lead to an acceleration of the success in the north, as well?
RUMSFELD: We've not seen anything that indicates that yet.
Does it probably help? To the extent it's known -- and communications are imperfect in that country at the present time; purposely so -- but it probably does help some that the people in Baghdad saw that Basra had changed hands and that the people in the north see that Baghdad is in the process of changing hands. It probably helps some, but we haven't seen any evidence of it yet.
QUESTION: I just want to ask clarification on your WMD answer. Are you worried that WMD material or documentation has moved out of Iraq or do you actually have intelligence that leads you to believe it has moved? Is it a concern or has it happened?
RUMSFELD: No, it's a concern. It clearly would be unhelpful if terrorists got their hands on some of Iraq's chemical or biological capabilities.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, here's a single question that hopefully doesn't lend itself to a one-word answer. What about Saddam Hussein?
RUMSFELD: Exactly what is it about him that you're interested in?
QUESTION: Where is he? Do you know where he is? Are you trying to get him? Is he likely to get away?
RUMSFELD: There's no question but that it is hard to find a single person. It is hard to find them when they're alive and mobile. It's hard to find them when they're not well. And it's hard to find them if they're buried under rubble. We don't know.
And he's not been around. He's not active. Therefore, he's either dead, or he's incapacitated, or he's healthy and cowering in some tunnel someplace trying to avoid being caught.
What else can one say?
QUESTION: Will you get him?
RUMSFELD: Who knows? Who knows? Time will tell.
The important things that needed to happen, will happen. That the regime will change and the country will no longer have weapons of mass destruction. It will no longer threaten its neighbors. It will have an opportunity for the people of Iraq to participate in determining what kind of a government they want. And liberated people will be able to be free to say what they want and do what they want. They might even have a free press eventually there.
QUESTION: What's the state of the command and control with Baghdad collapsing and these forces in the north? Are they communicating? Are they able to conduct operations in the north or is that collapsing, too?
MYERS: I think the command and control, as we've talked about over the days, has been degrading. We don't see any organized resistance from the Republican Guard inside Baghdad. There is sporadic resistance. How well organized? It's hard to tell because it's sporadic.
In the north, the forces there have essentially not moved. I mean, elements of the Republican Guard divisions did move south. That was some time ago now. But the rest of them are pretty much in static positions, falling back a little bit from the green line, if you will, but no movement. Their communications are diminished.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as these powerful images of the last three weeks have been broadcast out to the world, is it your sense, especially in the Arab-speaking world, that they have become convinced of the rightness of the cause that you are fighting this war for? Or do you feel that this three-week campaign thus far has created many more people who want to come after Americans?
RUMSFELD: We have no evidence that the latter is happening. There's no question but that there are number of, particularly television stations, as well as print, in that part of the world that have carried a message that was false. They've carried a message that tried to lead people in that part of the world to believe that we were fighting Iraq and the Iraqi people as opposed to a vicious dictator, that we were anti-religion, which is totally untrue. But that's going to be counterbalanced with the faces of people who are free and the test is in the tasting.
The United States is not going to stay in that country and occupy it. We have plenty of other things that our people like to do with their lives. And we don't make it a practice of going out and seeking someone else's wealth or real estate.
So we'll do our job, we'll do it well and we'll leave. As that country is set on a path to guide its own future, we'll try to be helpful from a humanitarian standpoint, which we're already doing.
And, you know, in the last -- truth ultimately finds its way to people's ears and eyes and hearts. And I don't worry about that over the long term.
Does it make me sad to see television saying things that are flat not true, and people printing things in that part of the world that's flat not true, children being taught things that are flat not true? Yes, it bothers me.
But what can one do except to tell the truth, behave in a way that's consistent with our values? And this country and the coalition has done that in this case. And there is, I am certain, among the Iraqi people a respect for the care and the precision that went into that bombing campaign. It was not a long air campaign, it didn't last for weeks, and it was minimal collateral damage, unintended damage, and the preciseness of the targeting was respected such that people could go out on the streets of those towns during bombing raids, and unless they were connected to a military regime facility, unless they were -- except for those that -- if you think about it, that regime took a lot of care to put their weapons and their command and control in schools, mosques and hospitals, and they ought to be held accountable for it. And that's something the journalists embedded out there ought to be asking people, because it went on day after day after day.
MYERS: Can I just follow onto that? I mean, that's -- I think the thing that the folks ought to notice out in the region that it was the United States and our coalition partners willing to put our blood and treasure on the line for a couple of large Muslim populations, one on Afghanistan and now in Iraq.
Objectives in the places a little bit different initially, but the end objective never in doubt. And that is provide an environment for security and stability, a chance for self-governance, a better future for themselves and their families than they've ever had before.
And I hope that was noticed, because it was our blood and treasure that we put on the line to do this, and as the secretary said, with no desire to be there one moment longer than required to give them that kind of future.
RUMSFELD: One other thing: The reporters that have been embedded with the young men and women in uniform, ours and the Brits and others, have got to have seen wonderful young people conducting themselves professionally, in a well-trained and professional manner. And they'll come back and tell people that truth, and that's a good thing.
Thank you very much.
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