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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rumsfeld, Myers Speak in Baghdad

Aired May 13, 2004 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: At this hour, we are still waiting on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who is in Iraq to speak with troops there in Baghdad. And of course when that happens, we will take it live.
But right now, we want to go live to Washington and CNN's Wolf Blitzer who can give us some insight on this surprise visit. A surprise to you, Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It was a surprise to everyone I think, except a very small group of individuals at the Pentagon and the Bush administration. As well as a small group of network and print reporters who were, of course, involved in setting the stage for this because they had to make that long 15-hour flight from Washington -- from Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C. in suburban over to Kuwait, refuel, take and get on a different plane to fly into Baghdad.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been watching all of this together with us from afar. Barbara, take our viewers a little bit -- as we await the arrival of the defense secretary at this event in Baghdad where he'll be talking with U.S. military personnel -- into the thinking that led up to this surprise visit.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you say, a surprise but perhaps not such a surprise. After the prison abuse scandal really erupted here in Washington, it was very clear that both Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers wanted to make a very visible gesture that they were involved in the crisis, that they were managing it.

And also make a gesture to the many troops serving honorably, of course, in Iraq. And say that -- tell them that they were supported by the leadership in Washington. So a lot of this is a very visible effort to try and get a handle on the crisis.

Here we see Secretary Rumsfeld talking to reporters on that long 15-hour plane ride last night from Washington into Kuwait and then on to Baghdad, as you say.

But even as this prison abuse scandal continues, it is worth remembering there are basically two issues here. There is the criminal abuse, those photographs and the military justice system that is underway now. Three court-martials underway for criminal behavior clearly against Iraqi detainees. But back here in Washington, Congress is also looking very closely, questioning very closely some of the procedures that were put into place when military intelligence took over Abu Ghraib Prison last November. Where that order came from, what was behind it, whether there was political influence or influence if you will, from political appointees.

Here in the Pentagon people who had a real interest in having military intelligence and military police work more closely together to try to get intelligence from prisoners. Whether that was a violation of military doctrine.

And whether some of the interrogation techniques, such as sleep deprivation, putting prisoners into forced positions, sensory deprivation, those types of approved techniques by the Pentagon were actually in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

All of that part of the very deep focus of Congress, separate from the criminal behavior, but both lines of investigation clearly going forward -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm going to ask you, Barbara, to stand by.

I want to go to Baghdad right now. Our Karl Penhaul is on the scene. Everyone seemingly caught by surprise. Normally, security is very tight for all U.S. personnel in Iraq. Especially tight, of course, for the visiting second and the chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers.

Give us a little flavor of what's going on in the Iraqi capital as we await the arrival of the secretary at this event with U.S. military and coalition personnel.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, indeed, prior details of Donald Rumsfeld's agenda being held very tightly under wraps. That agenda though is unfolding. Donald Rumsfeld has been on the ground here now for the best part of 5 1/2 hours in Baghdad.

What we do know so far is he's met and held talks with General Sanchez, the commander of the U.S. forces here in Iraq. He's also held talks with General Jeffrey Miller. That's the general who came from Guantanamo to Baghdad to take charge of the prison facilities here.

He then accompanied General Miller down to the Abu Ghraib Prison, the site of that prison abuse scandal, to tour the facilities there and to see for himself the firsthand the area where these alleged abuses have been taking place.

He met some troops there. And also fulfilled the secondary order of this trip, and that to boost moral among ordinary troops. Doing a lot of back patting and shaking hands. And Donald Rumsfeld was telling the troops there that he believes that they're doing a fantastic job.

BLITZER: Karl Penhaul, I'm going to also ask you to stand by as we await the beginning of this event, the secretary of defense speaking with troops in Baghdad. Our viewers are seeing these live picture and there he is, the defense secretary.

Let's go there and listen in as he gets this thunderous ovation from U.S. military personnel. These military personnel getting a very, very warm vote of confidence from the defense secretary there. Standing up, they're going to sit down now. Let's listen in.

DONALD H. RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: What a sight.

(APPLAUSE)

Those who have a seat, be seated.

(APPLAUSE)

Those who don't, stay standing and thank you for coming and being here.

(APPLAUSE)

General Myers and I are proud to be here with the first team.

(APPLAUSE)

We had a meeting -- and the days are kind of blurring together -- but today is what, Thursday or something?

(APPLAUSE)

We had a meeting earlier this week -- I think it was on Monday -- with President Bush, and we told him that we were thinking about coming out here because we wanted to have a chance to look you folks in the eye and tell you how proud we are and what a wonderful job you folks are doing.

(APPLAUSE)

And he said to give you his respect. He knows what you're doing is noble work, he knows it's important, he values it and appreciates it and wanted to send his personal regards.

(APPLAUSE)

You folks have helped to liberate 25 million human beings. You've also performed any number of acts of kindness, generosity and compassion to the Iraqi people that you've worked with.

I know you have security responsibilities to be sure, but I'm told that you folks have also trained new members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, you built playgrounds and a sports complex, you've improved local health clinics, and you're showing the Iraqi people, and indeed the people of the world who will look, the character of the country that we're from and the character of the men and women in the armed services. RUMSFELD: In recent days, there's been a focus on a few who have betrayed our values and sullied the reputation of our country. Like each of you, I'm sure, and like most Americans, I was stunned. It was a body blow.

And with six or seven investigations under way, and a country that has values, and a military justice system that has values, we know that those involved, whoever they are, will be brought to justice.

And we've spent the day talking to people and seeing the steps that have been taken to see that those types of abuses to people for whom we have a responsibility and custody will not happen again.

But it's important for each of you to know that that is not the values of America and it's not your values. And I know that and you know that and your families know that. And we're proud of you -- each of you. We're proud of your service. We know each of you is here because you volunteered to serve your country. You said that that is important to you. And it's important to our country that we have the freedom that we all enjoy.

You know, the American men and women in uniform over the decades, they helped to defeat Germany and Japan in World War II and then helped to rebuild them. They've helped with the folks in Bosnia and Kosovo and some of you have undoubtedly been involved in that. You're currently helping people in Liberia and in Haiti. And they understand America and our values.

The people of the world understand that also. We hear a lot of criticism in the press, but the fact of the matter is that people every year line up to come to the United States of America. They want to become American citizens.

And the reason they do is because they know, as Abraham Lincoln said, that the United States is the last best hope of human kind.

I've stopped reading the newspapers.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

It's a fact. I'm a survivor.

(APPLAUSE)

RUMSFELD: And instead, I've been reading a book about Ulysses S. Grant and the Civil War and the challenges that our country faced during that period. And, of course, there are enormous differences between that conflict and this conflict. But I was -- am constantly struck, as I, each evening -- and indeed coming over on the plane, I spent some time reading the book.

In that conflict there were casualties that were just horrendous. There were battles -- several battles where a thousand, 2,000, 3,000 were lost in two or three days.

Back then the debate was vigorous; indeed I would say vicious. Politicians were saying things about each other and about the conflict that were almost unprintable. Editorials were written that were critical of everything. I guess that's what editorial writers do.

There were no e-mails or telephones to be used back in those days, but there were soldiers' diaries and letters, and letters from home. And it was interesting to read them.

There were questions -- honest questions by the politicians, by the editorial writers, by the families: Can we win? Is it worth it? Those are big questions.

And you could see the back and forth and the heartfelt concern and the questions, and the unbelievable criticism of Abraham Lincoln, and indeed the criticism of generals on both sides.

RUMSFELD: But they were steadfast. And those veterans, when they looked back on that conflict and saw a nation that was together, a single nation, a union, they knew they had been part of something really big and it had been worth it.

You folks are young.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm not. But you're going to look back on this conflict, on these debates, on these difficulties. And it's going to be a tough road ahead. We know that. It's not going to be an easy path from a repressive dictatorship to a stable, prosperous, successful country that respects all of the various religious and ethnic groups, that's at peace with its neighbors, that understands what human rights are. That's not an easy path.

It's a tough path. And there'll be plenty of potholes in the road and mistakes will get made and people will have to be picked up and put back on that path toward a freer system.

But one day you're going to look back and you're going to be proud of your service. And you're going to say it was worth it.

Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

RUMSFELD: I don't get to do this often. Usually, Dick Myers introduces me. But today we reversed it and I get to introduce General Dick Myers, the Air Force four-star general who has been serving, first, as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and for, I guess, the past three years, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He's from Kansas. Is there anyone here...

(APPLAUSE) There you go. I'm from Illinois.

(APPLAUSE)

But Dick Myers' service is a model for our country. He is courageous. He's a pilot. He's intelligent. He's patriotic. He's dedicated. And he is a wonderful partner.

General Dick Myers?

(APPLAUSE)

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much. Thank you.

I think I can speak for the secretary to say how happy we are to be here. We are really happy to be here. I mean, we are really, really happy to be here.

(LAUGHTER)

And I'm not going to go into that any more.

(LAUGHTER)

But let me also tell you how proud I am to stand up here in this uniform, the same uniform you wear, and be part of this team.

You have never let us down. Never, ever.

I have so much confidence in you. Every time that I have to go in front of the public and talk about our military, sometimes it's about the good things we do -- most of the time it's about that. Occasionally it's about the few who stray. But I have never lost confidence in the folks that wear this uniform.

(APPLAUSE)

MYERS: And I'm confident for a variety of reasons. I'm confident because you bring the essential goodness of America to our armed forces. I'm confident because you're well-trained. I'm confident because you're well-led, you're well-equipped. You understand the importance of what we do day in and day out.

Whether it's here in Iraq or Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa or the Philippines, or wherever it is in the world that we serve the United States of America, I'm confident because I know you know what you're doing, what the mission is and you're ready to do it.

I'm really confident in your leadership. If you've heard any of the testimony -- and I hope you had other things to do -- but if you heard any of the testimony here in the last few days... (LAUGHTER)

I hope you heard me say on numerous occasions of my confidence in the chain of command, I'm talking about General John Abizaid, I'm talking about General Rick Sanchez, General Tom Metz (ph) -- everybody on down to the platoon sergeant and the squad leader, leadership that makes a difference all around this world every day of our lives.

And we got to take just a second and flip that chain of command and we got to look up.

And the secretary mentioned the president came to the Pentagon this week. And I tell you what, as you look up the chain of command -- and is you know, I'm not in it; I'm an adviser off to the side, but I interact with the chain of command as a military adviser to the National Security Council and to the president, to the secretary.

As you look up at our chain of command, you couldn't have better leadership in providing us the direction, the resources and sometimes the strategic vision that we need to make a difference in this world. And I'm talking about our secretary of defense and our commander in chief.

(APPLAUSE)

I'll tell you also, I'm confident about our justice system in the military.

MYERS: Those who stray, there'll be due process. And those that are guilty of something, they'll be punished appropriately. And those that aren't guilty will return to duty. That's the way it works.

To tie in just a little bit to what the secretary was saying toward the end, in one of our hearings this week, Senator Stevens, who is on the Senate Appropriations Committee -- he's the chairman of the Subcommittee on Defense and a World War II veteran -- and he said, "You know, they've written about the World War II generation as being the greatest generation." But he said, "It's this generation right now that is the next greatest generation."

And I think there are millions and millions of Americans, probably millions and millions of Iraqis and Afghanistan citizens that understand that same thing. You all are the greatest generation.

(APPLAUSE)

Again, I couldn't be prouder to represent you, as I have a chance to do often. And from those millions of Americans that you correspond with -- I know I get a lot of correspondence. They understand this cause. They understand that it's a noble cause. They understand that what you're doing is going to change the course of history, as the secretary said. It's just going to change the course of history.

There is no doubt that we're going to be victorious. No doubt whatsoever.

(APPLAUSE)

And that's the reason right there. That's the reason right there: your spirit, your attitude. Again, the essential goodness of America as it's reflected in you and the job you do day in and day out.

I couldn't be prouder. And I thank you so much for your service. And I thank you for your family's service as well. We've got to remember -- you remember it every day -- but I think it's important that we all remember that there are a lot of the folks that serve that don't wear this uniform. And they're your families and your loved ones.

(APPLAUSE)

And they put up with a lot of stuff when you're not around. And if my guess is right, and if it happens in your family like it happens in my family, the day you leave is the day the car doesn't work, the washing machine breaks down or the toilet overflows.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, isn't that about right?

But it's more than that. We ask them to attend the high school graduations this spring you're not going to attend and all of the other things that go with that.

So we thank you for that and we thank you for your service and we thank your families for their service. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

RUMSFELD: Thank you. Thank you very much.

After that fabulous set of remarks by General Myers, I hate to even do this, but I'm told that we're supposed to stay here and answer some questions.

MYERS: That's our favorite thing to do.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: You'd think we'd get better at it with all our practice.

RUMSFELD: It's generally a lot more fun here than it is back home.

RUMSFELD: All right, we can take anything you can dish out.

(LAUGHTER)

When I say "we," I mean Dick Myers.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: I'm with the 434th Reserve from Atlanta, Georgia.

(APPLAUSE)

MYERS: How many reservists in here, or guardsmen?

(APPLAUSE)

And I mean Guard too. We got Guard and Reserve?

(APPLAUSE)

There you go.

RUMSFELD: Think of that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have said that would you like to reduce the number of troops in Iraq. Instead, more troops are being sent over and an increasing number of the troops are reservists. What role do you perceive the reservists having in rebuilding Iraq or the fact reservists are involved in (OFF-MIKE)

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

RUMSFELD: You know, I always don't like the first question.

(LAUGHTER)

Anyone so eager to ask that first question's got something on their mind.

(LAUGHTER)

Well, you're right, our goal is to not have troops in Iraq. It's to have the Iraqi people take charge of their country and to take charge of their security.

(APPLAUSE)

And that's why these folks are working so hard to help recruit and train and equip and deploy and mentor the Iraqi security forces. So our goal is to pass that responsibility to them as soon as they're capable of taking it.

It's also correct to say that we have increased the total number from 115,000 to about 138,000. Because of the changeover, General Abizaid, who's known from the beginning that when he needs something, we're going to provide it, because this is an important mission and clearly we're going to do that.

And he said he needed more troops; that the situation here was difficult. And we said, "Fair enough." The president said, "Fair enough."

And the quickest way to have more troops was during that crossover period, we asked -- and we didn't like doing it, but we did. We asked some folks, I think basically from the 1st Infantry Division.

Is that right?

MYERS: 1st Armored.

RUMSFELD: To stay over the extra 90 days?

MYERS: Yes. 1st Armored Division.

RUMSFELD: The 1st Armored Division to stay over up to 90 days. They've been terrific. They've been absolutely fabulous.

(APPLAUSE)

They have stepped up to the plate and they've done it and they're doing it well and we are deeply grateful to them.

Now, the last part of your question. I should say questions, plural. You should be become a journalist.

(LAUGHTER)

You pointed out correctly that it happened that there were reservists involved in the abuses that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison. And you asked if that would have any effect on how we would manage the total force and whether we would or would not want to use reservists.

RUMSFELD: The answer is we have a total force, the reservists are doing a spectacular job for our country, the Guard is doing a great job and the active force is doing a great job. And you can be absolutely certain that the abuses of a few are not going to change how we manage this force.

And we are deeply appreciative to all elements of it, active component, reserve component. And we need all of you to make this thing work for our country.

(APPLAUSE)

So the answer's yes, yes and no.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I have a force protection question for you.

RUMSFELD: You have what?

QUESTION: Force protection.

RUMSFELD: General Myers.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) MYERS: Good points. Excellent points.

You can imagine we spent a lot of time on force protection. And our responsibility, I think, is to ensure we have the resources and production lines and all that cranked up to get the equipment we need.

MYERS: You mentioned the vest and now the part for the armpits and sides that are not covered with the SAPI plates and not covered adequately by the vests. We're producing them and sending them over here as fast as we can.

You do not have all the up-armored Humvees you need. You got about -- -- around 3,000 out of the 4,400, roughly, that they want over here -- that your leaders want.

Production is ramping up this month. I think it's around 220, 225 per month. We've gathered up from all over services we had them, except for a few we held back for a nuclear security role back in the United States. The rest of them shipped over here. We're trying to get them to you as fast as we can. We understand the difference they can make.

For that matter, we're shipping some armor over as well. You know, some of the units came over lighter and you're probably one of them, and so you're going to get some of your stuff back to do the job you have to do.

But that's something that I have a chance to talk to Congress about a lot. Congress will provide any amount of resources. They've been very good about this issue, in fact about all issues, when it comes to our efforts here in Afghanistan and the global war on terrorism.

But specifically on force protection, many member of Congress are very, very serious about this. It's not a matter of resources. It's a matter of how fast can we build these things and get them over here. And I review that probably daily the status of those machines and that equipment that can help.

And we've got to do better. I mean, we've got a lot of folks looking at the improvised explosive device problem. And to date, we have not found any magic remedy for those devices. But I'm not convinced there's not something out there.

So we've got a lot of money going toward that effort. I think there are 130-some different organizations that are looking at it from all different angles, led by the United States Army.

So we're trying. We're trying hard. And we understand -- I understand exactly everything you said. And we'll do our best. And that's our responsibility.

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, my question is about (OFF-MIKE). I've been on (OFF-MIKE). RUMSFELD: Which deployment?

QUESTION: To Kosovo, sir.

(OFF-MIKE) our flights were paid for. This time, we're told we're going to have to pay for our own tickets from the port of call back to Washington. Is that true, and if it's not, can we be reimbursed for paying for our own (OFF-MIKE)?

RUMSFELD: My recollection...

MYERS: That's not true. That's not true.

Congress has provided -- put a provision in the law to be able to pay for those. And I think that still applies.

MYERS: I do not, well -- the staff will tell me if I'm wrong here -- but no, I think you get to take it all the way to wherever you want to wind up and all the way back.

(APPLAUSE)

That probably wasn't true when you served in Kosovo, because that's a fairly new provision. So...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MYERS: No, you're going to get paid all the way to wherever you want to put your foot down.

RUMSFELD: Where are you from, Washington state or Washington, D.C.?

QUESTION: Washington state.

RUMSFELD: The last I looked, the Army had just changed the port of arrival from Baltimore to Atlanta and Dallas, I think, because it was better for more people.

And if it proves that Dick Myers is wrong, he'll step up and pay for your ticket.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: And I will because I know I'm right.

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Secretary. Sir, my question is, you testified in Congress just the other day, right before you flew out to see us, and...

RUMSFELD: It was not my first choice.

(LAUGHTER)

If it weren't for the honor of the thing, I'd rather be here.

QUESTION: I guess this is the second time you testified this week, sir. But...

RUMSFELD: Yes.

QUESTION: Do we foresee an increase across the board (OFF-MIKE)?

MYERS: There is -- when you talk about equipment items, I'm not sure of any budget shortfall that prohibits from providing the kind of equipment we need to do our job.

MYERS: We have other issues in production and getting things going and like the up-armored Humvees as we try to ramp up production. It takes time to facilitize a plant so they can produce more. So there's some lag times. But it's not an issue of funding.

I think all of the quality-of-life initiatives that are in this year's budget that will be approved hopefully this fall and go into effect in fiscal year '05, which starts 1 October of this year, pay raises and so forth are consistent with the past, as a matter of fact.

Now, there are some things that need to be looked at. And when it comes to the Reserves, we need to do, I think, some things there with regard to medical care. There need to be more regular examinations, so when you're mobilized, if you haven't been mobilized in a while, haven't been examined in a while, you don't show up in bad shape. And that's part of it.

There's some portability of your care givers to TRICARE when you come under TRICARE if that's what you elect to do when you come on active duty. So there are some issues there that are being worked with the Congress that we're trying to work to make it better position, specifically for the reserve component.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MYERS: Now, you said -- the part I couldn't understand because of that mike. What kind of issues are keeping you from doing that?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MYERS: I tell you what. You've got a specific question. We've got a TRICARE surgeon back here and he'll be -- Dr. Baxter I'm sure is in the crowd. And he'll be happy to take your name and get you the information you need.

RUMSFELD: He's right over there with his hand up.

MYERS: There he is with his hand up. And he'll be happy to talk to you about that and work your issue.

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: The question that I have, sir, is just reading the news reports about what's going on with the United Nations, it seems there's a new U.N. Security Council resolution that's in the works, 341.

QUESTION: Some comments yesterday by the incoming president of the United Nations Security Council indicates that, at least in his belief, there's a lot of things -- there's potential for troops many other countries joining in either the coalition or as part of a U.N. Security Council force. (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: I don't think this outfit's fully digital or audio...

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: These are warriors, that's what they are.

QUESTION: The question I have, sir, is if there is a new U.N. Security Council resolution in the works, and based upon comments a couple days ago by the incoming president of the Security Council itself, it appears that there may be troops from a lot of countries such as, I believe, Indonesia, Pakistan and so forth that may be provided in the theater in the near future.

Under the new Security Council resolution, do you see our mission changing, our relationship with some of the other countries that may be coming onto the ground? And if so, what do you see in the next, say, six months?

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

Since the U.N. Security Council resolution just prior to the Iraq war, the United States has been working with the United Nations attempting to get an additional resolution that would provide an umbrella for a number of countries in the world to feel they could participate.

Currently we have about 33 countries, I believe, that are participating in the international coalition. A lot of us are reasonably convinced that if we can get another U.N. Security Council resolution, which we believe we can, that it would assist in getting, oh, maybe one or two handfuls of countries to add troops that have thus far not felt they could do so.

That would be a very good thing. To the extent we can further internationalize it and get those countries feeling they have a commitment in the success of Iraq and the success of this important effort, that's good.

How might it change our circumstance? I think not greatly, except that it would, obviously, relieve pressure on the coalition countries, including the United States, because you would bring in troops from still additional countries. And that's a big help.

In terms of the command and control or the leadership of it, there's two ways the U.N. can do something. They can pass a resolution and put in a so-called blue helmeted U.N. force that is led by the United Nations or some lead country.

RUMSFELD: They're not likely to do that. This simply is not going to happen in any near term.

Instead what they might do is pass another resolution that enables, oh, a number of countries that thus far, for example -- well, I don't suppose I should mention countries -- but we're currently in discussion.

I, kind of, think other countries ought to be able to say for themselves what they're doing, so I try to avoid doing it. I wish more people would do that with things I'm doing, but...

(LAUGHTER)

They seem not to do that, so that's life.

But I would guess we're probably talking to a couple of handfuls -- maybe three handfuls of nations that have capabilities to bring forces in. And the discussions are quite far a long with respect to a number of them, and I'm encouraged. I think we'll find that we will get additional forces.

MYERS: I would just like to say one thing to Captain Spears (ph). No, just sit there. With a question like that, he is a terrific candidate for the joint staff.

(LAUGHTER)

We got a place in J-5 for a man like that.

(LAUGHTER)

That's a pretty thoughty question.

QUESTION: I have a question over here, my name is (OFF-MIKE)

(APPLAUSE)

RUMSFELD: Don't clap too loud. Let's hear the question.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Sir, there's many (OFF-MIKE) here in the theater. Many of us are unarmed. And many times we're placed in harm's way in convoys and we have no means to protect ourselves. And I know there's been many memos and letters I've seen floating around saying it's the policy to arm civilians if (OFF-MIKE) in harm's way, but it seems to be a resistance (OFF-MIKE) to actually provide arms for us. And I was wondering what the current policy is on that.

RUMSFELD: Well, I could do several things at this point. I could admit I don't know...

(LAUGHTER)

... what the current policy is here or I could turn around and ask General Rick Sanchez to come over here.

(APPLAUSE)

And I'm going to let him say he doesn't know.

(LAUGHTER)

LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE 7: Sir?

RUMSFELD: The question is...

SANCHEZ: You got to remember all those good things that were said here I came up, sir. Yes, sir.

RUMSFELD: The question -- you hear the question?

SANCHEZ: No, sir.

RUMSFELD: The question is about the policy currently in Iraq with respect to allowing civilians who have reason to be in difficult situations to be armed. And I didn't know the answer. And I knew that if you didn't know the answer you could at least get the answer.

SANCHEZ: Yes, sir. We'll be able to get the definitive answer.

But right now, we have been working to try to get the authorities to arm the civilians here. That has been an issue for some time.

And you're right. We're working that and we have been for some time. And we'll get -- I'll get a specific status for you, OK?

RUMSFELD: Good.

(APPLAUSE)

RUMSFELD: Question. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: Captain, what do you do when you're not lifting weights?

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: My duties, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Sir, mine's a (OFF-MIKE) question -- not joint staff material.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: But he's got an 18-inch neck.

MYERS: We need them on the joint staff too. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ESPN doesn't do much coverage on the events in Iraq -- I don't know if you heard last night, but Iraq beat Saudi Arabia 3-1.

RUMSFELD: Heard it, heard it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) This morning was the happiest I've seen the Iraqi people in a long time, over a soccer game. And my question to you: Is there anything we can do to help people with such events as simple as soccer?

RUMSFELD: No, there's no question but that -- we say "as simple as soccer," but it isn't simple. It's a chance for the Iraqi people -- if you think that the Iraqi Olympic Committee was run by one of Saddam Hussein's sons, and it was a vicious process, an evil process what they did.

And so what you're seeing is that the Iraqi people today do have a chance to play soccer. They do have a chance to compete in the Olympics. They even sent over a symphony that is being done. And it's a reflection of how important it is for people to be free, for them to be able to do whatever it is they feel they'd like to do.

And I'm told that they're putting together an Olympic wrestling team. And as a broken-down ex-wrestler, I'm kind of partial to that, too. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: Good evening, sir. My question is about stability when we return home. I, like a bunch of people here, including my brothers who are in Afghanistan now, are on their second tours already within two years. I volunteered to come back over because it's my duty to service, but a lot of people don't get a chance to say, "Hey, I'm ready to come back."

Is there a plan for stability, separate from what I've seen, sir -- is you can volunteer for certain units, the ones that (OFF-MIKE)?

RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, thank you for volunteering to serve in the first place and also thank you for volunteering to come back.

(APPLAUSE)

And tell your brothers in Afghanistan we appreciate them as well.

We have 20th-century, industrial age planning tools in terms of force management.

RUMSFELD: They're making major efforts to improve them and they're getting better, but they're far from perfect.

Dick Myers and I spend a lot of time and we look at the force rotations as to who should follow -- which units should follow, and we try to find ways to encourage volunteers to have that opportunity if, in fact, they'd like to.

Sometimes we lack visibility into far enough down, because people move between units and some unit may have just come back from Korea or just come back from Bosnia or Kosovo and then their unit would be put into the force rotation. And it's unfortunate, in some instances. Whereas there are people that would like to get in the queue to come back over in the first place.

All I can tell you is the joint staff works it with the Joint Forces Command and the services. We're getting better at it every day.

Indeed, I have to give enormous credit to the Transportation Command and the folks that have moved roughly 135,000 people one way and 135,000 people another way. And we are impressed by how successful they have been, but we've got a way to go, I guess, is an answer to your question.

Dick, do you want to add anything?

MYERS: I would like to add just a couple of things, Army specific.

As you know, your chief of staff, General Schoomaker, has got a couple of initiatives going to try to address this problem. And this is -- I would call it transformational. It's not going to happen overnight, obviously.

The first one is fewer permanent change of station moves. That's a big part. We spent one day this week, the secretary and I had breakfast with some members of the United States Senate, talking about global posture review.

(LAUGHTER)

Looking at how we're arrayed...

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

If he's friendly this is OK.

RUMSFELD: Who is he?

(APPLAUSE)

RUMSFELD: Where did he come from?

MYERS: Right through all these guys with guns.

MYERS: I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

But look at how we're postured globally and you'll probably see some changes that will affect that as well. But a lot of these changes -- and going to the new brigade structure: more brigades. These (UNINTELLIGIBLE) increased brigades by about 25 percent, which will help us. But that's not going to help us until -- start helping us until '06.

So there a lot of things that the secretary said that are systemic, that we've lived with for decades that we have to change. And you have a very smart chief of staff of the Army and a very good staff up there that's looking at things to help do what you want to do.

Now, let me just say one more thing. Being over here now in your second tour, let's think about how important our mission is. What stands between extremism and the safety and security of our country in large measure are people in uniform -- in large measure are people in uniform. We have lots of other folks doing this, lots of great civilians -- both the Department of Defense, Department of State, other departments and agencies of our government. The people in uniform bear and shoulder a big burden when it comes to this war on terrorism.

This is a serious threat. You know it. You know it. It's the kind of threat that delivers bodies unfortunately like we saw last weekend for Nick Berg. And you're making that difference.

And so I guess what I'm telling you is we're going to try to transform our armed forces to make them a 21st-century force. We will not be entirely efficient in doing that. And we can't do it overnight. It's going to take a long, long time.

It's also, though, so important to serve and to stretch. And we're going to have to stretch. And you already are. You know that. Your families are stretching. And we've go to do this. We've got to get this right. There is no substitute but to win. And it's going to take a lot of sacrifice in the meantime. Thank you.

RUMSFELD: I'm told we've run out of time.

I want you to know that the American people have a very good center of gravity. They're sound. They're sensible. They understand what's taking place. And they support you.

And I just -- first of all, before I close, I want to apologize to the people in the upper rings because there were no microphones up there. But I want you to know we're glad you're up there, as well.

(APPLAUSE)

We thank you for your service. And God bless you and your wonderful families. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a pep talk rally for U.S. military personnel in Iraq. Joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers. The defense secretary telling the U.S. troops there on the ground, all those listening perhaps on Armed Forces Radio and Television, that the American people totally support what they are doing in Iraq.

Clearly, hovering over the surprise visit by the defense secretary to Iraq, the allegations of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib Prison. That is where the defense secretary spent some time earlier today, outside of Baghdad.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been watching all of this, together with all of us here at CNN. About 45 minutes at this event in Baghdad, Barbara, I was struck when the secretary of defense said, "I've stopped reading the newspapers."

He seemed almost melancholy when he was relating he's reading a book about U.S. Grant, the Civil War, the casualties then, why it was so important to win the civil war, clearly make the connection why it's so important for the U.S. to win this post-war situation in Iraq.

STARR: Well, indeed, Wolf. And you realize, he went on to say something very interesting right after that. He said, "I am a survivor." An indication certainly perhaps, the first indication in the last few days that Don Rumsfeld plans to keep his job.

Now, this was -- this meeting with the troops clearly was to rally the troops and to rally Don Rumsfeld. The Pentagon knows full well, and they know when they have the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs come out in a forum like this and meet with the troops, they are going to get a huge and thunderous welcome. They know it's going to all be very positive.

But Don Rumsfeld also went to Iraq with General Myers for much more serious reason, of course. To look at the situation in Abu Ghraib, try and get a little bit behind the scenes, behind the photo opportunities. When he traveled over on the plane, over night, from Washington into Kuwait, and then on to Baghdad, he talked very substantively. One of the things he talked about is his concern about all of this and how it all appears.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: If anyone thinks I'm there to throw water on the fire, they're wrong. I'm there to do the things I said we're here to do. And we care about the detainees being treated right. We care about soldiers behaving right. We care about command systems working.

We have an obligation to have people who are knowledgeable and responsible look at things and report back to us so we can make judgments about what's the best way to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: And, wolf, the secretary also said his inclination at the moment would be to release those additional very disturbing photographs of abuse that Congress saw yesterday. But that his legal advisers are telling him not to do that. The release of those photographs, in themselves, could be a violation of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits showing images of detainees or prisoners in humiliating or degrading situations.

So an indication from the secretary that if those photographs, those additional photographs, come out, they will not be at the release of the Bush administration -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, the exact quote, I think, as I wrote down here, "It's a fact, I'm a survivor." The defense secretary clearly signaling he plans on staying in office, despite the calls for him to resign.

He also says that it was the activities of a few, in his words, "a few who betrayed the values of the United States." He promised it would never happen again. There would be a full-scale investigation to get to the bottom of what happened at Abu Ghraib Prison.

There's no doubt, though, that as he calls it, it was a body blow, not only on the U.S. military being but a body blow on the defense secretary himself.

STARR: Well, indeed, Wolf. Now, make no mistake. As the secretary says, "a body blow." He was stunned when he saw these photographs. But the secretary knows there are two tracks, as we have discussed, going on here. There is clearly this criminal abuse, this criminal activity by this group of soldiers.

But Congress, back here in Washington, is looking much more deeply into this. They want to know what was the role of military intelligence? Was there something in interrogation procedures, policies, that was inappropriate?

Separate from the criminal behavior, was everything that was going on that was approved of in accordance with the Geneva Convention? Because the Congress is now looking into these approved interrogation techniques by the Bush administration, things like sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, putting prisoners into forced positions.

All of these things now being looked at very closely by Congress. Part of the continuing investigation by the U.S. military. Separate from the criminal activity. But there's a lot more to come on all of this.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, thanks very much.

Karl Penhaul is in Baghdad for us. Let's go to the Iraqi capital. Karl, tell us what you know, what we've learned so far, about the defense secretary's earlier visit to the Abu Ghraib Prison.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're told that Donald Rumsfeld spent about 30 minutes in the Abu Ghraib Prison. And there he talked about 500 or 600 U.S. troops who are stationed in and around the prison charge of security and in charge of the prison itself. He visited parts of the prison, including the day center there where the families of prisoners come to visit their loved ones while they're detained there. Obviously, in the speech later, he did refer to the whole prison scandal. Very much both he and also General Myers describing the abuse scandal as the work of a few, a few that have sullied, in Donald Rumsfeld's words, "the reputation of the soldiers." And I think in the word of General Myers, "a few who had strayed."

Certainly, the Iraqi public haven't seen the prison abuse scandal that way. They see it as more of a systemic pattern of abuse by the U.S. soldiers in charge of that prison. Systemic pattern of abuse, more reminiscent of the days of Saddam Hussein than what they expected of the American Coalition forces coming here promising democracy and human rights -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is there a sense among the U.S. military personnel, the coalition force, Karl, that this visit by the defense secretary will buck them up, if you will, will rally them, behind what they're doing?

In other words is there a morale problem, as far as you can tell? And you've been embedded with the Marines in Fallujah, among other places.

PENHAUL: I wouldn't say from my experiences, being embedded with the Marines in and around Fallujah that there's a morale problem. Spirits wane and ebb. Sometimes these troops are in high spirit. Other times, in lower spirits.

Often what dictates that is simply how much contact they've had from their families, what kind of letters they're getting, what kind of parcels they're getting.

Yes, many of then have told me they feel ashamed of what they've seen going on at Abu Ghraib. What they also say is that they fell that their mission is entirely separate from that. They don't -- they're not prepared to let the actions of those people at Abu Ghraib Prison let the rest of their side down, is what they've told me -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Karl Penhaul in Baghdad. Thanks, Karl, very much.

Let's bring in our military analyst, retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd whose watching all of these together -- watching all of those events unfold, dramatic events, the surprise visit by the defense secretary to Iraq.

As you take a look at the decision behind this, this surprise visit to go to Iraq, to rally the troops, to visit Abu Ghraib Prison, General, what goes through your mind?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, smart and appropriate thing to do, Wolf. Obviously, the defense secretary is -- wants to buck the troops up and wants to tell them how much they're appreciated by the American public.

You know he basically said his message was, you're going to look back at this and you're going to be proud of the outcome. That's an important message to the troops that what you're doing is important, while you're getting shot at every day.

The chairman, Myers, also said jokingly, it's really, really good to be here meaning it's good to be out of Washington.

But this is a good and appropriate visit, to go to the scene of the action and to deliver a positive message to the troops involved who feel very besmirched by the activities of a few. Clearly, this has been a downer for the troops and downer for America.

BLITZER: Real downer for Don Rumsfeld as well. And as much as this visit will buck, will rally the troops, there's no doubt that they will rally him, they will encourage him, as well, I'm sure. He's feeling a lot better what he's doing now, as opposed to yesterday, when he was being grilled by member of the U.S. Senate.

There was some news in response to one question from a soldier on the scene when he was asked about the United Nations Security Council and a new resolution. And the defense secretary said, yes, the Bush administration is actively seeking a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would allow, he says, three handfuls, about 15 countries come into Iraq. He says he is encouraged by what he is seeing and hearing right now on that front.

That's significant that this administration, General, is saying they want the U.N. Security Council, they want greater internationalization of what's happening in Iraq. Based on what Rumsfeld is saying, that seems to be a shift of where they were just a little while ago.

SHEPPERD: Indeed. And I think it's a very important thing going on there. Clearly, internationalizing this effort is important because of the burden on our troops. It's also the beginning of an exit strategy. At some point we have to have an exit strategy.

So clearly, going to the United Nations, to bring Lakdar Brahimi back in to forming the government and to get support form other nations in the follow of rebuilding Iraq is very, very important.

And the secretary also said that he will let the other nations announce their participation because he didn't want to go much farther.

BLITZER: And whenever the defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, when this have these kind of town hall meetings with troops, a lot of them have real practical questions on their mind.

And I was struck by the real practical question, why some of those troops, perhaps more than just some, feel they don't have proper body armor, they don't have proper protection in their Humvees. What's going on to better protect them from these improvised explosive devices along roadsides or whatever?

Did you get the sense these troops want answers on real life and death, practical questions?

SHEPPERD: Yes, indeed. Clearly it's hard to understand why we still have a shortage of these things. And Chairman Myers basically said it's a question of contracting and production of this, and making sure that we can produce these things in quality and get them over there on time.

The troops that are going out on missions are provided with the appropriate equipment. Even though you may not have enough up armored Humvees, they're very careful about how they're employed.

The IEDs are more of a little bigger problem. They're set off by remote improvised devices. The idea is to find something that will sense the frequencies that they operate on and set the off out ahead of the troops and explode them away from our troops.

And that's much more difficult and something that's being worked on hard by the scientific community. But there's still shortages, still concerns. And you hear it from the troops that, and also what's happened to their family and Tricare and medicine. These are real problems for them, Wolf.

BLITZER: They want body armor, not only to protect their chests but their armpits as well. The new body armor will do that. But they have -- a lot of those troops have the old body armor, the vest in place right now. General Shepperd, thanks very much for that.

Very dramatic developments in Iraq today. The secretary of defense making this surprise 15-hour flight from Washington to Baghdad. Continuing his visit there right now. We'll have much more coverage of this throughout the day.

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