Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld today called the people of Iraq “hostages” of a “vicious” regime run through fear, murder and the control of prisons, and laid out the administration’s ideas about a post-Saddam Hussein government in Baghdad, which he said was weeks – not months – away.

Rumsfeld offered his preview while fielding questions from members of the Reserve Officers Association gathered at the Pentagon.

A Nurse Corps captain posed the question: “Mr. Secretary, none of us want to win the war and lose the peace. How can we create a stable, transitional government in Iraq, should Saddam be replaced, that would improve world peace and not foster chaos and terrorism?”

Rumsfeld told the audience administration officials spent two long sessions in the last week addressing the matter and had concluded that the regime that succeeds that of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein:

  • must not want weapons of mass destruction;

  • is not going to threaten their neighbors;

  • is going to keep a single country, not allow it to be broken up in pieces;

  • will migrate toward a democratic government that is a representation by elements of the country and respectful of minority rights.

    Rumsfeld stressed the administration did not expect the post-Saddam regime to follow a United States or United Kingdom “democracy template” but would be “uniquely Iraqi.” He drew a comparison to the formation of the interim government of Hamed Karzai in Afghanistan following the ouster of the
    Taliban regime during Operation Enduring Freedom. He also pointed out that, unlike Afghanistan, which he said had to deal with “years and years of conflict and destruction and no money,” Iraq has wealth due to its oil revenues.

    “Speaking for myself, a regime that is that vicious, means that the people of Iraq are hostages to that regime. It is run through fear. It is run through murder and it is run through the control of prisons,” Rumsfeld said. “I think what will happen is that when he isn’t there for whatever reason, an Iraqi advisory
    element will be constructed. Just as in any political process, some people will strive to be leaders and fail. Others will strive to be leaders and demonstrate the kind of skills and capabilities that win support from others and find the right tone and tempo to progress toward an Iraqi government,” he predicted.

    “Saddam Hussein could leave tonight – wouldn’t that be wonderful? He could be overthrown … or he could not realize that the ‘game is up’ and try to stick it out, and force would have to be used.”

    Rumsfeld’s comments echoed those he made yesterday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

    “I would be delighted if Saddam Hussein threw in the towel, said ‘the game’s up, the international community has caught me, and I’ll just leave,'” Rumsfeld said and added he felt immunity for the senior leadership in the country and their families seeking exile in another country would be a “fair trade to avoid
    war.”

    Rumsfeld’s comments also come amid a USA Today report the U.S. is undertaking a vigorous military and intelligence effort to track, and possibly kill, Hussein. The effort is designed to pressure Saddam to depart or disarm and paves the way for an invasion in the event he does neither.

    According to USA Today, nearly 100 U.S. special operations forces and more than 60 CIA operatives, have been conducting reconnaissance missions in Iraq’s deserts and outside major cities since September, with the help of two spy satellites and a converted Boeing 707 that has been flying 10 hours a
    day, recording conversations of top Iraqi officials.

    Saddam’s top science adviser today said he “had problems” with the “spy plane” and U.N. inspectors not standing up to the “U.S. intrusions.” Telling reporters assembled for a live press conference at the Iraq Ministry of Information in Baghdad that the reconnaissance flights were “illegal,” he issued a veiled threat: “We cannot be responsible for the safety of the … plane and crew,” Amir al-Saadi told reporters.

    Meanwhile, the build-up of U.S. and coalition military forces continued today as 12,500 troops from Fort Hood’s 4th Infantry Division got deployment orders to ship out to U.S. Central Command in
    Southwest Asia. The infantry’s 3rd Brigade at Fort Carson in Colorado will add to the deployment of about 4,000 troops and Task Force Ironhorse will contribute about 20,000 personnel from 10 other military installations, Army spokesman Cecil Green told the Associated Press.

    The Scotsman reports the U.S. is on the verge of deploying a total of 75,000 troops to the Gulf to have a full-invasion force of 200,000 troops in place by the end of February.

    In a dramatic increase in Britain’s military build-up, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon announced today the deployment of 26,000 troops to join the Naval force of about 3,000 Royal Marines and 5,000 sailors already en route to the Persian Gulf region.

    “A deployment on this scale is “no ordinary measure,” Hoon told Parliament. “A decision to employ
    force has not been taken, nor is such a decision imminent or inevitable,” he added.

    “Let there be no doubt that there are large numbers of countries that are signed up to be helpful in the event that force is needed in dealing with Iraq,” Rumsfeld said in an apparent rebuttal to the assertions made by participants of anti-war rallies held in San Francisco and Washington,
    D.C., over the weekend.
    “This business about ‘going it alone’ or ‘unilateral’ is nonsense.”

    Previous stories:

    Rumsfeld: Immunity possible for Saddam

  • Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.