NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
KELSO: Good morning Mr. Secretary, how are you today?
RUMSFELD: I'm fine.
KELSO: Sir, I have interviewed governors, senators, representatives, quite a few rock stars and even a Beatle once, but I don't believe that I've ever stood in cotton quite this tall, so let me thank you for the honor and the opportunity to interview you.
RUMSFELD: [Laughter] Well, thank you so much. That's very nice of you.
KELSO: Recently, sir, I was in Iraq back in April, and while we were there, we toured Fallujah and were able to see some of the reconstruction efforts going on over there. It's been since April since I was there, but I would be very interested to know how that effort is going today and what sort of progress has been made.
RUMSFELD: Well, they've been making progress across the country, but of course understandably it tends to go in fits and starts. What happens is, the government and the coalition forces are anxious to see the reconstruction take place, the services improve, whether it's sewage or water, electricity, hospitals, schools and the like. Simultaneously, you've got the insurgents who recognize, just as we do, that all three things need to proceed apace. The economic and reconstruction side, the political development, and the security. And that if one gets way out ahead of the other, it tends to lose.
So we've seen, for example, the insurgents attempting to delay the reconstruction efforts and going after some electrical activity or water systems to try to slow them down. Then they'll do the same thing with the Iraqi security forces. They'll try to delay that progress and they'll go after a police station or something. And the same thing they'll do on the political side. They'll go out and try to assassinate a provincial governor or a police chief in a way that frightens people.
So it's a give and take, and what we're going to have to do is to see that all three of those move forward between now and the end of the year when the Iraqi government elections take place under their new constitution, and more and more Iraqis recognize the fact that they do have a free country, a liberated country, and that if it's going to be successful they're going to have to pitch in and make it so.
KELSO: How is the training of our Iraqi friends coming?
RUMSFELD: Well, it's coming along very well. It's easy to cite numbers. The current level is about 169,000 Iraqi security forces have been recruited, trained, equipped and deployed. There are a number more in training. We expect to be up over 200,000 by the time of the constitution, the referendum on the constitution and the election that's coming up.
The problem areas are not the numbers. The problem is the soft things -- the strength of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior, how competent are those people, how well developed are their linkages to each other and to the intelligence community? What does the chain of command look like? How effective is it? Are there good non-commissioned officers? All of those kinds of things that are
less easy to develop metrics for. Those are the things that are going to have to develop for them to really be able to operate independently.
KELSO: Now while I was in Iraq we got to see firsthand some of the great projects that are going on over there. We heard about Hadifa Dam and the electrical grids and water supplies and entire city infrastructures being rebuilt or in some cases built from nothing. We rarely, if ever hear about this on the 6 o'clock news and I want to know if you're worried that this flood of bad news is having a negative effect on our mission in the Middle East.
RUMSFELD: You know, it's an interesting question. I assume that most people, your listeners, have heard of David McCulloch, the historian, who writes wonderful history, biographies and stories of historical things of importance.
The other day he was asked on Meet The Press, I believe, what he thought about what was going on and he said, "I have to say this, too. If that war, meaning the Revolutionary War, had been covered, particularly, this is the most important year in the most important conflict in history, and if it had been covered by the media and the country had seen how horrible the conditions were, in the Revolutionary War, how badly things were being run by the officers, and what a very serious soup we were in, I think that would have been it, as well."
Now his point being that there's a tendency to emphasize the negative and that's understandable. I suppose people think that's more newsworthy, but the reality is, solid progress is being made. They have had elections. They have developed a transitional government. They are working on a constitution. The winners in the election, the Shia, have not said to the Sunnis who didn't participate fully, that they're just out of it. Instead they've reached out to them. The Sunnis, instead of saying, well, we're not going to play, said we made a mistake by not getting involved in the elections and now they're leaning forward, so a lot of good things are happening despite the fact that it's a very tough business and it isn't going to be an easy, smooth road between here and December.
KELSO: I also understand, and this is one of the things you don't hear much about on the news, that recruitment in the Army is down, but reenlistments are up. Do you think this has anything to do with this flow of negativity coming from CNN and Michael Moore?
RUMSFELD: Well, it's possible. I'm not in a position to go in and disaggregate and identify all the things that may affect people's decision-making, but you're quite right. The Air Force and the Navy recruiting and retention are just fine. And in the Army, the retention is good and interestingly, the people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the retention is even higher than it is for the force in general. So clearly the people there recognize that they're doing noble work, that it's important, they know without being told in the press or the media what's going on because they're there, they see it. They're proud of it. Darn proud of it.
And I'll say this. They're going to look back in five or ten years and see a free Iraqi people, that's a country at peace with its neighbors, that's respectful of women and respectful of all the minorities in that country, and they're going to be darn proud of their service in the United States military.
KELSO: Sir, I couldn't agree with you more.
Now with any luck, moving on to a different subject here, I'm going to be able to go to Guantanamo Bay and see Camp Delta and that. I've read that Camp Delta is probably the most open prison around. Foreign leaders are able to see their people, the press, the House, the Senate, me, even Dick Durbin is allowed to go down and see for himself what's going on.
KELSO: In light of this openness, how do you personally handle comments like Nazi and Pol Pot and concentration camp?
RUMSFELD: Well, I think that fellow's going to have to live with those words for the rest of his life and I don't envy him.
The thing I would say is that you're quite right. A great many members of the House and Senate have been down there. I think something like 77 members of the House and the Senate, something well in excess of 100 staff members. There have been any number of foreign diplomats who have gone down to meet and interview the nationals from their countries. There have been hundreds of people from the press that have one down there, all kinds. It is a very transparent situation. Something like media, 400 visits by a thousand national and international journalists. The International Committee of the Red Cross has full access in there, any time of the day or night, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am really struck by the -- I was going to say the apparent lack of knowledge or the ignorance that people are reflecting in their comments about Guantanamo Bay.
It is a --- people can disagree legitimately with the idea that these are people who have not had Article 3 of our Constitution process, and they've not been processed through the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and for good reason. These are not prisoners of war in the normal sense that you just want to take them off the battlefield. These are terrorists. This is the 20th hijacker down there. These are suicide bombers, bodyguards for Osama bin Laden, people who have been providing important information that has enabled us to stop additional attacks. And it seems to me that if you've got trainers and financiers and bomb-makers and recruiters and facilitators, that the goal is to keep them off the battlefield so they don't go out and kill more innocent men, women and children in the United States, and that's what's being done.
Furthermore, a great deal of information is being gleaned from them through perfectly proper humane interrogation procedures.
KELSO: Hear, hear.
Sir, finally my last question. There are bumper stickers just about everywhere that say "I support our troops", "Support our troops." Besides voting and taking part in the freedoms these kids are risking their lives for, there are some other great ways to help show support for our soldiers, and I want to know if you can tell us about America Supports You and the AmericaSupportsYou.mil web site.
RUMSFELD: I'd be happy to. As a matter of fact I've got my AmericaSupportsYou.mil pin on which I try to wear every day. What this web site offers is anyone who goes onto it, AmericaSupportsYou.mil, it gives you examples of some of the hundreds of things that people are doing all around the world to support the troops, and how important it is to do that. It's been a wonderful success and I certainly appreciate your mentioning it because I think a lot of people feel well, what can I do? On that web site they're going to find dozens and dozens of things they can do individually or with their families or with their schools or their businesses, their organizations, and I certainly encourage folks to do that.
KELSO: Mr. Secretary, thank you very very much again for the honor and the opportunity to interview you. I have about 3,995 more questions, so maybe if you can find time I hope that you can come on with us again.
RUMSFELD: [Laughing]. Well, listen, I notice that your father had served in the military.
KELSO: Yes sir. He did.
RUMSFELD: That's a wonderful thing. Do express our appreciation to him.
KELSO: I can't wait to see him and tell him that the Secretary of Defense told him that.
RUMSFELD: Okay. Thanks so much. Good to visit with you.
KELSO: Sir, thank you very much. Have a pleasant afternoon.
RUMSFELD: Thank you.