Published November 25, 2003
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) and his top military adviser said Tuesday they have evidence the Arab television news organizations Al-Jazeera (search) and Al-Arabiya (search) cooperated with Iraqi insurgents to witness and videotape attacks on American troops.
Rumsfeld said the effort fit a pattern of psychological warfare used by remnants of the Baathist government, who want to create the impression that no amount of U.S. firepower can end the insurgency.
"They've called Al-Jazeera to come and watch them do it [attack American troops], and Al-Arabiya," he told a Pentagon news conference. "'Come and see us, watch us; here is what we're going to do.'"
Pressed for details, Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers (search), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both indicated that U.S. forces in Iraq had collected more than just circumstantial evidence that one or both of the Arab news organizations might have cooperated with the attackers.
"Yes, I've seen scraps of information over a sustained period of time," Rumsfeld said. "I'm not in a position to make a final judgment on it," but it needs to be examined in an "orderly way," he added.
Neither Rumsfeld nor Myers provided details of any evidence.
"I opined accurately that from time to time each of those stations have found themselves in very close proximity to things that were happening against coalition forces -- before the event happened and during the event," Rumsfeld said.
On a related subject, Rumsfeld cited a long list of statistics on the results of recent U.S. efforts to defeat the insurgency -- including a rare reference to numbers of opposition fighters killed.
He said that last week alone, U.S.-led forces conducted nearly 12,000 patrols and more than 230 raids.
"They captured some 1,200 enemy forces and killed 40 to 50 enemy fighters and wounded some 25 to 30," Rumsfeld said. "That's a one-week snapshot, but it provides a sense of the determined offensive pressure which the coalition is applying against the enemy."
The Pentagon has generally refused to provide numbers of opposition forces killed.
The question about Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera arose when Rumsfeld was asked about a videotape that surfaced in Baghdad showing a man firing a surface-to-air missile at a DHL cargo plane. The tape appeared to record an insurgent operation Saturday in which a missile struck the wing of the cargo plane, forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing at Baghdad's airport. It was the first time insurgents struck a civilian plane in Iraq.
Rumsfeld said he had been told of the videotape but did not know enough about it to comment, beyond saying, "It doesn't take a genius to fire off a shoulder-fired missile at an airplane."
On Monday, the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad raided the offices of Al-Arabiya television, banned its broadcasts from Iraq and threatened to imprison its journalists. Media groups said the action called into question the future of a free press in the country.
Al-Arabiya said it would not fight the ban and would report on Iraq from its headquarters in Dubai.
Asked about the ban, Rumsfeld said he had no opinion because he had not seen the details.
Al-Arabiya has clashed with authorities before for its coverage of Iraq. In July, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera incited violence against American forces with slanted reports.
In September, the Governing Council temporarily banned both news organizations from entering government buildings and news conferences, accusing them of being aware of attacks on American troops before they occurred.
And last week, Rumsfeld called the two stations "violently anti-coalition" as he announced the planned launch of a U.S.-run satellite channel to compete with the popular news stations.