(Interview with John Wilson, WTVT-TV, Tampa, Fla.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, we're glad to have you in Tampa.
Rumsfeld: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
Q: Let's talk about, probably the most pressing issue for all of us is Iraq. I wonder with these constant attacks that are going on, with all these outside influences here and with this mounting American death toll in Iraq are things as bad as they seem or is it a little bit better than the picture we're getting since it's on the other side of the world?
Rumsfeld: It's a fair question. I talk to all the members of the House and Senate and the military people who go to Iraq and come back and their impression is that things in Iraq are considerably better than they had by way of an impression before they went.
What does that mean? I guess it's not surprising that the bad news gets reported. The good news is that the hospitals are open, the clinics are open, the schools are open, the children are back in school, they have textbooks, the oil production's back up and the Iraqi security forces have gone from zero to 200,000. There is an Iraqi Governing Council. Most of the people in Iraq are currently being governed by Provincial Councils and City Councils that in one way or another they respect and are happy to be living under as opposed to a vicious dictator.
The jails that Saddam Hussein had are empty of the political prisoners he held. The killing fields and the mass graves are being exposed and all the tens of thousands of Iraqis that were killed by the Saddam Hussein regime, their families are finally getting closure by looking at the graves and trying to find the loved ones that they lost.
Now 25 million people in Iraq have been liberated. That's not a bad story. That's a good story. Is it perfect? No. Is it a dangerous place still? Yes, it is a dangerous place still. But is progress being made? You bet it's being made.
Q: Can I ask you a little bit about the politics here of dealing with the Muslim country? Paul Bremer may have the most difficult job in the world trying to help that country develop a constitution and some democratic form of government. But I see that he wants to do two things. He wants to propose a government that is religious-friendly in a Muslim country and a government that is more tolerant of women.
Is that possible in a Muslim country that's never been as tolerant?
Rumsfeld: Sure it is. Ambassador Bremer is a personal envoy of the President. He is implementing the President's policy and the President's policy is not complicated. It is a policy that suggests there should be a single country, not broken into pieces; a country that's at peace with its neighbors and doesn't have weapons of mass destruction; and a country that is respectful of the various elements in the country, men and women, the religious minorities and the religious majority. That's something that you need look no further than Turkey for a Muslim country that has a democratic system, a system that's respectful of people in the country of differing religions and differing views. There are other countries in the Gulf that are in the process of becoming more liberalized.
Q: Mr. Secretary, these attacks on our coalition forces and American forces, do we know who these people are? I've seen Lebanese passports, I've seen Iranian passports. Do we know who's doing this to us?
Rumsfeld: We do. It's a mixture. There are clearly still some former Saddam Hussein regime elements that exist in the country that would like to go back to a Ba'athist regime, a dictatorship. They're not going to succeed. But they're still there and they still have money, still have weapons.
There are also terrorists that are coming in from other countries, across the Iranian border, the Syrian border, and they're determined to have a radical regime, a regime that would be supportive of Osama bin Laden and people of that ilk.
Then there are also some people who are criminals and they're getting paid probably by one of those two elements to kill people, and they're there. But progress is being made, there's no question about that. We now are passing off more and more responsibility for the security of the country to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi army, the Civil Defense Corps, the police.
Q: Let me ask you a National Guard question here. There was a time when that really meant weekend warrior. It doesn't mean that any more, of course, as we see with the National Guard troops deployed alongside regular enlisted. It's been almost a year now for many of them. They've left their homes and families.
Do we need another draft? Do you need the National Guard so much that you have to deploy them in combat zones?
Rumsfeld: Well, that's what the National Guard and the Reserve is about. It's a total force concept. I was a Naval Reservist for years and years and years. When you sign up for it you don't sign up just for one weekend a month and two weeks a year, you sign up because you know that in the event there's a conflict you could be called. I must say the men and women in the Guard and Reserve are wonderful. They step forward, they do it voluntarily, and they're proud to be serving. You go talk to them overseas and they're very proud to be serving their country.
There's a lot of mythology about this. Every once in a while someone sees an egregious situation where someone was called up three times and it became too much. That's fair. That's bad management. That isn't the norm.
There have only been about a handful percentage wise of people who have been called up more than once since 1990. The overwhelming majority. A number of people have not been called up in 40 or 50 years. A relatively small percentage has been called up twice or three times, and I think there are 47 people who have actually been called up four or five times. But an awful lot of the people who get called up, however, volunteer. They step forward and say they'd like to serve. And they're doing a wonderful job.
Q: What about a draft?
Rumsfeld: There's no need for a draft, no need at all.
The draft, the use of compulsion was used so that people could be paid about 50 or 60 percent of the civilian manpower market. That's what was going on. People were brought in and they served a very short time because they didn't want to be there. The people we have today on the active force, the Guard and Reserve, every one of them is there because they want to be there. They're all volunteers. It's a wonderful thing and God bless them for what they're doing, and they're doing an absolutely superb job in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere across the world.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you were I know the youngest Secretary of Defense when you first went in under Gerald Ford. You could be the oldest.
Rumsfeld: I think so. I'm afraid I've got that dubious distinction.
Q: You've got a big family. Three kids, six grandchildren. Probably one of the most difficult jobs in the history of our country here as Secretary of Defense. You've had a hard year, a hard first term here. I'm curious if you're interested in a second --
Rumsfeld: Oh, goodness. We all serve at the pleasure of the President. He's really a remarkable man. It's been a pleasure for me to serve with him even though it's a tough job and he has a tough job, that's for sure. He is a man who's well rooted, he's moored. He knows who he is, he knows the global war on terror that we're in is important and we have to succeed in it and he's determined to do it, and I'm proud to be helping him.
Q: So you would if he asked you?
Rumsfeld: I don't get into that.
Q: Since we're here at the Headquarters of the U.S. Special Operations Command, I wonder what role you would see Special Ops playing in dealing with terrorism in the future.
Rumsfeld: In the last three years the role of the Special Operations Forces has just increased and increased and increased. They are such enormously talented and dedicated people. They are about as well trained as any cadre of military forces on the face of the earth. They have done a superb job for the country and they're well led, they're well trained, they're well equipped, and they're getting better at what they do every single day.
Q: Another question about Iraq. Everybody knows how long it took Japan and Germany to recover from World War II. They were Fascist regimes, of course. But here you have a repressive military dictatorship and a country that's pretty much been decimated to a large degree by him as well as by some heavy combat that was taking place when we went into Iraq. Thinking about all that infrastructure and how long it's going to take to build that country and allow others to come in and help, how long will it take for Iraq to return to some semblance of civilization in there? We're in a combat zone in there.
Rumsfeld: Actually it's making good headway already. If you think about it, this conflict was marked by precision weapons. There was not a lot of random damage and destruction. The damage and destruction that was done in that country was done for the most part by the Saddam Hussein regime. They were using hospitals and schools for military headquarters and weapons storage areas. They went through several decades where they refused to open their country up as the UN requested and as a result they were denied billions of dollars in oil revenue under the Oil-For-Food Program. And the infrastructure decayed over the years.
But in terms of the war, relatively little damage was done by coalition forces in that country. Their oil production is back up to pre-war levels. Their electricity is coming back. Their water is probably as good as it's been. The schools are open, the hospitals are open.
Q: We wish you well, Mr. Secretary, and we thank you for your time here today.
Rumsfeld: Thank you, I enjoyed it.
(Additional questions by Bret Baier, Fox News.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, are you still convinced that Osama bin Laden can be captured? Captured soon? There were earlier reports that suggested it might be possible within 2004. Is that possible?
Rumsfeld: I don't do deadlines myself, but sure he's going to be captured. We will find him eventually, either alive or dead. He is being sought after by a great many countries in the world. We have 90 countries now engaged in the global war on terror. He has clearly been very successful at hiding thus far but he is a person who has to move around eventually, he has to do things, and to the extent he does we'll find him eventually.
Q: I always wanted to ask you, do you know where he is? If you did you'd go get him, I know. But do you have a good idea where this man is?
Rumsfeld: Look, if we had good information we'd be in there right now wrapping him up.
It's something that you never know until you have him. The information can look good and you can run it down and it will be a dead end or a false start.
On the other hand, when we found Saddam Hussein it was like that, within a matter of hours he was captured, and I suspect that will be the way with Osama bin Laden.