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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with KING-TV

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 06, 2003

(Interview with KING-TV, Seattle, Wash.)

Q: How close are we in your estimation to going to war with Iraq?

Rumsfeld: Well, you know, I can't answer that question, because I just don't know. It is a matter that the United Nations is considering, and the president of the United States is considering. The Congress has voted overwhelmingly to support the president's concern about Iraq and their weapons of mass destruction. And the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously also for the first resolution. And we'll just have to see how it plays out. Certainly Secretary Powell made a very persuasive case yesterday morning.

Q: Do you agree with the assessment that it's a matter of weeks and not months?

Rumsfeld: I don't get into guessing games about that type of thing. It seems to me that until a decision's made, it's not made, and the president is the person who does that, and the United Nations is considering the possibility of a second resolution.

Q: We have a couple of thousand families living in our broadcast area here in Western Washington with people on board the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln deployed from Everett last June, and last week we heard the Lincoln is now on something called "indefinite deployment." Is this marking a shift to deployments for the duration in the style of, say, World War II?

Rumsfeld: Well, I wouldn't say that. Look, what we are engaged in here is not World War II. What we are engaged in here is a flow of forces designed to support the diplomacy that's taking place in the United Nations and the international community. There's no question but that in some instances, we've had to call up Guard and Reserve to provide the kinds of capabilities that are important to support the diplomacy. There's also no question but that we have had to extend some people, and as well as some tours or deployments, as you indicate is the case here.

Q: Senator Biden said on the Hill this morning, where Secretary Powell is testifying, that GI Joe and GI Jane may not come home right away after any military action in Iraq. It may be months, it may be years. Is that an assessment you would go along with?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I think that the way I would characterize it -- I didn't hear precisely what Senator Biden said, but the way I would characterize it is that the United States does feel an obligation. For example, in Afghanistan, having driven the Taliban out, having driven the al Qaeda out, we still have, I suppose, something in the neighborhood of 9,000 American troops there. And they're there because we feel an obligation to see that that country has a chance to keep terrorists out and not simply go back to being a training ground for terrorists. And the international community is participating in that. We have other countries participating.

In the event force has to be used to disarm Iraq, there is no question but that some much smaller number than would be involved in any conflict, a smaller number would be there along with other international forces to serve in a transition period to see that what succeeded Saddam Hussein was a regime, a government that did not have weapons of mass destruction, did not threaten its neighbors, was able to maintain a single country, and would be on a path towards providing the right kind of rights and freedoms to the various minority groups and ethnic groups in that country.

So he's right in the sense that it would take some U.S. presence. But it would be wrong to suggest that it would be the same people who were there that they would not come home. Or it would also be wrong to suggest that it would be the United States alone, because it wouldn't be. It would be a -- we have a large number of countries who already volunteered to participate in a coalition of the willing.

Q: I'm speaking to you from the congressional district represented by Congressman Jim McDermott. You know his views on war with Iraq well, and a lot of people here in Western Washington just don't get why war with Iraq and why now. If you could address them now, what would you tell them?

Rumsfeld: Well, I agree with them in the sense that war is always the last choice. And I think that if one goes back and thinks that it's been 12 years since the Gulf War, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, having already attacked its neighbor in Iraq, and having already used chemical weapons on its own people and on its neighbors, and having fired ballistic missiles into four of its neighboring countries -- it's been 12 years and there's been an enormous diplomatic effort, and it's failed. There's been years of economic sanctions which didn't have to be there as long as Saddam Hussein would give up weapons of mass destruction. But he refused year after year after year. There's been limited military activity in the northern and southern no-fly zones. So what's taken place with the latest U.N. resolution, which was passed unanimously by the international community, said, "Let's give Iraq one final opportunity to cooperate." And his response was to file a fraudulent declaration. And, as Secretary Powell said yesterday, his response has been to try to deny and deceive and frustrate the work of the inspectors.

Now, why now? And the answer is that every week that goes by, his weapons of mass destruction programs become more mature; he has relationships with terrorist networks, as Secretary Powell indicated; there's an enormous body of evidence that's been presented. And I guess if one thinks back to September 11th, where 3,000 innocent men, women and children were killed, imagine that that's not the use of aircraft but instead it's the use of a biological weapon or a chemical weapon, or some day down the road a nuclear weapon.

Q: One last question we may have time for. What can you tell us about reports of increased chatter among terrorist suspects that any military action against Iraq might unleash a new wave of terror attacks on U.S. military targets here and abroad?

Rumsfeld: Well, the short answer is that it doesn't take an attack on Iraq to unleash attacks, terrorist attacks, on the United States. They've already done it. What do you think September 11th was? What do you think attacks taking place all across the globe are? In the last 30 days there have been six, eight or 10 terrorist attacks. The idea that dealing with Iraq would precipitate something that isn't currently going on misunderstands what's currently going on.

Q: All right, sir. I understand our time is up, and I want to thank you for your time.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

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