Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Lee Rodgers, Hot Talk KSFO San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose
RODGERS: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld joins us for a few minutes this morning. Mr. Secretary, I know you won't, you can't, give anything like an exact date about when our troops will be leaving Iraq, but can you give us some sort of progress report on the Iraqis developing the capability to deal with their own problems?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I can. The Iraqi Security Forces have now, have deployed 210,000 Iraqis that are trained and equipped to perform specific functions. The Army, the Border Patrol, the police, the special police commandos and the like. They are each day increasingly capable and effective.
The overwhelming majority of them are out functioning, providing security in the country, and I must say putting their lives at risk, and God bless them for it, because it is their country.
The progress has been significant and we expect that over the coming period, the President's approach of reducing forces based on conditions in the country will in fact be achievable. We've just completed the referendum on a new constitution. December 15th of course is the election under that new constitution. So all of the major political hurdles and targets and goals that were set are being achieved, and we feel very good about.
RODGERS: Shortly after 9/11 the President told the world, if you're not with us you're against us. Well, we both know that both Iran and Syria are against us. What if anything is to be done about that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the pressure obviously is increasing on Syria. They have since pulled out of Lebanon. Their Arab neighbors and friends are talking to them and explaining that the UN report on the assassination that took place in Lebanon is something that is unacceptable and that the Syrian government should change its ways. It will be interesting to see the extent to which Syria listens to them as opposed to listening to Iran, which has been their closest associate and ally, and that puts both of those countries on the terror list, because of the flow of equipment and money and funds between Iran and Syria, and then into the organizations that are causing terrorism in the region.
RODGERS: Is there an either/or factor involved here?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well you know, those are decisions that the President has to make about what he does and the extent to which -- there are people talking about sanctions against various countries. That's a logical next step. To the extent other countries put pressure on nations why they begin to alter their behavior somewhat. Needless to say, that's to be highly desired.
In the case of Iran, they just had an election and a new President and clearly his very inflammatory remarks since he was elected as President suggest that he's on a somewhat different path.
RODGERS: You're just back a few days ago from China. What did you learn? What do you think might have been accomplished on that trip?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, there's no one trip that's determinative. But if you'll think back to 2001 when their pilot took an airplane and damaged our aircraft, the EP-3, and it had to land and then our crew was taken hostage, it set our relationships back, needless to say. Since that time, we've been incrementally increasing our interaction which I think is a good thing, and our military to military relationship is improving and I personally am a believer in exchanges for educational purposes, so that each side gets a little better understanding of what the other side's about. It kind of demystifies things. So I'm looking forward to seeing that take place over the period ahead.
I had a very good trip there. I met with the military leadership at the senior and middle levels, and I met with the civilian political leadership at the senior and middle levels, and had a chance to talk to them and answer questions and tell them some of the things that were on my mind and hear what they had on their minds.
RODGERS: Was anything said about these occasional remarks over the past several years by high officers in the Chinese military to the effect that if we ever interfere with their plans for Taiwan they'd nuke us?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well you know, I remember that statement. It was by a general, and he referred to Los Angeles, I believe, and --
SEC. RUMSFELD: It was never supported by others in the government, civilian or military, and that's been a lot of years since he said that, and I don't recall that actually coming up. We did talk about the fact that I seem to see mixed signals and I think some of their neighbors see mixed signals. On the one hand, they're engaging economically with the rest of the world which is a good thing, and on the other hand from time to time they do things that are notably unhelpful or unfriendly, and they ought to be aware that those mixed signals are seen and that it raises questions.
RODGERS: Since we mentioned several days ago that we had a few minutes with you this morning, I have gotten more e-mails from listeners asking me to ask you one question, more than on any other subject. The question has to do with this Able Danger investigation, and why can't military people involved talk about it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, they do and have talked about it. They've been up and testified before congressional committees and briefed people on a classified basis. What's been in the press is that some people feel that everything they say should be on an unclassified basis and the judgment apparently was made by the people involved that that would be unhelpful to our country. But in terms of talking to people about it, they've done it extensively.
The interesting thing about that is it's such an interesting story, of course it's something that occurred well before this Administration came in, back in the '90s as I understand it, and it's an interesting story.
The problem we've had is that our folks have spent a large amount of time trying to go in and look at all the records and see what they could find and haven't been able to validate it, which doesn't mean something wasn't so. It just means they've not been able to validate it.
The Department of Defense has provided literally volumes of information to multiple committees up there and if anyone else has any insights we're happy to open it up and go look somewhere else. But at some point if you can't find something, you can't find it.
RODGERS: Do you want to take a moment to talk about this America Supports You program?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I'd like to. You know, these folks, the men and women in uniform that are serving in Korea and Japan, and Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Horn of Africa, and all over the world, are just truly amazing. The wonderful job they're doing for our country, their professionalism, their decency, their courage, and I would say that the America Supports You web site, which is AmericaSupportsYou.mil, gives anyone who wants to, a chance to go on the internet and see what other people are doing to support the troops and their wonderful families who have also sacrificed as the troops do. It tells you what schools and organizations and corporations and individuals can do, and are doing, and it's just, it's heartwarming to see it.
There are a lot of things that help people who are wounded. There are a number of things to help people that are still overseas. There are ways to help families. And I thank you for asking because these folks deserve our support and the American people want to support them and the AmericaSupportsYou.mil web site tells them how they can do it if they'd like to.
RODGERS: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for spending some time with us this morning. We're glad to have you on the program. Thanks a lot.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much. It's good to talk to you.