Donald Rumsfeld, Gen. Richard Myers
Pentagon Press Room
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
Two weeks ago, Iraq sent a letter to the U.N. promising to, quote, "allow the return of United Nations weapons inspectors to Iraq without conditions," unquote. The letter declared that Iraq, quote, "based its decision concerning the return of inspectors on its desire to complete the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions and to remove any doubts that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction," unquote.
Hopeful people around the world found solace in those words. Unfortunately, Iraq's behavior over the past decade requires that thoughtful people measure Iraq by its actions, as opposed to its words.
Within hours of the arrival of that letter, Iraq was again firing at U.S. and coalition aircraft patrolling the northern and southern no-fly zones. Within hours of promising to fulfill the relevant Security Council resolutions and to do so, quote, "without conditions," unquote, Iraq was trying to shoot down and kill coalition pilots, U.S. and U.K., who are implementing those relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. One would think that that would be taken as a powerful signal. Since the Iraqi letter arrived two weeks ago, they have fired on coalition aircraft 67 times, including 14 times this past weekend. That ought to tell reasonable people something.
For close observers of the Iraqi regime, their conduct cannot be a surprise. Since the Persian Gulf War, Iraq has agreed to a series of U.N commitments and failed to fulfill each one.
Three resolutions in particular are relevant. In April 1991 the Security Council passed Resolution 688. It stipulated that Iraq must stop at once repression of its own people, including the repression of minorities. Soon after accepting the resolution, Iraq began to systematically attack the Shi'as and the marsh Arabs of southern Iraq and the Kurds in northern Iraq, from 1991 through 1992.
To halt that outrage and protect Iraqi citizens from further bombing and helicopter attacks, in August 1992 coalition nations, including Britain and the U.S., came together to establish the no-fly zones over those regions, to enforce U.N. Resolution 688. Almost as soon as these zones were created, pilots enforcing them were being fired on with missiles and artillery by Iraq. And that Iraqi aggression against those aircraft continues to this day.
Another U.N. Security Council resolution, 687, established ceasefire conditions that included ending Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and providing for U.N. inspections to determine Iraq's compliance with the ban on weapons of mass destruction. The inspections included a ground component and air components called Operations Northern and Southern Watch. The ground component came to an abrupt end in December of 1998, when the inspectors informed the United Nations that after eight years of Iraqi threats and broken promises, they could not perform their missions. Aerial inspections, however, continued. As coalition aircraft attempt to enforce the no- fly zones, they conduct aerial surveillance to help determine compliance with U.N. resolutions 688 and 687, which bans nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
In October 1994, Iraq defied terms of the cease-fire, moving Republican Guard armored divisions near the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border and threatening to expel U.N. weapons inspectors. U.S. troops moved into the area to turn back the aggression, and the U.N. Security Council passed resolution 949, ordering Iraq to stop threatening its neighbors and establishing no-drive zones which Iraqi ground forces were no longer allowed to enter. Coalition pilots of Operation Southern Watch risk heir lives every day to enforce those U.N. resolutions.
Iraqi weapons continue to fire on U.S. and U.K. coalition pilots as they enforce these resolutions. With each missile launched at our air crews, Iraq expresses its contempt for the U.N. resolutions -- a fact that must be kept in mind as their latest inspection offers are evaluated.
That offer has already been subject to Iraqi revisionism. Three days after September 16th letter was delivered promising to accept inspectors, quote, "without condition," unquote, Iraq's foreign minister gave a speech to the U.N. in which he placed conditions on any future inspections. He declared in part that Iraq rejects any transgression at the expense of its right to sovereignty, security and independence that is a contradiction with the principles of the U.N. charter and international law. He then declared that the U.N. resolutions were, quote, "unjust and at odds with the U.N. charter and international law." He further declared, quote, "Iraq demands that its inalienable rights are met, including respect for its sovereignty, security and the lifting of the blockade imposed on it."
Over the years, the Iraqi regime has shown a great deal of cleverness in playing the international community and the world's media. When it's useful to lean forward, they do so. And many in the international community applaud. But when Iraq wishes to lean back, and many in the international community have been inclined to ignore, temporize or acquiesce, undoubtedly because it wasn't convenient to do otherwise.
The U.S. is interested in compliance with the U.N. resolutions and the disarmament of Iraq. This is the only place in the world where U.S. and British pilots are regularly fired at in an attempt to shoot down U.S. and British airplanes and the aircrews who are enforcing these U.N. resolutions. The president has challenged the United Nations to enforce its resolutions. It's an important moment for the credibility of the members of the United Nations.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I'd like to give you an operational view of both Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch. I think we're on slide five now. Operation Northern Watch is based out of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and is composed of forces from the United States, the United Kingdom and supported by Turkey. That includes, as you can see on the slide, 1,400 personnel and 45 aircraft, and falls under the U.S. European Command.
Operation Southern Watch is also composed of forces from the United States and the United Kingdom. Operation Southern Watch includes over 6,000 personnel and over 150 aircraft, and it falls under U.S. Central Command.
For years, the Iraqis have used anti-aircraft artillery or Triple-A unguided rockets and surface-to-air missiles against our coalition aircraft in the both the northern and southern no-fly zones. In fact, they started firing at our aircraft in 1992, and over the last three years Iraqi AAA has fired at coalition aircraft over 1,000 times, launched 600 rockets and fired nearly 60 SAMs.
If you look at the northern no-fly zone on the chart behind me, which extends from the 36th Parallel to the northern border, you can see the primary areas of concentration where we typically see this AAA or the unguided rockets or the surface-to-air missiles. And they're designated on there by the little red triangles. And similarly, if you look at the red triangles in the southern no-fly zone, which extends from the 33rd Parallel to the southern border, you can see similar areas where Iraqi weapons have been launched at us.
This year alone Operation Southern Watch coalition aircraft have been fired upon 206 times, and Operation Northern Watch aircraft 200 times, for a total of 406 times year to date.
Interestingly, since Saddam Hussein sent his letter to the U.N. on September 16th, authorizing weapons inspection without conditions, Iraq has continued to fire on coalition aircraft -- 28 times in the North and 39 times in the South. And we have those numbers broken out for you on the slides here.
I'd like to note that the Iraqi violations are not limited to firings on coalition aircraft, either. Iraqi aircraft -- military aircraft are also violating the no-fly zone airspace, which they have done about seven times between January 1st and today. The most recent incident occurred on September 24th, when three Iraqi MiG-25s violated Operation Southern Watch airspace, flying deep into the no-fly zone area.
We also have some video today to depict some of the Iraqi attempts to shoot down coalition aircraft over the past two years or so. The first video will show an operation in Operation Northern Watch. Both clips are from the September 2000 time frame, and both have audio. The muzzle flashes you see from the ground are the anti- aircraft artillery that's being fired at one of our coalition F-16s.
(Video is shown.)
[Audio transcription of video: Snake Two muzzle flashes. Whiskey Two grid. Do you see it, One? (Inaudible) We're looking in the whiskey grid. Multiple. Multiple. (Inaudible) Second bulls eye. Second muzzle flash from southwest two. Optical. We're getting locked. Multiple.]
The next video clip --
Staff: (Off mike.)
Myers: I'm sorry. Some more muzzle flashes here from -- (video continues).
The next video clip will move to the southern no-fly zone. And here we'll see a surface-to-air missile, a Roland missile, firing at coalition aircraft in May of 2001.
(Video being shown.)
Q: The first one was northern?
Myers: Yes, the first one was northern, AAA.
It happened real fast.
Q: And when -- (off mike)?
Myers: That was September --
(STAFF ?): May.
Myers: May of 2001.
Q: What kind of imagery was that?
Myers: I'll check. I think it was probably Predator imaging. In fact, I know it was.
Q: The first one or the second?
Q: The second.
Myers: The first one was F-16s, the first two clips of AAA. This was Predator.
And now you're going to see a surface-to-air missile, which we believe to be an SA-3. You'll see initially the missile's on the tail tracking coalition aircraft and then firing. This was from July of 2001. You'll see it continue to swing on, point towards the bottom of the slide.
Q: Do you think was against the Predator?
Myers: I don't know what it's against. I think the Predator's taking the footage. It's always -- it's difficult to tell what it's against.
But that's what they do.
Q: Were any of those guided?
Myers: We'll have to check. But it's very often the case that even the surface-to-air missiles are not guided. But one of the things they can do -- and this goes way back to Vietnam -- you can launch them and you can pick up guidance later and guide them into aircraft. They did that against B-52s somewhat successfully during Linebacker II during Vietnam. So they don't need to start out guided.
I have one more video clip. This is from October of 2001, and it again is in southern no-fly zone. It's AAA firing against coalition aircraft. And then you can see the coalition aircraft respond with laser-guided weapons against the target.
(Video being shown.)
You can see where the firing came from and then you can see the response to the firing.
Rumsfeld: Here you have U.S. and British planes flying daily to enforce the U.N. resolutions, putting their lives at risk, these pilots and air crew, day after day after day for years, and the U.N not enforcing its own resolutions. It forces one to think a bit about that and the risks they take.
Myers: With that -- yes, sir.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you both said earlier this month that these attacks, these increased attacks by the United States and Britain had degraded Iraqi air defenses, and yet they continue to fire AAA missiles, other weapons at you. How much have these air defenses been degraded? How close --
Rumsfeld: Not enough.
Q: Well, then why not launch a strike similar to the major strikes you launched in the southern zone not this past February but the previous February, against the integrated Iraqi missile defense?
Rumsfeld: Needless to say, one has to ask those kinds of questions from time to time. The -- there are obviously a lot of considerations, but the -- for the most part, what they are using -- both their radars and their surface-to-air missiles and their artillery -- are mobile. And that, obviously, complicates it unless you engage in a fairly substantial effort.
Q: Why release this --
Myers: Yeah, can I just --
Myers: Let me just take a stab at that, too, Charlie. One of the areas where the regime has put a lot of emphasis since the oil- for-food program has been on the air defense piece of it. And they've improved their communications. We've talked before about the fiber- optic -- going to fiber-optics, as opposed to other means. They've got a pretty good supply of long-range radars. They don't often move the surface-to-air missiles into the no-fly/no-drive zones. And when they do, they move them around very, very quickly.
And that's what the secretary was talking about. It's very hard to track them. We've had some -- we think, some recent success in that regard, and I'm not going to go into tactics, but we've had some recent success going after some of their surface-to-air missile systems. We've also gone after their command-and-control, their command-and-control headquarters and their communications buildings to try to degrade this, and we've had some success there. And we've had some success against their long-range radars. But it's -- you know, any air defense system has redundancy. They have redundancy, and we try to force them to systems that they prefer less. And we've been somewhat successful in that.
Rumsfeld: The -- let me just make this point, two points: One, they have billions and billions of dollars -- both legally, under the so-called oil-for-food program, and illicitly -- to in fact do exactly what General Myers is talking about - to invest and bring across their borders illegally, these porous borders, significant improvements. Some of it they bring legally and some of it illegal. If you look at some of those vehicles that had -- that they were using, some of those were brought in as dump trucks and then the dump truck bed taken off, and then they mounted surface-to-air capabilities on them. But it is -- it is not a little money; it is a lot of money the Iraqis have, and they're spending it every year not for food but for military capabilities.
Q: Is there any consideration being to -- to hitting the integrated air defense sector outside of the no-fly zone, closer to Baghdad?
Rumsfeld: Why would we answer a question like that? (Pause.) I should rephrase that: we shouldn't answer a question like that. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, you don't seem to be halting their firing. They're still firing at aircraft.
Rumsfeld: They are. They're still firing at the aircraft.
Myers: And the AAA-firing, I mean, they've got enough AAA pieces where that's going to go on -- I mean, that's just -- it's just going to go on. And so you deal with it as you can. Now, those who have flown over anti-aircraft artillery sites that are firing at you, it's very difficult to pinpoint them and to do anything about them. You saw one example where they did. We have been somewhat successful from time to time, but it's ubiquitous, so it's very difficult to defeat that.
Rumsfeld: We have to be, you know, very honest about it. We have just been enormously fortunate that no plane has been shot down and no manned aircraft has been shot down. I mean, to do day after day after day and have these aircrews subjected to that kind of firing the numbers of time that General Myers pointed out, it is -- it is clearly skill on their part, and they're good, and they're fine pilots. But it's also good fortune.
Myers: When they suit up, I mean, it's suiting up not just to enforce the U.N. Security Council resolutions. It's to go on a combat mission. That's how they approach it. They approach it very professionally, but they know it's a combat mission.
Q: For more than a decade, the Pentagon posture on release of this particular kind of video from Northern Watch and Southern Watch has been not to release it, with the argument being made from the podium in previous administrations that this would endanger pilots -- providing this kind of video. Why are you releasing this now?
Rumsfeld: I honestly didn't know he was going to until about five minutes ago. (Laughs; laughter.) As we walked out, I found out.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: I'm sure, because people have looked at it and made a judgment that time has passed and enough is known that in our search for ways to better inform the Pentagon press corps, which we work to do, somebody concluded that it was no longer something that needed to be protected.
Myers: And over time, as you try to deal with the problem, you know, I guess you hope that it's going to rectify itself. And if it doesn't, then I think it's important to tell people what the air crews -- the coalition air crews, in this case -- are going through. And that's a good way to do it. There's nothing on those videos, at least in my view and the staff's view, that in any way compromises -- now on other videos, there may be, but -- it's hard. We're talking about, potentially, combat action here. It's really hard to capture pieces and the bits of this in a way that can impart meaning. And that's part of the problem.
Q: I guess one way to frame the question differently is, is there a political motivation today to release this, given the administration's posture and thinking on Iraq? This provides a political message. Is that part of what's --
Rumsfeld: I didn't know they were going to be released until five minutes ago, so I -- the answer's obviously not.
Q: Well, is the whole reason for this, that you're concerned -- are you concerned that people will think that these repeated reports of attacks on Iraqi air defenses are not as a response to their firing on you but perhaps to pave the way for an invasion of Iraq? Is that what this is all about? Are you concerned that that's what people will think -- that you're simply attacking Iraq to pave the way for an invasion, as opposed to responding?
Rumsfeld: No. I guess I'm not -- haven't thought in that way. I'll tell you what bothers me -- is -- bothers the dickens out of me that American and British air crews are getting fired at day after day after day with impunity. And it's very difficult for us to do anything about in terms of actually getting at the people that are firing at them on the ground. It is -- as Dick Myers pointed out, it's difficult for us to impose a level of damage that would make it in their interest to adhere to the U.N. resolutions, which they consistently refuse to do. And you might -- you know, it bothers me to think that these folks are having to put their lives at risk every day, and yet the firing continues. And simultaneously the Iraqis are out telling the world that they want to have everyone inspect everything and without conditions, which is so -- just patently false.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: I think I know the answer to this question, but let me not presuppose. Let me just ask you about a statement released today from the Russian Foreign Ministry, and I'll just read a brief portion of it. It said, quote, "the surge of activity by allied aviation, which has come at a time when representatives prepare to go to Vienna to discuss procedures for renewing U.N. inspection in Iraq, causes regret," according to the Russian ministry. It goes on, "Anglo- American bombing raids in no-fly zones not only deepen the complicated atmosphere around Iraq but create obstacles in the search for a political-diplomatic settlement of the Iraq question."
Can I just get your reaction, your response to that?
Rumsfeld: That -- there is regret?
Q: That the -- what the Russians are characterizing is an increased tempo of bombing in the no-fly zones, what you've been talking about here, is creating a -- making it harder to reach a political and diplomatic and is -- that they're troubled by it.
Rumsfeld: (To the general.) Well, would you want to comment first on the numerical frequency of what's going on? I don't know that it is notably up. Is it?
Myers: I think we -- yeah, I think we had the last chart -- did -- did they show them the last chart?
Staff: The sorties? No, sir. There's simply a note sheet there.
Myers: Okay. Let me just -- let me take a second and just get the summary of facts here.
Rumsfeld: There's a famous Silverman's law that says something like -- that governments looking at the actions of other governments generally tend to overestimate conspiracy and calculation and underestimate incompetence and fortuity. (Laughter, cross talk.)
Just -- I thought I'd just lay that out there while Dick was getting his papers ready.
Myers: But the timing was very good there, too. So --
Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) (Laughter.)
Myers: The AAA, for instance, in -- this is 2000 through 2002. So 2000, 2001 and so far in 2002, 642 firing incidents in 2000; 647 in '01; 416 year-to-date.
Rumsfeld: Through September.
Q: How about U.S. and British responses? We're talking about the bombing.
Rumsfeld: Well, we tend to respond back --
Q: Yeah, but how much?
Rumsfeld: -- on most of the firings; if not that day, the next day or the day after.
Q: You certainly have done it 600 times.
Myers: No, because sometimes you can't tell where it's coming from and so forth. That's correct.
Q: Statistically how much has the U.S. responded since the first of the year, or since September 14th? I mean, there's --
Myers: Just a minute. I can --
Rumsfeld: It is higher since the Iraqis sent the letter to the United Nations. Their firings are higher -- I misspoke. I can't speak to how many times we've fired back, at the moment. We can get that for you.
Myers: Responses this year, 2002, 34 in Southern Watch, 10 times in Northern Watch. And I'd have to go back and get the -- I don't think the previous years are on here.
Q: The nub of the question, and not to put too fine a point on it, is essentially that the Russians seem to believe that you've intensified your response and that it comes at a time which is making it more difficult to reach a political or diplomatic arrangement.
Rumsfeld: That is very interesting. It is a fascinating approach. It's where you take something and turn it upside down and look at it: it is not the Iraqis firing on British and American airplanes that is making it difficult, it is the response that's making it difficult? The question on its face is nonsensical. It's the shooting at the airplanes that cause the response. If the shooting at the airplanes are doing what they're doing, it seems to me that one -- reasonable people would look at that and say, "My goodness. Why would the Iraqis make it more difficult to solve this? Is it because they're trying to get us to fire back so that someone can say they're uncomfortable or regret it?"
Q: How positively would you take it if Iraq were to stop firing at U.S. planes and British planes?
Rumsfeld: How positively would you take it --
Q: Would you see that as a major conciliatory gesture by Iraq, if it were to stop firing?
Rumsfeld: Well, it hasn't happened. What I see is the fact that the firing is continuing even though they've sent a letter to the United Nations indicating that they are available to have inspections back in without conditions. Now, that strikes me as where the anomaly is. I regret that, if somebody else regrets the response. That's not very diplomatic, I suppose, but --
Q: In all fairness --
Rumsfeld: Let me put it this way. Responding to the foreign minister of -- Russia, I think you said --
Rumsfeld: -- is the task of the Department of State. You should take your question over them to them.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Let me have you elaborate just a little bit on what message it is that you think the United Nations should take. You were saying that the firing on the coalition aircraft causes one to think about this, particularly as Iraq is saying that it's going to have -- allow weapons inspections back. Let me have you elaborate on that message and also, your reaction to the latest in Vienna from Iraq.
Rumsfeld: I don't know about the latest in Vienna. I don't do that. That's the Department of State, I guess -- is negotiating that.
Q: Do you suspect that they might allow unfettered weapons inspections to all areas -- palaces and is --
Rumsfeld: I have not seen anything about what you're talking about in Vienna. I'm without knowledge and can't address it.
Q: And elaborating on the message to the United Nations -- just elaborate on --
Rumsfeld: Well, I think if a body -- an international body -- has seen their resolutions defied for a period close to a decade, and right on the heels of a letter that much of the world took to mean that the Iraqis were allowing inspections without conditions, but in fact, the speech the next day indicated they were not allowing inspections without conditions, and you see the attack against the British and U.S. aircraft -- I would think that those are the kinds of things that people making those judgments ought to take into account. Now I'm not a member of the U.N. Others are, and they're going to have to take those and weigh them as they consider how they want to fashion whatever resolution, singular or plural, they may decide to do.
Q: I wanted to ask both of you to go back sort of to Charlie's question, because I'm confused. You had said, Mr. Secretary, that you have a lot of concern that U.S. and coalition pilots continue to be fired on, you know, almost every time they fly. And General Myers said that the Iraqi tactics are pretty savvy; it's really hard to get a handle on it; they move things around and all of that. And I guess I'm just not really clearly understanding why it is that U.S. and coalition pilots could not address this ongoing and apparently increasing threat more substantively. Why is it that we're letting pilots continue to fly into this increasing threat? Is there anything that you're doing to ask the military for new ideas, tactics, procedures, rather than just going after the same set of targets that they've been going after for a decade?
Rumsfeld: No, they're not. I mean, the Spoon Rest radar at Basra, I am told, is no longer functioning exactly the way it was when it was manufactured.
Q: Okay. (Inaudible.)
Rumsfeld: Now the fact that there might be another Spoon Rest radar that will arrive there at some point in the future -- which is what's been happening, if these things are mobile -- means that there might very well be another Spoon Rest radar at the Basra airport.
Q: Clearly, but you have laid out a case here to us, complete with statistics, of several weeks of an increasing threat both in frequency and everything else. So I'm just quite curious why we're not -- the U.S. military's not more aggressively --
Rumsfeld: I don't know that we did talk about an increasing threat. What we tried to do is to -- laid out what's been happening since 1991 and to indicate what's happened since the letter was sent up there --
Q: Right, and that's --
Rumsfeld: -- as an indication of something less than perfect good faith.
Q: If I'm understanding the statistics correctly, General Myers, you see an increasing frequency since that letter -- 14 episodes, you said, alone this weekend. Why aren't we responding more aggressively?
Myers: Well, I think -- in the first place, I think we are. And in the second place, we can't go into the tactics here or the operational-level detail. But there's a variety of reasons you can do what you can -- you can do, and sometimes you have some limitations.
When we were heavily involved in Afghanistan -- just a for- instance -- there weren't as many air sorties available for response as there are today, because -- well, for a reason I'm just not going to get into -- but there were -- we didn't have as many air sorties.
But the tactical commanders -- General Franks and his tactical commanders work this, you know all the time, always looking at ways to change flight patterns, different tactics to try to ameliorate this threat the best they can. And you just -- we didn't bring that out there because we're not going to have a tactics discussion of what we've done over time, but things have changed over time to try to deal with threat for sure.
Q: Can I follow up on --
Q: There's -- Mr. Secretary, there's another aspect to dealing with the no-fly zone, and that is efforts to try and intercept and prevent the supply of this technology to Iraq. And I'm wondering how aggressively the United States has been doing that. I'm wondering if you could comment on the reports that Ukraine provided radar to the Iraqis and what you're doing in terms of stepping up efforts to stop other countries from providing the kind of assistance they have in the past -- the Chinese and other countries.
Rumsfeld: You're right. I mean, the -- since -- for a decade, ever since the Gulf War, the -- three administrations now have made efforts to attempt to prevent Iraq from receiving capabilities that will add to their military might, and -- some of which are clearly illegal under the oil-for-food program and others of which are dual use and are legal and can then be adjusted and fixed so that they can be lethal or at least assist with lethality.
Sanctions just -- economic sanctions work somewhat. They make life more difficult. They add to the cost. But they're not bulletproof. They simply don't stop everything from going in. I mean, fiber optic can be used for a cueing of a radar to an anti- aircraft or a surface-to-air missile, but it can also be used for communications between hospitals, if you will.
So you've got this argument that goes on in the U.N. on all these sanctions. They've got -- they have hundreds and hundreds of these contracts, and they reviewed all these contracts, and the fact of the matter is, in the last couple of years, Saddam Hussein has gotten many, many billions of dollars illegally and legally under the food- for-oil arrangement, and he has been buying capabilities that have increased his net capability.
Q: Yeah, but you -- but this administration and previous administrations have been reticent to discuss the suppliers, where it's coming from. We're always being told, "Oh, that's classified." And I'm wondering whether or not, given the fact that you're now releasing this classified film, whether or not you're going to be prepared to be more aggressive in naming the transgressors of the sanctions. Surely that's another approach.
Rumsfeld: Is a transgressor someone who sells them a dump truck if they then take the top of the -- and the rule permits it --
Q: Someone who sells them a radar surely is. (Laughs.)
Rumsfeld: Yes, no question. And there's no question but that for a decade, any time that pops up as a possibility or a fact, a demarche is made. Things happen. People talk to them, and -- whatever country actually proves to have been doing something like that, and things are somewhat less pleasant than they were before.
Q: Can you -- could you comment specifically on the case involving the Ukrainian radar, for instance?
Rumsfeld: Well, that's very recent, and I can tell you that there's a sensitivity to that question, and I'm sure that the Department of State is interesting itself in A, determining the facts, and B, to the extent the fact are as you've stated them, which they may or may not be, and I'm not in a position to say right this minute, then obviously they would be in communication with the countries involved.
Rumsfeld: Just a second. Tom?
Q: Thank you. Actually, it's a follow-up to both of these last two questions talking about the fiber optic network. The network was hit in February 2001, we were told, because of the danger presented to U.S. and British pilots. The network nodes have been repaired since them. If the U.S. is indeed concerned about the danger to pilots, why hasn't that network been hit since then?
Rumsfeld: It's a targeting question. I suppose you'd have to -- we'd have to ask -- that was in the south no-fly zone, as I recall --
Myers: That's correct.
Rumsfeld: -- which would be Franks as opposed to Ralston.
Q: So General Franks hasn't recommended hitting -- striking it again?
Myers: Actually, we have. We have hit --
Q: You have hit it?
Myers: Yes. With some success.
Q: How recently?
Myers: Oh, I'd have to go back and get that, but I think within the last two weeks or so we hit a fairly major node, matter of fact.
Q: A couple things I want to straighten out. You showed a chart that had something that said nine firings in Operation Northern Watch on September 26th. Could you describe what you mean by firings? Is that, say, one -- is that nine separate incidents of firings or is that nine shells out of a single AAA gun? And could you also talk about the record prior to December '98, how many times there was an exchange of fire in either of the no-fly zones before that? It's my understanding that almost everything has happened after that date.
Myers: We've got to check that, so we'll have to get you those figures. I don't think we have them, although I was just passed a note on that stuff.
But on how we characterize a firing, a firing is from one concentration of anti-aircraft artillery that are, you know, pretty much the same geographical location, or it's one missile system that fires at you. So that's --
Q: When you say there were nine firings, does that mean there were nine separate concentrations?
Myers: Yeah. If it's nine anti-aircraft artillery firings, that would be from nine different locations. It could be 10 guns in one location, it could be one gun in one location, but as long as they're not all operating as part of the same area, then they classify them that way.
Q: A follow-up on the figures as well. You said 67 times since the letter, 14 this weekend. How much of that is AAA? Are there any SAMs in there? And can you give us any sense of what our response was? Did we fire back 67 times, or --
Myers: I think I covered some of the responses. I'll try that again, if I got your question right.
But to go back to another question, I have some numbers here they've been working on. The year 2000, Operation Southern Watch -- this is in Southern Watch, now -- 221 firings or provocations, 32 responses. In 2001, 430 firings, 32 responses. And in 2002 year-to- date, 206 firings or provocations, 34 responses. When I say provocations, because if they fly aircraft down there, that's not a firing, but it's a provocation and you may -- the commander may decide to take some sort of action.
Rumsfeld: Or even a radar on might be a provocation as opposed to a firing.
Myers: Right. Yes. Absolutely correct. Just finding a surface-to-air missile system south of 33, where they're not supposed to be, if you see the radar emissions or you find it on some kind of imagery or otherwise, then you can take action.
Rumsfeld: The reason for the gap between the provocations, to use that word, and the responses -- what is it, 10-to-1 are the provocations versus the responses -- is the point we made earlier; it's just very, very hard to find artillery after it's fired. And it's also very, very hard to find things that are mobile if -- and they have some distance to go back to land. And so frequently, the next day a response is taken, as opposed to the day of the provocation.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: Let me go in the back a little bit here. Yes.
Q: Sir, if you could just quantify for us -- either you or the general -- a little bit about the ways in which you've been able to use unmanned aerial vehicles like the Predator, whose imagery you showed us some up here -- has the use of those types of assets increased since -- well, over the course of time that you've outlined for us here? And how does the --
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness. Since 1990?
Q: And how has the war in Afghanistan affected your ability to use assets or sorties -- (inaudible) -- of assets in that way -- the unmanned sector?
Rumsfeld: (To Gen. Myers.) I don't think we've ever stopped using them, have we?
Myers: There was a period.
Rumsfeld: A period?
Myers: Yes, sir.
Rumsfeld: Yeah, it's a matter of allocating assets, and depending on where you need them, you move them around. And apparently, the general indicates there has been a period when they were not operating in -- over Iraq.
Myers: As you know, Predator is a system that's just being fielded. So it's not fully met its initial operational capability definition and number of systems and so forth. So we're limited.
Q: Could you outline numbers at all, or --
Myers: No. No -- I could, but I wouldn't.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Late last week, the administration spoke of evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda -- especially in terms of training for chemical-weapons development. Condoleezza Rice said that part of the evidence came from interviews with al Qaeda detainees, including some high-ranking ones. I have a two-part question. First, do you think that information and those links are significant?
Rumsfeld: You know, for me to put a characterization on the precise words that she used and I used, which were close to being identical, I don't think is useful. It is -- they are what they are. The facts are that -- the unclassified facts as we've stated them are what they are. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If we've said, as we did, that an al Qaeda member who's now in custody told us that Iraq provided unspecified chemical and biological weapons training for al Qaeda members and that there's evidence from other sources of that cooperation, that is what it is. And somebody then has to take that not in isolation but along with all the other information and piece it together and then come to a conclusion as to -- as to what it means and how they feel about it. And I don't know that I would want to add to anything that I've said.
Q: Well, do we run the risk of being misled by people who would probably love to see us attack Iraq, degrade our resources, inflame the Muslim world, maybe drag Israel into this?
Rumsfeld: Could you say that again? (Laughter.)
Q: Would al Qaeda love to --
Rumsfeld: That's a pip!
Rumsfeld: That's a pip! I'm trying to track it.
Q: I saw -- I saw newspaper cartoon --
Rumsfeld: Wouldn't al Qaeda like to see us drawn into a war with Iraq to their advantage? Is that roughly it?
Q: Yeah, I saw newspaper cartoon this morning that said -- had the president saying, "Won't any world leader please support me in attacking Iraq." And then Osama bin Laden raised his hand.
Rumsfeld: Yeah. Well, I don't know how to respond to that. And I -- it seems to me that there are all kinds of theories that people can fashion, like that. But what we have to do is keep driving back down to the facts. What are the facts? And we've attempted to communicate them. The director of Central Intelligence has testified over and over again up on the Hill. I've testified. Secretary Powell's testified. And we've been careful about what we've said, and what's we've said has been exactly accurate. It -- there are a whole host of considerations such as the one you've posed that would be on the exact opposite side. In other words, you could make -- someone could make that case in a cartoon or whatever you said you saw. On the other hand, you could make just the opposite case, that: "Just please don't do it for another two, four, six, eight, 10, 12 months so that we can get ourselves arranged to impose some additional damage on innocent men, women and children." And I think that no one can -- no one ought to take any one thread such as that and put a lot of reliance on it, because it's the fabric, it's the totality of it that we have to take into account. And that's what we have to do.
Q: Mr. Secretary, over the weekend, three members of Congress who are visiting Baghdad claimed that President Bush is misleading the American people in describing the threat that Saddam Hussein and Iraq presents. And I guess since you've probably been the leading figure in the administration in identifying the threat, by --
Rumsfeld: Oh, no.
Q: Well --
Rumsfeld: No, the director of Central Intelligence Agency is the one who does that.
Q: You've been pretty outspoken recently in terms of the threat -- (off mike) -- Iraq.
Rumsfeld: Well, I've just used the -- yeah, but the material I've used --
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Just a minute. The material I've used has come from Central Intelligence.
Q: We don't hear often from George Tenet. We hear often from you. So by implication, then --
Rumsfeld: Notwithstanding that fact --
Rumsfeld: -- it would be erroneous to leave people with the impression that I'm the director of Central Intelligence, because I'm not. I'm that sure your question's going to be good when I let you do it, but --
Q: You're probably one of the most outspoken members of the administration in identifying the threat posed by --
Rumsfeld: That's because you people ask me to give press briefings down here.
Q: Whatever the reason -- (laughter) --
Rumsfeld: And last Friday or whenever it was when they asked me about this, I didn't bring it up. I came down and talked about something entirely different.
Q: (Off mike) -- question --
Rumsfeld: And then you asked me the question --
Q: (Off mike) --
Rumsfeld: -- and then you say, "Oh, my goodness, you orchestrated something!" Who said that? One of the front row. That was the front row. (Cross talk.)
Q: That was me. (Laughter.)
Q: Miraculously, when three members of the administration -- (off mike) --
Q: But by implication, these members of Congress are saying that President Bush, the administration, indeed you are misleading the public in regard to --
Rumsfeld: No one's said that. You're just taking enormous license with that.
Q: All right. Let me stick precisely with their words --
Rumsfeld: Well, that would be a good idea.
Q: -- that President Bush is misleading the American people in regard to threat posed by Saddam Hussein. What is your response to that?
Rumsfeld: Well, what compelled you to elaborate it and add three or four additional names? Just for mischief?
Rumsfeld: My goodness.
What's my reaction to that? Well, I work with the man every day when we're both in the same city, and he is at -- just -- Dick does, too -- you can't find a person who is as straightforward and instinctively wanting desirous of being accurate and forthright, which he is.
Q: Is the U.S. in any way exaggerating or misleading the American public in regard to the potential threat posed by Iraq, as charged by these --
Rumsfeld: Is the U.S. government -- you mean the senior members of the administration?
Rumsfeld: Not to my knowledge. And if I knew of an instance, I would certainly correct it.
Q: And then what is your reaction to this charge made by these three members of Congress?
Rumsfeld: I don't think the charge was made by three members of Congress, with all respect -- one of the three. Gosh, I'm glad I'm here to help get all this untangled.
I just gave my reaction. I know the president, and I know him to be a very straightforward and honorable person. And the last thing in the world he'd do would be to --
Q: Mr. Secretary, Iraq has --
Staff: And you actually need to go across the street and see --
Rumsfeld: To see that individual.
Staff: -- that individual.
Staff: The last question.
Rumsfeld: But I can tell him you mentioned him. (Laughs.)
Q: I'm sure he'll be pleased.
Q: Iraq has consistently accused the United States of reading more into these U.N. resolutions that you cited than were actually there. And today --
Rumsfeld: Iraq has repeatedly said they had no weapons of mass destruction.
Q: I grant you that. Today you said that the no-fly-zone enforcement was also part of the inspection regime for weapons of mass destruction. It's the first time I've heard that. I'm just wondering, is that a new argument, and does that add to your casus belli for potential military action -- that in firing at the planes, Iraq is also flouting weapons inspections?
Rumsfeld: I think that those issues are really issues that are being addressed by the White House, dealing with Congress with respect to resolutions, and the Department of State and the White House, dealing with the United Nations Security Council.
Let me say something about all of this stuff that's kind of a little undertone here. You know, in life, if a person doesn't tell the truth, those people who become aware of that know it. They -- suddenly, they're aware of it, and they tell other people. And that individual who doesn't tell the truth pays a penalty. He pays a penalty in a company, pays a penalty in a city or a town, in an industry, in a unit. There's a punishment; there's a penalty, as there should be, for a person who makes a practice of not telling the truth.
It's interesting to me that a government that consistently does not tell the truth seems not to pay a penalty. Everything they say is accepted. Everything they say is repeated. Everything they say, notwithstanding the fact that they have lied over and over and over again, and yet there it comes: "They said this. What do you think about this?" There --
Q: (What we said was not ?) accepting.
Rumsfeld: I understand that. But there ought to be a penalty somehow or other if an individual loses their reputation for being honest. Generally, people would say, "Old Joe said this, but then everyone knows Joe doesn't tell the truth." And it would be part of the same sentence. And there'd be that penalty, which there ought to be.
But there -- that doesn't happen in this business. It does not happen! It can run hour after hour, day after day. It did during the Afghanistan conflict, when we were involved. And there -- somebody in this country is going to have to start thinking about that and understanding it and is going to have to ask themselves the question, how comfortable are they with this business where an individual properly loses their reputation and is penalized for it. And people, when they say what he said, say, "But then he's a liar. He doesn't tell the truth." But by golly, that does not happen. It has not happened. And it ought to happen. And the world needs to know that.
And the press session is over. (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you for --
Rumsfeld: I'm glad you gave me a hook to hang my anger on. (Laughter.)
Q: Back to those three members of Congress. (Laughter.)
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Oh, you! (Laughs.) That's terrible!