COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY BRIEFING WITH
BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT,
DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR COALITION OPERATIONS;
AND DAN SENOR, SENIOR ADVISER, CPA
LOCATION: BAGHDAD, IRAQ
TIME: 9:06 A.M. EDT
DATE: TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2004
MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. I just have a couple of quick announcements.
General Kimmitt has an opening briefing and then we will be happy to take your
Ambassador Bremer earlier today did his weekly interview on Al- Iraqiyah. Two
issues that came up in the interview that I just want to bring to your
One relates to discussion he had about a proposal we are looking at with the
Iraqis to set up a special commission to compensate the victims of the previous
regime. This is something we are going to flesh out in the days ahead, but I
just wanted to give you a general sense of the proposal we are considering,
Under the old regime many lost jobs or were imprisoned or were executed because
they opposed the regime or refused to join the Ba'ath party, or simply were
related to someone considered by the previous regime as an opponent. The
problems are complex and involve many thousands of people.
The responsibility for judgments about how justice is to be done should be taken
by Iraqis. However, the coalition will help by establishing a commission and
setting aside initial funding to begin the process of correcting these
injustices of the past, again, primarily targeted at those who survived crimes
of the former regime, but were either imprisoned under the former regime
unjustly or lost jobs.
The coalition, as Ambassador Bremer said, will set aside funding. The amount
will be substantial. We are still working on that detail as well, but it will be
used to compensate. And it will be -- the commission would be run and
implemented by Iraqis.
Secondly, another issue -- related issue that came up was related to the
dismissal of teachers under the former regime. According to the Ministry of
Education, approximately 20,000 teachers were fired by the former regime for
political reasons. The ministry has a program of rehiring them and about 9,800
have been put back on the ministry payroll over the past year.
The ministry estimates that there are now approximately 20,000 teachers who were
fired by Saddam's regime, as I said, including the rejection -- and for
political reasons, including the rejection of Ba'athist ideology. They were
often forced to teach Ba'athist ideology and if they did not they were fired. In
many cases, however, they were fired not because of what they did themselves but
in retribution for actions allegedly taken by members of their family. And we
are working with the Ministry of Education right now on a way to address those.
You know in Ambassador Bremer's address to the nation last week he talked about
what we are doing to reinstate jobs for teachers who were Ba'athist in name only
but were not participants in the crimes of the regime, and ways in which we
could reintegrate them not only into their employment but back into Iraqi
society. The same applies with the same diligence and discipline focused on
those teachers who were unjustly dismissed under the former regime, who were not
only not participants in the crimes, but were also not even Ba'athist in name
only; they had no connection to Ba'athist ideology, and in many cases that's why
they were released, or because they were tied to family members targeted for
retribution by the former regime.
The minister of education, in my understanding, is holding a press conference
tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Look out for details on it. But it will address a number
of these issues.
GEN. KIMMITT: Thank you.
Before I give the operational briefing, a brief announcement. Today a visit
between Saddam Hussein and authorized members of the International Committee for
the Red Cross occurred at an undisclosed location. The visit occurred upon
request of the ICRC under the Geneva Convention's rule of visitation with enemy
prisoners of war. A visit between Saddam Hussein and authorized members of the
ICRC last occurred on February 21st.
Coalition forces welcome the crucial role of the ICRC in the advocacy of enemy
prisoner-of-war rights. The coalition will continue to work with the ICRC in
order to uphold our obligations under international law to include provisions
for ICRC visitation with enemy prisoners of war.
I wanted to take a couple of minutes and give a map overview of the current
situation. I haven't done it for about a week, thought it would be helpful to
get an impression of where we see current operations.
Pretty quiet in the north. The area around Mosul had a couple of incidents the
other day with some indirect fire attacks on a hotel, on a mosque, on a
coalition base, but generally speaking, the area around Mosul has been quiet, as
well as the area of north-central -- the zone of operations. We continue to see
most of the activity up and down the Baqubah-Samarra-Tikrit-Baiji-Kirkuk area,
but in general the province remains fairly quiet. Same with the western zone of
Of course, all of us still are watching the situation around Fallujah. Fallujah
was very quiet today. The negotiations, the discussions, in the minds of the
Marine commanders, continue to proceed even though we did not see a tremendous
number of weapons turned in today. In fact, I'm not certain that any weapons
were turned in today. There's felt to be some intangible progress along with the
negotiating teams in order to push the process forward.
Many of you saw last night on the television set the operations in Fallujah, the
engagement between the Marines and the enemy that were firing from the location
of the mosque. What I wanted to demonstrate, what I wanted to show you was a
picture of the "before and after" of that engagement. Again, we very reluctantly
go after holy sites, but when those holy sites are used to store weapons, to
fire weapons, we must take action if our Marines are pinned down. In this case,
as you remember, they went into the mosque one time, after being attacked early
in the morning. They went into the minaret, found a significant amount of
ammunition shell casings, left at about 1200, returned to their position. That
afternoon they started taking more gunfire from the minaret, and as a
consequence of that, being pinned down, they had to call in some precision
strikes in order to stop that source of fire.
As you can see, the minaret is no longer standing, but the entire remainder of
the mosque are is -- remained -- remains intact. That's the value of precision
weapons: that on those few occasions when we must attack a holy site, when it
has lost its protected status under the Geneva Convention, we've used the
minimum amount of force necessary to protect our Marines.
Continuing on throughout the area of operations, one of the roads going out to
Fallujah, approximately 10 miles north of Baghdad, out to Fallujah, is closed --
one of our supply routes. It is closed for repairs. It's closed because of the
security situation. And part of the supply route that we call ASR Jackson, south
of Baghdad, is closed for repair as well.
There is, as you know, the alternate route that goes up into Baghdad. So we
don't think that that will have a measurable effect either on military nor
civilian logistics resupply.
Within Baghdad, the only problem area remains a number of engagements that
happen on a daily basis. In the vicinity of Sadr City and just south of Sadr
City, we unfortunately lost one of our soldiers today and another soldier
wounded, who was -- who were conducting a joint patrol with the Iraqi Civil
Further down, we all know the situation around Karbala and An Najaf. But for the
rest of the country, by and large, the security situation is at a point where we
are able to continue with the restoration of the infrastructure, revitalization
of the economy and transfer of governance.
Next slide, please.
I wanted to talk about some of the actions east of Kufa that we've seen some
reports on. First of all, it's very important to understand this area. This is
the Euphrates River that runs along here. This is the town of Najaf, the holy
shrine, the Imam Ali Shrine down here in Najaf, the Kufa mosque, the Euphrates
River, the Kufa Bridge.
All of the operations have been mischaracterized today as somehow either inside
Najaf, just outside Najaf, inside Kufa. In fact, all the operations over the
last 24 hours have been on the east side of the Euphrates, starting yesterday at
1300, when one of our patrols came under small-arms attack. And after that
small-arms attack, I believe there was something on the order of seven enemy
killed, a number of enemy wounded, no coalition casualties.
Last night, after 2100, we had at 2112 an M-1 tank on the eastern side of the
Euphrates attacked with RPGs. During that operation, it was also identified that
there was a ZPU gun, a 14.5 single-barrel antiaircraft gun that was in this
vicinity. That was engaged by some aircraft, and as a result of that engagement
and the enemy surrounding that there were somewhere on the order of 57 enemy
killed in that vicinity, assessed to be Mahdi Army, Sadr militia. Again, all of
this happened on the far side of the Euphrates. No coalition forces have
conducted military operations either inside the Kufa area or inside the main
town of Najaf.
With that, let's go ahead and turn it over to questions and answers.
MR. SENOR: Yes, sir.
Q (Through interpreter.) Hassam Munaf (ph) from Iraq For All News. Frankly
speaking, we hope that today there have been some of the patrols, joint patrols
of coalition with the Iraqi police and the ICDC in Fallujah. Can you just
clarify, give us an explanation why they haven't resumed these patrols today?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. Frankly speaking, we would have had -- we would have liked
to have seen those joint patrols happen today as well. But as you can imagine,
the commanders on the ground took an assessment of the training status of the
Iraqi police service as well as the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps personnel, looked
at how they were operating along with the coalition forces, made the judgment
that those forces weren't ready to operate together to go in something as
significant as the types of joint patrols that we're looking for. We would
expect that the commander on the ground will look at this happening over the
next couple of days; probably not tomorrow, possibly the next day. But we're
going to let the commander on the ground use his judgment on when that happens.
Nonetheless, the negotiations, in the minds of the commanders on the ground, are
continuing to go well. There doesn't seem to be any significant backsliding on
the part of the enemy. There were, for example, only three violations of the
cease-fire over the past 24 hours. Now that's not to commend the insurgents
inside Fallujah because they yet continue to fail to produce the weapons, fail
to produce the fighters, fail to produce those that have been responsible for
some of the heinous acts inside of Fallujah. Nonetheless, the sensing of the
commanders on the ground is that they believe that the intangible benefits that
are continuing with the negotiations are sufficient to keep the process moving.
MR. SENOR: Yes, ma'am?
Q (Through interpreter.) Dana Barata (sp), German Radio. Is there a deadline for
conducting these patrols? Is there a deadline for the subject for conducting
these joint patrols by the Iraqi forces -- Iraqi ICDC and the coalition forces?
GEN. KIMMITT: At this point we don't think that putting deadlines, ultimatums on
the table are very helpful. The deadline is going to be when the commander on
the ground feels that the conditions are right with both the situation in the
city, as well as conditions are right with regards to the level of training of
the Iraqi police and the ICDC and their ability to interoperate with the
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Gene Chu (sp), NBC News. General Kimmitt, the forces that are coming in to
replace the Spanish troops inside this base -- could you tell us where they're
from and who they are, what units they are?
GEN. KIMMITT: We have elements of the 1st Armored Division operating in the
Multinational Division Central-South area of operations. Those forces were moved
a couple of weeks ago in a response to some of the operations around al Kut and
in the vicinity of Najaf; they were forces that formerly were in Baghdad. As you
know, the 1st Cavalry Division has assumed responsibility for Baghdad, so the
1st Cavalry -- so the 1st Armored Division is the major subordinate unit that's
operating in that area.
MR. SENOR: Patrick?
Q Two questions.
First for Dan. There have been some reports that significant portions of the
transitional administrative law have been scrapped. Wondering if there's any
truth to that.
And General Kimmitt, could you clarify, when exactly are the troops moving in --
when exactly are they replacing the Spanish troops and moving into the Spanish
base? And is that the Spanish base inside Najaf, kind of on the border between
Kufa -- or Najaf, or is it the Spanish base that's kind of outside of town, the
former Spanish base?
MR. SENOR: Pat, on your first question, I saw the same report. It is factually
incorrect, flat out factually incorrect. We remain firmly committed to the
Transitional Administrative Law. And it is our understanding that the Governing
Council does, too. In fact, the Governing Council signed this document several
months ago after much negotiating and a very elaborate and robust process that
was outlined in the November 15th agreement, and the agreement as well, the
November 15th agreement was agreed to between -- by the coalition and the
The coalition remains firmly committed to the Transitional Administrative Law,
all elements of it. We think it is critical that there be a legal framework
going forward for Iraq as it begins its political transition, as it forms its
interim government, a legal structure to govern the interim government and
protect Iraqi rights. Individual liberties alone protected in the Transitional
Administrative Law are unprecedented for Iraq and unprecedented in this part of
the world. Due process rights. Principles like federalism, civilian control of
the military, separation of powers. These principles that are enshrined in the
Transitional Administrative Law are essential to Iraq's path forward to
democracy. And we also believe those are principles that we hope will be
enshrined not only in the Transitional Administrative Law but in Iraq's
GEN. KIMMITT: Patrick, for obvious reasons, I don't want to specify which bases
they're in, but they're generally in this area right between the town of Najaf
and Kufa, outside of both the Medina area of Najaf, the holy portion of Najaf,
as well as Najaf proper. If you were to walk in that area, you'd sort of expect
it was sort of in the outer suburbs of that area.
Q So are they in one of the former Spanish bases, or are they just starting --
GEN. KIMMITT: We have some of our forces moving into the former Spanish bases.
MR. SENOR: Christine.
Q (In Arabic) --
MR. SENOR: No; Christine, right behind you.
Q I'm sorry.
MR. SENOR: Najim, I'll come to you after. Go ahead.
Q This question is a little bit off. I want to understand that -- the American
troops went into Najaf -- sorry, went into Fallujah because of the four
contractors who were killed and mutilated. I just wonder if there has been a
follow-up on the three coalition people who were killed in Hillah in what was a
pretty bad killing, if you will, and why was there no response to that. And can
you follow up on what information is known about the killers of Fern Holland and
the other two coalition employees?
GEN. KIMMITT: Certainly the reason we went into Fallujah included the killing of
the four contractors, but Fallujah was not a garden paradise before then. You
know as well as we do that Fallujah has been a problem, a significant problem
for the coalition and for Iraqi security forces for many, many months. You could
almost say that the four contractors killed were sort of the end of the series
of reasons to reestablish control, not the beginning.
With regards to the killing of the -- the horrible killing of the CPA employees,
I know there's an investigation going on. We have not been informed that there
have been any significant breaks in that investigation, and we still conduct the
investigation until and will keep the investigation over until we find the
MR. SENOR: Christine, I would just add, just to pivot off General Kimmitt's
first point, I think there's a real sense on the political process side that, as
Iraq transitions to a democracy and Iraq assumes its sovereignty, it would be
irresponsible of us to ignore areas where we know there are bastions of former
Fedayeen Saddam, of former Mukhabarat, Special Republican Guard, of Mr. Zarqawi
and the al Qaeda affiliates operating in and out of Iraq. When we know there are
areas where these dangerous elements are concentrated, we have a responsibility
to address it in one way or another; to get those elements removed out of the
area and take action in some way -- in one way or another against them because
if we ignore it, Iraq's path to democracy will be that much more bumpy.
And it looks like you have a follow-up question.
Q If I could just follow --
MR. SENOR: I'm not surprised.
Q Okay. If I could just follow up. The time of those three killings of the CPA
employees, it was said that they were police -- people wearing police uniforms,
and then you came to the discovery it probably was police. It seems to me that
that's as much of a threat to security in Iraq in a prominent city in Iraq as
finding out the Fedayeen is in Fallujah, and -- if Karbala you can't or Hillah
you can't trust the police.
MR. SENOR: I would just -- General Kimmitt, if you want to add -- I would just
say, Christine, without commenting on the Hillah situation, which is not
necessarily with regard to whether or not police were involved, we're not
certain that that is necessarily a problem that's symptomatic of the entire
police force or a problem that's symptomatic of the entire region.
Certainly in Fallujah, though, we have a much different scenario. And General
Kimmitt can speak to the numbers, but when we have a substantial number of
individuals and organizations who are either tied to the former regime or who
have come to this country to wreak havoc and slaughter -- and in some cases
mutilate -- Americans, coalition forces, Iraqis, and as I said all that is
concentrated in a certain area, that's a much different problem and one that
really needs to be addressed.
(To Gen. Kimmitt.) I don't know if --
GEN. KIMMITT: (Off mike.)
MR. SENOR: Okay.
Q (Through interpreter.) Mr. Dan Senor --
MR. SENOR: Najim, we'll come to you right after. I apologize.
Go ahead, ma'am. I'm sorry.
Q (Through interpreter.) Mr. Dan Senor, you have mentioned that Ambassador
Bremer has decided to compensate the victims of the previous regime. So how do
you plan to compensate the very large number of these victims?
MR. SENOR: Did she ask you that?
Q (Through interpreter.) Second question is for General Kimmitt. Sorry. The
second question is for General Kimmitt.
MR. SENOR: In many countries where a totalitarian regime or an authoritarian
regime that has oppressed the masses is succeeded by a free democracy, it is
often the case that commissions -- some sort of commission is set up to
compensate those who suffered under the former regime.
It is never possible, I believe, to fully compensate victims or the families of
victims for the pain and suffering that became associated with the regime that
governed. Certainly in this country the regime was in power for over three
decades, three times as long as Hitler was in power, for instance, in Germany.
Now -- but that said, we still think it's important to provide some sort of
compensation, some sort of financial compensation, to those individuals who may
have lost jobs, who may have been imprisoned. And we have been talking to a
number of Iraqis about that, and they agree this is especially important.
And as we move forward to a period of reconciliation and a period of healing --
and I've been talking to a lot of Iraqis about the fact that Iraq cannot move
forward until it deals with its past -- we think this is a part of that. And
that's why we're looking forward to announcing soon a formal commission that
will be led by Iraqis, to deal with this issue.
You have a second question or no? No?
GEN. KIMMITT: Go ahead, translators.
Q I need to ask --
STAFF: (Off mike.)
INTERPRETER: Okay. Can she repeat the second question, please?
Q (Through interpreter.) Regarding the first question, I just meant the victims
of your attacks. Do you have any details regarding the people who have attacked
the hotel in Mosul? Can you just tell us whether they were elements of al Qaeda,
or which kind of attack was that and by whom it was conducted?
GEN. KIMMITT: The attacks in Mosul two days ago were primarily indirect fire
attacks. They -- some were conducted with mortars. In the afternoon attack
against the Iraqi Media Network, we believe that there -- 122-millimeter rockets
were used. We don't have any group that has claimed responsibility. But again,
when you start seeing simultaneous operations -- there were three or four
attacks in the space of 15 minutes -- using military gear, such as mortars and
rockets, our first direction that we would look at is former military units,
former military personnel that may have retained some of that equipment. So
that's where our first direction is heading, and we'll see where the
investigation takes us.
MR. SENOR: Najim, I owe you a question.
Q (Through interpreter.) Najim Rubaie from Distor newspaper. My question for
both of you: Today we have heard that the coalition forces have bombed one of
the mosques in Fallujah. And you have announced before that the holy sites and
the holy shrines are protected, according to the Geneva Convention. But you say
that the armed people inside Fallujah are the terrorists. So could the
terrorists drag you to attack these holy shrines and holy places in Fallujah and
in some of these sites? Because this is considered as a violation to Islam. And
the Muslims in Fallujah have denied or they have condemned -- condemned -- the
fact -- well, especially the fact of killing those Americans and the mutilation
of the bodies. They condemned this attack, and they were not the people
responsible for these attacks. So why are you revenging upon those people?
GEN. KIMMITT: You bring up a very good point. It may not be the residents of
Fallujah that are inside the minarets. It may not be Iraqis that are inside
those minarets, shooting down at the coalition forces. It may be that those
terrorists, some of those foreign fighters are trying to drag not only the
people of Fallujah but the infrastructure of Fallujah, the holy sites of
Fallujah, into this fight precisely to create a wedge and animosity between the
coalition and the people of Iraq.
And that's why it's very, very important for everyone to take a stand against
these people, to not let them use minarets, to not allow them to use mosques, to
not allow them to use places of worship from which to store weapons, to fire
weapons, to execute military operations. We can't passively sit by, whether we
are the coalition forces, whether we are the Iraqi security forces, whether
we're the people of Iraq; we cannot allow these people to drive a wedge between
what we collectively are trying to do as this country moves to sovereignty and
democracy, and those who try to derail the process.
Q (Through interpreter.) Sorry for interrupting. If they are foreign fighters,
but I am, as Iraqi, even if there were people from Israel, they were Jewish; but
since they are inside the holy shrines, this is a violation. So you can cordon
and search these sites and you have the ability to bomb them and you have the
air force and you have so many different tactics. So you could use any of these
means or tactics, but not bombing these holy shrines and holy places. So even if
they were Jewish.
GEN. KIMMITT: You're exactly right that, before we use those types of weapons on
holy sites, we try to use the minimum amount of force necessary. We talked about
yesterday, the first thing we did when taking fire from the mosques and the
minarets was actually call through the psychological operations, loudspeakers,
to get the people to come out. We did cordon it. We did go into it. We did
search it, exactly as you say. When we got to the top of the minaret, there were
shell casings scattered all about. The soldiers then returned to their position
without doing any damage to that minaret.
It was only in a second engagement where the Marines were pinned down to the
point where a cordon was not sufficient, where return fire was not sufficient
from their small arms, they gradually responded more and more in an attempt to
take out the enemy, to kill the enemy before they had to go to the last
prospect, which is to make that choice: am I going to let my fellow Marines die
or am I going to recognize that that minaret, which has lost its protected
status under international law as soon as it's being used as a firing platform,
needs to go away? The choice was made to save their fellow Marines. That's the
right choice, and it was done with full consideration for what that minaret
meant and, as you took a look at that picture, with the minimum amount of
collateral damage done to any other part of that mosque. And I have absolutely
no doubt in the weeks and months ahead, when this whole situation -- instability
in Fallujah -- is set behind us and we move forward side by side with the Iraqis
inside Fallujah, that you will see the coalition soldiers participating in the
process of rebuilding that minaret.
Sewell. Welcome back.
Q Thank you. Sewell Chan with The Washington Post. I have a few questions for
Mr. Senor relating to the commission for compensation of victims from the former
MR. SENOR: A few questions. All right.
Q First, has Ambassador Bremer formally signed an order creating this commission
and setting up its process? Why is this commission being established now, a year
after the fall of the regime and before the inception of the interim government?
Has it been decided how the members of the commission will be appointed and how
many there will be? And finally, what is the source of the funding for the
MR. SENOR: I said at the beginning that this was at the embryonic stages of the
drafting of the proposal. In the days ahead, we'll have more information.
Why in terms of the timing? I think as Iraq begins to prepare for sovereignty,
as we begin the process for establishing an interim government, this is a body
that should be administered by Iraqis, this is a process that should be run by
Iraqis, and it is something that should be -- oversight should be led,
supervised by the interim government. So it's more a process that's
forward-looking vis-a-vis sovereignty. There has been nobody named yet to run
the commission. The structure of the commission -- our details we're finalizing
right now. The source of the funding is something we are working out now. This
is a concept that we are finalizing, and Ambassador Bremer previewed it today on
Iraqi television. And in days ahead, we will have details, particularly as we
talk to more Iraqis about who the right individuals would be to lead the
Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible) -- from IWPR (?). General Kimmitt,
revenge is -- it is an uncivilized thing. As you said, we have lost a lot -- you
said that you have lost a lot of the Marines. Aren't you keen on the lives of
your soldiers? Don't you think that it is possible or it is preferable to resort
to peaceful solutions rather than conducting offensive operations? In fact, the
people of Fallujah, they refused the entrance of the coalition forces inside the
country. This is a tribal decision, and this cannot be over passed. So can't you
just resort to the peaceful solution so that you can minimize the casualties of
GEN. KIMMITT: I couldn't agree more. A peaceful solution is what we seek inside
Fallujah. We have laid out in our discussions with the people of Fallujah a
series of benchmarks by which we can move towards peace. The Marines, when I
talk to them, are no longer thinking about the here and now on Fallujah, what
they're saying is what do we want Fallujah to look like six, 12 weeks from now.
They're already looking to the long term of the rebuilding; the rebuilding of
the health clinics, the rebuilding of the schools, the rebuilding of the
They have now conducted a unilateral suspension of offensive operations for
almost 17 days. They have sat there in their positions in a cordon, peacefully
waiting until a resolution has been established with the people of Fallujah to
end this hostage situation in Fallujah by the foreign fighters, by the
terrorists, by the people of Fallujah, some who are brainwashed by some of these
organizations to think that somehow this is a great act of resistance.
It is the coalition that has chosen the political track. It is the coalition
that is seeking peace. It is the foreign fighters and the belligerents inside
Fallujah that continue to conduct cease-fire violations on a daily basis that we
are adequately and carefully recording. It is the coalition that seeks peace.
Now, given that, it must be clearly understood that we are looking to achieve a
goal in six to eight weeks of starting a significant amount of rebuilding in
Fallujah. We hope we get to that end point in six to eight weeks peacefully. We
are prepared to use force and we have more than sufficient force to be able to
conduct that through force of arms. That should be clearly understood. It is the
military coalition forces that are choosing the path of peace and using their
weapons only when fired upon. We would ask the belligerents to do the same.
Q General Kimmitt, sorry. (Through interpreter.) The coalition that you have
just put -- this condition that you have just said for the people of Fallujah,
why do you suggest to go inside Fallujah together with the Iraqis for police
forces? The people -- the tribal people in Fallujah they do not accept the fact
-- why do you -- they do not accept the fact to enter Fallujah. This is a tribal
MR. SENOR: John (sp), go ahead.
Q General Kimmitt, a simple question for you and a slightly more difficult one
Can you tell us, was it a tank shell or was it a helicopter gunship that brought
the minaret down?
And for Dan, I get the impression, and these things are difficult to measure,
that when you're talking about once again more forward- looking things that
you're breathing a little bit more easily now than you were, shall we say, 10
days, two weeks ago, when all the talk was of a kind of terminal crisis here and
of the entire American enterprise being threatened -- the talk in the media in
Can you just give us your reflections on that? Do you think that you're
beginning to emerge -- this would be as much for General Kimmitt as for you. Do
you think you're beginning to emerge from the moment of worst crisis for the
American enterprise in Iraq, or do you see more nightmares ahead?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, on the first question, it was a tank round that brought down
the minaret, not a helicopter round.
MR. SENOR: John, I will say that it wasn't us who was characterizing the
situation the way you described it. I think it was perhaps some of you and your
colleagues who were characterizing it as such. There's no doubt that a few weeks
ago we suffered some setbacks. And it is very likely in the weeks and months
ahead we will suffer more setbacks. We have said all along, from last May, when
Ambassador Bremer arrived, there will be really good days here in the
reconstruction and there will be some really bad days. And a few weeks ago we
had some really bad days, and we may have some really bad days ahead.
I think our approach all along, however, is to be as steadfast in moving forward
on our political process, on the economic reconstruction, on the infrastructure
reconstruction as we are on the military effort that General Kimmitt talks of.
We say regularly that our strategy is two-tracked. On the one hand, it is to
have the military take the lead on hunting down the terrorists, the extremists,
the former Saddamists, capturing or killing them, and is to also simultaneously
conduct a political and economic reconstruction effort that will, we believe,
not only help Iraq build the democracy that is self-sustaining, but also isolate
the terrorists and the Saddamists, because if we provide economic empowerment
and political empowerment, it will do as much to isolate the Zarqawis in Iraq as
the military force being used against them. And that's been our strategy all
along. And I will say -- and the fact that one got more attention than the other
over the past few weeks didn't mean that both weren't moving forward
Let me also say, with regard to some of the initiatives I think you're referring
to in terms of things I talked about earlier, we believe that the economic
reconstruction and the infrastructure reconstruction, the physical
infrastructure reconstruction are critical, but we hear over and over from
Iraqis about the psychological reconstruction of this country; that after over
three decades of brutality under Saddam Hussein, reconstructing from that horror
doesn't happen overnight, and yet the Iraqi people reconstructing themselves, if
you will, from that horror is something that is fundamental to Iraq moving
forward on a path to a sovereign democracy. And that is why we are working with
Iraqis to expedite that process to the extent that we can and to the extent that
the Iraqi people are ready for it. And it is always the fine balance, trying to
figure out exactly when is right to do what. But we have been hearing more and
more from Iraqis that they want more and more in this regard, and we've done a
lot and will continue to do more.
And finally, I will say that I do think, John, what we are seeing in recent
days, which is very encouraging, is a number of Iraqis speaking out publicly on
one issue or the other, whether it's on the issue in Fallujah, whether it's on
the issue in the south. And it varies on which side of the issue they come out,
but the fact is is I think below the radar screen, perhaps, of some of the
press, some of the Western press, I think there is a real discussion going on.
There is a real debate among Iraqis, and more and more Iraqi leaders are
beginning to emerge and speaking out about which direction this country should
go in light of the events that have occurred here over the past few weeks, and
we think that that is a positive sign.
Q Can I just ask one supplementary to that? The --
MR. SENOR: The preface to your question started saying I was going to be the top
one, and now you want --
Q It's really to General Kimmitt.
MR. SENOR: Okay.
Q You talk about Iraqis speaking out. We understand there's a group calling
itself the Thulfiqar Army who has begun to speak out in a particularly dramatic
way about Muqtada al-Sadr's army in Najaf, that there have been killings
committed against Sadr's militiamen in the wake of the distribution of leaflets
in that city complaining about the lawlessness. Do you know about this, and what
is your position on it?
GEN. KIMMITT: I don't know the particular organization that you're talking
about. There is anecdotal evidence and anecdotal reports that are coming in
about that type of activity. We don't assess it to be a very large activity at
Coalition control will return to Najaf. Iraqi security forces will return to
Najaf. There will be a time when Najaf, like the rest of this country, is under
the direct control of the Iraqi government. And when that time comes, there will
be a time to decide what happened inside that city when it was not under
MR. SENOR: Thank you, everybody.