DoD News Briefing
(Ambassador Paul Bremer Interview with Cox Television)
Q: You good?
Amb. Bremer: Yes.
Q: All right, clock is running.
We got to a milestone of sorts today with the 139th post major combat casualty fatality in Iraq. How long do you feel that were going to continue to suffer this (inaudible)?
Amb. Bremer: Its hard to know how long it will go on but lets remember where it started. Basically a war was declared on the United States two years ago on September 11th and its a global war, a war on terrorism and Iraq has now become of the major field of battle in the war on terrorism. We have a solemn responsibility to defeat that battle, to defeat the terrorist there in Iraq if at all possible. Its not very comfortable for those of us living in Iraq but the fact is weve got to defeat them there or well be fighting them somewhere else in Buffalo or in DeMoines or in Albuquerque. So this is an important battle, I think the American people understand that there will casualties in this kind of a situation and we will just have to win.
Q: But should American expect weeks, months years of this? And what would you say to Americans concerned that things might be getting worst there?
Amb. Bremer: First I dont think things are getting worst although, I think in terms of the terrorist threat as we saw with the attack on the U.N. last week. The terrorist threat is significant and maybe growing but the threat of against our soldiers from the former regime that people are killing us is not growing, in fact I think we are gradually dominating that its not a threat that poses a strategic threat to our soldiers. How long it will go on is hard to say but as the President has said, Americans meet their responsibilities, we basically took on a responsibility to the Iraqis to help them liberate their country and then to stabilize the situation and well stay until that is done.
Q: State Department seems to be having a little trouble getting the U.N. members to sign on to aid in the reconstruction effort. Succeed or fail, what impact is that going to have on your efforts?
Amb. Bremer: You know theres been a lot of talk about this need to internationalize the operation there I think its important to bare a couple of facts in mind. First of all we already have troops from 30 other countries on the ground right now serving as part of the Coalition forces. So theres 29 countries beyond United States that are already have put their uniform police uniform soldiers at risk in Iraq. Second, when you talk about the reconstruction effort 45 countries have already made or are already making, spending money in Iraq on reconstruction economic aid so 45 countries for the economic side, 30 on the troop side, this is already a very significant international operation. In terms of what happens in New York this is a tactical negotiation over a UN resolution thats going on over the next week or so and its hard for me to judge exactly where it come out. It certain would be helpful if we had a UN endorsement to encourage other countries beyond the 45 to make more contributions or the 45 to make bigger contributions because we will need the money.
Q: Money or troops?
Amb. Bremer: In terms of troops, we have been in discussions with a couple of countries, which have said that they would prefer to have some kind of UN resolution it would be I think the Indians. If that somehow makes it easier for the Indians to contribute then we ought to pursue that and we are pursuing that.
Q: But on one hand is theres a contradiction here on one hand the Administration is saying, we have enough U.S. forces on the ground there with the 140 or 1,000 or so but on the other hand were hearing that we need more international troops. Can you resolve that for me?
Amb. Bremer: I think what youve got to look at is the discussion tends to be very often about the number of troops, since Im not a military expert I dont really get into the numbers of troops but what I look at is the configuration and whether or not weve actually got combat capabilities. So what we have to focus on is, as we come up on troop rotations and our forces in the early part of next year, how are we going to be sure we continue to have the same combat capability? One way is that we may see more foreign troops coming in place of American troops as we rotate out. That lies probably 5 to 6 months in the future but its not to soon to start planning for it.
Q: Theres been a lot reluctance that appears on the part of the Administration as surrendering control to the U.N., which appears to be what many of the members are demanding, why?
Amb. Bremer: You know Im puzzled by this talk about control; its not very clear to me exactly what people are talking about. If you talk about the military forces in Iraq everybody agrees including the Secretary General that there needs to be unity of command, you cant have two different command structures in the same country at the same time, youre just asking for trouble. Everybody who has ever studied does understand the need for unity of command that command at the moment is under the Coalition, whether theres some formula whereby you have some U.N. aspect of that command structure I honestly dont know. It certainly is something that is at least conceivable but there has to be unity of command, there cannot be two different command structures and everybody recognizes that.
Q: And since the U.S. is the lead agency there are you saying that then they should be that unified command?
Amb. Bremer: Well for the time being the Coalition is under U.S. command and that is the way its structured but lets see what comes out of the discussions in New York over the next few days.
Q: And I know youve already talked about this but lets talk a little bit about money. Wall Street Journal is saying that youre here to ask for another $3 billion to tied things over until you get, I guess the $22 billion, which is the figure thats been floating out there for the year. Can you confirm that report specifically or in general?
Amb. Bremer: But I was amused to see that apparently Im making an emergency visit here. Actually what I came back to do is go on leave, I havent had a day off in 4 months and Im working 18 to 20 hours a day so I sort of figured Id get a little time off here thats the reason Im here not to ask for more money. Not to say we wont need more money, we will but thats not the purpose of my trip.
Q: And how much more?
Amb. Bremer: Well thats a matter that were still studying. The World Bank is doing an assessment of Iraqs economic needs over the next couple of years, they are due to finish that needs assessments in the middle of September and that will then give us a number that we can all look at and say okay thats the number.
Q: But likely billions?
Amb. Bremer: Oh yes it will be tens of billions of dollars, no question. The Iraqi economy has been extraordinarily badly handled over a period of 40 years with very great under investment in power and water and health services and there will be a need for tens of billions of dollars.
Q: Talking to some Iraqis theyve been saying that in hindsight at least I think it may have been a mistake to pull the plug completely on the Iraqi military, the Iraqi police, it might have better to keep what Garner had in place, which was get rid of the top but keep the lower echelons, that you had some Iraqis that you could deploy for security issues, how would you respond to those concerns?
Amb. Bremer: Well I think it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the situation was. In fact the Iraqi Army disbanded itself, it was no Iraqi Army from April 9th. A good example is two Republican Guard Divisions that were responsible for security north of Baghdad between Baghdad and Tikrit, they simply disappeared, they simply went home, they took their uniforms off, left their boots in the sand and went home. There was no Iraqi Army present when we got there after the end of the war. So there was never a question of an Iraqi Army that we could fall back on.
As far as the police the old Iraqi police was part of the problem, they were not professional, they were human rights abusers, they were rapist, they were killers they were torturers. There was no question that you could use them in any effective way we basically had to create a new police force. Weve now got 40,000 Iraqi police serving already all across the country, we intend to double that in the next couple of years to take it to 75 or 80,000.
Q: Now the concern that I heard is that you might be moving to quickly toward elections as one Iraqi that I talked to said, is the problem is there are two parties now established in Iraq and thats the Baathist Party and the Islamist and theyre afraid that by having elections mid-next year as planned that may not give enough time for other parties liberal democratic parties to form?
Amb. Bremer: Well the question of the timing of elections is really largely a function of how long its going to take to write a new constitution, which will be the basis for new elections, nobody really knows how long thats going take. The constitutional conference will be convened sometime we think in the next couple of months. How long will it take them to write a constitution I dont know, it could take 6 or 8 months and a couple of months to organize elections so, you could have elections next year it certainly is conceivable. There are quite a few other parties actually and there are new ones coming into being pretty much everyday, so well have to see about the timing of elections when we get through the constitutional process.
Q: Very good Sir. Ambassador it was a pleasure to meet you. Welcome back to the states. I hope you get some rest and relaxation.
Amb. Bremer: So do I.
Q: How long are you going to be here for?
Amb. Bremer: Well Ill be here a few days.