MR. TONY SNOW: Joining us to talk about the war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Secretary Rumsfeld, there is a piece in the New Yorker today that is criticizing your management of the Pentagon and the war effort generally. I want to read a couple of quotes and get your reactions.
Number one is the allegation that you have been trying to micromanage the war. Somebody even likened it to what happened during the Johnson Administration in micromanaging the Vietnam conflict out of the White House.
Here's the quote: "Rumsfeld and his inner circle of civilian advisors who have been chiefly responsible for persuading President Bush to lead the country into war, have insisted on micromanaging the war's operational details. Rumsfeld's team took over crucial aspects of the day-to-day logistical planning -- traditionally an area in which the uniformed military excels -- and Rumsfeld repeatedly overruled the senior Pentagon planners on the Joint Staff, the operating arms of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
Are you telling the planners what to do?
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD: No, what we really are doing -- the planners are not on the Joint Staff, the planners are in the Central Command, and they come up with their proposals. And I think you'll find that if you ask anyone who has been involved in the process from the Central Command that every single thing they've requested has in fact happened.
MR. SNOW: So it is not true, for instance, that they requested more armor and more troops, and you said, "Nope, we've got to go in quicker and lighter"?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, indeed that's not true. The plan is a good one -- and I would be happy to take credit for it because it's an outstanding plan and it's going to work and we're going to win -- but the reality is it's a plan that was developed by General Franks. It was worked through the chiefs of staff in Washington. It was looked at carefully by the combatant commanders around the world. It's been through the National Security Council. And it is -- it is our country's plan, and it's a good one, and it's working. And I think that the people who are talking about it really are people who haven't seen it.
MR. SNOW: Okay. Another concern -- it's been voiced in a lot of the press anyway - is guerrilla tactics, the fear that in fact skirmishes from Fedayeen and guerrillas and others actually could seriously hamper our military effectiveness. It hasn't happened so far. Are you worried about that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, a terrorist can attack at any time, at any place, using any technique, and we've seen the problems in Israel. So, there is no question but that a terrorist that's willing to die can kill other people. We've seen that here in the United States. Is it going to change the outcome? Not a chance. The United States is going to win this, and we're going to win it, and with a minimal loss of life on the part of the Iraqi people because it's not a war against Iraq, it's not a war against the Iraqi people, it's a war against the Iraqi regime, and they're going to be gone.
MR. SNOW: Taha Yasin Ramadan, the vice president of Iraq, says that there are going to be more such suicide bombs, but also says that thousands of, quote, "volunteers and jihadists" are flooding across the borders into Iraq. What's the real situation?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I don't know about flooding across the borders into Iraq. I know that these so-called regime squads -- death squads -- are bands of terrorists and thugs, and they are killing Iraqi people. They have undoubtedly killed more Iraqi people than have been killed in the war by the coalition. The -- what they're doing is they're threatening people that if they support the coalition, if they do not fight for the regime, that they're shot -- and then they're shot.
MR. SNOW: But the other day, you singled out, for instance Syria, for allowing people and equipment to make its way into Iraq, presumably to be used against allied forces. Are -- (inaudible) -- numbers of people and significant military equipment coming from Syria into Baghdad?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Not to my knowledge. Not in terms of people, which is what you asked me about. Now you've added equipment, and the answer is yes, we have seen equipment come from Syria -- night-vision goggles, among other things -- and we cautioned against that.
MR. SNOW: And has Syria changed its behavior since your caution the other day?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think that was just yesterday, or the day before. I haven't --
MR. SNOW: Two days.
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, I haven't seen any -- any change in behavior, but I haven't seen anything, good or bad. My guess is that they'll be more careful.
MR. SNOW: Fifty-eight people in Baghdad died in some sort of incident, either a bombing or a fallen missile, in a market in Baghdad the other day. Do you think it was an Iraqi ordinance or allied that landed there?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know. We're not on the ground there so we can't say with certain knowledge. I do notice that they apparently have fired their air defense general because a number of things seem to be coming back down and misfiring and killing innocent Iraqis.
MR. SNOW: At the press briefing yesterday, it was indicated there were only seven U.S. guided munitions that have not made their way to their targets. Surely you know whether one of those was what hit Baghdad.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't.
MR. SNOW: Do you think it's more likely or less likely that it was Iraqi?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think that it is something that is a piece of a conflict, that is a fact, and we'll know some day. I don't know now. And it -- what's important, really, is, it seems to me, is that we've got wonderful young men and women out there, and their parents and their loved ones ought to be very proud of them. We've got a large coalition of countries, some 66 countries that are supporting this effort. And it strikes me that the Iraqi people must know that this conflict's going to end, and it's going to end in victory for the coalition, and that regime is going to be changed.
MR. SNOW: Let's talk about --
SEC. RUMSFELD: And that's -- that is what's happening. And it's big, and it's important, and it's -- and it's going to be successful.
MR. SNOW: Let's try and get a handle on the status of the regime. First I want to show you something you said to the press on March 21st.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Uh-hmm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.)
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD: The regime is starting to lose control of their country. They're beginning to realize, I suspect, that the regime is history. And as that realization sets in, their behavior is likely to begin to tip and to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP.)
MR. SNOW: Is that the case today?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It is. That was nine days ago -- eight or nine days ago. That's not a very long time. It seems to me it's a little early to be writing history on this war.
Where are we? Put yourself in the shoes of the Iraqi regime. What are they seeing? They've seen one of the most powerful coalition forces within 49 miles of Baghdad, their capital. They've seen their port taken. They've seen their oil wells in the south secured. They have seen a bombing campaign against their command and control, degrading their command and control. They have seen an attack on their leadership, and we have not seen their leadership since. Where is Saddam Hussein? Where is Qusay, where is Uday -- his sons? They're not talking.
MR. SNOW: So --
SEC. RUMSFELD: So, if you were an Iraqi and you were in that country, and you looked at the circumstance, you would say to yourself, "My, now that's not very good. They're coming down from the north. They're coming in from the west. They're coming up from the south. Our leadership seems to have disappeared. The families of some of the leaders seem to be fleeing the country." I think the Iraqi people have to have a sense that things are not going terribly well.
MR. SNOW: You threw a lot at us in that answer. Let me try to pick a couple of pieces out. You said a lot of them are fleeing the country. There have been rumors that some of Saddam Hussein's family has fled to Syria. True or false?
SEC. RUMSFELD: There -- true that there are rumors, and that there has been evidence that we have seen families. And it's also true we have not seen Saddam Hussein or his sons.
MR. SNOW: So, you don't think the videos that purport to show Saddam Hussein after the bombing on his compound the first night are in fact legitimate?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I -- they don't look legitimate to me. What do you think? We know that he prepared lots of videos before the war started. And if you look at those, it's not possible to be certain that they are current. In fact, there's -- the fact that it's not possible to be certain they're current, and the references in them are such that you can't tell --
MR. SNOW: Do you believe it's possible that he is either out of -- is he -- is it possible either dead or incapable of leading his forces right now?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Certainly it's possible.
MR. SNOW: Is it likely?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Don't know. We're not on the ground. We'll find out later.
MR. SNOW: Now, you mentioned a moment ago also the fact of allied advances throughout Iraq. The Iraqi citizens aren't seeing these on television, but on the other hand, people in the central command are, do you believe the Iraqi regime is still in danger -- I don't know -- (inaudible) -- say in danger -- that there is a possibility that it's going to collapse from within?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we -- why speculate? What we do know is that their circumstance is not a good one. Forces are closing in from three directions. The -- their command and control is degraded. They've lost control of the air. Their navy doesn't exist.
MR. SNOW: Well, you ask about speculation -- of course, you have to speculate, anybody doing war planning has to speculate. And one of the things you're talking about is limiting civilian casualties, trying to have -- trying to limit casualties on our own side. Clearly --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Uh-hmm.
MR. SNOW: -- one of the things that would help is that if members of Saddam's inner circle said, "Look, it's time to lay down arms. Time for you to give it up."
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we've been encouraging that for over a year.
MR. SNOW: And have there been any key defections among anybody in Saddam's inner circle so far?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Inner circle -- I don't know how to --
MR. SNOW: Okay, let me.... Senior --
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- I know there have been discussions with generals.
MR. SNOW: Ongoing discussions, even now?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Military to military.
MR. SNOW: Military to military. And they're talking back, and is there any interest on their behalf at this point?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure there's interest. There's also fear. Saddam Hussein's regime is one of the most vicious on the face of the earth. It's Gestapo-like. And they -- they kill people who even think about not being supportive of that regime, so people are very careful.
MR. SNOW: Tell us about the status of the Republican Guard. We have been told by our military analysts that the doctrine to try to reduce their effectiveness to about 50 percent of what they have in the field. Are we close to that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh goodness, I'm not going to get into percentages. There's no question but that the Republican Guard -- the toughest days may still be ahead because we do have to deal with the Republican Guard, and clearly they are the most effective fighting forces that Saddam Hussein has, and the coalition forces have been spending a good deal of time and effort working them over.
MR. SNOW: All right. You have said that there's no evidence that Saddam Hussein is in control, also that generals are talking with our generals. This is a police state. It's a command -- not only(inaudible) -- but military. If you take out the head, everything else doesn't know what to do.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That would be a happy prospect.
MR. SNOW: That's a happy prospect. If it is the case, as you have said, that we have these other conditions, why on earth would you expect that there would be any significant discipline on the part of Republican Guards at this point?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well first of all, I don't know what the circumstance of the leadership of that country is. I don't think the people in the country know. We haven't see any evidence in recent days. Nonetheless, there are -- there's a reasonably large clique of people who have been the enforcers of that regime, and they're still there. And people are still getting killed by the regime. They're going around executing people that they believe may not be totally loyal. How well the command structure is working at the present time, I don't know. Will it tip at some point? Certainly. I mean, look at what happened in Romania, look at what happened in dictatorships. At some -- look at what happened in many countries of Eastern Europe. All of a sudden they were strong, they were there, everything was working, and then it completely collapsed.
MR. SNOW: One thing we hear often is that Iraqis still fear Saddam Hussein more than they fear us. It's one of the reasons why there has not been the kind of popular uprising that many people had anticipated before. Do you plan to make greater use of Iraqi expatriates, those who have been in the United States who are willing to go back, members of the Iraqi National Congress and others, as spokesmen within Iraq, to use their airwaves, to use the media, to get them to talk directly to their own people?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes, there are plans to do that, and --
MR. SNOW: Soon?
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- and the process is underway.
MR. SNOW: The process is underway. We have tried to take out, that is the allied forces, tried to take out television within Baghdad. Is it also the plan at some point to beam in broadcasts -
SEC. RUMSFELD: We've been beaming in broadcasts for probably a month --
MR. SNOW: That's been --
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- well before the war started.
MR. SNOW: -- primarily effective in the south, but now in the north, when people turn on their sets in Baghdad, can they expect to see programming that we provide?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know that they'll see programming, if you're talking about television, they'll certainly -- they've been listening to the radio.
MR. SNOW: All right. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Stand by, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
MR. SNOW: We're back with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Joining us now, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News. Brit.
MR. BRIT HUME: Mr. Secretary, what has Basra taught us about Baghdad?
SEC. RUMSFELD: That the fear of the Iraqi people from the regime and the death squads is real, but nonetheless that the work that the coalition forces, particularly the U.K. -- the United Kingdom, the British -- are doing is working and will be successful in a relatively short period of time. They are in Basra. They are getting increasing assistance from the local people as to where the death squads are located, where the thugs are, and they're systematically working them over. So, Basra will end up secure in a reasonable period of time, and the British are doing an outstanding job. And I think it's an indication of what will happen in other cities.
MR. HUME: Indication of what will happen in Baghdad?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Probably.
MR. HUME: Well, it --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Just takes time. It's hard work. It's dirty work. It's dangerous work. But they're doing an excellent job.
MR. HUME: Baghdad, of course, is bigger, more central to the regime.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Basra is a million-and-a-half. Baghdad is five, five-and-a-half million.
MR. HUME: But I think a lot of Americans looking at what we've done so far would say "Yeah, I believe we can knock off those Republican Guard units. We've got great air power, we've got very highly skilled troops." I suspect that when people think of going into Baghdad, they think, "Oh boy." What can you tell us that would say that our advantages would not be diminished and our vulnerabilities won't be greater in there than anywhere else, and that that might prove to be an extremely bloody and difficult batter?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there's no question that Baghdad is the capital, and it's where the bulk of the regime, there and Tikrit, tend to congregate, if they're not fleeing, which some seem to be doing. There are difficult days ahead. And to the extent the Republican Guard pose difficulties, which we expect them to, there will be dangerous days ahead. Baghdad is not going to be easy. But the outcome is certain, and at some point the Iraqi people will end up fearing Saddam Hussein and his regime less and they will end up anticipating liberation and freedom more, and it will end, and it will end successfully.
MR. HUME: Would it be fair to say that in the opening hours of this conflict that you and your colleagues had a hope that it might topple instantly -- not a plan but a hope, and that obviously that hope was not realized?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think Tom Franks has put it very well. He designed a plan that has a continuing flow of forces, overwhelming force, and the forces have been increasing in the country every day. They will continue to increase in the country every day by some low thousands of numbers. There are over 300,000 coalition and U.S. forces in that area right now. And he designed a plan that was prepared for the long war, but was ready to take advantage of a shorter war. And by that I mean that he had a mix of forces and was prepared to bring in humanitarian assistance promptly, and to deal with larger numbers of prisoners of war. For example, I think there's now 4,500 Iraqi prisoners of war. You had to have plans for larger numbers if in fact it went much faster. But it is not a plan that in any way depended on that.
MR. HUME: There is a -- there were TV images this week of the Iraqi defense minister in a briefing for reporters. Long-time observers of the Iraqi regime said that with him was a bodyguard that had never been seen, but had been a personal bodyguard to Saddam Hussein -- he may be the man right over the defense minister's left shoulder there -- never been seen outside the presence of Saddam Hussein. Were you and your colleagues aware of that, and what do you make of it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We are aware of it, and we find it interesting.
MR. HUME: Why?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Why? Because it may be an indication that Saddam Hussein is not moving around much.
MR. HUME: And, when you say not moving around much, do you mean because he's injured, or dead?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Could be either one, we just don't know. We do have reason to believe that the attack a day or two before the air war began, on a regime leadership compound had senior leaders there. We know that. And we know we hit it. But we do not know, because we're not on the ground, precisely who was there and what the effect had been. All we know is that since then we have not seen Saddam Hussein or his sons live anywhere or heard any reports live. Now, is he possibly alive and injured? Possibly.
MR. HUME: General Franks this morning described the -- what he called the destruction of a very large terrorist compound in the north. What more can you tell us about that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: That is the well-publicized Khurmal area and facility. There were dozens of sites, a lot of underground tunnels, a lot of bunkers, and we have destroyed a major portion of it. We've killed a large number of terrorists. We know that there -- that they were developing toxins and poisons in that area. We know that al Qaeda was connected to it We know that the AIA was connected to it. And we have -- we will have an opportunity soon to exploit the site and see what's there. We also know that some time earlier a great many trucks went in there and moved a lot of people out, and a lot of things out. So, we're not certain what we'll find, but we should know more in the next three days -- three or four days.
MR. SNOW: That was an Ansar al-Islam -- you just mentioned al Qaeda. There have also been reports of other al Qaeda cells entrenched in various parts of Iraq. What can you tell us about that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: There have been al Qaeda people operating right out of Baghdad.
MR. SNOW: Well, the argument has been yes, we know that they're al Qaeda people but not al Qaeda cells, organized al Qaeda cells. Are there confirmed reports of that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know what you mean by a cell. If you're talking about a senior leader, a senior planner, functioning out of Baghdad for a long period of time, and in frequent contact with other people in other countries, and organizing and planning and doing things, the answer is yes, we do know that. Is that -
MR. SNOW: And Saddam Hussein providing material and financial support?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I guess we'll all find out a lot about that pretty soon. We know that the Iraqi intelligence people have been in touch with these al Qaeda.
MR. SNOW: What about the role -- you've talked about Syria -- what about the role also of the Russians? We have also been hearing that they have been selling -- at the least Russian goods have been making their way into Baghdad. These are things that have some strategic -- pose a strategic threat to us. To the best of your knowledge, has that been done with the knowledge of the Russian government?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We know it's a fact that weapons over years have been flowing into Iraq. They've had a very close relationship. We know that there is still a close relationship between Russia and Iraqi government and intelligence -- I shouldn't say close, but there is a relationship. And we know that weapons have gone in. We know what they say when we raise it with them, and we know that we raise those things with them frequently.
MR. SNOW: Have Russian technicians been there recently trying to help the Iraqis?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I suspect so, but I would have to go back and check.
MR. HUME: What's the latest on the hunt for chemical weapons and biological weapons, other weapons of mass destruction?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the -- except in the case, for example, where there happened to be a site that was in an area we occupied and control at the present time, there isn't a hunt. I mean, the bulk of it is in the area south of Baghdad, down --
MR. HUME: Bulk of what?
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- near Karbala. And -- the bulk of the weapons of mass destruction activity and sites. South of Baghdad and north of Baghdad, up near Tikrit. We aren't there. That's the area we haven't arrived in yet. So, the effort -- we're in -- these folks, General Franks and his really outstanding team of people -- General McKiernan and Buzz Moseley -- they're doing a great job and they're fighting a war. They're not in there looking for weapons of mass destruction. That will come after the war is over.
MR. SNOW: Let's talk about prisoners of war -- that is, U.S. prisoners of war. Do you feel that Saddam Hussein or his inner circle are using our people right now as human shields for the Iraqi leadership?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know.
MR. SNOW: No reports at all to that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know.
MR. SNOW: All right.
MR. HUME: You said that if -- it has been said if weapons of mass destruction are ever used that there would be consequences of that. Now, this country is -- Iraq is now under attack. You've got the best force you could mount. You're trying to take down the regime. One wonders what more you could do.
SEC. RUMSFELD: The -- there is no question but that as we move forward, closer and closer to Baghdad, that the likelihood that they would use weapons of mass destruction increases. On the other hand, Saddam Hussein either has to order it, he has ordered it, or he would have to order it, if he's capable of ordering it -- but other people have to carry it out. He can't use those weapons, other people have to do it for them. And we're letting them know in no uncertain terms that they best not do that, that we will hunt them down and they will be punished severely if they have any connection to weapons of mass destruction.
MR. HUME: Do you have any estimate now of the extent to which you've been able to knock out his lines of communication affecting his command and control?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We do have estimates, and --
MR. HUME: What's your sense of it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, their radio and television are off and on. Their telephone communications are off and on. They have multiple redundant systems, right down to the use of couriers, so that it's -- it's really not likely that you could completely blind and silence them. But life's more difficult for them. We have been systematically eliminating their communication ability.
MR. HUME: What is your estimate now of the extent to which this -- these military units are functioning as effective and organized units with command and control?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I suspect they still are.
MR. HUME: What gives you reason to believe that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, we haven't seen any -- anything that would suggest to the contrary.
MR. HUME: And to what extent do you believe that the Republican Guard units that you're about to face have been dispersed into -
SEC. RUMSFELD: Some have. Some have been moved back closer to Tikrit and Baghdad. Some have been taken out of their barracks and they've been put into fighting positions. And there's some massing going on.
MR. HUME: Where?
SEC. RUMSFELD: South.
MR. HUME: How soon do you expect the confrontation with those forces to begin in earnest?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It's up to General Franks.
MR. HUME: Now, there had been a fear that these units would filter back into Baghdad and make that task at Baghdad more difficult. Have you seen that, and in what quantity?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, but we don't fear it. As long as they're moving, we can hit them.
MR. HUME: Can you see them all? I mean, do you believe that you know where they are?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We -- the geography that they're controlling gets smaller and smaller every day.
MR. SNOW: Secretary Rumsfeld, along those lines, there is some concern that our solicitude for civilian casualties leaves our forces in many ways to place themselves in greater danger. Is that the case?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, that's not clear. I think not. Certainly that would not be something we would allow. We are very concerned about human life, particularly ours, but also other human life, innocent. Think of the Iraqi people not as warriors against the West. These are -- these are hostages to a vicious regime, they really are. It's important that we win, and we will win, but it's also important how we win.
MR. SNOW: So, do you expect --
SEC. RUMSFELD: It's something that the American people and the people of our coalition care about. We're not -- we avoid unnecessary loss of life on the part of innocent Iraqi civilians. Conversely, the Iraqi regime goes around executing people. They took a man in Baghdad recently, cut out his tongue, and left him in the public square to bleed to death.
MR. SNOW: So, a final question -- when final victory is achieved, do you expect, as we saw in Kabul and we've seen in other places in recent years, people to be celebrating in the streets?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We'll see.
MR. SNOW: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, thanks for joining us.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.
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