BAGHDAD, IRAQ, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2003
MR. BREMER: Afternoon. My apologies for being late. I was watching the president, and I hope all of you did, too.
Six months ago today, the coalition forces liberated Baghdad. I'm sure that many of you were as thrilled as I was to see Saddam's statue -- and his regime -- fall on that day.
But -- and most of what's happened since then -- not all of it -- has been good. The coalition, as of today, has completed over 13,000 reconstruction projects, large and small, as part of our strategic plan for the reconstruction of Iraq.
That plan has four elements: first, create a secure environment; begin the restoration of essential services; begin to transform the economy; and begin the transformation to democracy.
Before I take your questions, I want to review briefly some of the progress in each of these four areas. Let me first turn to security.
Six months ago, at the time of the liberation, there were no police on duty in Iraq. Today there are over 40,000 police on duty, nearly 7,000 here in Baghdad alone. Last night coalition forces and the Iraqi police conducted 1,731 joint patrols.
Six months ago, those elements of Saddam's military that had not been destroyed in combat had buried their airplanes and melted away. Today the first battalion of the new Iraqi army has graduated and is on active duty. Across the country, over 60,000 Iraqis now provide security to their fellow citizens.
Six months ago today, there were no functioning courts in Iraq. Today nearly all of Iraq's 400 courts are open and functioning. Today in Iraq, for the first time in a generation, the Iraqi judiciary is fully independent.
As the events today in Baghdad make clear, much remains to be done to establish an acceptable security environment. Even so, things have improved enough to ease the cease-fire in -- the curfew in Baghdad to only four hours. This was done, incidentally, at the request of the restaurateurs in Baghdad, who said they wanted to be able to stay open later.
Let me turn to restoring essential services. Six months ago, the entire country of Iraq could generate a bare 300 megawatts of electricity. Monday, October 6th, power generation hit 4,518 megawatts, exceeding the prewar average.
I want to show you three pictures that dramatically show this progress. (To staff.) May I have the first picture, please?
This is a picture taken of Baghdad out west to Ar Ramadi, south to Karbala, north to Baqubah, taken before the war, on February 1st, 2003. It's a night image of the power generation and the electricity in that area.
The next slide shows exactly the same area, taken at the same time of night, this time on April 11th, and shows you the fact that there was almost no power being generated anywhere in the country two days after liberation.
Now let me show you October 1st. If we get the funding that the president has requested in his emergency budget, we expect to produce enough electricity for all Iraqis to have electrical service 24 hours daily -- something essential to their hopes for the future.
Six months ago today, nearly all the schools in Iraq were closed. Today, all 22 universities and 43 institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all primary and secondary schools. As many of you know, we announced earlier this summer as part of our strategic plan that we would rebuild 1,000 schools all across Iraq by October 1st. The claim was met with considerable skepticism, and I'm pleased to tell you that by October 1st, we had actually rehabilitated over 1,500 schools, 50 percent more than in our plan.
Six months ago, teachers were paid as little as $5 a month. Today, teachers earn from 12 to 25 times their former salaries.
Six months ago today, the public health service and system was an empty shell. During the 1990s, Saddam Hussein cut spending on health care by over 90 percent, with predictable results on the lives of his fellow countrymen. Today, we have increased public health spending over 26 times what it was under Saddam -- 26 times. Today, all 240 hospitals and more than 1,200 clinics are open. Today, doctors' salaries are at least eight times what they were under Saddam Hussein. Pharmaceutical distribution has gone from essentially nothing at the end of the war to 700 tons in May to a current total of 12,000 tons. Since liberation, we have administered over 22 million vaccination doses to Iraq's children.
Six months ago, three-quarters of Iraq's 27,000 kilometers of irrigation canals were weed-choked and barely functional. Today, a coalition program has cleared over 14,000 kilometers of these canals. They now irrigate tens of thousands of farms around the country. Moreover, this project has created over 100,000 jobs for Iraqi men and women. Additionally, we have restored over three-quarters of prewar telephone service and over two-thirds of potable water production.
Before the war, there were 4,500 Internet connections, and important services such as instant messaging were forbidden. Today, there are already more Internet connections -- we estimate 4,900 -- and we expect there to be 50,000 Internet connections by January 1st.
Let me turn to our third priority, which is transforming the economy. Six months ago today, Iraq's economy was flat on its back. Today, anyone walking on the streets of any major city can see the wheels of commerce turning. From bicycles to satellite dishes to cars and trucks, businesses are coming to life in all of Iraq's cities and towns.
Six months ago today, all the banks in the country were closed. Today, 95 percent of all prewar bank customers have service, and first-time customers are opening accounts daily. Today, Iraqi banks are making loans to finance businesses. Today, for the first time in Iraq's history, the Central Bank is fully independent, and Iraq has one of the world's most growth-oriented investment and banking laws in the world. Next week, Iraq will get a single, unified currency for the first time in 15 years.
We have also begun the steps to transform the country towards democracy. Six months ago, there was no freedom of expression. Satellite dishes were illegal. Foreign journalists came on 10-day visas and paid mandatory and extortionate fees to the Ministry of Information for minders and other government spies.
Today there is no Ministry of Information. Today there are more than 170 newspapers being published in the country. Today you can buy satellite dishes on what seems like every street corner. Today foreign journalists and everyone else is free to come and go.
Six months ago today, Iraq had not a single element -- legislative, judicial or executive -- of a representative government. Today, in Baghdad alone, residents have selected 88 advisory councils. Over 800 Baghdadis are represented there. Baghdad's first democratic transfer of power in 35 years happened when the city council recently elected a new chairman.
Today, all over Iraq, chambers of commerce, business, school and professional organizations are electing their leaders. Today 25 ministers, selected by the most representative governing body in Iraq's history, run the country day to day. Today the Iraq government regularly participates in international events. Since July, the Iraqi government has been represented in over two dozen international meetings, including those of the United Nations General Assembly, the Arab League, the World Bank and IMF, and just today, the Islamic Conference Summit. This morning the minister of foreign affairs announced the reopening of more than 30 Iraqi embassies around the world.
Six months ago, the Shi'a religious festivals were all but banned. Today, for the first time in 35 years, in Karbala thousands of Shi'ites celebrate the pilgrimage of the 12th imam.
In six short months, we have accomplished a lot, but we're also aware that the progress we've made is only a beginning. A quarter century of negligence, cronyism and warmongering have devastated this country. Profound damage like that will not be repaired overnight. Bringing Iraq up to minimum self-sufficiency will require the full $20 billion the president has asked of Congress in his supplemental budget request.
And we are fighting terrorism here. We will continue to fight it until it no longer threatens the hopes of Iraqis and the hopes of the world.
The importance and urgency of this task is underscored for all of us today when terrorists car-bombed a police station and assassinated a Spanish diplomat. But as the president has just said in the speech he finished in New Hampshire, we will wage the war on terror until it is done.
Thank you. I'd be happy to take your questions. Please.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Just a minute. (Technical adjustments.)
MR. BREMER: I'm not getting --
MR. BREMER: Yeah, two, but I don't have any sound. (Technical adjustments.) Start again.
Q (In Arabic) --
MR. BREMER: Well, sorry, guys. You got one that works?
STAFF: We'll -- separate from here. We'll do it from here. Would you?
(Technical adjustments, cross talk.)
Q (In Arabic.)
INTERPRETER: Hold on --
MR. BREMER: He has to translate.
INTERPRETER: Is there an intention to reestablish the intelligence services of Iraq or to compensate the ones that used to work in it, taking into consideration that they have families that they need to support?
Q (Begins again in Arabic) --
MR. BREMER: You only get one question.
MR. BREMER: Yeah. That's it, because there are a lot of other people here.
MR. BREMER: The question of the intelligence service is a matter that -- we have had very preliminary discussions with the Governing Council, the security committee of the Governing Council, which has expressed an interest in trying to determine the best way for Iraq to have an intelligence service, which is something that most countries have. But it is obviously, in the case of Iraq, a matter of great sensitivity because of the abuses conducted by the previous intelligence service on the Iraqi people. They were a major instrument of repression, and they -- ex-members of the intelligence service have been found to be involved in many of the attacks on coalition forces since liberation. So, it is a very sensitive subject on which we are just having preliminary discussions.
Q Ambassador Bremer, you mentioned the car bombing today. Going back 10 or 12 weeks, of course, we have had the bombings of the Jordanian Embassy, the United Nations headquarters, the Shi'ite shrine in Najaf, another police bombing, and now today's. In all of these, the common thread seems to be that those attacked are people who have been cooperating with the United States in Iraq. Are there any suspects in custody in any of these cases? Is any progress being made in the investigation of all of these cases? And what progress is that?
MR. BREMER: Well, I'm not clear -- I'm not as clear as you are about what the common theme is, although it looks to me as if the common theme behind these attacks is people who do not share the vision of hope for Iraq's future that is the vision of the majority of Iraqis and, of course, is the vision of the president. The people who have conducted these attacks have shown a wanton disregard for innocent civilian life, and they should be condemned roundly by everyone.
I want to express my personal condolences to the family of the Spanish diplomat who was killed this morning and to the families of the at least eight, and maybe more, Iraqis who died in the suicide bomb attack this morning.
As for the progress on the investigations, those questions should be more properly addressed to the Iraqi police, who are in charge of all of the investigations you mentioned, and you should address the question of what progress there is and whether there are suspects in custody to them. I can only say I certainly hope that they will get to the bottom of all of these attacks, and that we will bring the perpetrators to justice quickly.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Well, the Governing Council issued a statement today which pointed out that the Governing Council and the coalition have begun discussions about the question of foreign troops -- not just Turkish troops, foreign troops, in Iraq. And in that statement, the Governing Council noted that we had a good exchange of views this morning on the subject, and we look forward to continuing that discussion to try to find ways to meet the interests of all parties in the matter.
And I think I won't elaborate on the Governing Council's statement. It speaks for itself.
In the back. Yes, please?
Q (Name inaudible) -- from Kyodo News of Japan. Sir, the Turkish -- the inviting Turkish troops into Iraq is considered by rank-and-file Iraqis and politicians a very sensitive issue.
MR. BREMER: Yes.
Q And many politicians here and analysts could say that this is another problem added to already problem-stricken country. Now, is there any point of doing that, inviting -- creating a new problem? Thank you.
MR. BREMER: Well, the coalition is well aware of the sensitivities involved in the question of foreign troops in Iraq. And we share the vision of the Governing Council and many Iraqis that we should move as quickly as possible to put Iraqis in a major position of defending their own country.
I mentioned earlier that there are 60,000 Iraqis now serving in the various forces -- the police force, the army, the border police, the Facilities Protective Service and so forth. And we certainly hope to be able to accelerate the number of Iraqis involved in their own defense in the next 12 to 18 months. Almost $4 billion in the budgetary supplemental request is dedicated to that job alone, so that we can produce an Iraqi army of 27 battalions by next summer -- end of next summer and produce a trained professional police force of some 75,000 in the next year and a half.
So we think, first, the answer to the foreign troops is to try to find a way to bring more Iraqis forward.
As I said, we understand the sensitivities of foreign troops coming here, and we have started a productive discussion with the Governing Council, and we will continue that discussion in the period ahead. And I wouldn't want to go beyond what the Governing Council statement said today.
Q (Off mike.)
MR. BREMER: Let's start with her, and then you can --
Q (Name inaudible) from CNN. Mr. Bremer, with all of your positives and accomplishments notwithstanding, how much longer can we have this daily violence and chaos, with daily loss of life, before the coalition acknowledge that it was very ill-prepared for the aftermath of the war, that it fundamentally misread the reality and the complexity of Iraq?
MR. BREMER: Well, it's going to be a very long time before I admit either of those things, to answer your question. Would you like me to go further in my answer?
Q Go for it.
MR. BREMER: (Chuckles.) Look, we found, as I said, an economic situation that was, I think, worse than people expected, when we got here. Of course, we knew that Saddam had been a monster, and we knew that he had repressed his people for 35 years, and we knew that he had spent lots of money, perhaps a third of the wealth of the country, year after year on his weapons.
What I think was not appreciated sufficiently was the degree to which he had -- by misallocating revenues, had starved the infrastructure of this country -- the water, the power, agriculture, health care. You can go right down the list -- schools, universities.
And so we have found a situation where at liberation we have a real responsibility to try to create the conditions for growth and stability here. And that is the purpose of the president's $20 billion request.
We will see it through. We -- I am optimistic. We have made an enormous amount of progress here in six months, more than I think anybody could have safely predicted, beyond -- in many places, beyond what our plan was. And I think we will continue to implement, as we go forward, on our plan over the next six to nine to 12 months.
We will have -- there will be bumps in the road. There will be bad days, like today. But I think it's important, as -- for those of you who are here regularly covering the story, to put that in perspective, because it's a lot better than it was. I can speak from personal experience about the difference in Baghdad. I arrived five months ago, and it's a totally different country than it was five months ago, completely different. And it's sometimes important to put in perspective, when there are daily problems, like -- as there were today, how far we have come.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: We have had discussions with the Governing Council about the prisoners and missing, I think is a more precise way to say it -- Iranians who are missing still in Iran. And we have been encouraged -- as we've done that, we've been encouraged to ask the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, after all, has responsibilities for Iraq's foreign affairs now, to raise this matter with the Iranian government. I think if you want to be briefed on what the results of those discussions have been, you should address yourself to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Q Ambassador Bremer, as you know, the Governing Council's preparatory committee for the constitution has been unable to agree upon a particular mechanism for selecting drafters of a new constitution. Given that the writing of a constitution is the, you know, key prerequisite to holding elections and the eventual hand-over of sovereignty, what do you propose to do, and what does the coalition propose to do to try to ease this logjam and to accelerate this process? And would you at all support the creation of perhaps a provisional constitution along the way while a more permanent constitution might be then drafted over a longer period of time?
MR. BREMER: Thank you. I think it's a bit early to start writing stories about the preparatory committee. They, after all, only delivered their report a week ago, on September 30th. The Governing Council has not yet had the opportunity -- unless they did it late in the day today, they have not yet had an opportunity to even have a formal discussion of that. So, I think it's a bit early to say what the results will be. We, of course, will look forward to discussing that with them.
On the question of a provisional constitution, there is virtually no support for that that I have found among any Iraqis. We do not support it, and I've met no one on the Governing Council or among the ministers who supports it. This country has lived under interim and provisional and phony constitutions since 1958. I mean, Saddam's treatment of constitutions was like it was a Kleenex. If you got tired of it, you just threw it away. We believe there must be a permanent, stable constitution that provides the broad political framework for democratic and stable life in Iraq, and that is the view of every Iraqi -- responsible Iraqi I have talked to in the last five months. And that is the direction we will go. We want to see a permanent constitution written, and so do they. Let's see how the process evolves when the Governing Council begins to have its discussions.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Well, we are forbidden by international law from showing pictures of the -- though there are actually not 55 in detention; there are, I think, 41 we have in detention. Two have been killed. So we have actually captured or killed three-quarters of the people on the blacklist. But we are forbidden by international law, under the Geneva Conventions, from showing them -- showing pictures of them.
The Governing Council is in the process of finalizing its proposal for a tribunal to try -- special tribunal to try these people for crimes against humanity and other crimes. We have encouraged the Governing Council to move quickly to do that, and we have told them that as soon as they can present us with valid indictments against these men, we will turn them over to appropriate Iraqi authorities, at which point they are subject only to normal criminal restrictions. And that means they can be shown on television or however they choose to show them.
So we are as anxious as anyone to have this happen and to turn these criminals over. The Governing Council has to finish its deliberations on the special tribunal, and I hope they'll do that soon.
Q Trudy Rubin from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Mr. Bremer, as you know, certain members of the Governing Council came out with a proposal that a new security force be formed under the Interior Ministry that would include various militias of political groups, but also others as well.
I'm wondering, given the continuation of attacks and car bombs and so forth, have you given any further thought to this concept? And as they express it, as you know, they feel that the Iraqi police, the military, civil defense -- that it will be much too -- (audio break).
MR. BREMER: (Audio break) -- to that force. We will have a trained army of some 35(,000) to 40,000 by the summer, next year. We have 40,000 police on board already, and we will be training more very quickly in the months ahead.
We will -- and incidentally, most of these forces -- the police, the Facilities Protection Service, the border police and the border guards -- all already do work for the Ministry of Interior.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Well, I think there may be a misunderstanding behind this question. The vast majority of reconstruction which has been done so far -- I mentioned 13,000 individual projects -- has actually been done by Iraqis. We know that in the case of only one American contractor, which is Bechtel, of their -- they have -- at the last figure I saw, they had signed 140 subcontracts, of which 104 went to Iraqi firms. And they estimate that they have employed some 40,000 Iraqis just on their contracts.
I have given instructions to all American contractors that they are to place as much of their subcontracting as possible with Iraqi firms to create jobs for Iraqis. Therefore, there isn't any question about the military. The military is not doing major contracting; it is our civilian side that is doing the contracting, and we anticipate that we will continue to do that in the months ahead.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Well, I'm not familiar with the particular case of the newspaper you mentioned, so I can't comment on that myself. Perhaps my press office can answer it. But let me make two points. Number one, we believe very deeply that the freedom of the press is at the heart of a democracy. If you read the American Constitution, the very first right which is asserted for every citizen is the right of the freedom of speech. So, it is at the very heart of our concept of what democracy is about. Now, it is also the case that here in Iraq, as in other countries, like the United States, that does not mean that you are free to incite violence. That is against the law. It's against the law here and it's against the law in almost every Western European country. So, I don't know what happened in this particular case, but journalists who incite violence are breaking the law, and when we find them, we will deal with them as criminals.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: The question of the role of Islam will be an important question as the constitutional convention considers the new constitution for Iraq. And since we are not even at a point where the convention has been convened -- I answered the question earlier -- I think it would not be appropriate for me to speculate. I do want to make some points on it, though.
A careful reading of the political statement of the Governing Council, issued about a week after they were appointed in July, shows a commitment to the freedom of religion. The statements signed by various Iraqi political parties in London, in Nasiriyah and in Baghdad over the last year have also consistently spoken of the importance of freedom of religion. Certainly, the coalition would anticipate that however the constitution addresses the question of the role of Islam, it will also make clear that Iraq respects the freedom of worship on the part of all Iraqis.
On the question of the Ba'ath Party, we would not accept that senior Ba'ath Party officials come back, if that was the question. It wasn't very well translated, so maybe I didn't -- go ahead.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Well, I imposed a hiring freeze throughout the government in July because we don't have enough money, and I intend to enforce that decree. Has nothing to do with what people's political background is.
I don't -- it would not surprise me if from one ministry to another they had to a hire a few people to fill in for some of the people they've kicked out. But it has nothing to do with what their association is. I don't care what political party they're from.
Q Mandig (sp), German TV. There were news that American soldiers destroyed before not too long time agriculture areas with barns and useful trees in the -- (inaudible) -- 80 kilometer to the north of Baghdad. In the same time, many people was killed. Is this true, and why? Thank you.
MR. BREMER: I have no idea. You'll have to ask the military authorities. That's the first I've heard of it.
Q Joan O'Brien (sp) from Reuters. You've spoken about improvements in security. With regards to insecurity, obviously today, as you mentioned, there was a car bomb and assassination. There was also another American soldier killed in Baqubah. Is the current situation where you anticipated being six months after the liberation? And if not, what went wrong?
MR. BREMER: Well, I think we always anticipated that we would face, as has been the case in every post-conflict situation that I'm aware of since the Second World War -- we would face some resistance. And we have faced that resistance, and we'll deal with it. It does not -- the attacks on the coalition -- 90 percent of them take place in about 5 percent of the country. They pose no strategic threat to the coalition or to its forces. We are dealing with that threat on a virtually daily basis, rounding up killers, the trained torturers of the Fedayeen Saddam and the intelligence service, and we will continue to do that in the months ahead.
We would obviously wish that those people would stop attacking us and stop attacking their fellow countrymen. It was Iraqis who died today in the car bomb. It was Iraqis who died in Najaf. Most of the people killed in the attack on the U.N. building were Iraqis.
These terrorists do not share the vision which was brought home to all o us six months ago today, of a free Iraq, freed of the torturer and killer that was Saddam Hussein. They will not long have support in this country, because they don't share the vision of hope for Iraq's future.
Q (Off mike) -- Lawrence (sp), BBC. I'm wondering how you think the American -- the coalition forces are doing winning over hearts and minds to their side. Specifically, there have been some pamphlets distributed in some neighborhoods of Baghdad saying, for example, that if mortar attacks happen, they will be responded to with heavy artillery; that if people don't inform, that they could be treated also as terrorists. Is that going to help win over hearts and minds?
MR. BREMER: No, but I don't think it's -- it sounds like a good piece of disinformation to me. I'm not familiar with the pamphlet. It doesn't sound very helpful.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: We agree that we need to do a lot better in controlling the borders of this country, but it's important to start by remembering how difficult this is. The borders of Iraq in total are about the same length as the border between the United States and Mexico. And at least speaking for Americans here, we know how difficult it has been, now for decades, to find adequate means of securing the border in Mexico. And the border in Mexico is, from a topographical point of view, easier to defend than any of the borders in Iraq. So, we have a very difficult job.
We are in the process of deploying coalition forces on various parts of the border in a thicker way than we have in the past in order to try to cut down on the illegal crossings into Iraq. We have had foreign fighters and terrorists coming across particularly the border from Syria, which concerns us.
We are also in the process of trying to build a border police force of 25,000. We have only about 2,700 people in the police force -- in the border police force now. So, we're only a tenth of the way there. This group needs to be trained, and it will be trained also with monies that are in the president's request for -- the supplemental budget. And they will work under the Ministry of Interior, to answer a question that came up earlier.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Well, as I mentioned earlier, the question of foreign troops coming to Iraq, including Turkish troops, is a matter that is under discussion with the Governing Council. We met this morning, had a discussion of this sensitive subject. It was a productive meeting, and we think will be an important step forward in finding a solution to an issue that's satisfactory to both us and the Iraqis. So, I think there's not much point in speculating about how such troops would be deployed when we're still in the middle of discussions.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Thank you. We have a process in place now where the names of the people who have been detained by coalition forces are made public on a regular basis through the country's police stations and courts, and through coalition positions. We try to update that list once a week.
We have begun a process of giving the people in detention access to legal assistance, and we are trying to reduce the amount of time that we spend in determining whether we want to continue to retain somebody in detention or not. Our obligation is to review a detainee within 21 days of his being detained. I have given instructions to the coalition forces to conduct that review within 72 hours instead -- within three days, and we are basically coming to the point now where we are doing the review quickly, because we recognize the strain it puts on relatives and families when they have uncertainty. But we have improved the information flow quite dramatically in the last eight weeks or so.
Q I'm Bill Glauber with the Chicago Tribune. Ambassador Bremer, as you know, in the budget request, there were several items that raised some eyebrows about zip codes, trash trucks, new telephone lines, sort of, the children's hospital in Basra. I'm interested in general if you need those things. And specifically on the children's hospital in Basra, what was actually envisioned down there? And can you do without it?
MR. BREMER: Well, the idea behind the children's hospital was quite simply this: Iraq went from being one of the most advanced countries in the region in many areas -- education, health care, women's rights -- to being one of the most backward countries in all of those areas. And in particular, I mentioned that Saddam had cut back spending on health care by 90 percent during the 1990s. Most of the burden of those cutbacks fell on the Iraqi children, and the figures are really quite stunning. If you look at the World Bank figures on the increase in child mortality in Iraq, it's dramatically higher than any of her neighbors. The increase of malnutrition among both mothers and children, particularly in the south, where Saddam's hand was the heaviest, is way above the average of Iraq's neighbors.
Iraq has -- Baghdad has a children's hospital. I visited it my first week here. Like most of the hospitals in this country, it is staffed by enormously-dedicated doctors and staff. In that particular hospital, they worked right through the war. But like most hospitals, the children's hospital of Baghdad is working with equipment that is 20, sometimes 30, years old. I saw children in incubators that were dated from the 1970s.
It was, therefore, an idea that Iraq should have a world-class medical facility dedicated to children, bringing in the best in the world; not being satisfied just by having a children's hospital, but a children's hospital that would be a beacon of hope for the people of Iraq and for the people of the region. And since Baghdad already had a children's hospital, though with not adequate equipment, we thought it would be a good idea to put that children's hospital in the country's second-largest city, in a city which was a particular target of Saddam's repression.
So, if we don't get the hospital, we won't be able to serve Iraq's children as well as we could with the hospital.
STAFF: Just a couple more questions, please.
Q NBC News. Are you aware, and if so, how concerned are you that there are many weapons dumps around the country, some of them unguarded due to a lack of military manpower?
MR. BREMER: Well, I'm certainly aware that there are many weapons dumps around the country. There's no doubt about that. The figures are staggering. We estimate that -- we believe that -- so far, we know there are 650,000 tons -- 650,000 tons -- of weapons that we've found so far in this country.
I've seen reports of some of these caches being unguarded. I just don't have personal knowledge of that. It's a question you should ask General Sanchez, who is responsible for the security. I know that he is concerned about the guarding of those caches, and I know that one of the early uses of the Facilities Protection Service that we are recruiting is to put them on to weapons caches, so that we are more assured that they're safe. But you really should get the details on that from CJTF.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Well, I don't think it's an either/or question. I think we have got to have coalition forces here, and we would welcome additional countries. We have now got 33 countries involved in the coalition. We would welcome others, including the Turks.
But whatever happens with the question of foreign forces coming here, we intend to consider -- continue our program of very aggressive and robust reconstruction. I mentioned that we've done 13,000 projects in six months. We're going to continue those projects. If we get the supplemental request the president has asked from Congress, we will have some very large amounts of money coming in here that will have to be spent well and quickly and administered according to U.S. law. That will be a focus of ours.
It really is not a -- it's a separate question than what the contours are of the coalition forces. We will proceed with reconstruction as aggressively as we can, whatever the question is about foreign forces.
Yup. Let me take him first, then you. You get the next one.
Q Mustapha Zered (sp), Abu Dhabi TV. If security is still the biggest challenge you are facing today, after six months, don't you think that you have to change the way you are handling security in this country?
MR. BREMER: Well, we are changing the way we're handling security in this country. We're doing three things. We are working to reconfigure our forces to make them more mobile and lighter, and we are working, where possible, to increase the Iraqi role in security. In other words, when we find that there is a place in the country where American forces can hand over to Iraqi forces for security a village or a town, we do that.
Secondly, we are working to improve our intelligence against the terrorists who are working here. I can't say much about how that works, but it's clear to me, having been involved in the fight against terrorism for several decades, that we will need better intelligence, and we need to continue to work on that.
And thirdly, we are working to quickly mobilize Iraqi forces -- and I've talked about them several times already -- in terms of the kinds of forces -- the police and the army and so forth.
So, that's our program. It's the program we've had since we did our planning back in May and June. We set out in July -- we said we will have the first battalion of the Iraqi army trained by October 1st, and everybody told us it would be impossible. They said, "You won't be able to recruit them. You'll have to train them in August. They won't like to be trained in August; it's too hot. The people you'll get will not stay in training." What were the facts? We had more recruits than we could possibly take in the first battalion, we trained them in August and they graduated on October 4th.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Well, I think I answered this as well as I can before. I understand your interest in the question, but we've only begun to discuss the question with the GC today -- with the Governing Council today. (Audio break) -- discussion leads before we start speculating about what the outcome is. There's no point in talking about where they might be deployed in the country. I was asked that before. That's way -- that's not part of -- that's not where we are yet. We have to have a different discussion first.
Yeah? Please, go ahead.
Q (In Arabic.)
MR. BREMER: Well, as sometimes happens in Washington, the reports of bureaucratic changes tend to be more colorful than the reality. Basically, the National Security Council is -- has been charged by the president to help us, the Coalition Provisional Authority, work our way through the bureaucracy in Washington.
When I was in Washington two weeks ago, I mentioned to several people there that we continue to have -- run into the usual kind of bureaucratic problems that you expect in a government: difficulties getting people, difficulties getting resources, difficulties getting staff assistance to us on policy matters. And the president has basically set up a -- what is quite normal in a coordinating committee under the NSC to try to clear out the bureaucratic cobwebs and be sure that the coalition can operate as effectively as it can. And I must say we are going to have to spend $20 billion here in the next year, year and a half. That's a lot of money, and we will need a lot of help from Washington in doing it quickly, effectively, in the interest of Iraq and consistent with U.S. law.
So, I welcome this assistance we're going to get from the group back there. They've already helped us with several matters, even this week. So, it's a welcome change.
Q Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. In July, the group from the Center for Strategic and International Studies tried to frame this as that you have a -- the coalition has a window of maybe 12 months. And in this time, Iraqis, either consciously or subconsciously, are going through a process of deciding whether they want to be with this, participate, or denounce it, not be with it.
Do you accept that as a framework? And where do you think you are? How do you think you're doing in that?
MR. BREMER: Yes, of course I'm familiar with the study, since I -- Mr. Rumsfeld and I commissioned it.
Well, I don't know if it's 12 months or 18 months. But obviously we want to see rapid progress in all the four areas I mentioned -- security, essential services, the economy and governance.
And I would say, based on looking back over six months now, we're -- we've come a long way, further than I thought we would have come.
It's a bit difficult, in a country where there really is no tradition of opinion polling, to know exactly how the majority of Iraqis feel. But those polls which we have seen suggest that most Iraqis understand the importance of the coalition providing security. Certainly when I travel around the country, I find, first, most of the country is quiet. And people you talk to, whether they're tribal leaders, villagers, shopkeepers, mayors, are grateful for the economic revitalization which has already come about and which -- on which I gave quite a number of data points here at the outset.
So I think we will continue -- obviously we will continue our process on reconstruction. We have a lot of -- a lot we want to accomplish in the next six months. We will accomplish that. I'm very optimistic.
Life is getting better for Iraqis, except for those who don't share our vision. And for them, it's getting dangerous, because we do not want to have them killing more Iraqis. It's going to be more dangerous for terrorists, and we don't want them killing Iraqis either. But I think in the -- we'll see in the next six months hopefully the same kind of progress we've seen in the last six months.
Q (Name inaudible) from AFP. Were you briefed on the assassination of the Spanish military attache? And what were you told?
MR. BREMER: No. I called the Spanish charge this morning to express my condolences to him, and I asked him just a bit about how the event had happened. But he was obviously busy with other matters in dealing with results of the assassination, so I did not -- I didn't trouble him to give me a long briefing. And I have not had a chance to get briefed by the Iraqi police yet. I assume they're ready to brief whenever they have information.
No, you had one.
STAFF: Must be absolutely the last question.
MR. BREMER: Okay. Last question. The hook is coming out!
Q CBS News. The Governing Council Wednesday was quite upset about the Turkish troops and troops from outside Iraq. Yesterday they seemed to have backed down to "We know this is a fight we can't win." I know you don't want to speak specifically about this issue, but generally, how much of a factor is the Governing Council in your deliberations and decision-making? And what's their role outbound to a constitution?
MR. BREMER: Well, that's a good question. Look, we take the Governing Council seriously. I told the Governing Council on July 13th that if they succeed, we succeed. If we succeed, they succeed. We are in a partnership with the Governing Council in steering Iraq through a period that hopefully will see a major political and economic transformation of this country.
And we have a shared vision. There's no question about that. Go back and read their political statement. It was very clear. It's very close to the vision that the president and the prime minister have for Iraq.
And we have very open discussions on a variety of issues. We don't see eye to eye on everything. Why should we? But we respect each other, and we are working closely together, and we look forward to having that happen in the weeks and months ahead.
Thank you very much.