Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on Colorado's Morning News Program
TUBBS: Colorado's morning news, Steffan Tubbs, April Zesbaugh. It's great to welcome into the program once again Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary thanks so much for the time this morning.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you, Steffan; I'm delighted to be with you folks.
ZESBAUGH: Good to have you. The big issue this week is immigration reform in Washington, so let's start there. We've heard some say that the reason for tightening our borders with Mexico is to keep out terrorists, and then you've heard others say no, that's fear mongering and it's not a realistic fear.
Are there any stats to back up the idea that terrorists have been trying to sneak through our border with Mexico?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The Department of Homeland Security manages our borders and our ports and not the Department of Defense. I have not seen any hard evidence to that effect. I've seen a lot of speculation and concern about the possibility that the normal smuggling routes for drugs, for weapons, and for people could equally be used for terrorists, but in direct answer to your question I've not seen any data that supports the fact that it has in fact been done.
TUBBS: You gave some comments earlier this week at the War College and I just wanted to quote one sentence, Mr. Rumsfeld that you said. "In today's debate possibly the most significant division is between those who realize that we are a nation at war and those who do not."
With that said from earlier in the week I'm wondering what do you think is the biggest misperception of the war that maybe people out there have?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's a fascinating question.
If one goes back and thinks throughout history the wars that our country's been engaged in, they have always been unpopular, they have always been difficult, they have always been challenging, and there has always been opposition to them. I get the impression -- Even the Cold War that was the case. There were people constantly offering amendments in Congress to pull the troops out of Europe and to toss in the towel, and that Euro Communism wasn't really all that bad, and that the Soviet Union would not really expand the way it was expanding. People forget that. They think that each situation is a brand new one and it's the first time it's ever happened.
So I think if one thinks about it the persistence that our predecessors showed in the revolutionary War and certainly in the Civil War and in World War I and World War II, the persistence they showed and demonstrated has changed the face of the earth and it's made this country what it is. That's why the President is absolutely determined to be steadfast and to be persistent and to see this through, and he recognizes that the center of gravity of this war is not in Baghdad, it is in Washington, D.C., and it's in the United States, and the enemy knows they do not have to beat us on the battlefield, they know they can't. They won't even win a single battle on the battlefield. They know that they have to beat us in a test of wills and that's what their hope and prayer is.
ZESBAUGH: And also in propaganda. I would say any war has a lot of propaganda in it, and trying to counter that you were talking at the Army War College about countering terrorism and you said, "We've not found the formula for countering the extremists' message." And you went on to give the U.S. a D in part because of poor communication.
What can we do to bring that up to an A?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, gosh. You know, I think I said maybe D or D+.
ZESBAUGH: You did.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: A little better edge there.
ZESBAUGH: You're right.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It's a tough thing to do and there's no one location you can say where the problem is. If you think about it, a terrorist, they have media committees, Zarqawi does and bin Laden, and Zawahiri, and they plan ways they're going to manipulate the news. So they go out and lie and our people -- And they're never penalized for lying. They can lie this week, next week and the week after and no one ever says they're liars.
On the other hand, our task is to tell the truth and we have to go out and find out what actually happened.
So when you have an attack and they run out and claim it was an attack on a mosque, and in fact it takes you 48 or 72 hours to figure out where the attack was, what actually took place, and by then the lie has circulated around the world 15 times.
TUBBS: Mr. Secretary I just got back a couple of weeks ago from a couple of weeks with our men and women over in Iraq, and I ask you point blank, are there enough troops in Iraq right now?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The number of troops have been going up almost every week. We now have 241,700 Iraqi Security Forces. We have about 135,000 U.S. forces, and we have about 30,000 -- 29,000 Coalition forces. So if you look at the aggregate number they've been going up almost every week and every month for the past two years.
Are they enough? The commanders on the ground, General Casey and General Abizaid and the people that report to them tell me there is the right number. The balance they're trying to seek is this. On the one hand, they want to have enough troops total -- Iraqi, U.S., Coalition, so that the political process can go forward in an orderly way and the economic progress can be made. On the other hand you don't want to have so many that you become so intrusive and so heavy a hand an occupying force that you feed the insurgency. That people say they don't want foreigners in their country.
The other problem is if you have too many Americans there the risk is that we fill every vacuum and we create a dependency rather than an independent country, and they simply are going to have to grab a hold of their country and make it work for them. They're going to end up with Iraqi solutions, not American solutions.
So in answer to your question, it's an art, not a science. I rely heavily, as does the President, on General Casey and General Abizaid's recommendations. They have had, from the outset of this they have had the number of troops that they have requested and believed is appropriate and they're constantly weighing that balance that I've just described.
ZESBAUGH: As about maybe a week and a half ago we have been now in the fourth year of war in Iraq. Are there things that you look at now four years later about the way that the war started, the WMD issue, our relationship with the UN, as Steffan was saying the troops levels, the strength of the insurgency and the list goes on. Are there things that you look back at now that you say hindsight being 20/20, I would change A, B, and C?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You mentioned the UN. I think the decision by the President to go into the United Nations was the right one and it took six months and it was a long process, and if they had weapons of mass destruction they had plenty of time to hide them. They also buried some airplanes which we know.
Obviously the intelligence proved out to be incorrect thus far and so that's something that's unfortunate.
One other thing I'd mention is the fact that given the level of the insurgency today I think a reasonable person has to say that had we been able to get the 4th Infantry Division in from the north through Turkey as we had planned, and as you may recall the Turkish Parliament at the last minute by one vote I think didn't permit it. Had we been able to bring that very capable division down from the north into the Sunni area, I think the insurgency would have been considerably less during the period since major combat operations ended.
TUBBS: We're speaking with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, two names -- Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden. What pops into your mind? I guess start with Osama, if you don't mind.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I guess the first thing you'd say is that he has not been captured or killed, which is unfortunate. The second thing you'd have to say is that he's been very quiet. He clearly is spending most of his time trying not to get caught or trying to recover if he's wounded. His life is not a pleasant one for him. Zawahiri is much more visible, his deputy. And Zarqawi in Iraq.
With respect to Saddam Hussein, he is a prisoner of the Iraqi government, the sovereign Iraqi government. He was captured, his sons were killed. He is being tried. He will be brought to justice under the Iraqi justice system. And the sooner the better.
ZESBAUGH: Let's talk real quickly in the minute that we have left about your future there in this administration. Earlier this week Andy Card resigned his post as Chief of Staff. And it seems like every time there's a press conference at the White House the President or Scott McClellan answer questions usually from Helen Thomas about your job security. Do you feel like you're going to be there until the bitter end?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, look, we all serve at the pleasure of the President. I'm proud to be able to serve our country, privileged to be able to work with the terrific young men and women in uniform, and I think our President is a courageous man who is serving our country very, very well. I'm proud to be serving with him.
TUBBS: You are the 21st Secretary of Defense for the United States of America and you are involved right now in a great way, and we're going to kind of hop onto this with our soccer ball drive and dental care drive and school supply drive for the Iraqi children. Talk to our listeners briefly about AmericaSupportsYou.Mil.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I'd be delighted to. You know, this country is a wonderful country we have. People are so generous and so compassionate and caring. There are so many things being done by corporations and by school groups and families, all kinds of groups in our country, non-governmental organizations. And the AmericaSupportsYou.Mil is a web site that people can go to and they can find just a long, long list of things that people are doing and ways they can be helpful and support the troops, and not just the troops but also their families. I think there have been over a million and a half people who have visited the AmericaSupportsYou.Mil web site. It gets about 100,000 new visitors each month on the average. People are sending messages of support to the troops and finding ways that they can be helpful to Iraqi children or Afghan children, and ways that they can be supportive of the troops. It's gratifying to see, and we appreciate them all.
TUBBS: And the web site again, AmericaSupportsYou.Mil.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Exactly.
TUBBS: Mr. Secretary, a pleasure having you on the program. We appreciate your service to our nation, and thanks for joining us here on Colorado's Morning News.
ZESBAUGH: Thank you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you, April and Steffan. We appreciate being with you.