Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
The president made clear that he is determined to confront the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and that if he does not disarm, he will be disarmed by a coalition of willing countries. And I believe that if such a decision were to be made, it would prove to be a large coalition. We hope to see the United Nations act. The credibility of the U.N. is important to the world. But if the Security Council fails this test of resolve, a coalition will be ready to act nonetheless.
The question before the United Nations is clear: Is Saddam Hussein taking this final opportunity that was offered by Resolution 1441 to disarm or not? And the answer to the question, it strikes me, is increasingly obvious. He makes a show of destroying a handful of missiles; missiles which he claimed in his declaration did not violate U.N. restrictions, but now admits that they do violate U.N. restrictions. Yet even as he destroys those missiles, he's ordered the continued production of the very same types of missiles. He claims to have no chemical or biological weapons, yet we know he continues to hide biological and chemical weapons, moving them to different locations as often as every 12 to 24 hours, and placing them in residential neighborhoods.
He is an accomplished deceiver, or else why would so many in the world community continue to be deceived so long? If it becomes necessary to use military force, we know he will stop at nothing to deceive the world by spreading lies. We are taking extraordinary measures to prevent innocent casualties. Hussein, by contrast, will seek to maximize civilian deaths and create the false impression that coalition forces target innocent Iraqis, which of course is not the case.
Before any conflict begins, we should look back and recall his history of deception: What he said and what he did during the Gulf War conflict. During that war, the Iraqi regime went to great lengths to convince the world that coalition forces had targeted innocent civilians and Muslim holy sites.
For example, on February 13th, 1991, coalition forces fired precision guided bombs at the Amiriyah bunker in Baghdad. The bunker had originally been constructed as an air raid shelter during the Iran-Iraq war. But when -- the latter was converted into a military command and control center.
Unbeknownst to coalition forces, the Iraqi regime had told civilians that it was an air raid shelter, and admitted them to the top floors in the evening. Right beneath them was a military command and control center that was being used by senior Iraqi officials for military communications. We later learned that Saddam Hussein had decreed that all Iraqi military bunkers would also house civilians.
Another example. During the gulf war on February 11th, 1991 the Iraqi regime deliberately removed the dome of the al-Bushra mosque and dismantled it in an attempt to make it appear that coalition forces had deliberately struck a mosque. Which was not the case. Satellite photos later revealed that while the dome was gone, there was no damage to the minaret, the courtyard buildings, or the dome foundation, which would have been the case had coalition forces struck the building.
There are many other examples. But the point is this: he does not tell the truth, he lied during the Gulf war, and if there is to be another war, he will lie again. Indeed, he already is. The only question is whether he will be believed despite his record.
We know from recent intelligence that he has ordered uniforms that are virtually identical to those of U.S. and British forces for his Fedayeen Saddam troops, who would theoretically wear them while committing atrocities against innocent Iraqis. His regime may be planning to use weapons of mass destruction against its own citizens, and then blame coalition forces. When his regime begins claiming once again that coalition forces have targeted innocent Iraqi civilians, if that's to be the case, we need to keep his record in mind.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
We are continuing to flow troops into the Iraqi theater of operations. Our numbers now exceed 225,000 troops. If the President makes the decision to do so, they stand ready to disarm Iraq.
Our presence continues to support the diplomatic efforts of the President, and in order to keep the pressure on the Iraqi regime to disarm we have stepped up Southern Watch operations. We are now flying several hundred sorties a day, with 200 or 300 over the Southern no-fly zone. During these operations we responded twice yesterday to repeated firings on coalition aircraft.
Next, I'd like to show you a slide .
You'll see three little bursts down here -- I'll talk about the Easternmost two first.
FA-18s and F-16s dropped precision- guided weapons against the cable repeater sites as marked, the Easternmost ones on the map. These sites are part of the air defense communications network and system in Iraq. Concerning the Westernmost mark out there where it says H-3 Airfield, in an earlier response, F-15Es dropped munitions against a Flat Face air defense radar near that airfield in western Iraq, and we have a video of that.
So if you'd roll the video , please.
Looks like it might have started a little bit late, there. But we can rewind it. We'll roll it again.
Earlier this week --
Myers: I'm sorry?
Earlier this week, not today?
Were those secondary explosions, General?
Myers: No. And you would not expect them with that kind of target.
That's it. You can see the revetment that it was sitting in.
And finally, in Afghanistan, a four-man team -- three Afghans and one U.S. soldier -- were in a vehicle that struck a mine about 60 miles north of Asadabad. Early reports indicate the vehicle flipped over, killing one of the Afghan personnel; one Afghan was injured, and a third Afghan national, plus the U.S. soldier, were treated and then released.
And with that, well take your questions.
What day was that?
Myers: That was yesterday. It was just early this morning.
Mr. Secretary, you cited earlier saving civilian lives, and you also mentioned the uniform charge again. In this war of words with Iraq, ahead of what appears to be a looming war, you keep citing intelligence sources. For instance, Defense officials are saying today that the Iraqi regime is warning civilians in southern Iraq that they'll either have to kill U.S. paratroopers that land there or that their families will be killed after the war, and if they cooperate with U.S. forces, their families would be murdered.
Could you tell us, number one, the source of that, and how you get such intelligence information? How are these charges credible if you don't say how you're getting them?
Rumsfeld: I suppose it would be clearly not in our interest to describe the sources and methods of intelligence gathering. It would dry up intelligence. So we're not going to do it. Whether or not you consider them credible is your choice. In the event ground truth is gleaned at some point in the future, you'll find they were accurate.
Is in fact the regime threatening Iraqis in the south and warning them not --
Rumsfeld: The regime is one of the most repressive regimes on the face of the earth. They threaten all of their people every day. That's how they live in that country, under threat of the government.
Are they directly telling civilians in the south to kill U.S. troops when they land, or face possible death themselves?
Rumsfeld: I do not have in my possession a piece of intelligence that says that, but it may very well be true. And I have seen other similar things that involved different circumstances in different parts of the country that I did see the intelligence on. I just happen not have that.
Mr. Secretary, the Air Force --
Could you tell us about what you can tell us about the circumstances of the aborted U-2 missions today in Iraq; what the circumstances were and under what conditions you would recommend they would be resumed?
Rumsfeld: Well, we want them resumed because UNMOVIC wants them resumed, and Mr. Blix has asked us to do that. I don't really know precisely. We've asked that it be run down. We believe that we had clearance through the Department of State that deals with UNMOVIC. So DOD talks to State, State talks to UNMOVIC, UNMOVIC talks to the Iraqis. Where the breakdown occurred is not clear to me, but we don't believe it was between DOD and State. It may have been between State and UNMOVIC or UNMOVIC or the Iraqis, or it may have been us. I just don't happen to know. We're trying to sort it through.
In any event, the Iraqis asked UNMOVIC -- UNMOVIC asked us for the flights, for the U-2 flight. We supplied the aircraft and were ready, and at some moment the Iraqis asked the UNMOVIC to cancel them because there were two instead of one or something. If you go back to 1441, the Iraqis' requirement was to be cooperative what whatever it was that UNMOVIC wanted and to cooperate fully in disarming. And clearly, by advising UNMOVIC that they wanted those flights cancelled, it's not -- I wouldn't put that on the cooperation side of the ledger for Iraq.
Were they directly threatened in the air?
Mr. Secretary, the Air Force --
This morning, sir, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, among other things, said that the United States has not yet -- General Myers, you may know this as well, sir -- the United States has not yet acquired permission to over fly Turkey in the event of conflict with Iraq. This is a separate issue, of course, of basing troops, ground troops, in Turkey. My question -- my broader question is, what progress is the United States making to secure those rights? And he specifically said also the planes now at Incirlik, in the northern no- fly zone, could not be used in an offensive capacity should there be a war with Iraq.
My question is, what steps are being taken to secure those over flight permissions? And if indeed it's not granted, how does that complicate, if it does, any war with Iraq.
Rumsfeld: Well, first, my understanding of the situation is it's not in any way inconsistent with what you said the ambassador said. My recollection is that Turkey and all NATO countries, I believe, provided over flight rights for Operation Enduring Freedom, which is separate.
Rumsfeld: Second, needless to say, as you point out, we have Northern no-fly zone aircraft there that are performing that function. All of the requests for -- from Turkey -- of us, of Turkey, in -- whether it's ground or air or over flight, are all wrapped up in parliamentary approval, as I understand that.
If I may, sir, he explained to us that they are -- could be distinctive requests, in other words, that the legislation that was not approved last weekend on ground troops did not specifically or does not have to specifically include over flights. Is it possible to go for the over flights and not the ground troops?
Rumsfeld: The Department of State's working these things with the Turkish government, and General Myers and I talk to them, and other officials from the White House do. How -- what model will end up being appropriate for Turkey remains to be seen, and I don't know that trying to overanalyze every day's events makes an awful lot of sense. At least it doesn't serve any purpose we have.
Mr. Secretary, the Air Force --
Myers: Can I make one comment on that?
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Myers: The other part, on --
Myers: -- complications, the fact is that we will have a northern option, whether or not we -- Turkey fully supports all our requests. And I'm --
Mr. Secretary --
Myers: I'm not going to talk about the operational ways of doing it, but just be assured there will be a Northern option.
Mr. Secretary, a question for either you or General Myers or both, whichever you prefer. The Air Force is testing today the biggest bomb in the U.S. arsenal, a 21,000-pound behemoth which has 18,000 pounds of high explosives. And really two issues here -- one, collateral damage and how you're going to use it against bunkers or troops. And if you want to show the devastation of this weapon to the troops -- I understand the test is being videotaped -- would you like to do that, under Psychological Operations, PsyOps? And if so, how would you do that? (Scattered and very subdued laughter.)
Is that the Rumsfeld smile? I mean, Al-Jazeera -- (off mike).
Rumsfeld: We have weapon tests all the time.
But this is a monster.
Rumsfeld: This is not small. (Laughter.)
Sir, support for a possible war is shrinking rapidly in Great Britain. Would the -- two questions. Would the United States go to war without Great Britain? And two, would the role of the British in an initial assault be scaled back?
Rumsfeld: This is a matter that most of the senior officials in the government discuss with the U.K. on a daily or every- other-day basis. And I had a good visit with the Minister of Defense of the U.K. about an hour ago. Their situation is distinctive to their country, and they have a government that deals with a parliament in their way, distinctive way. And what will ultimately be decided is unclear as to their role; that is to say, their role in the event that a decision is made to use force. There's the second issue of their role in a post- Saddam Hussein reconstruction process or stabilization process, which would be a different matter. And I think until we know what the resolution is, we won't know the answer as to what their role will be and to the extent they're able to participate in the event the President decides to use force, that would obviously be welcomed. To the extent they're not, there are workarounds and they would not be involved, at least in that phase of it.
We would consider going to war without our closest ally, then?
Rumsfeld: That is an issue that the President will be addressing in the days ahead, one would assume.
Mr. Secretary, you haven't had an opportunity to address this, and neither has General Myers. I wonder what your reaction is to the reports of alleged sexual abuse at the Air Force Academy and the response to it so far?
Rumsfeld: The -- any time there are allegations of that kind, it is, needless to say, just enormously disappointing to anyone connected with the Department. I personally believe that Secretary Roche and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Jumper are dealing with it aggressively and are attentive to the issues and doing a good job. And one would hope that as they proceed, why, we'll be able to have Service Academies where charges like that are not made.
Do you have anything to add to that, General Myers?
Myers: Nothing to add from that. I think it's a service issue and I think the Air Force is handling it well.
I have a question on the Boeing tanker lease deal. You were briefed on that yesterday, and I'm wondering if you can tell us your thoughts about both the IDA analysis that the per unit cost was too high, as well as when you anticipate making a decision?
Rumsfeld: I did get briefed. And my conclusion from the briefing is that it is not surprising that it has taken so long for the folks working on this to work their way through it. It is complex and they don't agree. We had people of one mind and people of another mind, and then as you properly point out, the IDA has still a third approach. And General Myers and I both listened attentively, and I've asked for some more information. And it's something that I guess I'll decide when I decide. But I don't need to set arbitrary deadlines as to when that might be.
Mr. Secretary, how is the diplomatic wrangling at the U.N. delaying any decisions or preparations for the U.S. military to engage in any possible war with Iraq?
Rumsfeld: I mean, what it's doing to the President's decision process is something he'd have to answer. But from our standpoint, it's expected once the decision was made by the President to go to the United Nations -- first to the Congress and then the United Nations -- that that path was clear. And anyone knows that in that body it takes some time to have these discussions. And Secretary Powell and the President are both working the telephones and having meetings and looking at various aspects of resolutions as to how this might be sorted out in the days immediately ahead. But I wouldn't think that it would make an enormous difference to this Department in terms of what they're doing up there.
Because any possible delay would only be a short delay, or because the preparations for possible war continue apace?
Rumsfeld: Well, obviously, we're continuing to flow forces and support the diplomacy and demonstrate to the Iraqi people the seriousness of purpose that the president has -- and other countries, I mean, other countries are flowing forces as well, it's not just the United States.
Mr. Secretary, according to UNMOVIC, the Iraqis expressed surprise and concern about this second U-2 flight and said that they would consider it hostile and provocative and couldn't assure its safe passage. Do you see this as another material breach? And what's your perception of this?