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U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress Statesmanship Dinner
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Washingon, DC, Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Larry, thank you very much.  Lou Frey, Chairman Lou, distinguished members of the House and the Senate and former members, ladies and gentlemen, my old friend Bob Michel, colleagues, it is good to see so many distinguished members of the Congress, past and present.  Having served in the 1960s, I see that, with the possible exception of Bob Michel here, I'm probably a good deal more former than any of the formers.  First, let me say how much I appreciate this fine award.  Coming from this distinguished group, it is a special -- has a special meaning for me, and I do thank you, Larry, and each of you.

 

Congress is an important part of my life.   When I looked at that picture, my wife leaned across the table and said -- reminded me of one of my favorite pictures of the Capitol where it quotes Jefferson saying, "Here, sir, the people govern."  And I visited the Congress the first time in the late 1930s when my parents brought me to Washington, and I visited the House and the Senate, and saw them in session.  Then I brought my almost-fiancée Joyce, who's here after 48 years.  Someone asked her how she stayed married to me for 48 years, and she said, "He travels a lot."  But we came down here for a wedding in 1954, shortly after I graduated from college and she did, and we went to visit the Senate.  And there in the chair was Carl Hayden.  Carl Hayden was from Arizona.  He was the last territorial sheriff before Arizona became a state, and I took Joyce up in the gallery, and Carl Hayden was dozing.  And the speaker was Wayne Morris and he was talking about music, and there was no one else in the chamber, and I was so excited to be there.  And I said to Joyce, "Isn't that thrilling?"  And she said, "I think you're a little strange." 

 

Well, when I left the Navy and came to Washington, I knocked on doors and I got a job working for a friend of Bob Michel named David Dennison.   You were elected the same time, I think the 85th Congress or so.  And I'd never met a Congressman in my life when I got this job, and I was absolutely thrilled, and he lost.  And I went to work for Bob Griffin for a while, who then went on to the Senate.  He was from Michigan; I was from Illinois, so it was kind of a mismatch.  And then I went back home and decided to try to run for Congress after a year or two.  I'd been away for a good many years, and I was 29 when I was running.  I didn't have any support.  I hadn't lived in the district for 10 years.  I'd been away 4 years in college, 3½ years in the Navy, and several years working in Washington.  I'd only been back a year, and we didn't have any standing in the community, any political or social or financial standing in the community, and I needed help. 

 

And I picked up the phone and I called this fellow sitting right here named Bob Michel who was a Congressman.  And you know, most people don't like to mess in primaries.  It's not good for your career.  And here's Bob Michel from Peoria, Illinois, and he said, "Look" -- I'd known him because he'd been an administrative assistant to Harold Velde back in the old days -- and I said, "Look, I need some help."  And he said, "Look, I'm going to be flying into O'Hare Airport.  You come by.  We'll get a picture taken and then you can do what you want with it, and I'll" -- well, I'll tell you, when I get a sitting Congressman to endorse me and give me a picture -- I took that picture and I plastered it all over the district.  It was the best thing I had going for me, and I'll never forget it, my friend.  Thank you.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Did you win?

 

RUMSFELD:   You bet I won.  Well, I got elected in '62, and one night I was in bed in 1963, and I was reading a doctoral dissertation.  A Ph.D. in one of the colleges in my district had written it, and he was -- he had an interesting thesis.  And the thesis was that each Congressional district produces a perfectly predictable member of Congress; that you look at the district, and you can pretty well see the kind of person they're going to put into the United States House of Representatives.  And I -- my district happened to be in the northern part of Chicago, and then the suburbs, and it was kind of a bedroom district, and it had the highest level of education.  It had the highest annual earned income, but not wealth.   It was just earned income, and then it had the eighth highest Russian stock, population, in the '60 census which, of course, was Jewish.  And I was reading this, and then they said, "And Rumsfeld is the one who breaks the rule."  And it went on, and it said, "Rumsfeld is distinguished principally by his total lack of social, financial and political standing in the community."  I woke up Joyce and said, "Listen to this.  It's terrible."  She said, "Go back to sleep, Don.  It's tough to argue with." 

 

But I -- you think of the friendships you make in the House, and it was a truly wonderful experience.  There's nothing that compares with being the human link between half a million people and their federal government.  It's a very special responsibility.  I've always -- one of the Rumsfeld's rules, my friend Lou, that is more elegant and probably even more accurate than some of the ones you quoted is the one that I think is in there, where I said that if you get to know the members of the House of Representatives and understand them, you will begin to understand something important about America, because you will know something of their constituencies, because they're the ones who went out and persuaded that electorate to take a bet on them and have them represent them in their national Congress, and it is true.  And those of you who've served in the House, I know know that.  The more you get to know your colleagues, the more you know about our country.

 

Before I turn to questions, and I'm told there are some microphones, and we can do some questions and answers before you eat if you would like, let me just comment briefly about the global war on terror.  You know, after the September 11th attack, the Congress spent many, many weeks and months trying to connect the dots.  They were trying to figure out what in the world had happened.  Was it possible that by connecting the dots after the fact that we could have figured out a way that we could have avoided that tragedy?  And they found it very difficult even after the fact.  But what we're trying to do, and what the world community is trying to do today is really much harder, and that's to try to connect the dots before a tragedy to stop vastly more lethal attacks before they happen.  Trying to prevent an attack before it happens is difficult.  Trying to convince people of the need to take action before an attack is even more difficult.

 

Imagine for a moment that we're back on September 1st of 2001, a few days before the September 11th attack, and that the President of the United States had had scraps of information, a phone call here, a credit card, someone who tried to learn how to fly, but didn't want to know how to land.  And he went before the Congress or the world, and said, "We need to invade Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban regime, and root out the al Qaeda terrorist network to prevent a possible attack on the United States of America."  How many countries would have joined us?  Many?  Any?  Not likely.  Yet it might have saved 3,000 innocent lives if we had had those scraps of information. 

 

In our new security environment, the consequences of failing to act until all the dots are connected might not be 3,000 lives, but 30,000 or 300,000.   We've entered into what could very well prove to be the most dangerous security environment the world has known.  In the 20th century, when we, the formers, served in the Congress, we were dealing, for the most part, with a situation where, if we miscalculated, we could take the attack, take a deep breath, mobilize our forces, and go out and defeat the attackers. 

 

In the 21st century, we're dealing with weapons that mean that the cost of waiting until attacked could result in carnage of historic proportions.  The new danger is the nexus between terrorist networks, terrorist states and weapons of mass destruction.  On September 11th, terrorist states demonstrated that there are other means of delivery besides missiles.  Terrorist networks can do it.  And to the extent a terrorist state transfers weapons of mass destruction to a terrorist network, they can conceal their responsibility, and a terrorist state that can conceal its responsibility is not deterred. 

 

It should not come as a surprise to anybody that there is a debate and discussion here in the United States and around the world about this new security environment that we're in.   No one -- no one rational person wants war, but that's not the choice before us today.  The choice before us is whether we can act now to stop another attack, or wait until attacked, and then have a war, but at a considerably higher price. 

 

You know, some look at the anti-war rallies today and recall the protests of the Vietnam era, when many of us served here.   For me, the demonstrations of today really evoke more the war protests, the anti-war protests, of the late 1930s and the early 1940s.  Back then, a large peace movement rallied well-intentioned people in many countries against the war.  In Britain, millions of British voters declared their opposition to the war in a so-called peace ballot in the late 1930s.  Their slogan was, "Against War and Fascism," and a year later, Hitler took the Rhineland.  Here in the United States, the America First committees, which were very strong in Illinois, in the Chicago area, as well as all across the country, they held rallies, big rallies.  They filled Madison Square Garden to the rafters in May of 1941 with many well-intentioned people who wanted to avoid wars to save lives. 

 

Charles Lindbergh, the man who flew across the Atlantic for the first time in the Spirit of St. Louis used to speak at those rallies.   I knew him later in life.  He was an environmentalist, and I was involved in the cabinet committee on environmental protection, and we went to meetings together.  And he was a fine man, a sincere man who loved his country, but prior to World War II, he made the case against the war this way.  He said, quote, "Before we spend the sprit of America to stand on foreign ground, let us make sure the roots of freedom and democracy are firmly planted in our own country."  As it turned out, he never spoke those words.  They were from a speech he was scheduled to deliver on December 12th, and then Pearl Harbor happened on December 7th.  So, Lindbergh never gave that speech. 

 

The point is this: that the debate that's going on today is an important one, and these are tough issues.  They're very tough issues.  And fine people, sincere people, can be sincerely on both sides of this issue.  Yes, there are risks to action, but there are also risks to inaction.  And that is why this debate and this discussion that's taking place across the globe today, for the most part in rooms like this and in parliaments, but to some extent, out in the streets, is so important because it is new.  It is a new set of problems, and the risks and dangers are of a different order than in the last century.  That's the issue that's facing the President of the United States today, and it's a tough issue.

 

And now, I'd be happy to respond to questions.  Where are the microphones?

 

LOUIS FREY:  In the back.

 

RUMSFELD:  Oh, this young lady has one, and there's one in the back.  Are there any questions in the back?  No questions in the back.  Are there any questions in the front?  Everyone's hungry.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Mr. Secretary, tell us about Turkey.

 

RUMSFELD:  Here's the mike.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Mr. Secretary, tell us about our good friend, Turkey.

 

RUMSFELD:   The question is Turkey, and Turkey is, of course, a long-time ally in NATO and a friend.  It also is at a critical juncture between East and West.  It is a moderate Muslim state, and we need more moderate Muslim states in this world.  It is also a democracy, and there are not a lot of them in that part of the world.  Democracies are untidy.  You may not have noticed that.  But what they're going through is a democratic process, and they had a vote and the vote carried, but there were 19 abstentions, and they have a rule that you have to have a majority of those present.  Had the 19 abstentions left the room, the vote would have carried by 3 votes.  As it turned out, the 19 abstentions were in the room, so it didn't carry. 

 

We don't know whether they're going to go back and have another vote, but it is a tough set of issues for the Turkish government.  That's brand new, has never governed before, this party, and we'll have to see what happens.  Fortunately, we have workarounds we can do, and in the event that force has to be used in Iraq, it will not be as easy, but it will be fine.  Question?  Yes?

 

HOWARD POLLACK:  Hi, Rummy.  This is Howard Pollack from Alaska.

 

RUMSFELD:  It is indeed.

 

HAROLD POLLACK:  I'm way in the back of the room, and I know you can't see me, but I have two comments.  One is, I'd love to have a copy of the speech you made.  It was just terrific.

 

RUMSFELD:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

 

HAROLD POLLACK:  And the other thing, my friend, is I'm concerned that the press in this country, the liberal, leftist press, is making us look like an aggressor nation, and nobody has ever thought of the United States as an aggressor nation.  And I'd like to know what you can do and what we can do to turn that around.

 

RUMSFELD:   It is true that the impression one gets, particularly in some of the European press, but also in the United States on occasion, is that the United States is acting unilaterally, and it isn't.  The United States has put together a coalition of 90 nations.  It is the largest coalition in human history to fight the global war on terrorism.  With respect to the situation in Iraq, first of all, it ought not to be a surprise that the coalition, with respect to Iraq, is not 90 nations, because no decision has been made to use force with respect to Iraq.  At that point where force may become necessary, because Saddam Hussein's regime refuses to cooperate, refuses the -- people are calling it the second resolution in the U.N.  actually, it's the eighteenth resolution in the U.N.  In the event force has to be used, I would predict that there would be a larger coalition of countries supporting the United States' position and the United Kingdom's position than there were in 1991 during the Gulf War.  For whatever reason, the impression is that there are very few countries. 

 

Now, there are several prominent countries in Europe that are energetically opposing the position of the U.K. and the U.S.  On the other hand, eight countries signed a letter supporting the position of the United States and the U.K.  Then the Vilnius Ten countries signed a letter.  So clearly, the majority of the countries in Europe are supporting that position.  Everyone would always prefer that there be unanimity, that everyone would agree with us.  And it is not fun that -- to see the editorials or people protesting and disagreeing.  On the other hand, that's a sign of democracy.  It's always been that way.  It was that way in the '30s.  It was that way during the Vietnam War.  It was that way in many instances in my lifetime, and I think we can live with that.  The places where there are no protests, and where there is no opposition, is in Iraq.  They don't allow it.  Question?

 

JIM SLATTERY:  Mr. Secretary, I'm Jim Slattery from Kansas, and I just wanted to associate myself with the remarks of our friend from Alaska.  I really appreciated your remarks this evening, and I think it's okay for our leaders to acknowledge how difficult these choices are.  And I would encourage you to do that more, and I think it would be good for the President to acknowledge that these choices are difficult; that good people can disagree on these kinds of difficult choices.  So, I just want to encourage you to not be afraid to just admit the complexity of these issues that we're facing.

 

RUMSFELD:  Thank you very much.

 

JIM SLATTERY:  Thank you for being here this evening.  I really appreciated your remarks.

 

RUMSFELD:  Thank you.  Thank you.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:   You're welcome. 

 

STEVE KUYKENDALL:  Mr. Secretary, Steve Kuykendall from California.  When I was in Congress, I made a trip to the DMZ in Korea, and other than the time I served in a war zone, that was the most hostile environment I have ever seen, and it felt it from the moment we got on the helicopter.  And it seems like we ratcheted that up between that country and ourselves and their neighbors.  Can you comment about our actions, and what your thoughts are on how we might keep that thing cooled off for a while?

 

RUMSFELD:   Yes, sir.  It's a very dangerous situation.  The U.S. intelligence community assesses that North Korea currently has sufficient nuclear material for one or two weapons, and very likely has one or two weapons already, although they have not declared themselves a nuclear power.  It is very clear that if they stop -- if they start the reprocessing plant, which they are threatening to start, they will have materials sufficient for six or eight additional weapons by May or June.  They are the world's leading proliferator of ballistic missile technologies.  They deal with all the rogue states around the world.  There isn't a doubt in my mind but that they would be willing to sell the nuclear material to another terrorist country. 

 

People look at North Korea as a particular threat to the Korean peninsula.  I would say that it is even a greater threat to the world through proliferation.  And it is a fact that Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and, oh, three or four other countries all are -- have nuclear weapon programs, and all aspire to become nuclear powers.  And it's possible that within the next decade, we could be living in a world where there are double the number of nuclear powers that there are today, and they will not be in the hands of countries like the United Kingdom or the United States.  They will be in the hands of, in a number of instances, states that are on the terrorist list, and that is a very different kind of a world that we'll be living in.

 

One of the things that is very clear to me, and I don't know how this will happen, but every country can do certain things by itself.   There's one thing that no country can do, and that is to stop proliferation.  It is so pervasive, and there are so many technologically advanced countries today.  And anyone with a sharp eye at all can look and see that the international treaties and agreements against proliferation are in tatters.  People who want those things can get them, and they are getting them, and they're able to hide what they're doing.  They're able to deny and deceive.  They do things underground, and they've gotten very good at it. 

 

That means that unless there is just enormous cooperation between the technologic -- the free countries, the technologically advanced countries, to prevent the transfer of these technologies and of these weapons materials, we will have, in a decade or a decade and a half, a world that will be not a very pleasant place to live in.  How does one do that?  Well, it's going to take -- we simply would have to have a set of agreements where it was accepted and understood that a group of like-thinking countries would have the ability to interdict and stop the transfer of those technologies, whether by land, sea or air, from countries like North Korea to other terrorist states.

 

You may recall that not too many months ago, we were able to detect a ship leaving North Korea that was carrying ballistic missile technologies, track it, stop it, board it, find the materials, and had no legal right to keep them from going into the country of destination.  We need that legal ability.  We need the right to be able to do that.  We need to have the cooperation of other countries to do it, or the spread of these weapons will change the face of this earth.  Questions?  Yes?

 

JOE FOLEY:   Mr. Secretary, Joe Foley.  I'm here with my wife Adrian tonight and Congressman Jim Lloyd and Jackie Lloyd from California, and some other good Californians here at the table.  And I have a question about -- and a compliment for your capture, or yours and the President's and George Tenet's of Khalid Sheik Mohammed.  I think I got his name right there.  Congratulations. 

 

RUMSFELD:  Thank you.

 

JOE FOLEY:  My question goes back -- it's a little academic to a certain extent, but there were many rumors, the "National Journal," elsewhere, that a direct relation between Mohammed and Ramsey Yousef, who built the bomb in '93 that almost brought our Trade Centers down in New York City, that they're directly related.  And the earlier discussions were that that was state-sponsored terrorism, i.e., Iraq.  Could you comment about what happened with that intelligence, or those correlations?  And are we missing something here?  I appreciate your answers.

 

RUMSFELD:  Khalid Sheik Mohammed's relationship with Ramsey Yousef is, in fact, the case, and if you look at the rogue's gallery of that family, there are many, many more that are on the target list, members of that family.  It is brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and nephews, and they form a non-trivial portion of the network.  They have had, in varying ways, relationships with a number of terrorist states over the time, both directly and in terms of providing haven for them.  Question?

 

JIM COYNE:  Jim Coyne from Pennsylvania.

 

RUMSFELD:  Yes?

 

JIM COYNE:  Mr. Secretary, you probably have had more personal experience with the leaders of Germany and France and, of course, NATO, over the past many years.  Can you give us some view as to after the war, assuming that we are successful, what will be the reaction of these countries?  And what's the future for NATO, given the current schism in Europe?

 

RUMSFELD:   Well, I hope I'm not biased, but I am a believer that NATO is an important institution, and I know that sometimes institutions outlive their usefulness, and things change.  And that's always been so, but in this case, if you were looking down from Mars on earth, you would see several handfuls of countries that are like-thinking, that are doing well for their people, that have free political institutions and free economic institutions, and have value systems that approximate each other, and are distinctly different from a large number of the rest of the nations on earth, nations that don't have freer political systems and freer economic systems, and that are not doing well for their people.  And the bulk of those countries are in the Atlantic Alliance.  A large fraction of all of those countries that you would see that have those kinds of values and those kinds of systems are part of this Atlantic Alliance.  I think that that is valuable.  I think it's important, and I think it's worth preserving. 

 

The situation in Europe is interesting, in the sense that in our country, foreign policy and national security policy tend to be, in large measure, bipartisan or nonpartisan.  In those countries, foreign policy is treated almost like economic policy or domestic policy.  It's part of the politics of the place.  And they deal with those issues not as though they're life or death; not as though they're fundamental to the security of the American people or to the German people or the French people.  But over a period of time, just incrementally, they seem to me at least, to address those issues pretty much the way they address some other issues.  And they're all part of a trading scheme, where they negotiate and they campaign on this, and take advantage of that, and so forth.

 

The other thing that's happened in Europe that makes it somewhat different than the way we address things is that, for one thing, we experienced September 11th.   They didn't, and that's a big difference.  That impacted our country.  It showed the vulnerability of free people in this country, and they did not go through that.  A third thing that's different, and is a -- I think it's fair to say that they have so many multinational groups that they're part of, NATO and the European community and the United Nations, that they have become focused on consultation and multilateralism, almost raising it as a virtue in and of itself, as opposed to what the product is of that consultation.  Is it right?  Is the direction right?  And everything, almost everything, is worth compromising, because if you believe that that is your ultimate strength, is to be a part of those networks, then in fact, all -- that the network itself has more value than the direction that would come out of any particular decision, then you behave in a certain way. 

 

We tend not to feel that way.   We tend to feel that we value and recognize the need for cooperation with other countries, but we also recognize that the important thing is to be going in the right direction, not necessarily in the direction that everyone else may want to go at any minute.  Tony Blair, for example, is the Prime Minister of the U.K.  Joyce and I watched a speech he made to his Labour Party a month or so ago, and it was a brilliant speech.  He is a superb communicator, and he is the exception, or one of the exceptions, that proves the rule over there.  He is taking a position of leadership very much like Winston Churchill did.  He is making his judgments, and he is communicating it effectively, and he has the courage of his conviction, and it is impressive to see that.  He's doing exactly the opposite of what tends to be a tendency among some of the other countries at this particular moment in history. 

 

All that said and all that put aside, the fact remains, NATO is an important institution.   If we provide good leadership to it -- if we're right, and we provide good leadership to it, and we allow time, so that other countries are working off roughly the same set of facts we are, we ought to expect people to differ with us if they are working off different facts.  We need to be on the same sheet of music, or we're not going to be able to work together.  And our assessment of the threats that exist in the world, and I should add, Prime Minister Blair's assessment, which is identical, is different than the assessment of the publics of many of the countries of Europe.  And that is why you end up with some of those countries going in a somewhat different direction. 

 

I think we've got to expect that when we're in a new century.   We've got to expect that when we're in a new security environment.  We've got to expect that when we're addressing issues that are new and tough and hard, and be willing to stay the course, and work the problem, talk to people, and be willing to see that they end up working off the same set of facts because, you know, reasonable people, given the same set of facts, tend to find their way to reasonably similar conclusions. 

 

I am very appreciative of the award.  I know you're waiting for dinner, and it's past my