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Roundtable with Domestic Syndicates

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 26, 2003


QUESTION: Well, I'll just start and ask you --


QUESTION: No, sir. But I'll take it.


QUESTION: We've got to ask today if it's time to let go of a prospect of the UN resolution in Iraq.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: To let go? You mean to not -- not have one?

QUESTION: Well, yes, sir. Not -- stop pursuing it and just say, well, it's not going to work, we've got to think of something else.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No. We are still exploring it with colleagues in the UN Security Council, with Kofi Annan, the possible resolution. I saw a story today that popped up that said we basically walked away, and that's not the case.

QUESTION: Kofi Annan did say, though, that without substantive decision-making authority it would be hard to get any kind of UN resolution through.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: There were -- there are several ideas that are being looked at, one -- or explored, I guess, is a better term. One is a multinational force under UN leadership, but the American would be the UN commander. That's one idea that's being explored. And others just started talking about widening decision-making. Haven't finished our deliberations on that. We've got a ways to go.

QUESTION: What would be your view of how that would work?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: (Inaudible) those things are explored by colleagues, and I don't think it helps to throw them out publicly right now.

QUESTION: Your guy has worked in both buildings, obviously. Sir.


QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I'm sorry? I didn't -- I'm sorry, I missed it.

QUESTION: I wanted to follow up on --


QUESTION: You've worked in both buildings -- the Pentagon, here.


QUESTION: What's your gut tell you about the proper U.S. troop level? I know we hear Rumsfeld saying it's fine right now, but every day continued attacks, continued American deaths. It seems things are sort of careening a bit.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think that, first of all, the advertisement of this properly belongs in the Department of Defense, and I noticed Secretary Rumsfeld yesterday saying something slightly different from what you just characterized. He indicated that the decision on this matter is up to CENTCOM, and if should General Abizaid now decide that more troops are needed, then General Myers and General Pace (ph) and Secretary Rumsfeld, as I read it, would be prepared to entertain that request.

My gut tells me that before you entertain new troops you've got to make sure that the troops you have are being utilized in the most effective way. So not necessarily guarding fixed positions and things of that nature, which I think puts a premium on doing just what Jerry Bremer is trying to do, that is, get more police out -- we've got 12,000 out now -- and to start training up those Iraqi battalions so they can take over a lot of these duties, plus continue our efforts to get international forces in there.

As you would know, there are 29 countries who have now deployed greater or lesser numbers of troops, three are in the process of deploying, and the number 14 -- 14 more countries we're in active discussions with about this.

QUESTION: Back to the United Nations, options for the United Nations. One of them is, you know, the United States would maintain control of the military side of it and the United Nations takes over the civil side. Is that an option that (inaudible)?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, it's one of the interesting ideas that has come out of the discussions we've had, and we are coordinating closely with Ambassador Bremer and the administration right now is discussing the events. As I say, we've made no final decision. I was a little surprised to see a story today saying basically that it's time to walk away, or that we made a decision to walk away, which is not the case.

QUESTION: No such decision?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: To my knowledge, and I think I'd know.


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We're still actively exploring it.

QUESTION: Do you --

QUESTION: Are allies --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We have plenty of time.

QUESTION: Do you think a resolution is necessary to get more countries in -- or you've found the reluctance of other nations that contribute --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: There are a couple of countries who have said they would feel better under a more explicit mandate. I would note that we've got two post-liberation of Iraq resolutions, 1483 and 1500. Is that right, 1500? One which endorses the CPA as the interim authority, the second which welcomes the Iraqi Governing Council and establishes a United Nations Assistance Mission. So it's not what I think; it's what those countries think that matter.

I mentioned earlier we have 14 with whom we're in active discussion about this. Some of those who have looked with greater favor on a more explicit mandate are in that number 14.

QUESTION: So the idea is, if I understand it correctly, to try and get more troops in there to safeguard things like pipelines, water mains, as you said, some of these fixed --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, those could also -- that could also be done by Iraqis. I think the idea is to get in a sufficient number of troops so that the community of Americans can go out and continue what I'd call the pointy edge of the spear, to go out and bring these criminals, thugs and terrorists to bay.

QUESTION: Are allies reluctant to join us because also we have not found WMD because that seems to be undermining our credibility with the Iraqis?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: You're asking two different questions. I would say that 29 allies already, in this case, allied with us, deploying on the ground, is a pretty good figure, the three others who are in the process of deploying. So certainly, in their minds, there's not a question of credibility.

On the question of WMD, I don't think we have any doubt that we'll come up with the right answer. David Kay testified about a month ago now on the Hill, and you would note that both Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, came out of those hearings -- I won't put words in their mouth, but what I was hearing was general satisfaction with the way Kay was going about his business and the progress thus far. When he's ready to present his case publicly, he will do so, and I think we'll all be satisfied.

But I would say that 29 countries already in, three others in the process of deploying, show that our credibility is in pretty good shape.

QUESTION: But, of course, the rationale for the war was WMD, weaponized WMD, WMD in artillery shells or other weaponized means, and those have not been found at all.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: That is a correct statement.

QUESTION: Does that not undermine the credibility of the United States in an effort to bring in other partners who, you know, are looking from afar saying, "Where is it?"

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I'm saying no and I'm expressing confidence that we're going to get to the bottom of this and find the WMD. I would note that -- I'm sure your organizations, as others, have recently publicized the fact that we've found MIGs buried -- MIGs, big airplanes, MIGs buried -- and we recently came across those.

One of the things we're doing, we're coping with a security situation while we're trying to exploit sites of WMD, and it takes a bit of time.

QUESTION: One issue that's fairly clear is they didn't have it in a position to be used in the conflict, I mean, to be ready to be deployed in a conflict situation. That has to be obvious.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I don't think I would say that because I remember, and you would remember, that as we were rolling forward up from Kuwait we were uncovering brand new protective gear and brand new syrettes of anti-whichever. Was it atropine and all? Yeah, that were found that was just issued.

So, to someone like me, that would indicate that somebody thought they were going to use it, and certainly the troops who ran away from our advancing army were issued these, I think, to protect themselves. And it wasn't us that was going to use it. We don't have it. I mean, that's well known.

QUESTION: We've passed sort of a grim, tragic threshold today with the 139th fatality since May 1, so we now have one more troop dying in Iraq postwar than we did during the major combat operations. Senator McCain said last week it was a mistake to talk about major combat operations ending on May 1; it changed expectations, it might have even misled the public.

Was it a mistake to declare that? And do you agree with the commander in the field that we're now facing a guerilla war?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: First of all, I think I feel, and Secretary Powell feels, especially, the loss of every soldier whether it's from non-hostile or hostile fire, the drowning, asphyxia, dehydration -- every one of these. I think our whole focus is to make sure that their sacrifice is not in vain.

Second of all, Senator McCain certainly is welcome to his view. The President indicated that that was the end of major combat operations. That satisfies me. He also indicated there was still work to be done, because the liberation of Iraq was the beginning, not the end of a process, and a process that ultimately will be completed when the people of Iraq govern themselves and have a stable, one hopes, prosperous future. And then we'll leave.
So -- and whether this is a guerilla war or an insurgency, of course it is.

QUESTION: Someone said something that you have a little bit of experience in -- from two decades passed, or three decades -- I wonder if it's four now. You're not positioned to second-guess the way we're running things are over there. I mean, there's been this kind of a back and forth, you know, or we -- first we were trying to keep a low profile and then we went out very aggressive patrolling. That seemed to have a kickback, you know, from the -- some of the Iraqi citizens, and they -- and then they seemed to have drawn back again, you know. What is the right mix?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I don't know the right mix, but I know this, that of the high-value targets, 40 out of 55 are in custody or killed. And how many were in custody on day one? So, I mean, after we -- the statue had fallen? Not many. So I think this is a long, arduous process and we're going about it, if necessary, one at a time.

But you'll note that if there are two things that I think we underestimated -- now, my colleagues and Mr. Wolfowitz and others have spoken and their words are on the record. There are two things that I think we underestimated and they are these: The first is that 35 years of Saddam Hussein's reign is instilled into the hearts and into the souls of Iraqi people -- a greater degree of terror than we understood. And this came clear to me when I realized this was three times longer than Hitler ruled Germany. So this is the first thing that I believe I certainly underestimated.

The second was the nature or the extent to which Iraq had become full of criminal enterprise, primarily designed and initially to get around 12 years if UN sanctions. So we were dealing with two divisions of Iraqi Republican Guard, which melted. They didn't fight. They melted with their weapons. We're dealing with a certain number of terrorists, primarily Ansar-Islam, and a certain amount of criminal enterprise: gangs, gangsters and gangs.

I don't think we've reckoned with the last. You know, there's an operation today, I don't know if you've seen it, Operation (inaudible), which is designed to get gangs and gangsters who have been attacking the Polish.

QUESTION: Can we switch subjects? Korean talks about to start -- very difficult and very important, and then there's the resignation announced today of -- is it Jack --


QUESTION: Pritchard. You know, and of course, the interpretation in The Washington Post and others is that -- mixed signals, the Administration hasn't decided what approach --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It's interesting to know that you have your news interpreted by The Washington Post.


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: And we'll let that be on the record.


QUESTION: (Laughing) Yeah, I noted it was their observation.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: You did. So, what do you want? What's the question?

QUESTION: Okay, the question is, I mean, what is our approach towards these North Korean talks, and, you know --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: And what's Pritchard's --

QUESTION: I mean, clearly, you know, there's a mixed question of, you know, do you we give the North Koreans something other than threats, I mean, you know, or do we, you know --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: The talks, which actually -- I won't say the official talks. There was a reception tonight. I've received a debrief from Mr. Kelly on it. And the substantive discussions, multiparty, multilateral talks begin tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock Beijing time.

I think, first of all, both as an American and an Administration official, it would be correct to acknowledge that the diplomacy that President Bush and Secretary Powell engaged in to bring this about is pretty noteworthy, because, at the time, no one was thinking this could be done, policy political enemies of the Administration. But we now have six-party talks with North Korea to see if they can air their views in front of all those who have even higher equities than we do, and we can air our views in front of them.

And you've seen from the backgrounder given by a Senior Administration Official the other day that we would hope to have another round of talks and that would -- it would be, in itself, noteworthy.

This is -- when you talk about giving the North Koreans something, that would be at the end of a process. And I think giving is not a matter of money or aid. We're already continuing our humanitarian assistance because our President will not use food as a weapon. He's been very clear about that.

We are willing to talk about our -- well, the President's stated comments about we have no desire to invade, no desire to attack North Korea. We're not about regime change. We're about the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of the nuclear weapons program in North Korea, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the lessening of tensions, to include the conventional threat.

So we'll let Mr. Kelly and his colleagues begin that discussion at 9 o'clock tomorrow, and we'll see where we are.

On the question of Jack Pritchard, Jack came to us -- oh, I may not be right on the date -- three months or more ago and said he thought that he had done as much as he could and that he wanted to leave. We asked him to stick around and help us with this diplomacy, to get the multilateral started, and we did, and his resignation becomes -- is it today it becomes effective, Phil?

QUESTION: I think it was Friday.


And he had very kind things to say about Secretary Powell, of the stewardship of the Department, and I'd refer you to him. You ought to call him up and get his views. I'm not going to put words in his mouth, but just don't hold me to three months ago when he initially resigned. It was pretty long ago.

QUESTION: The President has said all along --


QUESTION: The President has said all along we're not going to reward bad behavior in North Korea. But, in the past, there have been incentives for good behavior, the 1994 agreement being one example that had some success.

What incentives? You mentioned that this comes at the end of a process. What incentives are there for North Korea to change its behavior here?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, but to be fair, we have to finish the first part of that. In 1994 there was a multilateral -- Japan, South Korea, ourselves, the EU to some extent, all involved in the Framework Agreement, and the North Koreans continued bad behavior. I mean, I don't think there's much question of that, to include, when they had the most positively disposed President and Secretary of State in Mrs. Albright in Pyongyang they could possibly hope for, they were simultaneously not moving forward the agreement they'd reached with various parties.

So I think, ultimately, the Secretary has said that at the end of a process that normalization could be something that would be considered -- normalization of relations. But we're a long way from that. We're going to let it take its course.

QUESTION: Is it your view that there are two reprocessing facilities, at least, in North Korea?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It is our view, and what we've spoken publicly about is Yongbyon, which has a possibility of reprocessing the 8,000 rods of spent fuel -- and we don't quite know the exact status of Yongbyon -- and another highly enriched uranium facility.

QUESTION: You think there is another one?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: And that's what we have talked to the North Koreans about.

QUESTION: Right. Is it the Hagap facility?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't even remember the name. I don't know.

QUESTION: And you -- you said --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: If I knew it I wouldn't tell you, but I --

QUESTION: You said we have no -- expressed that we have no interest in invading, no interest in regime change. Pyongyang keeps asking for a non-aggression treaty. There's a, kind of a gap, in between --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, no, they've said a lot of things. I think you need -- one needs to, including me, look at everything that they've had to say. They've said a lot. They want expressions of non-aggression, they wanted a treaty at one time. I think right now, they're talking again about expressions of non-aggression. And so we're a long way away from that. From my point of view, it's not very helpful to speculate on it.

QUESTION: You said before that you're not for regime change there, I mean, but that sort of defies logic. Wouldn't it be better if the regime were not there?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think the most -- the least disruptive thing -- the most -- the thing that would most rapidly lead to a betterment of the situation on the Korean Peninsula is if the regime presently in Pyongyang made a fundamental decision to denuclearize and to open up their country and have a better commitment to human rights. That would be the least disruptive, least neuralgic thing, that can happen. All other scenarios have about it a certain amount of neuralgia. And if one can avoid that, one should.

QUESTION: Are you concerned at all -- are you hearing talk more -- Jim Woolsey wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal op-ed piece about a military option.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Jim Woolsey has been writing on a number of subjects. He ought to go back and review the record. I'm not interested a whit what Jim Woolsey's observations are.

QUESTION: There seems to be, Bolton and others, Woolsey, who is outside the government, others who are (inaudible) Woolsey, and sort of the retired military community who continue -- who are talking more and more about a military option.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I didn't see John talk about a military option.

QUESTION: No, no, I didn't -- I didn't say John. I meant there's more -- it's a hawkish, "more hawkish view," which I'm sure Bolton --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: None of them served a day in uniform.

QUESTION: Okay. Bolton is more of "the hawkish crowd," then you have guys like Woolsey who are actually talking military option. My question is, are you a little concerned that we're edging toward a conflict, or potential conflict?


QUESTION: Because we have more and more people talking about the unthinkable.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: There are plenty of people, there are cottage industries here, who think about the unthinkable, and it generally gets them some print. Other people, some of us from time to time, others of my colleagues here who do it for a full-time living, try to make sure the unthinkable never happens, and they would preserve our security and our principles simultaneously.

When John Bolton gave his speech several weeks ago, that was completely cleared in this building. There was not one complaint from anybody. He was speaking in his official capacity and he wasn't talking about a military option. We never remove the options from the table, and I won't today. But the President has said, and I echo, he believes that a diplomatic and peaceful solution is possible, and he has given us instructions to pursue it. This is his policy.

QUESTION: Anybody who's been to -- north of Seoul (inaudible) is overlooking the, you know, the city of --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: You know, in -- I had a remarkable thing in 1967 and January of '68. I was in a (inaudible) on a destroyer. We pulled off the gut line (inaudible) line. We were in a little (inaudible). And the promo (ph) was there, and I went over to look at it. Didn't know, never seen anything like it. And the second -- I was an officer. The second class petty officer wouldn't let me on the ship. I requested permission to come aboard. He said no, denied. And I was a little pissed off at that. I had never seen a ship like this. Next morning it was gone. Next thing I know it's captured. and who was ordered to steam in to Wansan Harbor? Ourselves and another ship. And Wansan Harbor has big cliffs on it with these huge guns looking down, and it was very unenviable sight.

And we steamed back to where the North Korean coast was in sight, and smarter heads prevailed and they told us to make meaningless circles in the ocean, which we did for 46 days or something, and were eventually joined by a great armada. That gun placement back in Wansan --

QUESTION: Did you get straight with that petty officer?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, I mean, I (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: He got his. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: If I could -- I hate to return to Iraq, but --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We'll want to get on to the Middle East sometime.

QUESTION: We want to do that. But Madeline Albright had a piece that came out a couple of days ago in Foreign Affairs. And I think she actually touched on what a lot of the debate about this has been, this premise that this was a war of choice, that this was not an essential war in Iraq. Was this an optional war?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't think the President felt that. The President felt very strong, feels very strongly today that had it -- if we were going to protect our security and, as he has said, the security of other friends in the Middle East, we had to do this. And you would note, and Mrs. Albright should note -- I didn't read her article -- that the statements during her time in office by the President and others were very, very hawkish, both about the possession of nuclear weapons, the direction of the WMD program, of Mr. Clinton, and, occasionally, their actions, to include some bombings and Tomahawkings of the Hussein administration.

So they seem to be heading in one direction. I think after 9/11, we no longer felt we had the luxury of sitting back and waiting for others to take their best shot at us. So --

QUESTION: Not an optional war.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't feel so, and the President doesn't feel it was. The option was in the hands of Saddam Hussein. Open up to inspectors, let them in. And had -- what a different dynamic it would have been if Hans Blix had come back the first time when he spoke to the Council after 40-some days and said we are getting full cooperation, we are this and we are that. But he did not say that.

And it gets back to the question you asked about why weren't they used when we were invading. I don't know, and I also don't -- if they didn't have them, why didn't they throw it open to inspectors. And --

QUESTION: But doesn't it trouble you, though, that in all the debriefings thus far that they've done, they, the Pentagon and Kay's group have done, senior Iraqi leaders, apparently, to a man, they've been saying that there were no programs --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, there are many -- I haven't seen all the debriefs, but many that I've seen, of the debriefs I've seen, seem to have a consistency of a general cover story --


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: -- a lower level. That they were consistent, but it seemed to be they're so consistent that this would have -- must have been discussed. At a lower level, we've had a sort of a colonel, roughly speaking, lieutenant colonel level. We've gotten other informations and the CENTCOM guys and David Kay's folks who are out looking for these programs daily get information from citizens and others -- such and such happened here, such and such happened -- then we have to go out and dig through the soil and do all of that stuff, trying to find it. So, I think it's -- the debriefs are a little more complicated than your question.

QUESTION: Did -- are we going to have a day when a warehouse is opened and this massive inventory is unveiled?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't -- I don't know. I don't know.

QUESTION: What gives you confidence that the weapons will be found?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: The massive amount -- I'll tell you what gives me confidence. This like -- I'm not an expert in Iraq, but this regime, like other totalitarian regimes, seemed to have just a thing about recordkeeping. And they keep records on who they executed, who they buried, what mass graves. We're doing all the exploitation and we're finding more mass graves. How many bullets were used, who did it, all of these things. They've got the same -- we've got reams of, as you've seen, warehouses full of material that has to be exploited, and so I have no doubt that we'll get to the bottom of a program.

QUESTION: Can we shift to the Middle East?


QUESTION: The Secretary seemed to indicate just last week now that we're back now looking to Arafat for some sort of solution. We tried to -- it looked like we tried to, you know, push him off the stage, and now, I mean, is this recognition that he is a player and that we have to deal with him?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: What you're -- no, he didn't call Arafat. He called on Arafat to make all of security forces available to the Prime Minister. Mr. Arafat is again showing that he's against the interests of the Palestinian people and against progress towards a two-state future, as the President called for June 24, 2002.

There is a debate right now. Right now, today, among Palestinians, whether Arafat is going to make all security forces available to Prime Minister Abbas, and to Dahlan and let them do what they need to do to inspire confidence in the Israelis. Or not. And if not, then Arafat yet again proves himself as not interested in peace and progress for the Palestinian people.

Now, Abbas, Prime Minister Abbas, and the security chief Dahlan have made some progress. They've sealed up with cement four tunnels into the Gaz -- from Egypt. There have been some other steps. Not enough. They need all the help the can get, and Arafat ought to make the security forces available and get out of the way.

QUESTION: Is the roadmap, you know, shot full of holes? Is it abandoned or are we still on?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, I don't think anyone here feels that. The Secretary was asked the other day, "Is it the end of the roadmap?" And he said the end of the roadmap is a cliff, both sides fall off. It is not the end of the roadmap.

What you're witnessing, I think, after the horror of the terrible bombing, where we lost also American citizens, I might remind you, and had Americans wounded, we're watching a discussion right now, a debate, and indeed an argument, among Palestinians. But whether Arafat is going to once more get out of the way and let Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, with whom the Israelis can work, do his best to reduce violence, particularly from Hamas and PIJ.

QUESTION: Are you concerned also that the mood amongst average Palestinians is -- seems to be that Abbas and his -- his folks are more, the words I've been seeing are "stooges" of the U.S. and Israel, and that that gives them a lack of credibility within the Palestinian community?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: You know, I don't think I can answer that based on -- I read cables all day long, from our Consulate General in Jerusalem, and I don't think that I'm in a position to judge if that's a majority view, minority view, or is Hamas's view.


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Certainly Hamas has been saying that. We get plenty of people, and many of them younger Palestinians, of which there are a great number, saying they want to have a future, and they don't want to go back to the past. I can't give you the breakdown, percentage-wise.

QUESTION: But look at the demographics of that man who killed all those people. He did not fit the profile. He had a job, he was an engineer, well-trained kids, he's had another kid on the way. That seems to indicate the sort of mood amongst average Palestinians.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't know. I don't know. I wasn't in his mind. I don't know. We have people in our own society who are judged to be perfect model citizens and one day they go off and do aberrant things. I can't say. I wasn't in his mind. I think it's a tragedy, but it was a tragedy for innocent Israelis.

QUESTION: What's the most important thing Ariel Sharon could do right now to advance this process?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think the Prime Minister of Israel has been very restrained and very true to his words. He wants the Palestinians to do what they're required to do, and that is to exert maximum effort to stop terror. No Israeli, I think, believes that every single act of terror can be stopped, but maximum effort has to be exerted. And I get back to the point made before: All security forces have to be involved in that, and for that to happen, Arafat is going to have to make a decision once and for all to get out of the way.

QUESTION: Was the ceasefire a squandered opportunity for Abbas?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, the ceasefire -- it's -- the hudna is, as we've always said, not a -- wasn't an answer in and of itself. It's better than no ceasefire, but it was not the end of the discussions. We have to have a cessation of terrorism.

I don't think it's necessarily squandered yet; I just indicated that Dahlan, at Abbas' order, has sealed up these tunnels from Gaza that Israelis have long wanted and have done some other things necessary for the Palestinians to do. And this is an ongoing -- this show's running, and we'll see as we move forward how it turns out.

QUESTION: So do you view it's within Israel's right to do these targeted assassinations still at this point?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We have all talked about targeted assassinations, made very clear what our view is on targeted assassinations. We've been equally clear, however, that killing of innocents has to stop. So there's plenty of finger pointing on both sides here.

But I must say, when 20 citizens or more are killed and 100 wounded in one terrible event, and they're innocents, it's just a horrible blight on the soul, I think, of Palestinians.

QUESTION: Briefly on Saudi Arabia, I read (inaudible) said there are, you know, stories in the paper today about a new cooperative --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Again, reading The Washington Post, are we?

QUESTION: Victim of our location.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Buying into the myth.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, that's why we come to the source for the facts.

A PARTICIPANT: That's the right answer.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: You're going to go a long way in this -- (laughter).

QUESTION: What is (inaudible) you know, a lot of criticism, you know, you hear from Congress and others, you know, on the fact that the Saudis haven't been cooperative. The Administration has said repeatedly, you know, that they're -- that they -- that they're satisfied with the level of cooperation.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think if you took a snapshot of Saudi Arabia over several years, you'd find a mixed view. They have been supportive of us in various ways, both in '91 and in the liberation of Kuwait, and laterally in the second liberation of Iraq. Well, the second -- narrowly -- in the liberation of Iraq.

But they have been somewhat lax in observing what was going on in their own mosques, and, certainly, in their charitable giving, as it were, "unregulated charities." They give money to madrasas, which then leads to extremism, and actually develops extremism. They have been very lax on that.

The bombings in Riyadh on 12 May, they opened a new chapter for them, and certainly the scales fell from the eyes of the Saudis. And since then they have had several well publicized, and rightfully so, gunfights with terrorists. They have tracked them down. They have busted open safe houses. They've found explosives, RPGs, rifles. And they have come to a fundamental understanding that those weapons are meant as much to destroy their regime as it is to kill Americans or foreigners. And since May 12th, the degree of cooperation on things that are internal to Saudi Arabia has been magnificent.

QUESTION: Is Saddam Hussein still at large?


QUESTION: Is it possible to imagine American troops ever leaving Iraq with Saddam Hussein still at large?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, he's at large, but he certainly doesn't seem to be, himself, a force, running from hidey hole to hidey hole, as he apparently is doing. And those around him, one after the other is being scoffed up. I can't imagine that he -- the noose eventually won't tighten around his neck and strangle him. But I don't think that he, himself, is the total answer.

If you had asked the question in a different way, if you were to ask, "If Saddam Hussein is capture or killed, will that end the violence?" The answer to that would be, "In my view, no."

And I think it would be important, and it certainly would be a good thing to help eliminate the vestiges of fear in the hearts of Iraqis, but it would not be the only thing that's going on in Iraq today.

QUESTION: Will American troops ever leave Afghanistan with Usama bin Laden still at large?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I can't answer it. I don't know. We're coming up -- we're 9,900-plus U.S. servicemen and others in ISAF there now engaged yesterday in two great battles against the Taliban, to great effect. I am not informed of any casualties on our side; and there were 16 and 19, respectively, in the two battles on their side.

We're coming next June of the major election, where there will be Loya Jirga to invoke the constitution. We're training Afghan servicemen. We're training Afghan policemen. At some point and time, they'll lead and Usama bin Laden shooting them will not be a threat to Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Your statement that killing or capturing Saddam will not end the violence indicates that you feel there is a --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: And I also said it will be a good thing.

QUESTION: Oh, yeah.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: But, I mean, just for the record.

QUESTION: Yeah. But there is an implication there is an element there who are fighting for reasons other than, for instance, Saddam.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We feel that we are facing several elements. There are the Baathists. And in that I would put remnants of the RepGuard divisions who melted. You've also got extreme Iraqi nationalists. You have certainly got Ansar-Islam. You have got criminals. And the operation today is an effort to go after some of them.

And, finally, you have got the new phenomenon, which is foreign fighters who are coming in across porous borders, of which we have captured, according to CENTCOM commander, a good number. We know they come from Sudan, from Yemen, from Syria.

There is a whole bunch of different folks. So those are the elements who are fighting. That's why I say the killing or capture of Saddam Hussein himself will not necessarily end all the violence.

QUESTION: How many times since 9/11 have you woken up and said, "Gee, I wish we had Subic and Clark"?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I have never woken up and wished we had Subic and Clark. The price was too dear. And, by the way, we did get an agreement. The Senate over there rejected it. We got an agreement with the government, you'll remember, for the record.

QUESTION: A great O club there at QB Point (ph).


QUESTION: There was a great O Club there at QB Point (ph).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Oh, yeah. Did you ever go on the ejection routine?

QUESTION: That came after. We had a less elaborate mechanism, in fact (inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: They had an ejection seat in the QB O Club that went out of the O Club over the pool and back around. And depending on how sober you were, you could hit the -- what passed for an ejection button and not get pitched into the pool. If you didn't hit it, you'd --

QUESTION: Or you had to drop the hook.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yeah, drop the hook. That's what I meant, drop the hook, and then you wouldn't go into the pool. That's right, tail hook.


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It was quite a show. We won't talk about what else when on up there. Your reputation can't stand it. I was not an aviator, so -- here's your last question.

QUESTION: The way you just described Iraq, it was almost as if you could have said we were the Soviet Union, this was the 1980s, foreign employers -- there were nationalists in Iraq -- in Afghanistan -- foreign fighters pouring in to fight to defeat the Soviet horde, and, you know, the menace of the Soviet anti-Islamic menace. It seems that you really -- an eerie parallel.

How are you going to convince these folks that you were not -- that we are not the Soviet Union? I mean, it seems --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Right. I think we have already convinced -- you ask the questions, and you have to listen to my answer.

One of the ways we do it is by getting Iraqis out, such as Iraqi Governing Council, Iraqi police and Iraqi army. Another thing we do is about how we behaved towards the people. There is no hunger in the CPA, right? There are very few IDPs and refugees. There -- all universities in Iraq have opened. Almost all of the school children graduated with their class, took their exams, and they are going to open schools shortly.

Four point two million people, children primarily, have had available to them whooping cough, tetanus, measles, polio -- all that vaccine. The CPA is buying food from those in the north to distribute to the south. There is a hell of a lot going on, not the least of which is nobody in Iraq goes to bed frightened that they are going to hear the midnight knock of the Mukhabarat.


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: So one of the ways you do it is by your behavior to the people, and I think in general the behavior has been good. We have to be credible. And that is when we say -- once we have established a government, and they have written their constitution, and we have brought some stability, and, as I said, hopefully, prosperity, then we have got to get out.

And I think that if you look at anybody's opinion polls in Iraq, and there are Iraqi opinion polls, you'll see that about 80 to 83 percent of the people are positively inclined toward coalition. And you saw in the beginning, much to my surprise, in your Washington Post the other day a front page story about GIs being welcomed by a pensioners home. That happens all around.

The "Baathist Triangle" is a very difficult area for us, for all of the reasons that I have already stated. But outside that, in the north, it's almost normal, almost. The Turkomen-Kurdish violence is troublesome and we have to keep working on it.

I would only say that I hope one can look at a full picture instead of looking through the soda straws of --

QUESTION: The Washington Post?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, I would never say that. I wouldn't.

MR. REEKER: He said it, not me.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We actually hold the view -- and like -- well, maybe you'll like it, given your organization -- that The Post and The New York Times appeal to a certain opinion-making body here, but what appeals to people in the country are everything -- well, you've got Copley cops, nightmares and the whole deal. And that's where the great majority of our citizens get their news.

QUESTION: Glad to hear.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Armitage.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Sure. And so we try to not fall into the trap.

Released on August 28, 2003

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