October 25, 2001
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary October 25, 2001
Director Ridge, Medical Authorities Discuss Anthrax Press Briefing by The Director of the Office of Homeland Security, Governor Tom Ridge; and the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Major General John Parker; and Deputy Surgeon General Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu on Homeland Security The James S. Brady Briefing Room
Listen to the President's Remarks
12:55 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Now I would like to introduce Governor Ridge, the Director of the Office of Homeland Security. He is joined by Major General John Parker, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command; as well as Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu, the Deputy Surgeon General.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Good afternoon. Today I'd like to share with you the latest information and actions we are taking to protect the American people from the anthrax threats here at home.
Our investigation continues. We are aggressively pursuing every conceivable lead to find and bring to justice those responsible for these terrorist acts. Our health system nationwide is on full alert, and is working around the clock -- and is working around the clock -- to identify and treat those potentially affected by anthrax.
Today we want to share with you the latest scientific analysis of the anthrax samples. Major General John Parker, Commanding General of the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, has joined me today to further explain and answer your questions concerning these latest findings.
As I outlined last week, Department of Defense DNA tests showed the anthrax samples from Florida, New York and Washington are indistinguishable, meaning that they all come from the same strain of anthrax or the same family of anthrax. That continues to be the case. The DNA tests have also revealed that none of the anthrax samples have been genetically altered, which is very good news, obviously, because it means that the samples all respond to antibiotics. And, therefore, people who are exposed can be treated.
This week, we have received new information from additional laboratory tests. I convened a meeting at the White House last night to bring together the scientists, as well as representatives of the different agencies, to analyze and evaluate this information. It shows that the anthrax in the letter received in Senator Tom Daschle's office had some different characteristics. It is highly concentrated. It is pure. And the spores are smaller. Therefore, they're more dangerous because they can be more easily absorbed in a person's respiratory system.
We've also received a new preliminary analysis on the anthrax that was mailed to The New York Post. The preliminary analysis shows that it is more coarse and less concentrated than the anthrax in the Daschle letter. But I want to tell you, it's still highly concentrated. The New York Post anthrax is also sensitive to antibiotics.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to conduct similar tests on the anthrax from Florida or the Brokaw letter because of limited amounts of substance retrievable from the scene. Just wasn't enough for us to retrieve from the scene to conduct the same tests.
Now, I know there has been a lot of both public and private discussion, some of it with me and much of it among yourselves and even within this country, about the term "weaponize." It seems to have different meanings, different definition and meanings to different people. Based on these latest lab reports, it is clear that the terrorists responsible for these attacks intended to use this anthrax as a weapon. We still don't know who is responsible, but we are marshaling every federal, state and local resource to find them and bring them to justice.
And General Parker is here to give you more of the details. But before he briefs you, I would like to take a minute to share with the American people the steps we are taking to protect postal workers.
As of this morning, health officials have tested and treated more than 4,000 postal workers in the impacted areas. In addition, the Postal Service, working with federal, state and local officials, have begun environmental testing at the 200 postal facilities along the Eastern corridor. The Postal Service will also conduct random environmental testing at major postal facilities nationwide. It will conduct random testing nationwide. It is strictly a precautionary measure. It is taken to protect the mail.
I want to reiterate: There is no indication of any new exposure at this time at these sites, but the Postmaster General felt that it was appropriate to begin conducting random sample testing.
As the President announced on Tuesday, we are authorizing funds to implement immediate security measures to better protect our nation's mail. These funds will help purchase new technology to sanitize mail, and protective gear to help protect postal workers.
Clearly we are up against a shadow enemy, shadow solders, people who have no regard for human life. They are determined to murder innocent people. President Bush is very proud of the federal, state and local health care officials whose quick actions have no doubt saved many lives in the face of a new and horrible threat. Our country has never experienced this type of terrorism. Tragically, we have lost lives, starting with those in New York City in the Towers, but also including those who wear the uniform overseas in this war, and those who wear the uniform of the Postal Service here at home.
Our government will continue to do everything we can to make our nation safe, stronger and more prepared. We will continue to provide the American people with as much accurate information as we can, as soon as we can, to protect them from future attacks.
Before I respond to some questions, I would like Major General Parker to brief you, as well.
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Thank you, Governor Ridge. I represent some great scientists and engineers at Fort Detrick who are currently working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, processing samples and helping to define the characteristics of the compounds that are given us to take a look at.
I can say to you without question, this is anthrax, and the samples from New York, Washington and Florida are all from the same family or strain. That's been documented by DNA testing. When we look at these spores underneath the microscope, they are uniform in size and highly concentrated, and highly pure. And these individual spores are very light, and if given some energy from, say, wind or clapping or motion of air in a room, they will drift in the air and fall to the ground.
The good news is that this strain is susceptible to all of the antibiotics that we have in the United States, from penicillin all the way to the most recent advanced quinolines that we have available.
The characteristics I already mentioned. When you look at it, it's like a very, very fine powder. And you can imagine, in your bathroom, if you take a fine talcum powder and you blow it, it drifts up into the air and then eventually drifts down to the ground and falls to the floor, where it sticks.
We are continuing to try to characterize the products. When we looked at the New York Post sample and compared that to the Daschle sample, even in gross introspection, it appeared that the New York Post sample was clumpy and rugged, and the Daschle sample was fine and floaty.
Now, one of my scientists actually described the New York Post sample as looking like Purina Dog Chow, clumpy like a pellet.
Q Under the microscope?
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: No, that's not under a microscope, that's grossly. Under the microscope, the spores are densely packed in both samples, and highly concentrated in both samples.
I just want to mention one other thing, is that I know there's a lot of questions about some other things. We are trying very hard to characterize anything that would be associated with the sample, and we continue to do that research and we're continuing to do that investigation. And I don't have the absolute answers until all of those investigations are in.
Q Can I ask you a question about, given the nature of the powder, especially that was sent in the letter to Senator Daschle, what can you and the others say about where this was produced, how it was produced, and ultimately by whom -- domestically or foreign?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Tests may give us answers to some or all of those questions, as well as investigations being conducted by the FBI and the Department of Justice. The tests now give us very specific characteristics, but the tests may or may not lead us to the source.
Q Can I follow and say, at this point, are you able to say at any level, preliminarily or otherwise, that this is the kind of anthrax that could have been produced by an individual or several individuals here in the United States? Or is this the kind of stuff that could only be produced by a foreign nation?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I believe further testing will give us the range. It will either expand it or contract it. But right now there are other, I believe chemical tests and other tests in a series of tests that have to be conducted.
I mean, one of the challenges we have with trying to give you as much information as we have as quickly as we get it, and give America this information, is that the properties of this anthrax and our ability to describe its characteristics really depend on ability for us to conduct several tests -- some simultaneously, some in different parts of the world, some one after another.
I will tell you that one set of tests often generates a recommendation that another set of tests, so we just -- the testing is incomplete, and we can't give you the answers to that question yet, if ever.
Q There was a report today that preliminary tests suggest that the anthrax could not have been produced in Russia or Iraq.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Could not have been?
Q Could not have been, implying that it was produced in the United States. Is that accurate or not? Preliminary tests suggest this.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't think I've seen any preliminary tests that drew any conclusions as to where it could or could not have been produced.
Q -- is aggressive? In other words, if these were mailed over a series of days and the Daschle is much more sort of concentrated, could it be that somebody is testing and getting more aggressive with the anthrax, and will that continue, perhaps?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I think people are inclined to draw conclusions about the number of letters in the mail, or the ability, the capacity of one letter to have contaminated multiple stations. I mean, right now, as we continue to conduct the investigation, we alert you to the letters we have and to the samples we have, and until we have thoroughly completed our investigation, we can't draw any conclusions as to number or source.
Q Governor Ridge, the apparent lethality of the anthrax sent to Senator Daschle was apparently understood more quickly in Congress than it was throughout other federal agencies. Are you and Major General Parker satisfied that the information flow about what was learned about the anthrax in the Daschle letter went to all of the agencies as fast as possible, and therefore, everything was done to protect the postal workers who have since been exposed, whereas, members of Congress were not?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: My sense was that -- I think it may have been General Parker and other people within the administration gave -- briefed Senator Daschle. And I think -- I'm not certain where the Senator got his information, but I suspect it's from the information that we had. And the recognition of the pureness of the spores, the concentration -- the highly concentrated nature of these spores, it's the conclusion that it hasn't been genetically altered, a lot of these things have occurred since that initial briefing, as we've had a series of tests to confirm it.
I will tell you what, I think because it was respirated, because we had several people who died because of inhalation anthrax, and because there's a body of scientific evidence out there that it is easier and certainly has much greater potential for infection if it's a smaller, purer form of anthrax, people legitimately, without doing the samples, could conclude that it had to be of higher concentration, it had to be a purer form, based on the information that we had at the time about anthrax.
We're now running through the series of tests. We're finding not only what might have been a good thing to conjecture from previous research on anthrax, but we have confirmed it. But there are other characteristics that we may or may not be able to confirm in future tests.
Q Doesn't the very fact that, as General Parker said, this is free and floaty anthrax that was sent to Senator Daschle, aerosolized, show that it is a very sophisticated operation that produced it, not a grad student in a basement, and that the knowledge of how to do that would be limited to a very narrow circle of people, some state actors and some people with access to American secrets?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I'm not prepared to tell you what level of competency, accessibility to equipment, and other training either an individual or an institution needs in order to develop this level of anthrax.
Q General Parker, can we ask you a question, sir? If you wouldn't mind stepping up to the podium. I take it that some of the tests that you were alluding to are on this chemical agent that's been mixed in with the anthrax to modify the electro-static properties of the anthrax. Can you tell us what your preliminary investigation shows about that? And who has the ability to alter the electro-static properties of anthrax spores?
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Well, first of all, your question is complex, and I'd like to say that, although we may see some things on the microscopic field that may look like foreign elements, we don't know that they're additives, we don't know what they are, and we're continuing to do research to find out what they possible could be. They're unknowns to us at this present time.
Q Can you tell us who has the ability to alter the electro-static properties of anthrax spores in order to allow them to become more easily aerosolized?
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Sir, that's beyond my knowledge. I don't know.
Q Isn't it limited to a very small number of countries?
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Sir, that's beyond my knowledge. I don't know.
Q Isn't it limited to a very small number of countries?
MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: I don't know, sir.
Q -- sophisticated product? Are you looking at a sophisticated product, essentially?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: What the General is trying to relate to you is that this still has -- there's a series of tests that need to be conducted by these men, who are far better equipped intellectually and by experience, to draw some conclusions from those results. And the fact of the matter is, we don't have all the information available to us yet to draw any of the conclusions to answer some of the questions you're asking.
Q When you say they're from the same -- all letters are from the same strain or family, how much does that really narrow this down?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Not much.
Q Not much?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't think. I mean, I've got -- my sense is, it doesn't narrow it much at all. My brother and I are from the same family. So it means, it's a very broad and genetic classification. But, apparently, there are several strains available for research around the world.
Q Can you tell us which strain it is, sir? And does the fact that these are a little bit --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Ames strain.
Q And can you tell us -- let me just finish my question. If you could tell us, since these are a little bit different in their qualities, does that suggest that these letters came from different people?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Well, right now, first of all, you should know that, even though preliminary tests on The New York Post letter shows it to be of a different quality and, I guess, more readily in clumps than the other, it is still highly concentrated. And I don't think, to date, with the preliminary tests, we can point to one source or multiple sources.
Q Yes, sir. Two children, according to various -- including The New York Times, Agence France Presse, have been checked into Children's Hospital -- a girl age 2, a boy age 11, with, apparently, anthrax-like symptoms. Do you know anything about it?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I do not. And what hospital?
Q Children's Hospital in Washington.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Children's in Washington? I do not know that.
Q Governor, a non-scientific question. Chances are that the person or persons who did this would be inclined to follow every briefing, every statement. That said, what would your message be to the person or persons who have sent this stuff?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: We'll find you. We'll bring you to justice.
You know, trying to think the way some individual who would use the United States mail service and take an envelope and turn it into a weapon of terror, it's pretty difficult for me to be able to, I suspect, to be able to communicate with that individual on any terms and within a value system that we share in this country. So I'm not sure we could communicate to him in a democratic, American way, how we feel about him and how we feel about this incident. But we'll get him.
Q Governor Ridge, there have been reports recently of tensions between the FBI, CDC and other federal agencies over the sharing of information or full disclosure of information on the quality of anthrax in the Daschle letter. Could you address that, please? And also, could you tell us a little more about the meeting last night at the White House?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Yes. First of all, you know that as Director of Homeland Security, I interact with these agencies on a daily basis, if not an hourly basis. And I would tell you from day one, there has been collaboration and coordination, and every day it continues to accelerate as the circumstances of the threat bring people and people closer together.
There has -- everybody is intensely working on this issue. There has been extraordinary collaboration. There has been new relationships that have developed. And I thought it was important to have the meeting last night not just with the principals, but with the scientists that we're all relying upon, in order to consolidate whatever information we have, and to see if we can further accelerate the process of answering the questions that America seeks from the administration.
And I thought it was a very productive meeting. They have been working together, side by side. They will continue to work together. There's intense effort to collaborate. We live in a virtual world, but we can't always come up with virtual answers. And so, there's a process that goes along with trying to answer the questions that you and the rest of America has. But their coordination is fine. Maybe last night accelerated it even further. But it's not a question -- they share information; I assure you.
Q You said a few moments ago that this was intended as a weapon, whoever sent this intended it to be used as a weapon. Does that meet your definition of weapons?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't use that word, because I don't think "weaponize" has any medical or scientific value. I mean, we never thought a 747 could be turned into a missile. But someone who took an instrument that's part of who we are and what we do every day, an airplane, turned it into a weapon. Somebody took an envelope and turned it into a weapon.
Q What I'm getting at is, based on what you know to this point, can you put into context how lethal this -- how concentrated, how pure, how dangerous this was --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: It is -- it was not contaminated, which meant that the mass -- again, the General could answer this better -- but as I understand it, explained to me as a layman, and relate to people who don't have a background in microbiology or chemistry -- but as I understand it, if you took a look at the spores under the microscope, there was not any extraneous material. It was very pure. Practically everything you saw, every -- was an anthrax spore, and it was of such a size that with -- it was respirable; that if it was given a little energy, it could get up into the air.
Q I just want to clarify something from an earlier question. The fact is much of what you've told us here today we've already heard from other sources, and the debate over "weaponized," whether or not you want to use that word, has been going on for some time. But I just want to be clear --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't want to use it, so there's no debate with me. It adds no scientific -- you could put this on the head of a missile, you could put it in an envelope, you could distribute it other ways. So it can -- anthrax, itself, is a weapon. I'm sorry.
Q My question is, if you, standing in front of us, are the definitive voices on anthrax, and you cannot even tell us, based on what you've discovered so far, the countries that can produce this strain and whether or not we can rule any of these countries out, be it Iraq, Russia, or the United States?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: We know it's -- I do not know. It is a an Ames strain -- look, there are other characteristics that may be discovered in the course of this investigation that may lead this government and our scientists to further conclusions. Right now, I'm not prepared because we don't have the answers.
Q -- characteristics to the strain developed by those countries, military --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't know.
Q Governor, given all the things that are on your plate, Governor Ridge, given all the things that are on your plate, is your day defined more by facts you know, that expand what you know, or is it defined more by questions that expand what you don't know?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: It's a little bit of both. I mean, there are questions that I seek in my capacity as Director of Homeland Security that I ask, just because of information that comes across my desk. There's also information that I receive that's unsolicited that expands my knowledge as well. So, I mean, I think it's a little bit of a combination of both.
Q Do you have any preliminary idea -- forget which country or what the strain is -- do you have any preliminary idea about whether or not this is something that would have had to have been produced by a large organization such as a state, or if it's something that could possibly have been cooked up in a laboratory somewhere in Trenton?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I'm not prepared to tell you today the range of potential actors who could have -- the range of potential actors who could have created as pure and as concentrated and as respirable an anthrax as we are working on and investigating now. I don't know whether it's a large range or a narrow range.
Q But do you know and you won't tell us, or -- I mean, isn't this information that the government has?
Q -- you and the government intentionally downplay the threat to the American public? And why, over time, have your statements changed about what the American public should be worried about?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: The information in the literature on anthrax that existed before this threat suggested the only way you can get inhalational anthrax -- that it would be much easier to get inhalational anthrax if the spores were smaller. And we not only have cases of anthrax, but we also have fatalities. So, based on the literature that existed, and even prior to the testing, that confirmed our worst suspicions that this was a different kind and a different grade of anthrax. It had to be -and so we shared that information with you. We shared it with the people on the Hill.
We run through a series of tests. The test tells us very specifically, the anthrax spores are not only smaller and concentrated, they are very pure. There are still some additional tests to be run on these individual spores. When we get additional information, I'll --
Q What about --
Q Governor, is there --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Thank you.
END 1:15 P.M. EDT
s the Treasury Departments of coalition countries who have been blocking bank accounts of terrorist networks all across the world.
So the military is a piece of that. And it involves things that one can see and things that one can't see. The bombing obviously of military targets in Afghanistan can be seen on television. On the other hand, things that are taking place on the ground cannot be seen.
Q: Speaking of things that may not be seen at the moment, are we any closer to getting Osama bin Laden today than we were three weeks ago when the military activities began?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't think degrees of closeness -- you know, either you have him or you don't. And if you don't, you don't. And we don't.
Q: Are we close?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know what close means. You don't know that until you accomplished it. It's the kind of a thing that until it happens, one won't know. There's no question but that we have made an effort to see that the al Qaeda organization and the Taliban leadership have not had an easy time of it. That is to say, they are being forced to move quite a bit. They're being forced to watch what they do and be careful. And our goal is to roll up that terrorist network and stop them from killing innocent people.
It's important to say this is not against the Afghan people or against any religion, or against any country even. The Afghan people have been badly treated by the Taliban leadership and by al Qaeda.
Q: Do we have a rough idea of where Osama bin Laden is?
Rumsfeld: You never know until you catch him. You don't believe me. It's a fact. Until it's done, it's not done. Close doesn't count. This isn't horse shoes.
Q: Do we want Osama bin Laden dead? Do we want to capture him? What's the preferred option?
Rumsfeld: The goal is to deal with terrorists and terrorist networks and the countries that are harboring those terrorist networks all across the United States and the world. Al Qaeda, as one example of a terrorist network, has 50 or 60 different cells in 50 or 60 different countries. So it is a big problem. If bin Laden were not around tomorrow, the problem would still be there; the task would still be there. He is one of the leaders there. There are many key people in the Al Qaeda organization.
Q: But he is an important symbol, especially in the United States, given the events of September 11th. People do tend to key in on him as a prime culprit.
Rumsfeld: There's no question but that people do, because the press does. But the reality is he's one person. And our task is to deal with the terrorist networks that cover the globe. And the threat to the American people -- we've lost thousands of people on a vicious attack here in the United States. And the threat that still exists, not just to us -- there were people from dozens of countries killed in the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon of every religion and every race. These people are on the loose [and] are a danger to the world. And it's our task, with very wonderful cooperation from countries across the globe, to find them and to see what they stop terrorizing the world.
Q: There are those who suggest that capturing him and bringing him back for a trial in this country could lead to other terrorist acts on his behalf. It could be a public relations disaster for the United States. I mean do we really want to capture him and bring him back alive?
Rumsfeld: I don't know how I could say it any clearer, that our task is not him. It is the network that he is a part of and all of the people in it and stopping them from killing people. That is what we're trying to do. That is what we're trying to do. That is what other countries are helping us to try to do. And I do not get up in the morning and worry about any one individual. I worry about the terrorist acts that these people have brought to our country and that they are threatening to bring to our country prospectively.
Q: The length of this campaign. You've been asked many times how long it might go on. Secretary of State Powell seemed to indicate a few days ago that it might be wise, it might be in U.S. interests and coalition interests to have the military campaign concluded by the onset of the Afghan winter. Is that something you agree with?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think that would be a misunderstanding of his words. The reality is that this is going to take years. And how long the military part of the Afghanistan piece will take, no one can know. We do know that it will take a long time to deal with the problem of terrorism. It's spread across the globe. And my guess is it won't end with a bang; it'll end with a whimper. It'll just stop at some point because we will have put so much pressure on terrorists and on terrorist networks and the people that harbor and facilitate and finance them that at some point it'll be just drying up their support and they'll disappear and people will no longer think it's in their interest to do what they're doing and no longer think it's in their interest to help people to do what they were doing.
Q: General Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, has indicated that he'd like to see at least a halt in the military activity during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan for Muslims, starting in mid-November. Is this something you'd consider?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think it's important to be sensitive to the interests and concerns of a variety of countries in the region. And certainly, Pakistan has been wonderfully supportive and helpful in this effort against terrorism.
On the other hand, history is replete with instances where Muslims have fought Muslims and Muslims have fought non-Muslims throughout all of the various holy days, including Ramadan. And it is also clear that in a number of instances, wars by Muslims have started during Ramadan. And it is very clear that the Al Qaeda and the Taliban do not stop during Ramadan. They kept on for the last several years fighting the various tribes in the region.
So it seems to me that we, all of us, have to be sensitive to concerns of people. On the other hand, we have to be concerned about the fact that these terrorists are loose, they need to be rolled up, they need to be stopped. And every day and every week and every month that they're still out there puts at risk not just people in our country, but people from across the globe. And we have an obligation to balance those risks. And my impression is that stopping these terrorists before they use even still more powerful capabilities, which they clearly have the ability to gain access to, is a pretty important assignment, and we'd best keep at it.
Q: Now, there continue to be demonstrations from time to time in support of Osama bin Laden in some countries. Are you concerned that our message is getting out over there, that this is not a war against Islam, but is targeting very specific individuals?
Rumsfeld: Well, first, there were demonstrations long before September 11th in most of these countries. To connect any demonstration today to what the United States and its coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan I think may be a misreading of the situation.
The second, yes, we obviously are concerned. We know that the United States of America is the country that threw Iraq out of Kuwait, a Muslim country, and saved them from being occupied by a foreign invader, a vicious dictator. We know that the United States and our coalition partners helped Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo and provided humanitarian assistance in Somalia. We also know that the United States is the largest food donor before September 11th in Afghanistan, because the Taliban rule has been so vicious on the Taliban -- on the Afghan people, and that President Bush has since announced another $320 million food program. And we're delivering food rations every day to starving Afghans.
Now is it true that that message does not get out as effectively as one would hope? That's true. We see a lot of television, listen to a lot of radio and see a lot of new reports to the effect that people are demonstrating and contending that their demonstrating because of the bombing that's taking place in Afghanistan. We know of certain knowledge that the Taliban are lying through their teeth, that they have contended that they've shot down helicopters, which is not true. They're lying to the Afghan people claiming that the food we're delivering is unclean, which is a flat lie. It's been very carefully handled. And they have lied about civilian casualties day after day after day.
Now, what does one do when those lies are perpetrated by the Taliban? One has to think about who's saying something. And in this case, the people that are saying it are people who have repressed their people, done terrible damage to the women of that country; don't allow them to study anything; don't allow them to learn anything; deny them medical attention. This is a group of people who have been particularly vicious to the Afghan people.
Q: You mentioned casualties. And with a special forces operation a few days ago and the prospect of perhaps more operations involving our forces on the ground in Afghanistan, Americans will be very nervous about casualties. You and other administration officials have talked about the fact this is going to be a lengthy campaign, somewhat open-ended, in fact. Are you worried about the fact that if Americans do start to take casualties that public support for this effort may deteriorate?
Rumsfeld: No, I'm not. I worry about losing lives, because these are wonderful young men and women who put their lives at risk for the American people. But the Americans -- the support of the American people will be steady and firm and understands that we've already lost thousands of lives. And our alternative -- either the United States acquiesces and becomes terrorized and alters our way of life and gives up all of our freedom, we systematically give up our freedom and our ability to function, or we take this battle to the enemy and to the terrorists. And we must do that.
Now, will some lives be lost? You bet. We already have lost two fine young men. Will there be more? You bet there will. This is dangerous business. And there may very well be lives lost in the United States from terrorist acts as we go forward. But the alternative, the choice we have either is we change the way we live or we change the way the terrorists are living. And we simply must do that.
Q: Let me switch gears for a minute to the Northern Alliance. Are we more actively cooperating, coordinating our attacks with the Northern Alliance? And would you like to see rebels of the Northern Alliance now advance on Kabul, the capital?
Rumsfeld: We are certainly cooperating with the Northern Alliance factions and with others in the country to the extent we can. We offer assistance, food assistance. We offer other kinds of supply. And we offer to cooperate by using air power to assist in targeting the Taliban and al Qaeda forces that the anti-Taliban and anti-Al Qaeda elements on the ground in Afghanistan are trying to defeat. We hope they prevail. We are -- we are anxious to have them effectively conquer and defeat and expel the foreign invaders, the al Qaeda, and to defeat and throw out the Taliban, which has been such a brutal regime for that country. And we will -- we will do almost everything we can to be helpful.
Q: So if they can move into Kabul right away, they should?
Rumsfeld: I think that -- you bet. Anyone could do anything they want. We don't control what's going on on the ground. We're trying to be helpful to the people on the ground. And we would like to see every city held by Taliban taken.
Q: But at the same time, there are efforts to put together some sort of a coalition government. Is the Alliance ready to assume that sort of responsibility, to move in and sort of set up a government?
Rumsfeld: Well, what's the alternative? The alternative is that we hold back and allow the terrorists to continue to kill thousands of American citizens and thousands of deployed forces and thousands of people in other countries. What do you mean "Are we ready?" Are we ready to stop the terrorists? You bet we are. Does that mean that someone may occupy some city in that country? Of course it does. Does it mean that there ultimately is going to be some sort of a post-Taliban government? Of course there will be. Are we hopeful as a country that it's a good one? Yes. Are we hopeful that it's constructive from the standpoint of the Afghanistan people? You bet we hope it's that, that kind of a government. Are we delighted that people, other countries are working together with different organizations to try to see what might be done to be helpful to the elements within Afghanistan? But in the last analysis, the people of Afghanistan are going to decide what their government's going to look like. They live there. And these other countries don't live there.
Q: Would we have a problem if that new government included so-called moderate members of the Taliban, if there are such -- ?
Rumsfeld: Well, that's a strange combination, "moderate" with "Taliban." I don't know that it's a good fit. The way they've behaved, it seems to me they've been so repressive and killed so many people and starved so many people and been so abusive to so many people, using the word "moderate" is a reach.
Q: Is it a complication, though? On the one hand, you are pursuing a military campaign, and, at the same time, the United States has to look forward to the future of an Afghan government. It seems somewhat contradictory in some way?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, it's not just the United States. It's a series of countries. There's dozens and dozens of countries that are helping in this anti-terrorism effort. And you're right. You want to leave it better than you found it. It would be almost impossible to leave it worse than we found it. Taliban's going to go. Al Qaeda's going to go. They're going to be gone. It's just a matter of time. How long, I don't know. And when they're gone, something else will be there. And we can be absolutely certain it will be better. There're a lot of countries that are anxious to be helpful. There're a lot of people who are anxious to provide humanitarian assistance, as we are. But in the last analysis, people who live there year in and year out are going to have to be the ones to figure out what that government's going to look like. And there isn't any template that could be dropped down on it.
I know I'm not smart enough to know exactly how they ought to be arranged as a government to lead that country. I don't know anyone I know who's smart enough to know that. It's going to be a process. And clearly the United States ought to be helpful, and other countries are trying to be helpful. And we wish them well at it.
But our task, our immediate task is to see how fast we can eliminate the al Qaeda and the Taliban from that country and provide the kind of humanitarian assistance simultaneously that can helpful to the Afghan people, and then, along with other nations, do what we can to create a stable situation for a period while they figure out how they're going to govern themselves.
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
Rumsfeld: You bet. Happy to be here.