Desert Fox Multimedia Day 1
Cohen and Shelton Speak at Pentagon
By Federal News Service
Wednesday, Dec. 16, 1998
SEC. COHEN: Good evening.
Q Good evening.
Q Good evening.
SEC. COHEN: President Clinton's decision to strike Iraq has
clear military goals: We want to degrade Saddam Hussein's ability to
make and to use weapons of mass destruction, we want to diminish his
ability to wage war against his neighbors, and we want to demonstrate
the consequences of flouting international obligations.
Saddam Hussein has been an outlaw for some time. In the 1980s,
he used chemical weapons against Iran and against his own Kurdish
minority. In 1990 he invaded Kuwait. In 1991 he fired Scud missiles
at his neighbors.
At the end of the Gulf War, the United Nations Security Council
demanded that Iraq fully disclose and dismantle its program to build
deadly biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and the missiles to
deliver them. But Saddam has used a combination of denials,
deceptions and delays to evade Security Council mandates. At nearly
every turn, Iraq has chosen obstruction over openness, and
confrontation over cooperation.
Let me illustrate the history of obstruction and evasion by recounting
the events over the past year or so.
In October of 1997 the U.N. inspection team known as UNSCOM told
the Security Council that Iraq was blocking inspections and refusing
to disclose details of its programs to build chemical and biological
weapons. Iraq responded by ordering American inspectors with UNSCOM to
leave the country. The United Nations refused to let Iraq define the
inspection terms. That would have been akin to letting a parolee
dictate the terms of his parole, indeed, the composition of his parole
In January this year Iraq blocked an UNSCOM inspection team
headed by an American, provoking a confrontation with the Security
Council. The United States and many other nations responded by
building up our forces in the gulf. And faced with the threat of a
military strike, Iraq reached an agreement with U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan after the Iraqi government made a commitment to allow
UNSCOM inspectors to return and to conduct unfettered inspections.
But once again Iraq refused to abide by its own agreement. And
in August Iraq announced that it was stopping inspections but would
allow passive monitoring of weapons sites to continue. In October it
halted the monitoring. The United Nations and Arab countries
condemned Iraq's refusal to cooperate with the United Nations. And
faced with such a blatant obstruction, the United States and Great
Britain with the support of many of our allies prepared for military
action. And then, on November 14th, just minutes before a planned
strike, Iraq said it was prepared to cooperate unconditionally with
On November 15th President Clinton listed five bench marks that
Iraq must meet. He said that Iraq must resolve all outstanding issues
with UNSCOM; two, give the inspectors unfettered access to inspect and
monitor all sites they chose without restriction or qualification;
three, turn over all relevant documents; four, accept all weapons of
mass destruction-related U.N. Security Council resolutions; and five,
not interfere with the independence and professional expertise of the
By December, it was clear that Iraq once again was refusing to
live up to its obligations, and then yesterday, in his report to the
United Nations secretary-general, Ambassador Butler, the head of
UNSCOM, concluded, and I quote, "Iraq did not provide the full
cooperation it promised on 14th November, 1998, and initiated new
forms of restrictions upon the Commission's work." And then, as a
result, Ambassador Butler said, "In light of the absence of full
cooperation by Iraq it must, regrettably, be recorded again that the
Commission is not able to conduct the substantive disarmament work
mandated to it by the Security Council."
This is not a matter of diplomatic nicety or detail. Iraq has
followed a planned, systematic pattern of obstruction and delay.
Saddam Hussein wants to force the international community to allow him
to keep his deadly chemical and biological weapons and to wiggle out
from under the economic sanctions that the Security Council has
imposed on him.
Despite seven years of efforts to halt Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction programs, the U.N. inspectors believe that Iraq could
quickly develop and use deadly chemical and biological weapons and
despite the appeals from the U.N. Security Council and the Arab world,
Iraq has once again refused to reverse its course.
Iraq has spurned the U.N.; it has spurned diplomacy.
It has spurned all reasonable efforts to resolve this crisis
peacefully. And faced with Iraq's outright refusal to obey its
international obligations, the United States acted to restrict the
threat that Iraq poses to its neighbors and to international order.
The world knows that it cannot trust Saddam Hussein. The world
also knows that it can trust the United States.
A month ago President Clinton said, quote, "Until we see complete
compliance, we will remain vigilant, we will keep up the pressure, and
we will be ready to act." Well, we have acted. We do not use force
lightly. We did not do so today. But Iraq has exhausted patience.
It has exhausted all options but the use of force. The United States
and the world community cannot allow Iraq to brazenly break its
promises, just as it could not allow Iraq to bully its neighbors back
Great Britain is joining us in this action, and we have the
necessary support from other nations as well.
Any use of force, as the president has indicated, involves risk.
And to limit the risks to our troops and to our allies, I am ordering
a sharp increase in our forces in the Gulf. We are sending an air
expeditionary wing and more ground troops. Iraq should not
misunderstand our determination.
And now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs will make a statement.
Then we're prepared to answer your questions.
GEN. SHELTON: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I do not intend to review in detail this evening how once again
we have found it necessary to take military action against Iraq. The
president and Secretary Cohen have covered that ground very well.
Nonetheless, I do want to note that throughout the seven years
since the end of the Gulf War, U.S. military forces and those of our
allies and partners in the region have kept a watchful eye on Saddam
Hussein, to ensure that he did not reconstitute his weapons of mass
destruction, threaten his neighbors, or put the security of the
strategically vital Persian Gulf region in jeopardy.
We also watches as Saddam Hussein relentlessly and shamelessly lied
about his remaining chemical and biological weapons capabilities, as
he denied UNSCOM inspectors access to information they needed to do
their jobs and as he thumbed his nose at the United Nations' and the
international community's efforts to ensure that he honored his
The time for watching has ended. As the president and Secretary
Cohen have noted earlier, Saddam's actions to evade and defeat U.N.
weapons inspectors in recent weeks were but one last very clear
example that he does not intend to fulfill his obligations to
cooperate fully with UNSCOM. So today, we commenced a military
operation, Operation Desert Fox, that includes American and British
forces to carry out military strikes aimed degrading the very
capabilities that Saddam has tried to preserve.
The operation employs U.S. Navy aircraft flying from the decks of
the U.S.S. Enterprise, U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force aircraft
operating from land bases in the region and Tomahawk cruise missiles
launched from U.S. Navy ships at sea and United States Air Force B-
We're also in the process of deploying additional U.S. military
forces to Southwest Asia to the U.S. Central Command's area of
operation to bolster our already substantial military presence in the
Gulf region, as Secretary Cohen mentioned.
Elements of the Crisis Response Force that we created last spring
are also moving to the region. We have some fact sheets for you on
the major elements of the Crisis Response Force, but most of you are
familiar with the major pieces: an air expeditionary wing of
approximately 36 combat aircraft, including fighters, bombers and
anti-air defense aircraft; the F-117 stealth aircraft; an additional
aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson and the other ships of its
battle group, which will arrive the day after tomorrow; and elements
of a division ready brigade to reinforce our troops already on the
ground in Kuwait as a part of Exercise Intrinsic Action; and, of
course, there are numerous logistic and support units, including
refueling and reconnaissance aircraft and ground support elements,
that will also be deployed.
Deploying this Crisis Response Force will provide our theater
commander, General Zinni, with additional flexibility and will allow
us to increase the intensity and tempo of our strike operations if
that is necessary.
Because operations in the region are still ongoing, it would be
inappropriate for me at this time to provide the specific numbers and
types of cruise missiles launched thus far, the number of aircraft
sorties flown or other actions that are carried out, are being or will
be carried out.
The ongoing nature of the operations also means that I cannot
share with you at this time any specific information about the targets
we have struck or those that we plan to strike, or any assessment of
the damage done so far. I know that you and the American people are
keenly interested in this information, and I assure you that we will
make every effort to provide you and the American people with more
detail at the appropriate time.
Before I close and the secretary and I take your questions, I'd
like to take a moment to note that all of you can be proud of the men
and women of our Armed Forces, those that are on duty around the world
selflessly carrying out dangerous and difficult missions; whether it's
flying in harm's way in the Gulf, deterring aggression in the
Demilitarized Zone in Korea or preserving the peace in Bosnia. And we
can be particularly proud tonight of those that are answering the call
in the skies over Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
Now we'll take your questions.
Q Mr. Secretary? I wonder if I might ask, Mr. Secretary; the
president said that these will be a sustained series of strikes.
Could you tell us how long you expect them to last; over a period of
days, several days? And could any statement or promise be made by
Iraq that could cut these strikes short or stop them?
SEC. COHEN: Well, I won't get into any specific timetable, other
than to say we intend to carry the mission out until such time as we
accomplish our set goals, and I mentioned those in my opening
comments; that we would degrade his capacity to threaten his neighbors
and his capacity to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as well as
Those are our goals. We will continue the operation until that is
complete to our satisfaction of --
Q (Inaudible due to cross talk) -- that that might go into
Ramadan? Could that go into Ramadan?
SEC. COHEN: I wouldn't want to set any time frame. The
president indicated that he was sensitive to the issue about Ramadan
and that we not begin an operation in Ramadan. We're aware of that
holy period for the Islamic people. But we intend to carry out our
mission, how long it (takes ?).
Q Mr. Secretary, do you have any information yet about
potential loss of life, either American forces or Iraqis involved
SEC. COHEN: As of the most recent notice we received, there have
been no American casualties at this time. We are not in a position to
calculate any casualties on the Iraqi side.
Q Mr. Secretary, can you tell us when the strike began, sir,
when it actually began? And also, either you or General Shelton, if
you will, in an operation such as this has been planned in the past,
the idea was to use cruise missiles, both Tomahawks and CALCM's with
B-52s to soften up air defenses and then go in with manned aircraft.
Apparently, according to General Shelton, this was not the case here,
they were not in concert. Can you tell us why that was done? Well,
when did the strike actually begin, sir?
SEC. COHEN: The strike began approximately at 5:00 Eastern
Standard Time. And the chairman can comment in terms of the
composition of our forces. I will not get into any discussion in
terms of what forces will be used on any given day. We have a
compliment of forces that are designed to carry out the objectives of
Q Secretary Cohen, does this --
Q Could General Shelton answer the question, please, about
GEN. SHELTON: That falls into the category of operational
details that I'd rather not talk about right now. At the appropriate
time we'll provide you with the data that you're asking for, but not
until we get further into the operation.
Q Secretary Cohen, do these military strikes mean the United
States has given up on the United Nations weapons inspection regime?
SEC. COHEN: They mean that we have given Saddam Hussein every
opportunity to fully comply and to cooperate with the UNSCOM
inspection team. Last November, November 14th, just approximately a
month ago, just as strikes were about to be carried out, the president
indicated that when Saddam Hussein raised the white flag and said, "I
agree to cooperate" -- one more time he said, "I agree to fully
cooperate" -- that we said, "Fine." And the inspection team went out
and the inspection team came back and they filed their report
yesterday indicating non-compliance, more restrictions, more
obstructions, and key was that of Mr. Butler, Ambassador Butler saying
that they could not carry out their mission.
Q Well, do you think they'll ever go back?
SEC. COHEN: They may -- we don't know if they'll ever go back,
but we do intend to keep the sanctions in place until there is full
compliance on the part of the Iraqi government.
Q Mr. Secretary, how confident are you that you can degrade
his ability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and the means
to deliver them? Aren't those very hard targets to find?
SEC. COHEN: Well, there are difficult targets to find, but we've
indicated we will degrade his ability to threaten his neighbors, we
will degrade his ability to deliver those weapons and we will strike
some of those facilities.
Q Sir, what would it take, if anything, on Saddam Hussein's
Q (Off mike) -- built into this strike plan?
SEC. COHEN: I'm sorry?
Q Are there pauses built into this strike plan?
SEC. COHEN: I'm not going to discuss operational details.
Q Secretary Cohen, what, if anything, would it take on Saddam
Hussein's part to end this attack?
SEC. COHEN: Saddam Hussein has had every opportunity to end the
sanctions. All he's had to do is to comply. He has promised year
after year that he would fully comply, and frankly, I think very
little credence can ever be given to his promises, based on past
performance. So we intend to continue the mission till such time as
we carry out our objectives.
Q Mr. Cohen, sir, the president said just a few minutes ago
that this was the last chance for Iraq, the Iraqi government. And
what did he mean by "last chance"? And then let me go back to the
subject of Ramadan. If we can't start a war during Ramadan, how can
we continue hostilities during Ramadan?
SEC. COHEN: Well, much depends upon Saddam Hussein in terms of
his own activities during this period of time, and I wouldn't want to
speculate what he will and won't do. He's on notice that we intend to
deliver a substantial blow, and he may or may not respond in a certain
way. We'll see. But the president, in terms of the last chance, he's
indicating that we gave Saddam the last chance last November 14th;
once again, he breached his promises. And so this is a reaction to
that. We're saying we're going to do what he has refused to allow the
inspectors to do. Because he has refused to allow UNSCOM to carry out
its duty, we intend to carry out ours. And that's what the president
is talking about.
Q Mr. Secretary, is an objective of the attack to destabilize
his regime and force him out?
SEC. COHEN: As I stated, the objective of the attack is to go
after those chemical, biological or weapons of mass destruction sites
to the extent that we can to prevent him from being able to threaten
his neighbors with his military and to prevent him from being able to
deliver, to the best of our ability, the chemical or biological or
Q But why not go after his regime, if that's what the problem
SEC. COHEN: We have set forth our specific targets, and that's
what we intend to carry out.
Q If this is such a critical international crisis and is so
serious, why has the Clinton administration not been able to convince
any other nation but the U.K. to join with the United States?
SEC. COHEN: Well, first of all, we had planned in the past to
cooperate and work very closely with the United Kingdom. We also had
the support of many other nations. I have talked personally with a
number of countries, and they were prepared to volunteer assets. And
they did in fact call and say they would be supportive of anything
that we were to undertake.
We obviously also had to consider the plan itself. We have tried
to maximize our ability to strike quickly, without any further
warning. We indicated last November 14th that we had all that we
needed in place; there would be no additional diplomacy, no more
concessions, no more carrots; that we had the ability and would move,
without any further notice, in the event he broke his promise once
again. So from a security point of view, we decided that we had
enough in place and could carry out this operation with minimal notice
and with minimal compromise of the surprise element.
Q Did you actually decline the offer of other nations to
SEC. COHEN: We did not solicit the offer of other nations in
addition to what we had from Great Britain and the support voiced by
others. If we needed it, we could certainly have other support.
Q But did the looming impeachment vote in the House of
Representatives play any part? Was it a factor in any way in the
decision to carry out this military action?
SEC. COHEN: The only factor, from my point of view and from the
chairman's point of view or for anyone else's point of view, was what
is in the national security interests of the United States. We are
convinced. We have absolutely no doubt this is the right decision;
this is the right time for us to move.
Once Ambassador Butler made the determination that Saddam did not
intend to comply, then we felt that that was the time that we had to
enforce what we said before. And I again would repeat; what we say
matters. And if we lay down markers that say that, "Unless you
comply, you are going to face a military operation," and there is
noncompliance, a failure to take action under those circumstances, I
think, would in fact impair our national security interests for some
time to come.
Q Mr. Secretary, as a Republican; Mr. Secretary, as a
Republican, as a Republican, a former member --
GEN. SHELTON: Let me -- answer Jamie's question first.
I wholeheartedly supported the president's decision. I felt like
that we had looked at every aspect of this operation, and we had to
measure action against the consequences of inaction.
We had looked at as far back as starting on the 15th of November,
when the president very clearly outlined what Saddam Hussein had to do
in order to meet the requirements of the international community that
had been set for him by the U.N.; that unless he did that, that there
was a potential for military action.
And so we started planning, as we do in our business, for the
worst case. And we started looking at what the windows of opportunity
might be available. And all of that was driven of course by when
Ambassador Butler would complete his inspections and what his report
would say. And if it were a negative report, we'd have to wait until
we got that report.
We looked at that, and we had several factors we had to consider.
But it all boiled down to that, if he had released the report by the
15th, then the 16th was the day that we should do it in order to
achieve tactical surprise, as well as we had several other things that
were lining up, to include the arrival of a second carrier battle
group; the turnover of our B-52s, which were in the process of
rotating for Christmas. And things just fell into place.
And so militarily it was the right decision, the right date, and that
decision was made back in November.
Q Mr. Secretary, as a Republican, as a Republican and a
former member of the Senate, what do you think about Senator Lott's
criticism of this attack as a key to our national security?
SEC. COHEN: Well, I think that every member of Congress and
every member of this country will have to make his or her own judgment
based upon the facts. I have come to the conclusion in looking at the
facts that this was in America's national security interest. I am
prepared to place 30 years of public service on the line to say the
only factor that was important in this decision is what is in the
American people's best interest. There were no other factors. And so
each person will come to their own decision. There are other members
of the Senate, other members of the House who will reach a different
conclusion. We respect their individual judgments.
But based upon the facts as we have worked with them -- the
chairman and I were talking about this just before we came down here
-- we have worked together since a year ago, in October of 1997, on
this issue. And we have followed it closely. We have looked at
what's in our national security interests. And we are convinced that
this is the right thing to do under the circumstances, and we have
recommended and support going forward.
Q Mr. Secretary, did you recommend to members of Congress not
to speak out against the strike and the president during this period?
SEC. COHEN: I've made no such recommendations to members of
Congress. That is a judgment on their own. I think each member will
decide for himself or herself what they feel compelled to say during
this time. But I've made no such recommendations, and would not.
Q Are you saying this attack will come to an end once you've
gone through your target list, once Saddam Hussein has surrendered, or
some other -
SEC. COHEN: Once we have accomplished our set objectives, we
will stay on station. We intend to continue to enforce the sanctions
until such time as there is compliance.
Q Are your objectives anything other than the target list?
Once you have gone through your target list, is it over?
SEC. COHEN: It is over in the sense of the military operation
itself, but we remain at the ready for an indefinite period of time to
maintain our presence, with the support of our Gulf allies, and to
stay at the ready in the event that Saddam seeks to reconstitute his
weapons of mass destruction. We will be there. To the extent that he
moves against any of his neighbors, we will be there. And so this
particular military operation is directed specifically to achieve the
goals that I outlined.
Q Does the U.S. -- (inaudible due to cross-talk) --
Q Mr. Secretary! Mr. Secretary!
Q -- expect Saddam Hussein will once attack his neighbors?
SEC. COHEN: Excuse me. Yes, ma'am? Sorry.
Q Does the U.S. expect that once again Saddam Hussein may
attack his neighbors?
SEC. COHEN: That's a possibility. And the neighbors are on full
alert. They understand what the consequences are. But they also
understand what the consequences, as the chairman has indicated, of
not indicating; that he has been determined to maintain his weapons of
mass destruction, to rebuild them if he can, to slip out from
underneath the sanctions so he can get more revenues in order to
rebuild his military, and then again pose a serious threat to his
Q Is that why the Patriots were left in Israel?
Q Can you give us --
SEC. COHEN: I'm sorry?
Q Is that why the Patriots were left in Israel?
SEC. COHEN: The Patriots have been in Israel on an exercise that
had been planned for some months, as the chairman indicated.
Q General, can you give us some indication just how large a
force you're going to maintain in the Gulf? Are you going to maintain
two carriers there? Are you going to back up to 40,000, 50,000 troops
as there has been there in the past?
GEN. SHELTON: Susanne, there's not an easy answer to that. We
will maintain an appropriate level over there. As you know, we've
maintained a force of about 20,000 in the region for quite some time.
There's no plan right now to reduce below that level, but whether or
not we maintain some of the additional force or how long we maintain
the additional forces will be determined by the outcome of our plan
and our achieving our objectives.
Q Will the two carriers stay for the foreseeable future
rather than one leaving at Christmastime?
GEN. SHELTON: I won't comment on that right now. I think that's
something to be determined, depending on how the operation goes.
Q General, when specifically did you and the secretary of
Defense become aware of the tone and starkness of the upcoming Butler
report and when did you being discussing specifically that this might
be "go" this time? For instance, was this part of your thinking --
did you know about this when you decided not to go to Germany, Mr.
SEC. COHEN: I'd be happy to answer that. We started planning
this particular operation, as I indicated, back as early as November
15th. Based upon the president's benchmarks that what Saddam had to
do was to fully comply with those five benchmarks, we had to put in
place and you may recall that I made a number of statements on that
day indicating that we would be at the ready, we would have sufficient
forces on hand to carry out a military operation should it become
necessary and should he fail to fulfill his obligations.
The timing of this was set primarily by the inspection teams.
When Mr. Butler indicated that his teams would be carrying out the
inspections during the first two weeks of December, then obviously we
are not going to take any action until such time as they conducted the
inspections and filed the report. At the other side, we were looking
at the calendar seeing Ramadan that we've got to be sensitive to. And
so we had to prepare for a window during which time, if there were a
failure to comply, we could take action.
And so it was not until Mr. Butler filed his report that this became a
reality as far as we were to go and then the decision had to be made.
In view of the fact that you have this statement, which is categorical
and qualified, that UNSCOM cannot carry out its obligations, for us at
that point to fail to take action, I think, would have been an
abdication of our responsibilities. So it became --
Q (Off mike) -- but did you have any advance warning of the
contents of the report?
SEC. COHEN: No. There was some speculation about what it might
contain. And frankly, we had assumed that it might be mixed. We
didn't know. And until such time as it was actually filed with the
Security Council, it was at that time when it became a matter of a
Q Mr. Secretary, what word would you use to describe these
strikes? Obviously you wouldn't --
SEC. COHEN: Serious.
SEC. COHEN: Serious and sustained.
Q The Gulf War, if I could follow, reduced the Iraqi military
by half. And yet Iraq has remained a thorn in the side of the
international community for nine years. These strikes will clearly
not be as large as the Gulf War. Do you have any optimism that
they'll have any lasting effect?
SEC. COHEN: Well, they're not designed to try to compete with
the Gulf War. They are designed specifically to accomplish what
Saddam Hussein has prevented the UNSCOM team from accomplishing. And
what we are seeking to do is to degrade his capacity to threaten his
neighbors. We're not seeking to try to eliminate it. We're not
saying that that's going to be the measure of success. We're trying
to degrade his capacity to threaten his neighbors with chemical,
biological, or nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them. So
that's what our goal is.
Q General Shelton, how difficult will it be to degrade, from
a military standpoint? You've followed -- back in February both you
and the secretary were very measured about what would constitute
success by way of degradation of these weapons or this capability.
Give us some parameters now.
GEN. SHELTON: Without getting into the operational details, I
would say we have very carefully selected those things that are very
closely associated with the things that he uses to transport, the
things he uses to protect, the things he uses to guard his facilities,
as well as delivery facilities and some production capabilities. And
so it goes after everything from security to manufacture to delivery.
And it's not an easy task, but I think we are up to it.
Q How about --
Q (Inaudible) -- Republican Guards surprised -- were
STAFF: This gentleman here.
Q What about the types of units -- (laughter) -- that are
used to guard those? What's going to happen?
GEN. SHELTON: Suzanne, at this point, I won't discuss any detail
about types or types of targets that we are going after. That --
STAFF: One last question.
Q Secretary Cohen, weren't you worried about civilian
casualties? And also, what would the U.S. response be if Israel is
hit by Iraq?
SEC. COHEN: Now, we have indicated to Iraq that it ought not to
threaten its neighbors or be met with a very severe consequence from
the United States. We would hope that Saddam would not act foolishly
in striking Israel. But the Israelis of course are prepared for any
potential type of attack upon their country. But we have indicated to
Iraq that that would be met with a very severe consequence.
The other part, Tim?
Q Civilian casualties?
SEC. COHEN: Civilian casualties; we always try to take that into
account. We have tried to minimize civilian casualties. We won't
know exactly what will occur until the operation is over.
Q Was surprised achieved?
Q Do you have any indication that he has moved civilians into
the targeted areas?
SEC. COHEN: I am sorry?
Q Do you have any indications that he has moved civilians
into the most obvious target areas, as he has done in the past?
SEC. COHEN: Not at this time. We think that we have achieved as
much tactical surprise as one can do under these circumstances.
Q What tactical --
Q Can you give us an update tomorrow?
Q Will you go to Belgium? Is he going to Belgium?
STAFF (?): Stand back. Excuse me.
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