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The Briefing

April 9, 2003 at 12:00 AM EST
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TRANSCRIPT

DONALD RUMSFELD: Baghdad is in the process of being liberated, although battles continue in and around the city. And the regime has been run out of a number of Iraqi cities and towns. Other Iraqi cities are still being contested and there will be actual fighting and difficult tasks ahead. We still must capture, account for or otherwise deal with Saddam Hussein and his sons and the senior Iraqi leadership.

We still must find and ensure the safe return of prisoners of war — those captured in this war as well as any still held from the last Gulf War — Americans and other nationals. We still must secure the northern oil fields, which have probably been wired for destruction, as was the case with the southern fields. We still need to find and secure Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities and secure Iraq’s borders so we can prevent the flow of weapons of mass destruction materials and senior regime officials out of the country.

We still must find out everything we can about how the Iraqi regime acquired its capabilities and the proliferation that took place by countries in the industrialized world. We need to locate Iraqi scientists with knowledge of these programs, and we’re asking people to come forward and help in this effort. Rewards are available to those who help us prevent the disappearance of personnel, documentation and materials. Good lives and a better future are possible for those who turn themselves in and choose to cooperate with coalition forces.

CHARLES ALDINGER, Reuters: It seems as the shooting wanes in coming days, that the humanitarian need will grow drastically.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Why… I can’t see why the humanitarian situation would grow drastically. Quite the contrary. The humanitarian problem occurred under the Saddam Hussein regime for a decade. The circumstance of those people has been terrible. They had been denied all kinds of things because he was unwilling to cooperate with the United Nations. Now, what’s happening now is that humanitarian assistance is coming in. That doesn’t mean the situation is worse; it means that it’s better. I’ll tell you what’s going to happen is, the more people who go into that country and see how serious the situation is, the needs of those people– and they’re real needs– they’re going to report there’s a humanitarian crisis, the implication that it just occurred. It didn’t just occur.

IVAN SCOTT, WOP Radio: When peace finally comes to Iraq, at least stability, what’s next in the Middle East? You have thrown down the gauntlet to Syria. Are they in the sights for military action?

DONALD RUMSFELD: No one’s thrown down the gauntlet. I’ve accurately observed that they would be well advised to not provide military capabilities to Iraq. They seem to have made a conscious to decision to ignore that. Senior regime people are moving out of Iraq into Syria, and Syria is continuing to send things into Iraq. We find it notably unhelpful. The question you ask, however, is not a question I can answer. It depends on people’s behavior. And certainly I have nothing to announce. We’re still dealing with Iraq.

REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, in light of the criticisms of the supply line and the pause that was reported a week or two ago, are you feeling vindicated today?

DONALD RUMSFELD: You’re right, there have been a lot of people who’ve suggested that the force was undersized and that they went too fast and they should have had a long air war first. I happen to think that– it’s not a matter for me to be vindicated– I happen to think that Gen. Franks and his team have done an absolutely superb job. And the young folks in uniform who have marched to Baghdad and done such superb work in the air and at sea, and the leadership they have had has been excellent. I think the outcome is in the process of speaking for itself, and it’s not for me to draw conclusions about it.

REPORTER: Speaking of weapons of mass destruction, how important is it, given the original rationale for the war of the disarming Saddam of those weapons, that we find significant caches of weapons of mass destruction?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Look, the… we are in the process of trying to liberate that country. And at the moment where the war ends and the coalition forces occupy the areas where those capabilities, chemical and biological weapons, are likely to be, to the extent they haven’t been moved out of the country, it obviously is important to find them. But that is… I don’t quite get the thrust of the question.

JOHN McWETHY, ABC News: Is it your sense, especially in the Arab-speaking world, that they have become convinced of the rightness of the cause that you are fighting this war for?

DONALD RUMSFELD: There’s no question but that there are a number of, particularly television stations, as well as print, in that part of the world that have carried a message that was false. They’ve carried a message that tried to lead people in that part of the world to believe that we were fighting Iraq and the Iraqi people, as opposed to a vicious dictator; that we were anti a religion, which is totally untrue. Does it make me sad to see television saying things that are flat not true and people printing things in that part of the world that’s flat not true, children being taught things that is flat not true, yes it bothers me but what can one do except to tell the truth, behave in a way that is consistent with the our values and this country and the coalition has done that in this case.

JIM LEHRER: Asked where Saddam Hussein might be Rumsfeld said what is important that the Iraqi regime will change and the country no longer will have weapons of mass destruction or pose a threat to its neighbors.