NAPOLITANO: So we are privileged to have on with us now Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mario Mancuso. Secretary Mancuso is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism. Deputy Secretary, welcome to Brian and the Judge.
MR. MANCUSO: Thank you very much for having me. It’s great to be here.
NAPOLITANO: Mr. Secretary, did your boss have to endure the following yesterday?
RAY McGOVERN: “Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary and that has caused these kinds of casualties? Why?”
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: “First of all, I haven’t lied. I did not lie then.” [Applause]
KILMEADE: That was Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst, in an event that Donald Rumsfeld was at in Atlanta , and it was firing.
NAPOLITANO: Absolutely. Is this what he’s going through these days to sell a perfectly legitimate, moral effort to rid the world of terrorism at its root?
MR. MANCUSO: You know, Brian and Judge, we’re in tough times. This is a tough fight. But we’re winning and we’re winning every day. And Secretary Rumsfeld, just like every member of the Department of Defense, myself included, but also every member of the interagency team, the entire US government team, we have a duty to inform the public about what we’re doing. We’re doing it. That’s our primary focus.
So while yesterday I think was unfortunate, Secretary Rumsfeld, just like everybody else at DoD, we’re focused on the mission and we’re focused on it all the time, 24/7.
KILMEADE: I am concerned as an American citizen that the CIA is at war with the Pentagon. Can you please – outside Porter Goss, is anyone working with the Pentagon?
MR. MANCUSO: I’ve got to tell you, we are, this is one team, one fight. There are a lot of government agencies that contribute to this fight. The global war on terrorism, clearly there’s a military piece to this which is significant and you see it every day on television and obviously hear it on the radio. But there are other government agencies that have a lot to contribute and they’re contributing and we’re working well together. At an individual level are there problems sometimes? Of course, but that’s true in any large complex enterprise.
But I’ve got to tell you, I have never been so privileged to work with qualified, hard-charging, smart, thoughtful, committed, dedicated, you name it, people both within the Department of Defense but across all government agencies including CIA, Department of State, et cetera.
NAPOLITANO: Mr. Secretary, what could we learn that you’re allowed to tell us on the air waves about the tape that Zarqawi and his ilk released and the out-takes of that tape that they left behind?
MR. MANCUSO: It was interesting; it was interesting about that tape. Obviously what I think the American people saw was that Zarqawi truly is not who he says to be, how he positions himself to be. But I think the most interesting feature of the tape is that the Iraqi people primarily did not need the tape to realize that Zarqawi, his vision of the future is not for them. They didn’t need that tape to realize that he was a fraud because frankly, they knew he was a fraud and the elections and the response that we got, that the Iraqis had in the national elections and with the standing up of a permanent government demonstrates that the Iraqis have really moved beyond Zarqawi.
KILMEADE: Tell me about Task Force 145 and why it has been so effective. I read this stuff, and you live it, of 10 people captured, 12 killed, foreign terrorists gotten. These raids have been so effective of late, suicides, guards blowing themselves up before you get to them. These are the terrorists. They’re making things crazy in Iraq . I know there’s always going to be a Sunni/Shia issue, for the foreseeable future; but the terrorists, how close are you to ridding that area of them?
MR. MANCUSO: Let me tell you, all of the efforts of all of our military personnel – our Soldiers, our Sailors, our Airmen and Marines – are effective, and we’re not so much tightening the noose, but what we’re doing is developing a tremendous sieve, moving across the troublesome spots alongside Iraqi forces, patriot and courageous Iraqi forces, trying to make Iraq get rid of terrorists inside Iraq and make them self-sufficient from a security perspective.
It’s hard work. We’re very successful. We’re winning this thing every day, but we have to keep at it.
The President gave us very, very clear guidance. He gave the entire US government clear guidance. He said your mission is to protect America . And in order to fulfill that mission we have to go out and fight and win the global war on terror. That’s what we’re doing, and that’s what we do every day.
KILMEADE: Can you tell me, and this would be new. I know we’re getting close. Can you tell me if we should be feeling even more optimistic than General Lynch was yesterday that we’re going to get this guy some way soon?
MR. MANCUSO: We are moving, literally, a hundred miles an hour against everyone who threatens the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people and coalition forces. Zarqawi, no doubt about it, is an important leader inside Iraq, but I don’t want to overstate his importance because frankly, there is a larger network both inside Iraq and in that region that we are moving against.
You know, our efforts in Iraq are tiered, they’re prioritized, but this is a full court press. We prioritize people, but this is a full court press against all of the elements that threaten, once again, the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people, innocent civilians – men, women and children, and coalition forces.
NAPOLITANO: Mr. Secretary, will the troop levels be reduced before the November mid-term elections?
MR. MANCUSO: The President has said we don’t have an exit strategy, we have a victory strategy. Thus far what we have said and what we are committed to, to the extent that troops are sort of drawn down, that is tied not to an arbitrary time schedule, but that is tied to conditions on the ground supporting our military commanders and supporting our troops on the ground with the mission to stand up a free and democratic Iraq.
NAPOLITANO: Is the change in leadership in Italy going to affect our coalition in any way? Do you expect Italian troops to be pulled out under Prime Minister Prodi?
MR. MANCUSO: Italy is a longstanding ally and has supported the United States inside Iraq as well as other missions throughout the world. We’re grateful for that support. We look forward to it in the future. But during the election campaign it is my recollection that their positions, both Prodi as well as Berlusconi’s positions with respect to Italian troops’ participation in Iraq were fairly the same. That is they supported the mission and that there were some issues as to how long the participation would be, but Italy has been a tremendous ally. It’s a historic ally, and has been incredibly effective in supporting our efforts and we look forward to that continued participation.
NAPOLITANO: And you’re not just saying that because your last name’s Mancuso.
MR. MANCUSO: No, I’m not.
NAPOLITANO: And mine’s Napolitano. [Laughter]
MR. MANCUSO: It gives me great pleasure to say it because my last name’s Mancuso [Laughter]
NAPOLITANO: [Laughter] Absolutely. Brian’s have Italian, by the way, Mr. Secretary.
KILMEADE: And you can research my background. I’m sure you did before you hopped on. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense wants to make sure he knows who he’s getting in there with. [Laughter]
Mr. Secretary, don’t you think it is wrong to say that we’ll not have a military option in Iran ?
Forget about diplomacy. You see the toys – These aren’t toys. You see the weapons. You know what we have is an Air Force and a fighting force. Is it right to say that we do not have a military option in Iran ?
MR. MANCUSO: I think it’s important to realize that as with many other complicated foreign policy issues there are a lot of tools in the tool box. I wouldn’t rule anything out or anything in. But the point is, what’s your end state? What are we trying to achieve? And once you’ve decided that and the President’s talked about this at length, you decide what is appropriate.
The President made clear everything’s on the table, nothing is off the table, but he’s also made clear that a peaceful resolution is important and that diplomacy is moving ahead full steam.
KILMEADE: He is Mario Mancuso. Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, for joining us. Continued success; I know you’re working overtime with one objective – not to be a rich man, but to make America a better place. And thanks for your service.
MR. MANCUSO: If I can say one more thing before I get off. I’d just like to thank our troops and I’d to thank their families and I’d like to thank the American people. People ask me; do you think we can be successful in the mission? That’s not the first thing that comes to mind. The first question that comes to mind when I meet with these young men and women is where do we get them from?
So from the Pentagon I just want to say thank you to all of them for what they’re doing; to their families for supporting them; and to the American people.
NAPOLITANO: And they’re listening to you. And thanks to you, Mr. Secretary.
MR. MANCUSO: Thank you. My pleasure.