Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on WTN 99.7, Nashville, TN
GILL: Welcome back, good morning. I'm Steve Gill and this is the Steve Gill Show. Glad to have you aboard with us this morning. We're joined by a very special guest, a guy who's become a good friend over the last several years as we've had a chance to talk with him several times, the Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, it's good to have you with us again.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you, Steve. I'm delighted to do it.
GILL: One of the things that we're hearing so much these days is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking. I guess even in the wake of March madness we can use the term Monday morning quarterbacking, but there seems to be a lot of second-guessing about what was done, what was planned, how it was implemented.
You've used the term fog of war, but you've also used the term in describing what happens in combat that the best laid plans sometimes have to be changed based upon the circumstances in combat. Why don't these people get that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I suppose a couple of reasons, maybe. Maybe they don't read history. Anyone whose studied history knows that every battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy, because the enemy has a brain and the enemy watches what's going to happen and makes adjustments just as we watch what's going to happen and make adjustments.
I suppose the other reason; a lot of those folks are trying to peddle books they've written.
GILL: Speaking of that, we actually had General Zinni on yesterday, who is peddling a book and is also one of those guys who says that if he was in charge he would be replacing you or calling on you to step aside, and yet really doesn't lay out in specific detail what he would have done differently other than letting Saddam Hussein stay where he was as we detailed things in Afghanistan. In fact I asked him yesterday when we were talking, so the people in Iraq that would have been suffering over the last three years would have just been acceptable collateral damage? But he's an example of a guy that's kind of Monday morning quarterbacking, isn't he?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I guess so. You know, you think about it, there's 25 million Iraqis who were repressed and filing up mass graves with hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens and today they're liberated. That's important.
Second, if you think about it there was something like 15 or 17 UN resolutions. That took a lot of patience for the world to watch Iraq thumb their nose at the United Nations over a sustained period of many years and some 17 resolutions.
Third, our airplanes, and British airplanes, were being fired at every week in the Southern No Fly Zone and the Northern No Fly Zone. Anyone who thinks that Saddam Hussein was successfully contained really hasn't read what was going on in the United Nations in terms of the Oil for Food program, which as we've seen, had enormous leaks in it as well as probably wrongdoing.
GILL: And some of the second guessers are saying well, if we had just built a broader coalition, like George Bush the father did, we could have done this thing easier. And yet I think in looking at documents and intelligence and investigations since, it's pretty clear that with the French, the Russians, the Germans, they had pretty close ties to Saddam and waiting a few more months wasn't going to change that.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It certainly wouldn't change it with a few countries. On the other hand, if one looks at the coalitions that have been built in the global war on terror this President Bush has fashioned a coalition of some 80-85 countries. It's probably the largest coalition in the history of mankind. In Afghanistan we've got 35 or 40 countries participating. NATO is now taking over major chunks of real estate. And in Iraq I've forgotten the number, but I think its 32 countries are now participating in one way or another. Those are very sizeable coalitions historically.
GILL: Obviously there can be some value in hindsight. As you look back over the last three years, what lessons have we learned from this conflict and the things that happened kind of when the major military operations ceased that we can maybe put to use in future conflicts, maybe even in putting together a coalition or figuring out how to deal with militarily and non-militarily a place like Iran?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Setting aside the question on Iran, because the situation in Afghanistan is different from the situation in Iraq, and I'd rather address those two.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Two things: In Iraq I think it would have been enormously helpful if we had been successful in getting the 4th Infantry Division in through Turkey. If you think about it, they would have come down from the north, that was the plan, and the Turkish parliament at the last minute by one or two votes were not able to approve it. The result was that we did not have an extremely effective division coming down from the north right into the Sunni heartland that would have been the case had the Turkish parliament approved it.
Second; on a broader scale, it seems to me that what we're dealing with today is the reality that our government and our Congress are not really organized effectively to build partner nation capabilities. We have to be able to rearrange how we manage our appropriations and our authorities so that we have the ability to go in promptly and provide assistance, for example, to develop the Afghan army and the Afghan police and the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police.
We can sustain financially five or six or seven or eight Afghan or Iraqi soldiers for the expense of one of ours, and yet we have a terrible time getting approval through the Congress to use some of the funds to develop the capacity, the military capability on the part of the local Afghan and the local Iraqi people. So that's something we're going to have to get rearranged better on.
GILL: One of the other interesting news items this week is it appears that the top guy for al-Qaeda in Iraq is being fired. That kind of looks like a win for our side, isn't it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I guess time will tell. My impression is - number one, its unclear what's happening there. Number two, it may be that he's not being fired at all, but that he is being focused on the military side of the al-Qaeda effort and he's being asked to leave more of a political side possibly to others, because of some disagreements within al-Qaeda.
On the one hand the answer to your question is yes. It's desirable when there are disagreements among the al-Qaeda. Second, my impression of Zarqawi is that some of the decisions he's made have not been helpful to al-Qaeda.
GILL: Particularly I think they were hoping that he would instill a full-out civil war and despite their best effort at this point, and you've discussed this in looking at the nature of our enemy there, they haven't been successful in fomenting that type of inner strife that they want to, certainly at the level they want to.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's right, they have not. And they've certainly done a lot to try to do that. The attack on the Golden Dome shrine, for example, and the efforts to incite sectarian violence; they've caused a number of Iraqis to die, but they have not been successful in causing a civil war. And that's a good thing.
GILL: Just a little less than a year ago I was over in Baghdad and Fallujah spending time with our troops. In just a couple of weeks I'm going back to that region again to visit with our troops. Mr. Secretary talk for just a moment - and we are talking this morning by the way with Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld - talk for a moment about these young men and women and the spectacular job they're doing under extraordinarily difficult conditions.
I couldn't help but be impressed at, well the youth of some of these folks, although a lot of these folks, I didn't used to think they were young, but man, they look like kids these days. They're doing a magnificent job and yet that story doesn't seem to get out very often.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It really doesn't, Steve. I really appreciate your going over there and getting a first-hand look and reporting back and telling the truth to your listeners. It's important that you do that. I thank you for your last trip and I appreciate the fact that you're going to be going back over soon.
You're quite right. These young men and women are amazing. They're all volunteers. They're people who put up their hand and said send me. I want to serve my country. I want to defend freedom. And thanks to them we're fighting terrorism overseas instead of here at home. And the American people are safer every day because of them.
GILL: One of the things that this country's great for is that we always try to find a way to help, whether it's a Hurricane Katrina, whether it's the tornadoes we've suffered in Tennessee and Kentucky this week. A lot of folks are always asking me, what can I do to help the troops? What can I do to help those men and women over there? You guys have set up a pretty good program, AmericaSupportsYou.mil, which they can find on the web that gives you a great opportunity to show your support for these troops.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It really does. The web site, AmericaSupportsYou.mil is a place people can go in and see what other people are doing, what school groups are doing and corporations and non-profit organizations and families, and just plain wonderful, compassionate, caring Americans. And they're doing it not just for the troops, which is terribly important and we're so appreciative of that, but they're also doing it for their families, which makes a big difference.
When a troop is overseas and he knows that people in the country are demonstrating their appreciation to their families, it makes a big difference to them. So I hope your listeners will take a look at that web site and see if there isn't something they might want to do to show their concern and their interest.
GILL: Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld with us this morning.
You mentioned just a couple of minutes ago that those who are analyzing the situation need to understand history. You were Secretary of Defense before, you're back to being Secretary of Defense. Finish us up with just a little historical perspective. What's different now than when you were Secretary of Defense the first time?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well you know, one thing that's the same is the troops. We've just talked about what an amazing job they do and how professional they are and how honorable they are and how courageous they are. The one thing that's different is the fact that back in the Cold War when I was Secretary of Defense in the 1970s, we had the Soviet Union that was expansionist, that was aggressive, that posed a strategic nuclear threat to our country. We could look at it for decades and understand it, get to know it very well. It was big, you could find their army, you could find their navy, you could find their air forces. Today we're dealing in an era of asymmetric warfare instead of symmetric. We're dealing in unconventional instead of conventional; in irregular warfare. And the task we have to do is much more difficult. It's more difficult from an intelligence gathering standpoint, it's much more difficult to go after networks and a network of networks, and people that hide in the shadows, and people that are operating in countries that we're not at war with and where we don't have the ability to go in freely and root them out.
We've been very fortunate to have an 80 or 85 nation coalition that's been put together that puts pressure on these terrorists all over the world, and it takes all elements of national power to do it. And it makes it harder for them when they get up in the morning to recruit and to raise money and to communicate with each other and to move from one place to another and to move weapons from one place to another. Our task is to make life very hard for them and to keep the pressure on so that they aren't able to engage in additional attacks on the American people here at home. That is the biggest difference that exists today.
GILL: Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, always good to visit with you. We appreciate your great service to our country. We appreciate your friendship and look forward to visiting with you again soon.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Steve thanks so much, and do let me get back in touch with you when you return. I'd like to hear what you have to say.
GILL: I will do that, and you be safe and take care of things up there. We appreciate you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you so much.