Defense secretary says there is no plan to invade Iraq

Saturday, May 25, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon said Friday it is ready for any assignment, anywhere, despite the strain from the war on terror. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said there are no plans to invade Iraq or any other country.

Within the Bush administration, no decision has been made on how best to deal with the threat the administration sees in Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Some officials advocate military action, some covert action, others continued diplomatic efforts.

Some military chiefs have expressed worries in recent weeks that the armed forces are being stretched too thin because of the fighting in Afghanistan and missions such as protecting Americans at home. Military analysts say an invasion of Iraq could take more than 200,000 troops, involve risks of high casualties from possible biological and chemical attacks and require a lengthy buildup in the region.

But Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday: "Your military is ready today to execute whatever mission the civilian leadership of this country gives us to do."

On Thursday, President Bush told worried Europeans, who oppose a U.S. move against Iraq, that he has no invasion plan on his desk.

Rumsfeld, saying it would be "dumb" to discuss military planning publicly, refused to discuss the administration's thinking Friday about how to deal with Saddam.

Rumsfeld said, however, that military action would not necessarily require as much buildup as some estimate.

Asked about worries the military is stretched thin, Rumsfeld said: "Nine-tenths of everything that was taken over to the Middle East to fight the war of Desert Storm a decade or so ago was brought back unused. ... What it suggests is it's hard to know precisely what you think might be necessary, and you want to be safe, so you have more than you think you're going to need."

At a meeting in Washington on Friday, some Kurdish opposition leaders said they would support U.S. efforts against Saddam only with assurances the United States would not stop until Saddam was overthrown, and they would have a role in any future Iraqi government.

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