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Rumsfeld Cautions Basra Citizens on Reported Uprising - 2003-03-25

A reported uprising against Saddam Hussein's government in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld concerned.

One of the early criticisms of the war has been that U.S.-led coalition troops have not been uniformly welcomed by ordinary Iraqis spilling into the streets to greet them as liberators and help in routing any remaining loyalists to Saddam Hussein.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the reason is a simple one: Saddam's forces are using what Pentagon officials describe as fear tactics, threatening Iraqis with death. One place where there has apparently been an uprising against the Baghdad regime is Basra, but Mr. Rumsfeld, while hopeful, is also concerned.

"These are Saddam Hussein's people in there shooting people if they try to leave the city," he said. "Now, therefore, an uprising - anyone who's engaged in an uprising has got a whale of a lot of courage, and I sure hope they're successful."

Iraq has denied as lies reports of a civilian uprising in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, located in the country's south, where coalition forces have faced fierce resistance.

Mr. Rumsfeld indicates coalition troops are not yet sufficiently strong to move in to support the rebellion. He is urging caution.

"I guess those of us my age remember uprisings in eastern Europe back in the '50s when they rose up and then were slaughtered," he said. "And I am very careful about encouraging people to rise up, unless - I mean, we know there are people in those cities ready to shoot them if they try to rise up. We know there are people in that city ready to kill them if they try to escape. Now, until you're arranged so that you can actually go to those cities and deal with that problem...then I am very reluctant to run around the world encouraging people to rise up."

Mr. Rumsfeld insists Iraqis have been repressed and will rise up. But he hopes they will wait until sufficient forces are nearby to be helpful - otherwise, he says, they will be wasting their lives.