Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on the Bill Cunningham Show, 700 WLW, Cincinnati, Ohio
CUNNINGHAM: Joining us now is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, welcome again to the Bill Cunningham Show.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you. It's good to be with you.
CUNNINGHAM: Now Donald, back in the good old days when these six generals actually were sitting with you, when they had the stars on their shoulders, did they tell you the things then that they're now saying when two of the six are running for political office, another one's writing a book. When they were in office did they tell you, "Hey Don, you're all screwed up and this is why you're wrong?"
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You now, I don't think I ever met two or three of them in my life that I recall.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yeah, one of them had retired before I ever got here. And a couple of them I don't remember ever meeting. A couple of them I do. But no, you're quite right. None of them to my recollection came up and said we're worried about this or we're worried about that. Of course they were at a level that that wouldn't have been likely.
I met with General Franks, General Abizaid, General Casey, all the senior people, the Chiefs of the services in the Tank and we had great discussions about all of these subjects. Of course the implication that there was something wrong with the war plan is amusing almost because of the fact that the war plan's fashioned by the combatant commanders and it's reviewed in great detail by the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then it's recommended to me and the President.
But I guess everyone's got their right to say what they think.
CUNNINGHAM: The critics right now, they want Bush to resign, they want Cheney to resign, they want Rice to resign, they wanted Michael Brown of FEMA to resign, they now want Rumsfeld to resign. Do you feel like you're the flavor of the day?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you know, it's pretty clear that your point's valid. It's the political season. It's an election year. People are writing books and promoting books, and people are attacking the President directly and attacking him through me and through other people in the administration, and I guess that comes with the territory.
CUNNINGHAM: Well relative to this General Shinseki who was a patriot and a good man, now he's being called by the Democrats as the oracle at Delphi who had all the answers about troop strength, et cetera. Did Shinseki at the time, when he headed up the Army, tell you things that you contradicted him and you went against his advice at the time?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You know he was the Chief of Staff of the Army for the first portion of my tenure here. He has a fine war record and he obviously, you don't get to be Chief of Staff of the Army without being a talented professional military people…person. People are going out today and even writing in the press that he was fired. He was never fired. He retired in his normal order. Second, they're saying that people refused to go to his retirement party. The fact is, he invited who he wanted and he happened not to have invited some other people who he may not have wanted. Some of us were on travel anyway.
So there's a lot of misinformation flying around about that. The only issue that came up that I can recall was he was asked, pressed before a congressional committee, and asked how many troops he thought it would take in the post-war period, and he said about the same as it would take in conquering the country and replacing Saddam Hussein. They pressed him and said how many would that be, and he said several hundred thousand. Of course he was right, it did take roughly the same number in the post major combat operation period as it took in major combat operations, but the generals in charge had decided that they didn't need more than 150,000 or 160,000 for major combat operations and that's basically what they held onto in the post period.
So on the one hand it was a somewhat smaller number, on the other hand it was roughly, he was correct when he said that it was roughly the same amount.
CUNNINGHAM: Do you think in retrospect, you know the first casualty of war are the battle plans. As soon as the bullets start to fly all Hades breaks loose and so you can always look back in time and say man, that charge of Gettysburg didn't make any sense. You can look back and say you know what? We should have skipped Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima. We should have just dropped the bomb and saved all those American lives. I've heard those arguments.
Looking back with the full vantage of history, do you wish like in 2003, the invasion started like in March of '03, maybe going forward, that perhaps it was wiser for you to have more troop strength or to keep the Iraqi army together? Looking back from the vantage of history were there some mistakes made by you after the successful military invasion?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Let me put that in two pieces. Even today there is a fair debate in my view and a legitimate debate, as to the number of troops there should have been and the number of troops there should be today. The tension is between two different aspects of it. One aspect is if you have too few troops the security situation is not sufficient to permit the political and governmental process to go forward. On the other hand, if you have too many troops, the concern is that you create a dependency on the part of the Iraqis where you're doing all the heavy lifting for them and they're not stepping up to the task. Or second, you create such a heavy footprint and an intrusive occupation that you actually seed the insurgency and add to the number of recruits - Iraqi recruits - into the insurgency.
So there's a tension there and it's not a science, it's an art. People can have different views on it.
All I can say is that all of the senior generals -- General Abizaid, General Franks, General Casey, all believed that the number was correct going in and that the number is correct going today and I am not a general, I'm Secretary of Defense, and I listen to all the advice I get, and in this case I agree with them. I don't agree with those who say that it should be more, because I would worry about increasing the size of the insurgency by being even more intrusive.
The second thing I'd say in terms of what might have been different. We had a war plan - General Franks did, that I approved - whereby the 4th Infantry Division was due to come in through Turkey. And had they been able to come in through Turkey, but they were not able as you may recall because the Turks wouldn't let them, had they been able to come in they would have had one of our most capable divisions able to move south immediately into the Sunni areas and may very likely have been able to capture or kill a large number of the people who are currently conducting the insurgency. That would have conceivably changed things. That was the plan, but it was not able to be implemented.
CUNNINGHAM: Before I get to America Supports You, we have about two and a half minutes remaining. Has there been to your knowledge one significant recommendation of the Joint Chiefs that came to you, that you failed to implement in the last three or four years? One significant…after everything was said and done did the Joint Chiefs say, Donald Rumsfeld, do this, and Rumsfeld said no.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The answer is no. I can't think of one. We've had wonderful discussions, we've had discussions with the combatant commanders, I've asked a dozen questions to make sure that people have thought through things, but the recommendations of the combatant commanders in the last analysis go into the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they have lengthy discussions and analysis, and then they make a recommendation on their views of the combatant commanders' proposals, and I have accepted them almost -- I can't think of a single major exception.
CUNNINGHAM: You've offered your resignation once or twice in the past. Have you offered it in the last six months?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No, I haven't.
CUNNINGHAM: I want you stay there, Donald, because I think you're the best, you're a hard nosed guy, you know where the bodies are buried in Washington, DC, you know how the department works. Normal Americans who live in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana want you to stay there, and don't listen to the clowns at the Washington Post and CNN. You know what I'm saying?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter]. Oh, you’re amazing.
CUNNINGHAM: Lastly, America Supports You. Give us a full report on that.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it's a terrific thing. You know you think you've got these wonderful young men and women who are so professional, who volunteered to help defend freedom and serve our country in uniform, and they're all around the world, and they have families here at home, and AmericaSupportsYou.mil web site is the place that a person can go in and find out what school groups are doing and what corporations are doing and what cities and states and towns and non-governmental organizations and radio stations and baseball teams and basketball teams. They have all figured out some way that they want to help those troops and help their families. And what AmericaSupportsYou.mil does is it arrays all of that information so that citizens can go on there and find out what other people are doing and get some ideas as to how they can help also.
CUNNINGHAM: You're a great American. Before you sip that pina colada on a beach somewhere in Florida, I'd like you to hang around for about two and a half more years. Win the war, win the peace, do something big, and don't listen to the critics, Donald, because they're going to be everywhere as to how the great warrior in the mud pit failed. But we need people like you and Cheney and Bush conducting a war on the great things of value. Average Americans stand with you and Bush and Cheney. God bless you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well Bill Cunningham, I thank you, sir.
CUNNINGHAM: You're a great American.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Okay, I appreciate it. Thank you.