Secretary Rumsfeld Radio Interview with Sean Hannity Show
HANNITY: Joining us on our newsmaker line is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with us. Mr. Secretary, how are you?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I'm terrific, Sean. How are you?
HANNITY: Well, it's an honor to have you back.
You know we're having all this debate now over pre-war intelligence and you know, it's an amazing thing, the fact that we can audiotape and videotape certain individuals, and it's pretty fascinating to me that people that have one position today, basically accusing the administration of being wrong on pre-war intelligence, had a very different point of view in the lead-up to the war and I want to play some of it for you. Here you go.
"Serving on the Intelligence Committee and seeing day after day, week after week briefings on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and his plans on using those weapons, he cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons. It's just that simple."
"Do you believe we could have disarmament without regime change?" "I doubt it. I can support the President, I can support an action against Saddam Hussein because I think it's in the long-term interest of our national security."
"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons, and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress that Saddam Hussein has been able to make in the development of weapons of mass destruction."
You hear all those prominent Democrats -- Hillary, Edwards. I have quotes from John Kerry, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy. Every prominent Democrat. And now we hear where they are today.
What do you make of that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it's unfortunate. Mostly I think about the men and women in uniform and their families and their loved ones around the world, and the fact that they're hearing and reading people saying that something was done to the intelligence and that the reason we're in this conflict was a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation or something. It's just flat not true.
The intelligence that was available in the House and Senate is exactly the same intelligence that was available to the President of the United States. It's the same intelligence that was available to the other countries in the world and to the United Nations when they passed their resolution.
To have people try to rewrite history I think is unfortunate. It's unfortunate because it can cause confusion with the American people. From the standpoint of the Department of Defense I find it particularly unfortunate because it can lead to confusion in the minds of the men and women in uniform who are out there defending our country and doing a superb job for our country.
HANNITY: Mr. Secretary, I think the President nailed it when he said yesterday, talking about the Democratic critics that are out there every single day now. I believe the term is that they're undermining the war, but the President said they spoke the truth then and they're speaking politics now. Is that what's happened? Has this whole war become politicized? And are they ultimately undermining the war?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The President said it pretty clearly twice in the last three or four days, and I think he's right to point out the risk that people take when they try to rewrite history. I must say on the other hand, there just was an action in the United States Senate where there was a proposal to have some time tables for withdrawal from Iraq, and a bipartisan group opposed it and rejected it and I think that's a good thing.
So it's clear that we do have a chance in this country to have a vigorous debate, but on the other hand when something important comes up -- Imagine a timetable for withdrawal that was set forth, that all a terrorist would have to do, all Zarqawi would have to do, all the insurgents would have to do is to sit there and wait us out because they would know when we're leaving.
HANNITY: The vote was 58 to 40 and it defeated this Democratic effort to pressure the President to outline this timetable of a phased withdrawal from troops. I agree, I think it's a big mistake.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The vote was a good one because it rejected that approach and it pointed out that what we're doing is the right thing, is to transfer responsibilities to the Iraqis as fast as they're able to assume that responsibility. That's the process that's going forward right now.
HANNITY: But we've also investigated this over and over again here. In other words -- And the President mentioned this last Friday when he was speaking. There was a bipartisan Senate investigation and it found no evidence of any political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.
How is it that the very same Democrats that made the same claim that the President and that you made and that the Administration made, how come they now can make this claim and not hold themselves accountable for their own statements?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I suppose you might really ask why the press doesn't hold them accountable. It's so --
HANNITY: We are here.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I know you are, but I don't see much of it in the main line media. It strikes me that that's one of the things the press prides themselves on, is the fact that they do hold public officials accountable for their public statements and their actions, and certainly people in the executive branch get held accountable. But it strikes me that we're not seeing much of that today.
HANNITY: I think also, and you mentioned the brave men and women in the military, fighting the enemy on the battlefield. We see them really scoring victory after victory. We see a new constitution emerging, we see a new government emerging, they're rebuilding schools and hospitals and roads and infrastructure, there is more hope and more opportunity here for liberty and democracy than has been there in decades and decades and decades.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I agree. If you think of what's taken place in Iraq, the fact that they have an elected government, the fact that they have a constitution that they drafted, they fact that there was a successful referendum on that constitution, and now within a month they're going to be having elections under that constitution, that is enormous progress for a country that has no background in democracy, and people are learning to debate and discuss.
I was reading a book on Churchill last night and one of the quotes in there reminded me of some of your questions. He said, "The problem is not winning the war, but persuading people to let you win it." Winston Churchill.
HANNITY: It's amazing, isn't it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It is.
HANNITY: It's amazing where he was prior to the world in understanding the nature of evil and the threat of Nazism back then, and he was way ahead of his time in many respects.
Let me talk a little bit about, we have other areas of the world we have to deal with. Iran, Syria, North Korea for example. They represent a clear and present danger in many many ways. Does this politicizing of war somehow hamper or somehow inhibit the possibility that we would do what is right because of the political ramifications?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well we know that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and Zarqawi and Zawahiri have all been known to quote events that the United States was involved in -- Somalia, and other events -- where we -- Vietnam -- where the United States made a decision to alter direction because of public pressure. So in a very real sense the center of gravity, to use the military term, of this war is less in Iraq or in other countries, and more with the publics of the coalition countries, that are determined to see that terrorists are not allowed to continue killing innocent men, women and children. And so the Zarqawis and the Osama bin Ladens have media committees and they consciously decide how they can play on the American public and the American media to advantage themselves. And we see that in the intelligence.
HANNITY: Is it dangerous, there was a bipartisan group of Senators that came up with a compromise yesterday that would allow detainees at Guantanamo Bay to appeal the rulings of military tribunals to the federal courts, if they receive a punishment of ten years in prison to death. Is that good in your view?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I have not seen that amendment and I have not had lawyers -- I'm not a lawyer and I haven't had lawyers look at it to know precisely what it said or what its implications were.
I know that the executive branch of the government has been working on a bipartisan basis with the Congress trying to fashion some language that might make sense and I guess we'll just have to wait and see what they come up with.
HANNITY: Mr. Secretary, do you see this war winding down in the next two years?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. Let me -- No, let me rephrase it. First of all, I don't know what war you're talking about.
HANNITY: I'm talking about the war in Iraq.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Okay, if you're talking about Iraq -- The Global War on Terror I regret to say is going to go on for some time because of the advantage that a terrorist has in being able to attack and the difficulty of defending against attacks at any location at any moment of the day or night.
In terms of Iraq, the insurgency is going to diminish I think after these elections. It will be so clear that we will be passing off additional responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces and the Iraqi people. And what the terrorists will be doing at that stage is attacking the Iraqi Constitution which was fashioned by the Iraqi people and an Iraqi government that was elected under the Iraqi Constitution, and they won't be against coalition people. My estimate is that that won't sell very well in Iraq, and you'll find intelligence improving and the Iraqi people deciding that they're tired of the Zarqawis in there killing people.
So I think we'll see the coalition forces being able to pare down and pass over responsibility to Iraqi Security Forces on an orderly basis in the period after the elections, over some period of time. And over a longer period of time, the Iraqi Security Forces will eventually subdue the insurgency.
HANNITY: Tell me a little bit about, I know you're with the America Supports program, meaning the American Supports You, the Troops program, and I know this is very near and dear to your heart. Tell us about it.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it's a terrific thing. What it basically is is a web site, AmericaSupportsYou.mil, where anyone can go on and find out all the things that people are doing to support the troops and their families.
There have been over 1.5 million people who have visited the web site. They get something like 100,000 new visitors each month. And you can find out what corporations, what families, what individuals, what non-governmental organizations or schools can do to be supportive.
One example, actor Gary Sinise and author Laura Hillenbrand, decided they want to help the troops by sending thousands of school supplies and gifts for the Iraqi children to be distributed by the troops in the field.
HANNITY: He's been on this program.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: He now is part of the AmericaSupportsYou.mil web site. So if someone wants to know how they can help the Gary Sinise activity, they can go into AmericaSupportsYou.mil and do that.
HANNITY: There’s the Freedom Alliance up there. The Freedom Alliance offers the scholarships for the children of slain soldiers, and something we've been helping now for years.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: There are so many wonderful things that people are doing like that. So I'm anxious to have everyone think about that and find a way that they can be supportive to these wonderful young men and women and their loved ones who sacrifice so much for our country. We're just blessed to have them.
HANNITY: That's terrific.
I've got one last question for you, Mr. Secretary. Are you planning on staying on board with the President until the end of his term?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, come on, Sean. We serve at the pleasure of the President. You know that!
HANNITY: Well, if he wants you to serve, would you like to stay until the end of the term? How's that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I have no other plans.
HANNITY: All right. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Thanks for all you're doing, sir.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you, very much. I appreciate it. Good to talk to you, Sean.