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Regional Radio Interviews with Secretary Rumsfeld

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
March 16, 2004
Regional Radio Interviews with Secretary Rumsfeld

Interview with Nick Childs, BBC


            Q:   If you just have – would like to make yourself comfortable, probably as close to the microphone as is comfortable for you, sir, to avoid – so we can avoid the noise from outside. 


            We’ll just do a little microphone check.  So have you had time for breakfast this morning? 


            Rumsfeld:   No, I haven’t.  Does that sound about right?  


            Unknown:   How are you doing?


            Unknown:  Good morning, sir. 


            Rumsfeld:  Good morning. 


            Unknown:   All right. 


            Q:    Are you ready to go? 


            Rumsfeld:  Yes.


            Q:  Okay.  Well.  I’ll just do a little introduction and then we’ll (inaudible).  Donald Rumsfeld is one of the closest advisers to President Bush, both on the war in Iraq and the global war on terrorism.  We’re coming up to the anniversary of the Iraq operation, but we’re also in the shadow of the devastating bombings in Madrid and I’d like, if I could, to start with those.  Mr. Rumsfeld, first of all, what’s the latest information you have on who might have been behind those bombings? 


            Rumsfeld:  Well, we don’t have any more than anyone else, really.  It’s something that first reports tend to not be accurate and I’m inclined, as a conservative person, to let a little time pass over it and have the experts sift through the information and come to some reasoned conclusions.  I think jumping to conclusions is generally not very helpful. 


            Q:  At least one administration official, I think, from the White House has suggested that there might at least have been a link to al Qaeda.  Do you have anything on that?     


            Rumsfeld:  I have nothing to say, beyond what I’ve said.  I think that it’s un-useful for me to, in my position, to speculate and make guesses about things because it runs the risk of misinforming, rather than informing people. 


            Q:  We don’t know for sure, obviously who did it, but there is a growing perception in Europe that Spain may have been singled out somehow because of the Spanish government’s support for the war in Iraq.  Are you concerned in any way that that could lead to, at least a greater feeling of insecurity among countries in Europe, among governments, particular those that supported the war? 


            Rumsfeld:  You know, when you grow up in a neighborhood, if there’s a bully, people do one of two things:  Some people turn their head, when the bully is beating up on somebody and pretend it isn’t happening and say, “Gee, if I don’t notice it, if I don’t get involved, I’ll be safe.”  And of course, you aren’t safe because, ultimately, the bully finishes with that person and comes after you.  And it seems to me that that history is replete with instances where believing that you can feed the alligator, hoping it eats you last, doesn’t work. 


            Q:  Does this, though, present any practical problems for you?  The election in Spain has resulted in a government that is now talking about the possibility of withdrawing its contribution to the coalition in Iraq possibly in June.  Isn’t that a crack in the coalition? 


            Rumsfeld:  Well, obviously, one would prefer that more countries would come in, rather than a country leave. 


            Q:  Isn’t that – will it make it more difficult to do that? 


            Rumsfeld:  (inaudible) involved in the global war on terror.  There’s some 34 nations.  Now they’re probably 33, with forces in Iraq.  The task will get done.  It’ll get done and it’ll get done well and progress is being made.  And my guess is you’ll find other countries reacting just the opposite.  You’ll find countries stepping forward and saying, well, if that’s what that country is going to do, we’ll do just the opposite.  We’ll add some troops.  And we’ll see what happens.  But I think the people of the world recognize that believing that you can turn your head when there are people going around the world, killing innocent men, women and children, and the idea that you have the choice of helping to stop that or rewarding that by not helping to stop that, it seems to me is a fairly easy choice for most of the people of the world. 


            Q:    I’d like just one final question on the overall – if you like, global war on terrorism.  There was a famously leaked memo from you last October in which, if I quote, you said, “Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terrorism.”  To some extent, doesn’t Madrid underline that, that you don’t know if you are actually capturing and killing more terrorists than are being recruited? 


            Rumsfeld:  Well, English is your first language and Americans mind, but you characterized it as “famously leaked,” implying that the leakage was famous, as opposed to the memo.  And it’s not clear to me that that was the case.  It was – it may have become…


            Q:  (Inaudible) famous.


            Rumsfeld:  (Laughs.) 


            Q:    But the origin of it and…


            Rumsfeld:   (Inaudible.)  How it leaked, I have no idea, but it did.  I did raise an important point in there and it is the issue that the world faces a problem.  There are some people trying to hijack a religion and suggest that the role of that group of people is to go out and commit terrorist acts until everyone agrees with them.  And that’s not a good thing.  We need to make sure that there – the people who are teaching that don’t teach that.  We need to make sure that the people who are being recruited into that world of terrorism to kill innocent men, women and children are fewer and fewer and we need to make sure that the funds that go to that kind of disorder and crime and backs against humanity are fewer and fewer.  Can anyone measure that perfectly, no, but we have to address the issue. 


            Q:    I suppose the inference a lot of people drew from your remarks there was that somehow you were a little bit more concerned about just where you stood on the war, than perhaps the public statements coming out of the administration were on how much progress you were actually making? 


            Rumsfeld:  Well, we know how much progress we’re making.  We’re making excellent progress in Afghanistan.  We’re making excellent progress in Iraq.  We know that we’re squeezing down the bank accounts.  We know that we put enormous pressure on al Qaeda and its affiliates.  We know that.  What’s not knowable, precisely, is how many people are being brought in the intake to some of these radical madrasas schools and being financed and armed to go out and kill more innocent men, women and children.  So it isn’t a matter of my concern being opposite from the progress we see being made in, for example, Afghanistan and Iraq.  Both are equally true. 


            Q:  Thank you for sort of casting the net wide on the global war on terrorism there.  I’d like now to concentrate on Iraq and really a year on now, from the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, what is your own personal Rumsfeld balance sheet of where things stand right now? 


            Rumsfeld:  Well, one always wishes it were – the security were better.  And yet, when one looks at the fact that they have a currency, they have a new currency, they have a Central Bank, they have – the schools are open, they have – hospitals are open, the clinics are open, the oil production’s back where it was prewar.  The electricity is being restored, portable water is about where it was before the war.  We have now 200,000 Iraqi security forces that are stepping farther forward and contributing more than the entire coalition to the security of that country.  One has to be pleased with the progress.  It breaks your heart when an Iraqi is killed or when a coalition member is killed and these brave young men and women that are out there, doing what they’re doing. 


            On the other hand, if you look back to the Korean war, and think that there were tens of thousands of people killed and today, 50 years later, that country has a robust democracy, it has an economy that’s one of the miracles of the world and the people are free and that’s a good thing.  And the people that lost their lives in Korea contributed to something important in the world. 


            Q:  You raised this issue of security and that, I suppose, day to day, is what a lot of people focus on.  Looking back a year ago, did you really think then that today the United States would still have over 100,000 troops in Iraq, with the prospect that they’ll be that number for some time to come, and face the kind of insurgency that you are now facing? 


            Rumsfeld:  I didn’t know.  No one knew.  No one could predict, with certainty, what would take place.  It should not be a surprise today that there’s still remnants of that regime that would like to take it back.  They had a very good thing.  They could go around killing tens of thousands of people and piling them in mass graves.  They could torture people and have rape rooms and the world would turn their head from that and let it happen.  But they can’t do that anymore.  The 25 million people in Iraq are free and they just developed a new constitution and they’re now fashioning a way forward for a democracy of some sort.  It’ll be an Iraqi democracy, not an American or a French or a German or a British democracy, but it’ll be something that will give rights to the women for the first time in a long time.  It’ll give rights to the ethnic minorities and religious minorities and that’s a good thing. 


            Q:   You mentioned that there will be some sort of democracy.  That there is this date looming, June the 30th, for a transfer of sovereignty.  Do you think that is still realistic?  Do you think – are you still committed to that, as the date, given the security situation? 


            Rumsfeld:  Everybody, including the Iraqi Governing Council, has set that date as a target and do I think it’ll happen, it has a chance of happening, yes. 


            Q:   A chance of happening.


            Rumsfeld:  Well, will it happen, for sure?  Who knows.  I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.  But what we do know is that the Iraqis and the coalition have worked together and the Iraqis have produced an interim constitution.  They’re pointed towards the date of June 30th and why can’t we just wait and see how well they do.  They’ve done pretty darn well, so far. 


            Q:  How much of a strain is the operation on the Pentagon, on the military at the moment?  You are having to man this operation, call on a large number of reservists.  This is putting a particular strain on the Reserves.  Are you concerned that that is sustainable? 


            Rumsfeld:  Well, if it’s not sustainable – first of all, it will be sustainable, but if it were not sustainable, it would not be because of the commitment in Iraq, it would be because the Department of Defense was badly organized.  We’ve got 1.4 million men and women, on active service and another 4, 5 or 600,000 in the reserves and another 400,000 in the Individual Ready Reserve.  And you’ve got over two million people.  And if you can’t sustain 100,000 people in Iraq when you’ve got two million people, then there’s something wrong with the Department of Defense.  I mean, my goodness gracious, that is not a large commitment. 


            Q:  One does still hear, though, concerns and complaints from families, particularly of Reservists, and some Reservists about the fact that they – this is not what they really signed up for -- 18-month tours. 


            Rumsfeld:  The men and women in the Guard and Reserve, I think, wouldn’t want to be characterized the way you just characterized them.  They’re very proud of what they’re doing.  They’re good at what they’re doing and they’re doing something that’s important.  And sure, you’re going to read a letter from somebody sometime that feels unhappy about something or they didn’t think this would be that way.  But they’re all volunteers; every single one of them is a volunteer.  These people aren’t being forced to do anything.  These are people who stepped forward and said, “Send me, I want to help defend the United States of America.  I want to help defend freedom,” and they’re proud of it.  And the fact that you’re going to see some anecdote about something from time to time ought not to be cast a spell over the men and women who were serving over there.  I go there frequently to Iraq and Afghanistan.  I go into airports and I see the men and women in uniform.  And God bless them, they are terrific.  And the implication that they’re unhappy about what they’re doing, I think, simply is not fair. 


            Q:  One final question, going back to the case for the war and the issue of weapons of mass destruction, I guess you’re probably going to say that the hunt is still on in Iraq, but isn’t it now a case that the accumulation of evidence suggests that the intelligence before the war and the case that the administration put forward was, some way, wide of the mark in terms of what actually is…


            Rumsfeld:  Well, David Kay has said that and George Tenet has testified on this.  The evidence that existed was broadly agreed upon by the Executive Branch of the United States, by the Congress of the United States, by the other countries of the world who had looked at this, by the neighboring nations, the heads of states in neighboring nations who would cautious this – caution the United States -- if you go into Iraq, be careful, they’ll use chemical weapons against you.  It was broadly agreed.  Why, because he had a pattern of using chemical weapons against his own people, as well as his neighbors of firing ballistic missiles into neighboring countries.  So we now know, according to David Kay, roughly, 85 percent of what we may eventually know.  We’ve got 1,200 people there working to learn more and at some point in the period ahead, we’ll know what we will know. 


            Q:    Do you personally have confidence that weapons will ultimately be found?  Where does your view lie on that at the moment? 


            Rumsfeld:  There’s no question that all of us believed, absolutely, that he had chemical and biological weapons.  You could put enough biological weapons into the room you’re sitting in today to kill tens of thousands of people.  In a room the size of the hole, the spider hole that Saddam Hussein was pulled out of, you could put biological weapons that would kill tens of thousands of people. It’s a country the size of California.  I just don’t know what we’ll find, but I’m perfectly willing to be patient.  We wouldn’t be sending 1,200 people through Iraq to work in difficult conditions, trying to track down leads, interrogate people and see what can be found, if we didn’t believe it was worth doing. 


            Q:  Mr. Rumsfeld, thank you very much for your time. 


            Rumsfeld:    You bet. 


            Q:    What is this about? 


            Unknown:    We’re recording. 


            Q:    It’s a microphone for the (inaudible) press briefing recording everything. 


Interview with Scott Hennen, WDAY-AM, Grand Forks, N.D.


            Q:   Live from the Pentagon today on Hot Talk and we are pleased as punch to welcome the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  How are you, sir? 


            Rumsfeld:    Excellent, thank you.  We’re pleased you’re here. 


            Q:    Well, it’s a great pleasure and a great honor to be here.  In this building, one year ago, (inaudible) today, Operation Iraqi Freedom is about to commence.  As we sit here, one year later, what are you most proud of? 


            Rumsfeld:   Well, there are 25 million people that have been liberated.  The Iraqi Governing Council has produced an interim constitution that gives equal rights to women, the right to assemble, protection of minority ethnic groups and religious groups.  It’s been amazing progress and one has to be grateful that the young men and women in uniform in the United States and the coalition countries have demonstrated such wonderful skill and courage and determination. 


            Q:    Do you have Monday morning quarterback yourself, as (inaudible)? 


            Rumsfeld:  (Laughs.)


            Q:    Do you do that to yourself to say, would have, should have, could have on anything? 


            Rumsfeld:   Oh, sure, but you do it before the fact.  You really do.  You mostly sit down and think through all the things that could go different than you anticipate.  What could go wrong, what could go right.  How do you deal with catastrophic problems or catastrophic success and I do it before the fact.  The rest of the world does it, after the fact.  I have hadn’t time.


            Q:   You’re a head of the game. 


            Rumsfeld:    Yeah.


            Q:  Now, you had a famous list on your desk…


            Rumsfeld:  I did.


            Q:    … things that could go wrong. 


            Rumsfeld:  I did.


            Q:   How many of those went wrong and how many did you come out all right on? 


            Rumsfeld:  Well, if you think about it, we were very fortunate.  We were persuaded that he would use chemical weapons -- that we found chemical protective suits in the Iraqi’s arsenal (inaudible), knowing that they had the weapons.  They wanted to be protected.  We found that we had to use chemical protective suits and no chemical weapons were used and it was a great relief.  We were concerned about the oil wells all being set ablaze, as they did during the Gulf War the first time.  (Inaudible) fortunately, I’m going to guess, 8, 9, 10 or 11 were burned and that’s all we (inaudible) get them out rather rapidly, we were prepared for.  We were concerned about a humanitarian crisis – didn’t happen.  We were concerned about mass refugee flight, like happened in 1990 – didn’t happen, internally displaced persons -- relatively few.  The thing that was a real problem was the fact that the Fedayeen Saddam and those folks were preventing people from surrendering by shooting them in the back, if they went out and tried to surrender and that prolonged the conflict which was unfortunate. 


            The other thing that was a bit of a surprise was the speed at which the Iraqi Army disintegrated, once it was attacked heavily.  And, apparently, these conscripts didn’t want to be there and they didn’t want to be there probably serving Saddam Hussein, but they also probably didn’t want to be there when they saw the lethality of the power that the coalition was bringing to bear (inaudible). 


            Q:   Why has the question of the validity, if you will, or the necessity of (inaudible) Iraqi regime coming down to whether or not stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction? 


            Rumsfeld:  I can’t imagine.  If you had the precursor then you can put them together (inaudible).  If you (inaudible) had the delivery systems which, in fact, David Kay has found, the ballistic missiles that exceeded the range limits that were permitted by the United Nations after the last Gulf War, it does not take a long time to have them put together and usable.  It is – I suppose it’s bad news is better news for some people than good news.  And the fact that all the hospitals are open, the schools are open and the clinics are open and the…


            Q:  Oil was flowing.


            Rumsfeld:  The oil – (inaudible).  That doesn’t get reported much. 


            Q:    But does that zap the energy of the Pentagon, of our military of having to constantly go back?  I mean, really, it seems to me the difference between a stockpiled weapon on a shelf, versus the capability within a day or week or whatever, is miniscule and really, in removing the regime. 


            Rumsfeld:  Yeah.


            Q:   Why are we wasting all this energy on this debate? 


            Rumsfeld:  I think one of the effects of it, however, is – I could be wrong, but time will tell -- but one of the things that one notices is that all the people that go over there, come back impressed at how much better things are than they’ve seen reported on the television and their impression before going.  Congressmen, senators, both political parties, other visitors, and they come back and they say, “my goodness, that isn’t what I’ve been lead to believe.”  And the effect of that is to lower the respect for the television and the people who are reporting that negative approach to it.  And I think that the credibility is going to go down, if that’s the case. 


            Q:  Since going to Iraq, what have we learned about Hussein’s ties to terrorism that we didn’t know, before we invaded it?


            Rumsfeld:    It’s a hard thing for me to answer.  We know that some of the terrorists that were in Iraq during that – one of them just died, Abu Abbas.  We know the Ansar al-Islam has since left the country when we attacked Iraq.  And went into Iran and has now moved back into Iraq and is now functioning and participating in an affiliated way with al Qaeda and with the foreign Jihadists to attack innocent men, women and children and Iraqis.  We find scraps of information.  But the reason it’s hard to answer is because the terrorist picture is evolving.  It is decentralized itself.  And you can actually see many more of them loosely affiliated in various ways. 


            Q:  Because it seems to me for instance Spain right now (inaudible) obviously, to switch governments, because some are wondering whether or not we should be in Iraq and they’re talking about pulling out troops (inaudible).  But do you think if the Spanish people had a better (inaudible) critics of the Iraq war, throughout the world have a better idea for connections (inaudible), that they would better understand the validity of this war?  It seems as though, rather than wasting the energy on weapons of mass destruction, whether a stockpile…


            Rumsfeld:  Yes.


            Q:    Is more threatening than the capability that the connections should be better made by our government, am I wrong? 


            Rumsfeld:  I think you’re right.  I think that the risk of terrorist organizations having access to high technology and being able to kill larger numbers of men, women and children are real.  And we saw that on September 11th here.  We saw it in Madrid.  We’ve seen it in Bali, and we saw it in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  There have been any number of countries that have experienced terrible terrorist attacks.  I think the choice people have to make is a real one – that is do we think that things  will get better by acquiescing to terrorists or by opposing them? 


            I think back when you’re growing up in the school yard, there’s always a bully – somebody who wants to take advantage of other people and to the extent people turn their face and don’t want to get involved and say, “Maybe it won’t happen to me,” and think that that solves the bully problem, they’re wrong, because eventually the bully finishes with one person and comes after you.  It’s like feeding an alligator, hoping it eats you last. 


            Q:   I couldn’t agree anymore.  They’re telling me you have to go, so I’ll just ask you one final question and that is, on this question of the connection, what is the difficulty in better making the case, because it seems to me the facts are black and white.  You mentioned Abu Abbas, there’s so many.  I mean, there’s (inaudible)…


            Rumsfeld:  (Inaudible.)


            Q:   Saddam Hussein, World Trade Center bombing. 


            Rumsfeld:  Sure.


            Q:    I mean, just absolute black and white form the airport greeter in Malaysia to the 9/11 planning meeting where two hijackers were there and on and on and on. 


            Rumsfeld:    U.S.S. Cole. 


            Q:    Right. 


            Rumsfeld:    The embassy bombing.


            Q:    Right. So why?  Why isn’t that just black and white from our government to the world – here is the connection to Saddam Hussein in al Qaeda – (inaudible) here is the connection to Saddam Hussein in Iraq? 


            Rumsfeld:    Well, it is something that I suppose doesn’t go into people’s receiving sets perfectly, for whatever reason.  We have a reality that we are living with that’s a small group of people are trying to hijack a religion.  And to the extent they find haven in countries, they are advantaged and there’s no question, but that they, for example are al Qaeda right now (inaudible), there are Al Qaeda in Syria.  And it’s unhelpful.  We need cooperation from more countries, not fewer countries.


            Q:    Mr. Secretary, great pleasure. 


            Rumsfeld:   Thank you. 


            Q:    Take care. 


            Rumsfeld:    Good to see you.


            Q:    Good to see you. 

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