Battle Report: Rumsfeld and Myers Excerpts
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DONALD RUMSFELD: With each passing day, the Iraqi regime is losing control over more of the country. Coalition forces are closing in on Baghdad, and will not stop until that regime has been driven from power. Their defeat is certain. All that is unclear is the number of days or weeks it will take. This campaign could well grow more dangerous in the coming days and weeks as coalition forces close on Baghdad and the regime is faced with its certain death. But the outcome is assured.
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, there are Sunday-morning generals in every war, and critics are coming out of the walls to criticize this ground campaign. They say that your imprimatur of transformation is heavily on it, and there are simply not enough troops and armor on the ground right now to efficiently take Baghdad or protect your rear. How would you answer that?
DONALD RUMSFELD: The plan has been a plan that’s been approved by all the commanders and by, needless to say, Gen. Myers and Gen. Pace and Don Rumsfeld and the president of the United States. And it is a good plan, and it is a plan that in four and a half or five days has moved ground forces to within a short distance of Baghdad. And forces increase in the country every minute and every hour of every day. And that will continue to be the case.
There is a force flow that’s been put in place weeks and weeks and weeks ago, where people were mobilized, people were trained, people were… equipment was loaded on ships, ships were leased, ships were sent over, ships moved into position, ships were unloaded, personnel were airlifted over to meet with their equipment, and every hour, the number of U.S. and coalition forces in that country are increasing. So I guess how I would respond to what you say are some folks who are concerned about that is that the people who are involved in this are very comfortable, as are the joint chiefs of staff, who have met with the president twice in the last two days and discussed it. One question? You want to comment on that?
GEN. RICHARD MYERS: You bet I do. It’s a plan that’s on track. It’s a plan everybody had input to. It’s a plan everybody agrees to. I’ve been on public record that I think the plan as finally formulated and as put together by Gen. Franks, with some help and some advice, but by Gen. Franks and his commanders, is a brilliant plan. And we’ve been at it now for less than a week. We’re just about to Baghdad. Some of the biggest losses we’ve taken are due to Iraqis committing serious violations of the law of armed conflict in the Geneva Convention by dressing as civilians, by luring us into surrender situations, then opening fire on our troops. So this is a plan that is very well thought out, and that will play out, I think, as we expect.
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, are there indications… have you seen indications that the Republican Guard units that are ringing Baghdad have been authorized to use chemical weapons in the event that U.S. forces advance to a certain distance from the city center — around the city?
DONALD RUMSFELD: There has been intelligence scraps– who knows how accurate they are– chatter in the system that suggest that the closer that coalition forces get to Baghdad and Tikrit, the greater the likelihood, and that some command-and-control arrangements have been put in place. But whether it will happen or not remains to be seen. Yes?
REPORTER: Would you say that you have perhaps not adequately managed the expectations here of… in the sense that some people believe that just five days into this, the war might be going badly, and you’re trying to make the point that we’re much closer to the beginning than the end. Do you need to do a better job in giving the American people and the public an idea of what to expect in the days and weeks ahead?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I can’t manage what people– civilians or retired military– want to say. And if they go on and say it enough, people will begin to believe it. It may not be true, and it may reflect more of a misunderstanding of the situation than an analysis or an assessment of it, but there’s no way anyone can affect what people say.
REPORTER: Is it possible that you did raise expectations beyond reasonable levels by talking about a “shock and awe” campaign? I mean, wasn’t the impression put out that, you know, 3,000 bombs are going to fall in the first 48 hours and the regime is going to collapse?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I certainly did not. Gen. Myers certainly did not. Is it possible that someone might have said something that led some person to believe that? I suppose so. But realistic people… why would we have put in train the hundreds of thousands of people to go do this task if we thought it was going to be over in five minutes? I mean, it’s just unrealistic.
REPORTER: Can you give an update for any family members on the effort to retrieve the soldiers who have been killed in action and just that process? And is there any possible way that you could use the International Red Cross to retrieve the… like the soldiers that we saw on television? And how disturbed are you about the fact that they are showing the remains of these soldiers on national television?
GEN. RICHARD MYERS: Clearly, what we expect from the Iraqi regime is to treat any prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention. And part of that is that the International Red Cross ought to have access to them. In fact, we are doing that with the enemy prisoners of war we have, that are nearing numbers now close to 4,000. We will ensure, I think, maybe even today or tomorrow, we’ll have International Red Cross in there looking at the condition of the Iraqi prisoners of war we have. We expect the same thing. Of course we’re concerned about our prisoners of war, our missing in action, and it’s been our government policy forever to continue to try to repatriate them and find out what happened to the missing.