Dallas, Ft. Worth
Q: It is an honor on News Talk 820 WBAP to welcome the gentleman who is at the head – I mean, the commander in chief is the ultimate head of the war effort, but it is a defense secretary who is from day-to-day the operational heart and mind and voice of any war effort and that’s certainly no less true here and that, in this case, is Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld who joins us from the Pentagon.
Welcome, sir, and Happy New Year to you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much. Happy New Year to you, too, Mark.
Q: In this new year, obviously, we are T-25 days to an election, so let’s look microcosmically at these next few weeks. What is the special task of the United States Military in making sure that this election goes off as trouble-free as it can? I mean, I know it’s going to be messy, but what’s the plan for the next few weeks?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it’s interesting, you specified the military task and I’m happy to address it. I think the first thing to say about it, however, is that it is a political and economic and a military task all rolled into one – that the United States government and our wonderful allies and coalition partners and the Iraqi interim government all have to be addressing, because no one of those pieces is going to be successful without success in the other areas.
In terms of the military, our task is to provide security and work with the Iraqi Security Forces to see that together the environment is such that an election can be held. The Iraqi people want to vote. They want to have an election. We read an awful lot in the press that this person thinks it should be delayed or that type of Sunni group said they don’t think they’ll participate or somebody else is threatening this. The fact of the matter is the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people want to vote. Our hope and goal and expectation is that they’ll have that opportunity. It will not be a perfectly peaceful environment because it’s not a perfectly peaceful country, but there isn’t any reason in the world why that country, just like many other countries over the decades, can’t go ahead and have an election and get on with life.
Q: Yes, sir. We were in Israel just last year – a perfect example of a country where stuff blows up all the time and they still manage to hold dear to liberty and still manage to hold elections. So what are the nuts and bolts? I mean, you know, Fallujah, Mosul, clearly the Iraqi Security Forces themselves are being targeted for death by terrorists seeking to derail the elections. Is there specific intelligence on that, as we ramp up to the elections that gives you an idea of where to make a particularly closer look?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it’s pretty clear that they recognize they’ve got an awful lot to lose. That is to say the people who are pro-dictatorship, the ones who want to reinstall a Baathist Saddam Hussein-like regime in that country. They see that they’ve got an awful lot to lose with an election because to the extent the people of the country are empowered and have an opportunity to direct and guide the course of that country, they’re not going to want to live with a dictator. So they’re very likely going to continue to try to intimidate election workers, intimidate public officials who are supporting the process, the peace process and I expect that to continue through the election and thereafter for a period.
Q: When we get into February and March – and cross all of our fingers that maybe some stability and sanity are starting to take hold -- what does the calendar year ’05 hold in terms of military budgeting, in terms of what our expenditures are going to be, of men, of women, of manpower, because lord knows, we’ve all been through this, you know, do we have enough armor, do we have enough troops, how long are they going to be deployed, what is your blueprint for ’05 as you see it today?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there’s of course a debate going on in our country as to whether or not the number of troops is the right number. Should it be more, should it be less and there are people with varying opinions on that.
The one place there is not a varying opinion on that is among the general officers who are responsible for providing the U.S. military effort in Iraq. Gen. Myers and Pace, the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Abizaid, the Commander of Central Command, Gen. Casey, who’s in charge of Iraq and Gen. Metz who’s his tactical commander, everyone of them believes that the goal is not to increase the number of troops because then we’d look more and more like an occupying force. We have more and more people that could be attacked. It takes more and more force protection people, more and more logistics support people. And their unanimous recommendation to the president and to me has been that what we want to do is to have right about this – we went from about 140,000 up to 153,000 during this election period, after the election bring down that number and work with the coalition over the period ahead to adjust the force levels downward towards whatever the security situation may or may not require. And the factor that has to be considered in that is that the Iraqi Security Forces are growing everyday and every week and every month. So the total security capability in the country is going to go up, given the growth in the Iraqi Security Forces.
Q: When you hear, Mr. Secretary -- and again Don Rumsfeld with us from the Pentagon on New Talk 820 WBAP -- when you hear people harping about an exit strategy and not nearly focusing enough on a success strategy, do you get the feeling there is a large number of people – let’s say in the mainstream media and perhaps along Main Street, USA – who either do not know or have forgotten that wars are long and bloody and expensive and that we’ve been kind of spoiled of late? And every time I hear “exit strategy” is makes me a little nutty and I want to compare my reaction with yours.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, it’s an amazing thing what we’re going through today. Never before in the history of the United States of America have we conducted a war over a sustained period of time in the era of 24-hour news, talk radio, digital cameras, e-mails, the Internet, and embedded reporters. Now any one of those is a significant change from earlier eras. Add them all up and you have a task that is notably different from any other time in our history.
And when you’re in what amounts to a situation where there’s no way the United States could lose a battle to these terrorists and to these pro-dictator Saddam Hussein regime-type people, what we’re really in is a test of wills over a sustained period of time. And if you think of sustaining our effort, given that test of wills -- and that’s what it’s about – in that environment where you have instant negative events occurring continuously.
I noticed that recently Washington, D.C. announced with a great deal of pleasure that there were fewer than 200 homicides last year for the first time in years, but we don’t see those homicides on television and in the newspaper and the front page of the paper and in digital cameras and e-mails and everything throughout the year, just like the Chinese water treatment of dropping drips. And yet, that’s what we’re seeing in Iraq. The fact that the schools are open, the clinics are open, the hospitals are functioning, there’s a stock market working. The currency’s been stable. The fact that 14 out of the 18 provinces are relatively peaceful and four with a relatively large population, to be sure, because they include Baghdad and Mosul, but four provinces are obviously not stable or peaceful.
Q: Secretary Don Rumsfeld with us. Just a couple minutes left. You talk about our national will and I don’t ever want to, you know, question it or feel bad about it, but when you take a look at the national conniption fit over Abu Ghraib, an understandably bad chapter in our war effort, but blown way out of proportion, the willingness of some to take some images from that, I hear, to torpedo Al Gonzales for attorney general, do you view that – is that whole drama about to get played out again because they were in a kind of a blissful period here between our election and theirs when we don’t get the din of people calling for your head quite as much anymore. And I just wonder how you think the next few months are going to play out, you know, politically?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think you’re probably right. I think that this nomination obviously has raised that issue back and there are people who want to try to contend that the president authorized or approved or that the Pentagon authorized or approved treatment of people that was inconsistent with our standards of what’s humane treatment and that’s just not true. The United States government had no policy – that is for sure – that recommended the inhumane treatment and suggestions of that type are inaccurate. The president explicitly said that people should be treated humanely.
Now as you point out, there are instances where people were not treated humanely and the United States military announced it. Once they were informed of it, they are the ones who announced it. It wasn’t investigative reporting that discovered all this. They announced it weeks and weeks and weeks before the photograph from Abu Ghraib came out – that they were investigating abuses there. They have proceeded in an orderly way to prosecute people. I think there’s some 50 major prosecutions at varying stages. Our policy from the outset has been transparity and accountability. We’ve made an enormous number of changes in the department to try to avoid allowing any additional instances of abuse from occurring. So you’re quite right, there are people that have used it in a way that I think did not fully represent the realities of what actually took place.
Q: Last thing, because I’m so curious. In this coming year, we learned a little and in a very curious way, with Spec. Wilson’s question to you – and I’d love to know about that – about armor. And you gave us, I think, a valuable lesson that you don’t always have what you have. You go with what you, you know, have and you don’t always have everything that you might want. Is the armor thing fairly cleared up or did we find more money or was that an oversight or was that just something that every once in a while will happen in war -- we won’t always have 100 percent of everything we want?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we’re up against a thinking enemy. And the enemy watches what is done and then looks for ways they can take advantage of it and then we look at what the enemy is doing and look for ways we can take advantage of what they’re doing. But during that period when the circumstances have changed, obviously, what happens is you have to adjust your techniques and procedures and approaches, the tactical battlefield commanders have to adjust them to fit the circumstance that exists on the ground. Now in that case, I’m told that the equipment that that individual’s unit went north with shortly after that was fully armored and that there was not the kind of an issue that seemed to be raised.
On the other hand, it is clear that if you go to a perfection standard, which is what the goal is, you would want any vehicle operating in Iraq to have appropriate armor, if it’s going to be outside of a protected compound and it’s going to be driven by an American soldier – a person in the armed services.
Q: On the day that happened in the talk show world, we were thinking, God, what is this guy thinking, how did it strike you? And a final thing – I know we’re out of time – standing there hearing that question, was that a weird moment? And then eventually learning that it was offered up to him by a semi-hostile reporter. That had to be just kind of a strange day in the midst of the great experience of visiting the troops.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, actually it wasn’t. I’ve been out 10, 20, 30 times doing town hall meetings like that. I’ve answered questions from troops in Afghanistan, in Iraq, almost every city in Iraq, around the United States of America, in the Pentagon. And I do that all the time and I answer those questions. Some of them I know the answers to, some I don’t. But I mean, if you think of the amazing effort that’s been made by the Army, they’ve gone from 15 armored Humvees to 450 per month. Now that’s an amazing production schedule.
I can say one other thing in terms of armor and I certainly understand the importance of making sure that the men and women in uniform who volunteered to serve our country have the best possible protection and that’s this – we have a program under way so that by February 15th, I do not believe there will be a single U.S. vehicle operated by a military person that is operated outside of a protected military compound that won’t have the appropriate armor. They will have the appropriate armor and that’s because of the amazing effort that the Army’s put forth.
Q: Mr. Secretary, as we face a new year and the challenges that it contains, I can never purport to speak for entire talk show audience, but on behalf of just me and those who agree with me, thank you for being the face, the voice, the spine of this war. You’re the president’s face voice and spine as well and we just thank you and really just want to send you a lot of good wishes for ’05 and a lot of gratitude for being with us.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, thank you so very much. I’ve enjoyed being with you and I wish you and your listening audience well.
Q: Thank you, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Happy New Year.
Q: Take care.