Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on the Rusty Humphries Show
HUMPHRIES: I just saw you on TV a minute ago and I've got to ask you, why do you put up with it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter].
HUMPHRIES: The stupid questions. You've got nothing to prove. You've got these generals, the critics; it's got to be driving you crazy.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Listen, I told that story about the M1 tank 30 years ago and you could not believe the agitation in this town over that issue. And I've been there before and I understand it. Change is hard for people, but by golly, I'm not going to sit here and not change this place, because it needs changed.
HUMPHRIES: You keep hearing from these guys, Rumsfeld's a tough guy. You know what? Dang it, we're at war. I want a tough guy in that job.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter]. That's nice, thank you.
HUMPHRIES: We keep hearing too many troops, not enough troops; pull them out, keep them in there. Is there anything that this administration can do to please the critics?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Not in an election year. [Laughter].
HUMPHRIES: These generals, in hindsight, have they got any good points at all? Is there anything that maybe looking back you say okay, well maybe I should have done this or done this different?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: There are things that of course in retrospect you'd wish had gone differently, but of course every war plan never survives first contact with the enemy, because an enemy has a brain. Our combatant commanders fashioned a darn good war plan and we had plenty of plans for the post major combat operations, and as things evolved - new things happened. These explosive devices are causing damage and we're constantly figuring out better ways to deal with them, but it requires adapting and adjusting and changing tactics, techniques and procedures, and that's what our military generals are doing out there and the colonels, and God bless them - they're doing a darn good job.
HUMPHRIES: Part of the problem as I understand it, reading General DeLong's book, Inside CENTCOM. He said that we actually won the war so darn fast; we defeated the enemy so quickly we weren't quite sure what to do.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well --
HUMPHRIES: Is that fair?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I would put it slightly differently. But it did happen faster than had been expected. I think that I would add one thing. We had the 4th Infantry Division that was due to come in from the north through Turkey, and the Turkish government at the last minute decided they didn't want us to bring that division through.
Had that division - a very capable division - come in from the north it would have gone right into the Sunni Triangle, the area where Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist party was the strongest, and very likely would have captured or killed a good many of the people who are now conducting the insurgency.
Instead, everything had to come in from the south for the most part. Therefore the Sunni area was left pretty much untouched, because Baghdad was between the south and the location where many of the Ba'athists were.
HUMPHRIES: I went to Iraq once. I've also been to Guantanamo Bay a couple of times. The people that I spoke to over there - overwhelmingly supportive of America, overwhelmingly thankful for us going over there, and it seems like these "insurgents" are people that did well under Saddam and are being supported or are being supported by Syria and Iran. Is that true?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's true. The people that are causing the trouble over there are a mixture of foreign terrorists like Zarqawi who's a Jordanian, al-Qaida person; and then the Sunni insurgents, the Ba'athists who think they want to continue to run the country as they did for the last 30 years, filling up mass graves with hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children; and then some criminals who are just doing it for pay. So it's kind of a mixture of all of those things.
HUMPHRIES: When we keep hearing about an exit strategy. I remember reading about Churchill and he said his exit strategy was…victory. Is that what are…that should be our exit strategy, isn't it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Certainly in a conventional conflict - that is the exit strategy. In an unconventional or irregular conflict ultimately, yes, victory is what the goal is. On the other hand, that final victory, if you will, is more likely to be achieved by the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces over a period of years.
Insurgencies can last six, eight, ten, twelve years as they have in other countries and it's up to the local population, in this case the Iraqis, to manage their country and to suppress that insurgency over time, by making the environment inhospitable to them. I think that's very likely what the case will be here. What will happen is the Iraqi security forces, we'll continue to train and equip them, and continue to turn over bases and real estate to them, and then over time we'll be able to reduce the coalition forces - our forces - and it will be the Iraqis that will have the ultimate responsibility.
You have to remember that their goal is to take over that country, the terrorists and the enemy, because they want to establish a terrorist haven and a caliphate and take the money from oil and water in that country and use it against free people everywhere in the world, and kill innocent men, women and children like they're doing every day over there.
HUMPHRIES: I'm a little disappointed in this new Iraqi government, are you?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I'm a little disappointed that it hasn't been formed yet. I think it will be soon. On the other hand, it isn't an easy business, politics, and they don't have any experience really doing it. They've been under a dictatorship. So, the fact that they're talking with each other and negotiating and coming close to having a government I think is a good thing. I just wish it were done.
HUMPHRIES: Me too.
Secretary Rumsfeld, I've been meeting with a lot of generals lately, a lot of generals. And a lot of colonels and troopers and talked to a lot of Americans. And last night, when my audience knew I was going to talk to you they were very excited, because most people are very supportive of what you're doing.
What is it you would like those folks to know about what we're trying to accomplish and what's going on?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think a couple of things. First, about what's going on, is that we have 132,000 young men and women who volunteered to serve our country and they're over in Iraq, and another 20,000 or so are in Afghanistan, and others still are posted around the world in the Horn of Africa and Korea and other spots. These are the finest young men and women, military people, on the face of the earth. They are doing a superb job. They are making a sacrifice because they care about the country and they're proud of what they're doing and they ought to be treated as though what they're doing is noble work - because it is. And, we ought to be grateful to their families and to them for the contribution they're making.
The other thing I would say is that we need to recognize that our country is made up of free people with free political and free economic institutions. That is not the norm in the world. There are a lot of countries that don't have benefit from free political and free economic systems. And what we're protecting and what we're trying to do is to see that we can preserve that free way of life.
There are people out there who are determined to prevent us from having that free way of life. Our task here at the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, is to try to see that every day we're doing everything humanly possible to protect the American people and to keep them safe and so we feel a real sense of urgency about that. We are working hard at that task. We're working with our friends and allies around the world on that task and putting pressure on terrorists everywhere in the world. And frankly, I'd be a whale of a lot, rather fight those folks in Iraq or Afghanistan than I would in the United States of America, so we're doing the right thing and we're doing it in the right way and I think we're fortunate to have those men and women who volunteer to serve our country out there helping us.
HUMPHRIES: Should they be concerned about Iran?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Sure. You have, the President talked about it today and pointed out the difficulty that that poses for the world. He's obviously on a diplomatic track. He's hoping that with the help of European countries and other nations in the world that Iran will decide that the course they're on is not the best course for them.
You know, the Iranian people are a proud people. They have a proud history. I don't think they want to be isolated from the world. And clearly, the leadership in that country's behavior is having the effect of isolating the Iranian people from the world.
HUMPHRIES: I pray to God that none of us have to go over there and fight those people - that they'll back off.
Before I let you go, AmericaSupportsYou is a fabulous web site, a great organization. I know you're a big supporter of it.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I am indeed, and I thank you for mentioning it.
We started hearing about all the wonderful things that people were doing. Corporations and schools and clubs and individuals, and we said the best thing we can do, they're doing things to support the troops and to support their families. One of the things that we can do is to aggregate all of that information on the AmericaSupportsYou.mil web site, so that people can go on there and find things that they might like to do also to support the troops and support their families. We’re appreciative to all those folks who go on that web site, and for all they do to help our troops.
HUMPHRIES: Mr. Secretary, you may hear some negative things about you, but not on this program. We support you and love you and you're a hell of a guy.
Thank you so much for being on the program.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you, Rusty. I appreciate it a great deal.