Transcript: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's Speech on the Future of Iraq

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Monday, December 5, 2005; 2:39 PM

SPEAKER: DONALD H. RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

[*]

RUMSFELD: Thank you very much, Dean Einhorn.

I see here Ruth Wedgwood in the front row, a member of the Defense Policy Board. And a couple of friends here from 30 or 40 or even more years back.

Bill Coleman (ph) and Hal Sonnenfeld (ph), it's good to see you.

Colonel Hickey (ph), thank you for all you do -- as well as you gentlemen.

This is an impressive institution, with a well-deserved reputation as one of the important centers of strategic thought in America. And I'm certainly pleased to be with you. And I thank you for your invitation.

The school, of course, is named for one of the giants of the Cold War, Paul Nitze, who I knew and worked with over the years. Paul was a driving force here, as has been my friend Paul Wolfowitz, who led this school before returning to government in the Pentagon first, and now at the World Bank.

And I'm pleased to be here to discuss America's ongoing mission in Iraq and the importance of it succeeding.

The other day, I came across an interesting set of statistics that I'd like to mention. It seems that the Pew Research Center asked leaders in the United States their views of the prospects for a stable democracy in Iraq. Here are some of the results: 63 percent of the people in the news media thought the enterprise would fail, so did 71 percent of the people in the foreign affairs establishment, and 71 percent in the academic settings or think tanks.

Interestingly, opinion leaders from the U.S. military are more optimistic about Iraq by a margin of about 64 percent to 32 percent favorable. And so is the American public, by a margin of 56 percent to 37 percent.

And the Iraqi people are optimistic. I have seen this demonstrated repeatedly in public opinion polls, in the turnout at the elections, the referendum on the constitution, and the number of tips that the Iraqi people are providing to the Iraqi security forces and to the coalition forces; they've grown from 483 a month to 4,700 tips per month.

This prompts the question, "Which view of Iraq is more accurate, the pessimistic view of the so-called elites in our country or the more optimistic view expressed by millions of Iraqis and by some 155,000 U.S. troops on the ground?"

But most important is the question, "Why should Iraq's success or failure matter to the American people?"

I'd like to address these questions today, before responding to your questions, which I look forward to.

First should we be optimistic or pessimistic about Iraq's future? The answer may depend on one's perspective to a certain extent. Indeed, one of the reasons that views of Iraq are so divergent is that we may be looking at Iraq through different prisms of experience or expectation.

For starters, it must be jarring for reporters to leave the United States, arrive in a country that is so different, where they have to worry about their personal safety, and then being rushed to a scene of a bomb, car bomb or a shooting and have little opportunity to see the rest of the country.

By contrast, the Iraqi people see things probably somewhat differently. They can compare Iraq as it is today to what it was three years ago: a brutal dictatorship, where the secret police would murder or mutilate a family member, sometimes in front of their children, and where hundreds of thousands of Iraqis disappeared into mass graves.

From that perspective, Iraq today is on a vastly different and a greatly improved path.

RUMSFELD: A distinguished academician -- I don't have the exact quote, so I won't name him -- said something to the effect that the situation in Iraq is terrible and it's never been better.

If one is viewing events through a soda straw, they should know that they are, by definition, selectively focusing on some facts that may highlight their view, and not seeing some other perspectives. A full picture of Iraq comes best from an understanding of both the good and the bad and the context for each.

Among the continuing difficulties, to be sure, are bursts of violence, including continued assassination attempts, attempts to intimidate Iraqi leaders and those who support the legitimate Iraqi government, hostage-taking, continued U.S., coalition and Iraqi casualties.

Iran and Syria continue to be unhelpful; we know that.

Calls for coalition withdrawal from some quarters that encourage those who are opposing the legitimate Iraqi government and aid their fund-raising and their recruiting.

However there are also some positive developments to be seen if we look for them. The political process is on schedule. Iraqis now have a constitution that they wrote, that they voted for and that they now are proceeding toward elections under that constitution in less than two weeks -- a week and a half -- December 15th.

There are hundreds of candidates who are politicking in those elections.

There seems to be growing divisions among the enemies of the Iraqi people, particularly after the bombing of a wedding reception in Amman, Jordan where now even Zarqawi's family is demonstrating against him.

Iraq's neighbors now seem to believe that this new democracy might in fact succeed, which they doubted, I think, for some period. And they seem to be moving to get right with the Iraqi people and the prospective Iraqi government. And they're more active in their support, which is a good thing.

A vital and engaged media is emerging, with some 100 newspapers in Iraq now, 72 radio stations, 44 television stations -- an incredible number of cell phones, which is entirely new thing in that country.

RUMSFELD: And the Sunnis are increasingly taking part in the political process and further isolating those who still oppose the government of Iraq.

The stock market is alive and well in Iraq.

To be responsible, it seems to me, one needs to stop defining success in Iraq as the absence of terrorist attacks. As Senator Joe Lieberman recently suggested, a better measure of success might be that a vast majority of Iraqis, tens of millions, are on the side of the democratic government while a comparatively small number are opposed to that government. I would suggest that this gives the Iraqi people an enormous advantage over time.

The other question I posed is of critical importance, and that was, "Why does Iraq success or failure matter to the American people?"

Consider this quote: "What you have seen, Americans, in New York and Washington, D.C., and the losses you are having in Afghanistan, Iraq, in spite of all the media blackout, are only the losses of the initial clashes," unquote.

The speaker was Zawahiri, the senior member of Al Qaida and a top leader in the effort to defeat U.S. and coalition forces, and, I should add, moderate Muslim regimes around the world.

The terrorist methods of attack, simply put, are slaughter. They behead, they bomb children, they attack funerals and wedding receptions. This is the kind of brutality and mayhem that the terrorists are working to bring to our shores.

And if we do not succeed in efforts to arm and train Iraqis to help defeat the terrorists in Iraq, this is the kind of mayhem that these terrorists, emboldened by a victory, will bring to our shores, let there be no doubt.

Indeed, the most important reason for our involvement in Iraq despite the costs -- and they are considerable -- is often overlooked.

It's not only about building democracy, although democracies tend to be peaceful and prosperous, and are in and of themselves good things, to be sure.

And it's not only about reopening Iraqi schools, hospitals or rebuilding infrastructure, although they are proceeding apace. And these things are desirable and ultimately essential to the stability in that country.

But, simply put, defeating extremists aspirations in Iraq is essential to protecting the lives of the American people.

RUMSFELD: Imagine the world our children would face if we allowed Zawahiri and Zarqawi and bin Laden and others of their ilk to seize power and operate with impunity out of Iraq.

They would turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was before September 11th: a haven for terrorist recruitment, training, and a launching pad for attacks against U.S. interests and our fellow citizens.

Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia.

This is their plan. They have said so. We make a terrible mistake if we fail to listen and learn.

In my view, quitting is not a strategy. Quitting is an invitation to more attacks and more terrorist violence here at home. This is not just a hypothesis. The U.S. withdrawal from Somalia emboldened Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. We know this: He said so.

The message that retreat in Iraq would send to the free people of Iraq and to moderate Muslim reformers throughout the region and the world would be that they cannot count on America.

The message it would send to our enemies would be that America will not defend itself against terrorists in Iraq and it will not defend itself against terrorists anywhere.

What is needed, in my view, is resolve, not retreat; courage, not concession. Rather than thinking in terms of an exit strategy, we should be focused on a strategy for success.

The president's strategy focuses on progress on the political and economic and security fronts. You can read that strategy paper on the White House Web site.

On the security side, today, some 214,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained and equipped. They are of varying degrees of experience. Each day and each week and each month that goes by they gain more experience and more capability. Working with coalition forces, they are steadily improving in experience.

Coalition forces have handed over military bases to Iraqi control and also a complex of palaces in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

The Shiite areas of Najaf and Karbala and Sadr City, the scenes of battles last year, are more peaceful today. And in Tal Afar, 5,000 Iraqi troops took a key role in liberating and securing what had been a base of operations for extremist networks and foreign networks.

I began these remarks by mentioning the contrast between what the American people are reading and hearing about Iraq and the views of the Iraqi people. I don't think we can close a discussion on Iraq without mentioning the media coverage and the current political debate that's taking place.

Recently a member of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association reported on the intense discussions within the AP over whether or not their coverage of Iraq has been slanted or fair.

For my part, almost every time I meet with troops, I'm asked the same question. They ask: "Why aren't the American people being given an accurate picture of what's happening in Iraq?"

Let me say something in defense of the media. They have a tough job. It is not easy. And a number of them have put their lives at risk and some have been killed.

The media serves a valuable and indeed an indispensable role in informing our society and holding government to account. It's important also for the media to hold itself to account.

Government has to reassess continuously; and we do. So, too, it's useful, I believe, for the media to reassess.

We've arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press, and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone correction or accountability after the fact.

Speed, it appears, is the critical determination -- the determinant; less so context.

RUMSFELD: Recently, there were claims by two Iraqis on a speaking tour that U.S. soldiers attacked them with lions.

(LAUGHTER)

It was widely reported around the United States. It is still without substantiation and yet that story was spread across the globe.

Not too long ago, there was a false and terribly damaging story about a Koran that was supposedly flushed down a toilet in Guantanamo. In the riots that followed, in several countries, some people were killed.

And a recent New York Times editorial implied that America's armed forces, your armed forces, our armed forces, used tactics reminiscent of Saddam Hussein.

I understand that there may be great pressure on many of them to tell a dramatic story. And while it's easy to use a bombing or a terrorist attack to support that interest, it is not always the most accurate story, or least not the full story.

Consider this: You couldn't tell the full story of Iwo Jima simply by listing to the nearly 26,000 Americans that were casualties in a brief 40 days at Iwo Jima.

Or you couldn't explain the importance of Grant's push into Virginia just by noting the savagery of battles. And they were savage.

So too, in Iraq, it's appropriate to note not only how many Americans have been killed -- and may God bless them and their families -- but what they died for or, more accurately, what they lived for.

And I take for granted, the good intentions of the people in the media. I suggest that we ask how will history judge, if it does, the reporting some decades from now when Iraq's path is settled?

I would urge us all to make every effort to ensure -- government and the media -- to make every effort to ensure that we are trying to tell the whole story.

Further, I think it's worth noting that there are 155,000 or 156,000, today, Americans in uniform who are sending back e-mails to their friends and families telling them what they're seeing. And it's a slice of what is actually happening.

It's not the total picture, but it's a slice. And it's an accurate slice. It's the truth as they see it. And much of it is different than what those in the United States are seeing and reading.

Our country is waging a battle unlike any other in history. We're waging it in a media age that is unlike any war that war- fighters have ever known.

Think of it: This us the first war of the 21st century. It's the first war to be conducted with talk radio and 24-hour news and bloggers and e-mails and digital cameras and Sony video cams and all of these things that bring so much information near instantaneously to people.

RUMSFELD: And in this new century we all need to make adjustments, government and the media alike. And change is hard, let there be no doubt.

We are all Americans, we're all in this together, and what we do today many not only impact us, but it will surely impact our children and our grandchildren and the kind of world they'll live in.

Thank you very much. I'd be happy to respond to some questions.

(APPLAUSE)

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Secretary Rumsfeld.

And this is a set of very serious issues, but maybe a light moment will remind the secretary that he was one of the great CEOs in getting that broadband technology widely distributed.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: I was also one of the sponsors of the Freedom of Information Act when I was a member of Congress.

MODERATOR: All right.

RUMSFELD: I was young and foolish.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm just kidding.

MODERATOR: Secretary Rumsfeld has agreed to take questions. And we would ask for questions from our SAIS community only.

So please raise your hand. If you can also tell us your name and your affiliation with SAIS as a student, alum, faculty or staff member.

I would also request that you limit yourself to one concise question. We have limited time and we would hope to call on as many of the people here as we can. And the people who are handling microphones and will bring them to you will let us know when it is closing time.

Secretary Rumsfeld?

RUMSFELD: Just a second, we've got a good chunk of time here we can do this. I think I don't have to leave till 10:30; if you all can stay, why, I can.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming to Johns Hopkins University this morning.

In our seminar, Democracy, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention, one of the things we talk about are the great developments of the 20th century, including the signature on the Geneva Conventions. Perhaps we can talk about something that might be an exam question in the seminar next spring: Why has the United States not been able to say that, yes, we will formally abide by the Geneva Conventions in the war on terrorism?

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

RUMSFELD: You bet.

I should begin by saying, I'm not a lawyer. I say that with considerable pride.

(LAUGHTER)

Excuse me -- excuse me, Ruth, Bill. I'm just kidding. I didn't mean that.

We've got two distinguished lawyers down here.

No. The decisions were made by the Department of Justice and by the president. And in their minds, they do believe that they are conforming to the Geneva Convention.

As you know, the Geneva Conventions provided that people should be treated in one way if they were functioning under the laws of war: if they wore uniforms, if they carried their weapons publicly, if they adhered to certain things.

And the Geneva Conventions purposely rewarded people, if you will, who conducted themselves in that manner, and distinguished them from people who did not.

The president, obviously, said that the situation in Iraq did lead to a situation. They wore uniforms. They carried their weapons properly. So the provisions of the Geneva Convention provided applied to them.

The president also decided that the terrorists and the people who blow up children and women indiscriminately and don't wear uniforms and don't carry weapons out did not merit the same treatment that people who did conduct themselves in that manner.

RUMSFELD: However, he went on to say that, notwithstanding that, they should receive humane treatment. That was his instruction, that was the instruction I put out throughout the Department of Defense, and the policy of the department has been for those individuals who were the Taliban or the Al Qaida or other terrorist individuals as opposed to people who were part of an organized military.

QUESTION: You talked about this being a really new war, with new media and new technology. I was wondering how those new communication mediums changed the concept of power, and whether public perception Iraq and here is something that the Defense Department or the military has to pay attention to.

RUMSFELD: Oh, it's changed things just enormously, and we clearly have to pay attention to it.

The conflict we're in is not against a big army or a big navy or a big air force. The United States military is not going to lose a single war or battle or skirmish over in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The competition that's taking place, the battle that's taking place is for people's minds. And very much they are convinced that they can affect the will of the American people and the American people's willingness to persist in this effort.

So, too, Al Qaida has media committees, and they go out and they plan exactly how they can structure their attacks to have the kind of drama and effect that will be carried worldwide, that will have the effect of intimidating people and persuading people, on the one hand, that they should not oppose the terrorists and, on the other hand, that they should be recruited or contribute money.

They can dramatize the success of what they're doing, and that increases the contributions they get from people who support that type of thing.

RUMSFELD: So it is an entirely different environment that we're functioning in. It's a difficult one. And it requires a set of skills that the United States government doesn't have in abundance.

We have historically avoided doing much in that area, trying to affect people's attitudes and minds.

I remember when I was, I think, in Congress, many, many decades ago, the USIA existed. And they put out a film on President Kennedy in India, as I recall. And the Congress went through the roof that it was taking taxpayers money and turning it against the people of the United States to propagandize them.

So USIA doesn't exist anymore. And the rules are very strict. And that is understandable.

The problem is, that if you say anything, you are talking to multiple audiences. I mean, simultaneously everything I'm saying here today is going to people in the Department of Defense, it's going to the civilian and the military people, it's going our friends and allies around the world, it's going to our enemies, it's going to other governments.

And everything is right there out front. And it's a very different situation. And I would go so far as to say we're not organized or trained to handle it in a particularly brilliant fashion.

We have a lot of restrictions on us that are understandable, and in my view appropriate. But we're up against people who do not have those restrictions on them. And they're able to turn inside the turning circle.

They don't have governments. They don't have countries -- real estate to defend. They don't have to tell the truth. They don't have parliaments to deal with. And they're able to adjust and change and turn very rapidly.

They break laws; we're not allowed to and don't.

So they lie. A lie moves around the world at the speed of light -- as I think, Mark Twain or somebody said, while truth is still trying to get its boots on.

I mean, these recent reports about -- I think it was in Iraq -- some people in the military signed a contract with a private contractor and the private contractor is alleged to have written accurate stories but paid someone in the media in Iraq to carry the story. That's an allegation; I don't know if it's true yet.

That story has been pounded in the media. It's very attractive for the media because it's about the media and they like that.

(APPLAUSE)

But we don't know what the facts are yet. General Casey is conducting an investigation.

And the problem is the story goes out all over the world, over and over and over again. And we're still trying to find out what the facts are.

We know what the policy was. And now the question is what did the contractor -- was he implementing the policy properly?

And I'll give you another example of a strange thing that happened just this week.

We were at a press briefing and the question came up about the discovered abuse by Iraqis of Iraqi prisoners. And someone from the United States military discovered it, saw it -- something wasn't right or was told that something wasn't right, went to the officials of the Iraqi government and said, "You ought to look into this."

RUMSFELD: They went and looked into it and discovered that it now appears that there was some abuse by Iraqis -- police, I believe, possibly military -- on other Iraqis.

And the question comes up: "Well, what should American military do about that?" And let me just give you a little texture for the kind of -- it sounds like a simple thing. Obviously, you should stop it. That's not a good thing, abuse of somebody.

And then the question is: "Well, how do you stop it?"

What they did was report it, which is right. Next step would have been, if they saw it happening, to orally tell people they should not do that.

And the third would be use force to stop them, including lethal force to stop them.

Now, that's complicated. You think of these all these young men and women in the military, they travel around, they've got rules of engagement. Should they do that if they're in uniform or out of uniform? Should they do it in Iraq only or should they do it in every country they're in?

I'm told there are people have been court-martialed for doing it in countries because people don't know what the laws are in every country, they don't know what the culture, what the procedures are.

And so reporting something that looks amiss is good. Orally trying to stop something that looks amiss, to me, sounds very reasonable. And then the next question is: "What level of force should they use to try to stop it if they see it happening in a country where they don't know the laws, they don't know the culture, and it could vary depending on whether it was being performed -- the abusive act or the seemingly inhumane act or possibly illegal act, whether it's being performed by an official of that government, a policeman or a soldier, or just by someone else?"

So there are all these gradations in there that need to be thought through, and you end up having to have rules of engagement for people so that they know what to do when they get up and go out in the morning. And that's not an easy thing to do.

The rules of engagement that come into me have been worked over by so many lawyers you can't imagine it, and I read them, I can't understand them. And I say, "OK, I'm going to go outside the hall and stop the first five people who walk by and see if they can understand it, give them a little quiz. What does this rule of engagement mean? What would you do?" Hard. You come out with six different answers.

RUMSFELD: So this stuff is not easy. It's complicated. And it's tough. And the oversimplification of it because of pressures of deadlines is something that is a problem. And it isn't simple.

QUESTION: The Washington Post Magazine some weeks ago had an article where it said that you were actually not that in favor of the invasion. They referred to a memo which was classified which was written by you where you apparently warned about some of the consequences of this war.

So I wonder, has the war been according to what you foresaw at that time? And were you originally in favor of this invasion or not?

RUMSFELD: Yes, I do support the president in the decision. And did then and do now.

Did it go according to what people thought? No. I guess no war ever does.

I guess the famous saying is that no war plan survives first contact with the enemy. And you know that when you start. And you therefore fashion war plans that have various scenarios and excursions that you can undertake.

I think what that article may have been referring to is, as is my tendency, I sat down and I wrote out a whole host of things that could go wrong. And I discussed them at great length inside the Pentagon and I discussed them at great length with the president.

And many of them didn't go wrong. They didn't happen for a variety of reasons.

But we talked about the possibility of major refugees and internally displaced persons; it just didn't happen. We were concerned that the bridges could be blown; it didn't happen.

Our folks, moving up from Kuwait put on chemical and biological suits every day as they went out, not because they thought they looked nice, but because they were deeply concerned about the risk of the use of chemical weapons. Here was a country that had used them -- had them and used them against their own people as well as their neighbors. And so that didn't happen.

There was concern about any number of things. If you recall, Saddam Hussein's people when they went into Kuwait blew up all the oil wells.

RUMSFELD: And we were concerned that there would be this enormous environmental disaster as a result of doing that.

We found, in some instances, on bridges and oil wells, some munitions -- our folks did. But for the most part, they was very little damage done to oil wells and very little damage to bridges because the people moved so fast.

And we were very concerned about Fortress Baghdad, a last stand by the Saddam Hussein group in Baghdad, putting millions of people at risk and causing a siege of that city. And that didn't happen.

So there were a lot of bad, terrible things that could have happened but did not.

On the other hand, obviously, several things happened different.

We have not discovered weapons of mass destruction, although Mister -- the two people who have been in charge of looking for them reported -- it wasn't reported widely but they reported that there was no question but that they had a desire for them and had disobeyed some 17 U.N. resolutions and that these weapons were unaccounted for.

And one still has, to this day, wonder why the Iraqis, if they really didn't have those weapons, did they handle it the way they did by not accounting accurately and actively trying to deceive the United Nations.

So there were many things that did happen that were expected and there were a number of things that did not happen.

There was always an assumption that, I think it was the 4th Infantry Division, would be able to get in through Turkey. It turned out the Turkish parliament voted, they favored it by one vote but they needed a larger margin and, as a result, the 4th I.D. never got in from the north and never put the pressure on the Sunni triangle that would have occurred had they been able to get if from the north.

They had to come in from the south. It took much longer. And, as a result, the insurgency was much larger, I think, than people estimated.

Those are the kinds of things that were considered.

QUESTION: There are currently thousands of private military contractors in Iraq.

QUESTION: And you were just speaking of rules of engagement in regards to Iraqi personnel and U.S. personnel.

Since the private contractors are operating outside the Uniform Code of Military Justice, could you speak to what law or rules of engagement do govern their behavior and whether there has been any studies showing that it is cost-effective to have them in Iraq rather than U.S. military personnel?

RUMSFELD: It is clearly cost-effective to have contractors for a variety of things that military people need not do, and that, for whatever reason, other civilians, government people, cannot be deployed to do.

There are a lot of contractors, a growing number, they come from our country, but they come from all countries. And indeed sometimes the contracts are from our country or another country and they employ people from totally different countries, including Iraqis and people from neighboring nations. And there are a lot of them, and it's a growing number.

And, of course, we've got to begin with the fact that, as you point out, they're not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. We understand that. There are laws that govern the behavior of Americans in that country. The Department of Justice oversees that.

There is an issue that is current as to the extent to which they can or cannot carry weapons. And that's an issue. It's also an issue, of course, with Iraqis.

But if you think about it, Iraq's a sovereign country, they have their laws, and they're going to govern -- the U.N. resolution and the Iraqi laws, as well as U.S. procedures and laws, govern behavior in that country defending on who the individual is and what he's doing.

But I personally am of the view that there are a lot of things that can be done on a short-time basis by contractors that advantage the United States and advantage other countries who also hire contractors. And that any idea that we shouldn't have them, I think, would be unwise.

QUESTION: You've become famous for or, shall I say, epistemological musings in the press.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: I know big words like delicatessen and television.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: We are at SAIS, sir...

RUMSFELD: You are. I'm not.

QUESTION: Fair enough.

It's interesting that of all the high U.S. officials, you have been concerned with certain musings on the nature of truth and knowledge, as we have seen here today.

So my question is, in a war where perhaps truth is a matter of contention, that the matter of credibility becomes a central factor. And as you spoke, you said that we all know that war is hard. But didn't we say at the beginning of war that this was all going to be very easy?

RUMSFELD: I don't know who "we" is, but I certainly didn't.

There is no question there were people who believed that they would be met as liberators, and indeed they were for a period and still are in a number of parts of the country.

But anyone who had an optimistic view I think has confronted reality. And it is clearly not easy. War is never easy. And you never heard a word like that out of my mouth, I don't believe.

QUESTION: At last week's DOD press conference, you stated that the you didn't care for the word "insurgents," and that you had another word for this term insurgents -- insurgents that didn't have a legitimate gripe or that had cohesion, or that kind of -- thing of that nature.

What's this other term that you have for insurgents that you said you couldn't remember at the time?

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: I don't think I said I couldn't remember at the time. I said I hadn't thought it through well enough to know that there was a simple bumper sticker that one could substitute for the word "insurgent."

But I was musing that the fact that...

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: That's fair.

(LAUGHTER)

I prefaced it by saying, "Look, I was over the weekend bothered by the word 'insurgent.'"

It seemed to give them a legitimacy, number one, that I don't think they have. I mean, the people of Iraq have every opportunity in the world to change that government peacefully with a vote coming up in two weeks.

Second, insurgents, to lump them together, seemed to me to be not as precise as I would be comfortable with, because they are different people.

There are people who are leftovers from the Saddam Hussein regime, that want to reestablish the Baathist regime in that country. There are Sunnis who enjoyed having dominance in that country and recognize that they're a minority and are unlikely to have dominance after this election. There are criminals who are doing it for money. There are the Zarqawi types, who come from other countries and recruit people in from other countries.

So it's not a single cohesive group. It's an aggregation of different people who want to have that country be different than a democracy.

And so I just said I'm uncomfortable with it. It sounded almost like legitimate -- make them more legitimate than I would think they merit. I said I didn't have a good substitute except call them what they are: They're people who are indiscriminately killing people, and they are opposing the legitimate government of Iraq that has a constitution and has an election process, and they are enemies of the government of Iraq, and therefore they're enemies of the people of Iraq.

And they're a relatively small number, as I mentioned. I mean, you know, there's -- what? -- 25 million people in Iraq, 26 million, and I don't know how many thousands of them there are of these people. It goes up and down, and some come across the border in from Syria and what have you.

RUMSFELD: But I began by confessing I didn't have the answer, but I did want to express my discomfort with the phrase.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have, of course, been a strong advocate of military transformation. What lessons have you learned from the war in Iraq that can be applied to those efforts?

RUMSFELD: Well, you know, you learn something new every day, I hope.

I think of "transformation" as probably not the best word. Now, I don't want to get in trouble here.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm going to muse for a minute.

"Transformation" leaves the impression that you start untransformed and then you do something and you then become transformed.

And it isn't like that. It's a continuum. It's a process. It goes on and on and on because the world's different out there. The situation in Iraq is different in different parts of Iraq. The situation in Iraq is different from Afghanistan.

And the kinds of capabilities we as a Department of Defense need are the things that we'll have to be able to defend the American people and deal with the kinds of 21st-century challenges that we will have a dickens of a time trying to predict.

I mean, if you think about it, no one asked Bob McNamara in his confirmation hearings about Vietnam. And no one asked Cheney in his confirmation hearings about Iraq. And no one asked me about Afghanistan. And yet, after September 11th, we were required to go halfway around the world to a landlocked country in a matter of days and weeks.

I think if I had to pull out one lesson that we have learned over the past four or five years, it would be that, in the 21st century, we are going to have to stop thinking about things, numbers of things and mass and think also, and maybe even first, about speed and agility and precision.

A couple examples.

If you count things, would you say to yourself, well, you began with 10 bombs. They were dumb bombs and it took eight or 10 to hit a target. Or you'd begin with five bombs, which is half as many, and they're precision weapons and each one hits a target. So you have half as many bombs and you can hit five times the number of targets as when you had 10 dumb bombs, as just a simple example.

Another would be the Navy. The Navy, for the sake of argument, has been able to go from X number of ships down to a much lower number of ships and have exactly -- roughly, almost exactly -- the same number of ships deployed at any given time.

How did they do that? Well, they did it by managing crews, crew swaps. They did it by doing a quite different thing with respect to spares and repairs.

So today, we are able, for example, to have half again as many carrier battle groups deployed with 11 carrier battle groups instead of 12 than we did with 12. And it was half again as much deployed time.

And that doesn't even address the firepower in those carrier battle groups which is vastly greater than it was five years ago.

So we're stuck in a mode of talking about how many people -- I mean, a soldier today is so much more capable. This business about the Army's broken that you read in the press every once in a while isn't true.

RUMSFELD: The Army is probably as strong and capable as it ever has been in the history of this country. They are more experienced, more capable, better equipped than ever before.

So I think of it -- having been in the pharmaceutical business. If you think about a hospital room, someone says, "Ten years ago, a hospital room cost X and today a hospital bed -- one day in a hospital costs 5X." That is true, whatever it is, the proportion. But it's a totally different situation. The treatment you're getting, the medications you're getting, the care you're getting, the services that exist are vastly different.

And we need to understand those distinctions and not simply look at mass and numbers of things, and instead think about the ability -- I mean, in Afghanistan, the Soviets had -- I don't know -- 200,000 people in that country for year after year after year after year.

We ended up with tens of thousands in a matter of -- what? -- eight, nine, 10, 12 weeks did what they weren't able to do in years.

Why? Well, we did it differently. And we were not an occupying country. And we didn't want to stay there. And that helps, if you don't want to stay there.

QUESTION: I'm a second-year SAIS student from Germany. And my question is, on a scale from most favorite ally in Europe to least favorite ally in Europe, would you name some countries, maybe excluding the United Kingdom, and tell me where my country fares now?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

RUMSFELD: Don't applaud him. It'll just encourage him.

The president asked me to stay out of U.S. politics. And I have. And I don't think that Condi Rice and the president need Rumsfeld to be helping them out by opining on some sort of a pecking order in Europe. So I think I'll pass on that.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: I'm a first-year student here at SAIS.

You spent a lot of your time criticizing or questioning the coverage of the U.S. media.

RUMSFELD: I wouldn't characterize it that way. I was discussing...

QUESTION: Well, use a different verb.

RUMSFELD: I was discussing it.

QUESTION: Discussing the role...

RUMSFELD: That's better.

QUESTION: ... of the U.S. media.

RUMSFELD: When you're in your second year you would use the word discussing.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Not a diplomat yet.

So I'm wondering what would be more fair to you. You were talking about the opening of schools. Should that receive larger headlines than, say, the deaths of 10 Marines?

And what sort of ways are the Pentagon, though public affairs or information operations, doing to counter what you see as -- you did question the quality of the U.S. media coverage.

RUMSFELD: It's different than what people who go there see and come back and talk about. It's different what people who are serving there see. And I can't say it's everyone, but if you talk to member of Congress of both political parties when they come back, they have a different perception than they did from what they were hearing here.

Now, if you look at the communications from the military and ask their families -- why is it that every single group of military people I meet with, somebody in that room asks me that question, "Why is there the disparity?"

I don't know why there's the disparity. My job's tough enough for me without trying to figure out how these folks should do their jobs.

I don't know how you do that. And it may very well be if you tried to report something about a school being built or a new generator for a hospital or a group of people helping out children in Iraq, that it would never make it in the paper. And it may be that the papers are looking for drama. I don't know.

There were something like 16,000 homicides in the United States last year. There were 42,000 traffic deaths. Think of that: 16,000 homicides and 42,000 traffic deaths, something in that neighborhood; that's close enough for government work.

(LAUGHTER)

But you would think that the reporting on 16,000 homicides in our country in a given year, that that would be quite a story. But you've got to search to find that. You'd think 42,000 traffic deaths, people killed in cars and pedestrians hit by cars -- that's a pile of people, a lot of dead people.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: And you'd think that would be a big story.

I don't know what's big. But I guess -- when I get up and in the morning at 5:00 and I walk by my bed and my wife rolls over and she says, "Now, Don" -- talking about the press -- she says, "They have their job and you have your job." And she's right.

QUESTION: I'd like to refer back to that article in The Washington Post that was brought up earlier.

And there's a comment here, a discussion of the Defense Science Board, referred to as your own advisory think tank. And it says that, "The architects of the Iraq war lacked necessary knowledge of Iraq and its people and that they failed to factor in well-known lessons of history."

In quotes, "'It is clear that Americans who wage the war and who have attempted to mold the aftermath have had no clear idea of the framework that has molded the personality and attitudes of Iraqis,' the board declared in a report bearing the official seal of the Department of Defense."

"It might help if Americans and their leaders were to show less arrogance and more understanding of themselves and their place in history. Perhaps more than any other people, Americans display a consistent amnesia concerning their own past as well as the history of those around them."

Now, I can certainly come up with many things that I would...

RUMSFELD: That's still all in quotes?

QUESTION: Yes. OK, well, now, I'm sorry. After the end, it's now me speaking.

(LAUGHTER)

So I can come up with things that I would consider amnesia. What have we done to respond to that and to change our knowledge and how we reacted?

RUMSFELD: Well, we do have a big nation's problem. We have the problem of a nation that's got two oceans, oceans on either side.

In a small country amidst other countries, people tend to learn languages. They tend to understand better the culture. They tend to travel more and they understand different cultures.

In the United States, we are a melting pot, to be sure. People come from all across the globe and want to live here and they want to work here and they want to invest here. And that's a good thing. And make up this country today.

But as a people, we are not highly skilled in languages. We're not highly skilled in knowledge of other cultures. And that's a problem.

And we've been working at the Pentagon for several years to try to shift the language training into languages that are going to be important in the period ahead, to increase the number of people who develop regional and area expertise, and to see that they're properly rewarded.

RUMSFELD: And the Defense Science Board -- one thing the Pentagon does a good job of is, after the fact, they go in and look at lessons learned and try to see what was done and how might it have been done differently and what can we learn from it.

And if you take Iraq, for example, there was an intensive lessons-learned effort that was actually conducted during the course of the war and still is.

And then they went to the Iraqis that had been captured and got their perspective on what took place. And they ended up with meshing the two lessons learned.

You've seen these, Ruth and Hal.

They do a very good job of it. And they're critical. And that's fair. That's good. We need that.

Am I getting the hook?

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: My question to you is this -- maybe it's useful to end on a strategic kind of question -- while it's understandable people, you know, hurried to see transfer take place to Iraqi forces, my question to you is this: Can you give us assurances, that this is not going to (inaudible) negatively on the energy situation?

Seventy percent of the exportable oil and natural gas for the entire world, everybody from France, to China to others (inaudible) that area. And how we are going to do this without jeopardizing that security of supply?

RUMSFELD: No.

(LAUGHTER)

I cannot give you assurances. I'm not in that business. I haven't been, and I don't intend to get into it.

People who try to make predictions about things or assurances often find they're wrong.

And it seems to me that you began with the premise that there's a hurry to get out. And there naturally is a desire to not be there on the part of the Iraqis. No country wants to be occupied or have foreign forces in their country; we know that. No one in our country wants to have our forces overseas if they don't have to be there, if there isn't a very good reason.

And so there is a desire -- not a hurry, but a desire to have things be arranged so that the Iraqi people can manage their own affairs.

I would say one word on that. I've still got a couple minutes by my watch.

(LAUGHTER)

There is a tension with respect to the size of our force and the duration of their presence. And the tension is this: You want to have enough to assure that your troops have the kind of force protection and have the capability of doing those tasks which are important to success.

You don't want to have any more than you need, because it's intrusive. A large footprint is irritating and aggravating to the Iraqi people.

RUMSFELD: It unquestionably can have the effect of encouraging people to be opposed to the coalition and opposed to the Iraqi government because the Iraqi government is invited and encouraged and agrees with the presence of the coalition forces.

So there's that tension there constantly.

And in any given moment, you can find someone, somewhere in that country, that wishes they had more troops. And by the same token the -- and that becomes a task of allocating troops within the country for these different tasks.

And at the same time, the commanders, General Abizaid and General Casey, have to look at it from a macro standpoint. And they are determined to not have more troops. The more troops you have, the more combat support assistance you have to have, the more force protection you have to have for those troops, and it grows.

So what we are doing is attempting to train the Iraqi security forces so that they can assume responsibility for their country. We're turning over bases -- some 17 bases have been turned over to the Iraqis.

And the goal is to leave a stable environment there -- when I say stable, not stable like Washington, D.C., or some place but...

(LAUGHTER)

I'm not going there. But relatively stable for that region and for that country.

And the answer to your question is if we are successful in doing that, obviously, people that have oil have a desire to sell the oil and to reap the benefits of having sold that resource. And Iraq has a lot of oil and they could have an awful lot more if they would fix their infrastructure and invest in it and allow outside investment, create an environment that is attractive to investment.

But we didn't go in there for oil. We're not going stay there for oil.

We went in there for the reasons the president stated. And the goal is to transfer responsibility to the Iraqis. It is their country. They're going to have to grab ahold of it, every aspect of it.

And when you hear people say, "Oh, you should be guarding the border," or, "You should be protecting infrastructure" -- "you" meaning the United States -- I think that's not the case.

I think it's the Iraqis' infrastructure and it's the Iraqis' borders. And they're going to have to have relationships with their neighbors. And they're going to have to find ways to get the people who live in the neighborhood of that infrastructure to get on that tip hotline and pick up the phone and call people and say to the Iraqi security forces or the coalition forces, "Listen, there's terrorists down here and they're planning to blow up this pipeline or water system or electrical system."

In the last analysis, there's going a tipping of these people. And they're going to decide that there's going to be a democratic government in that country, they're going to have a chance to be a part of it, and it's a whale of a lot better than turning it over to the Zarqawis or even the Saddamists that are left or the criminals that are left in that country.

RUMSFELD: And I think that the folks who have served there, from our country and from our coalition countries -- I'll tell you what runs me up the wall is people denigrating the Iraqi security forces.

Are they perfect? No. To some extent do they have infiltration? You bet. Are some not properly equipped still? Yes. Are some inexperienced? Yes.

But they are out there doing a very good job, they're risking their lives. And people who run around denigrating what they're doing, it seems to me, is inexcusable.

I'll say the same thing about people who denigrate our coalition partners. Our coalition partners are there; there's a couple dozen countries of them. It took political courage to do it, and it takes personal courage for those troops to go in there and do what they do. And God bless them; we're delighted to have them.

Thank you very much. I wish you all well.

(APPLAUSE)

END

Courtesy FDCH/e-Media


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