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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview on CBS Face the Nation

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
April 13, 2003 10:30 AM EDT

Interview on CBS Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer and and Tom Friedman, New York Times

Schieffer: And good morning again. The Secretary of Defense is in the studio with us this morning. He'll be here for the whole broadcast. Also here, Tom Friedman, just back from Iraq, the foreign affairs columnist from The New York Times. Well some very good news apparently, Mr. Secretary about these Americans. What can you tell us?

Rumsfeld: Well, it is correct that seven American service people have been located and they are in U.S. hands at the present time. I'm told they are all in good shape. There are two that have gunshot wounds, but they're in reasonably good shape, and that they are going to be brought into - probably into Kuwait and certainly their families are being notified at the present time. Needless to say, all of the loved ones of the people who are missing, or prisoners of war are anxious to know what's up, and worried about their loved ones.

Friedman: How did we find them?

Rumsfeld: What happened was, as I understand it, I was talking to Central Command this morning before I came here to your show. Some Iraqis told American military that there were seven American service people in the area. They told them where they were, and they were somewhere six, eight, ten kilometers south of Tikrit, as I understand it, and the service people went up and found them, and they rescued them and they're en route.

Schieffer: And as I understand it, you don't intend to give us any more detail than that, until these families are notified. Once they are, then you'll reveal who they are, and so forth.

Rumsfeld: Exactly. Their names and their units will be made public after the families have been notified, and that should - you never know how long that's going to take, but it's the proper way to handle it.

Schieffer: Tom?

Friedman: Mr. Secretary, how do you see the political structure now evolving in Iraq. The war is over, what happens next? Will it be -

Rumsfeld: The war isn't over Tom. There are still people being killed. We lost some people last night. There are pockets of resistance. There are Fedayeen Saddam people--the death squad people who are going out trying to kill people. We just found, I don't know, I think it was 80 vests filled with explosives and ball bearings. And the inventory list suggested there were another 30 that are not there. So there are people - suicide types who are out. There are a number of non-Iraqis who are in the country, particularly in Baghdad we find.

Friedman: Are these from Syria?

Rumsfeld: A lot from Syria, most from Syria it appears.

Friedman: There were actually Syrian soldiers, or nationals, how would you describe them?

Rumsfeld: Nationals.

Friedman: Syrian nationals.

Rumsfeld: That's what we're told.

Friedman: Involved in operations against American forces?

Rumsfeld: Absolutely. In a firefight, a lot of them got killed last night.

Schieffer: What would they be? Intelligence agents or are they people there with some official tie to the government, or just people who just wandered in there?

Rumsfeld: I have no idea. People were busy fighting them. They weren't asking their biographies.

Schieffer: I understand.

Rumsfeld: We did see busloads of people coming out of Syria into the country. Some were stopped. The ones we could find, turned them around and sent them back. And some we impounded and put in enemy prisoner of war camps. And others are getting killed.

Friedman: Are the Syrians going to pay a price for this?

Schieffer: The reason I ask that - I mean it seems to me that people wouldn't just be sitting around in Syria and saying, "Gosh let's go over to Iraq." These people must've been sent there with a mission and they must've had some connection would you assume, to the Syrian government?

Rumsfeld: On one of the buses, they found something like several hundred thousand dollars and a number of leaflets that suggested that people would be rewarded if they killed Americans, which is not surprising. Saddam Hussein's regime was paying 25 thousand dollars to people who blew up shopping malls in Israel - suicide bombers.

Friedman: Is the Syrian government going to pay a price for this?

Rumsfeld: I'm sure they already are if you think about it. I mean who in the world would want to invest in Syria? Who would want to go into tourism in Syria? The government's making a lot of bad mistakes, a lot of bad judgment calls in my view and they are associating with the wrong people and the affect of that hurts the Syrian people. It hurts the Syrian people because reasonable people don't want to be associated with a state that's on a terrorist list. They don't to be associated with a country that's engaged with Hezbollah and moving terrorists down and terrorist materials, equipment, and explosives, down to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. They don't want to be associated with a country that's still occupying their neighboring country of Lebanon.

Schieffer: But is that enough, Mr. Secretary, just to be on the terrorist list? I mean, should we take some other action or contemplate some other action?

Rumsfeld: Oh, that's for Presidents and countries to decide, not for me.

Schieffer: What if we find out that Saddam Hussein is in Syria? That if he is indeed still alive, that he's there?

Rumsfeld: Then I think Syria would've made an even bigger mistake.

Schieffer: What would we do about that?

Rumsfeld: The last thing I would do would be to discuss that.

Friedman: Mr. Secretary, I want to take you back to, when the war's over. Let me rephrase my question. How do you see, because obviously you've learned some things now by this engagement with Iraq, the way the country has fallen out since the war. What kind of political structure do you see evolving? That is -- where will Tommy Franks and Central Command be? What kind of Iraqi input into this do you see happening? What will be the first steps in terms of the political reconstruction of Iraq? What are you expecting?

Rumsfeld: I would think of it this way, that it will be a transition that will occur over a period of time. There will be a number of things occurring near simultaneously. The first thing that has to be done is that the war has to be won. We have to stamp out these pockets of resistance that exist. We have then a great deal of work to go out and look for weapons of mass destruction and explore these sites and to find terrorists and the terrorist areas that we know of. We have to find people who can help us find these things, and who can find the Ba'ath Party records and the intelligence service records. And hope they haven't all been burned and destroyed. We have to find the people on the war criminal list and we have to find people who would like to have a better life and therefore would like to be willing to cooperate with us. And we're actively looking. We're using rewards. We're using carrots and sticks both. And we're finding an awful lot of people starting to cooperate with us, which is a good thing. So all of that work has to go forward. We have second, see that we provide the humanitarian needs for the people of that country. It's just terribly important that they have the water and the food and the medicines.

And we've got an excellent group of people organized and assisting and the international community is participating. And it's not perfect, but I know that our folks - President Bush from well before this started, once he believed it might have to happen, said he wanted the humanitarian effort to be right in parallel with the military effort. As a result, our forces when they went in brought water, brought food, brought medical supplies for the people as they passed from the South up to the North. The other thing that has to happen is that the Iraqi people have to figure out how they want to have their government selected and what kind of a constitution they want to have and what kind of a pace they want to have for that. It's going to be their decisions, not ours. And Tom Franks, needless to say, will be there and will see that the security environment is such that these kinds of things can happen. But, there will begin to be meetings of Iraqis, and they'll begin to figure out a way to fashion an interim Iraqi authority. And then they will very likely figure out a way to fashion a new constitution. And then that constitution will have a mechanism to select their permanent government and leadership. And it will happen as soon as is possible we hope. The Iraqi people - some people are skeptical of whether or not the Iraqi people are capable of self-government. I'm not, I think it may not be perfect, and certainly there's going to be some bumps along the road, but the Afghan people are figuring out how to do that. And they had a process that was uniquely Afghan and I suspect that the Iraqis will figure out something out that's uniquely Iraqi.

Schieffer: Go ahead Tom.

Friedman: Do you see an Arab role in terms of--we're going to have a security structure there under General Franks. Do you see possibly bringing in NATO or certain friendly Arab countries to participate in that peacekeeping role, once the war is won?

Rumsfeld: Well, I was with, I'm going to guess 50 Ambassadors from countries that have been a part of this coalition. It's kind of amusing when you think back everyone said the United States was acting unilaterally, and going it alone. We weren't, we had some 50 plus countries that have been participating and I was with many of them last night. And as they walked in and shook hands, they - one after the other said, our country is ready to supply three thousand people for a peacekeeping force. Our country's ready to supply a medical unit. We're ready to assist with this. We're ready to assist with that. And that process has been going forward. And it is accelerating at this stage and I do anticipate - I have said from the beginning that we -

Friedman: You anticipate - finish that sentence.

Rumsfeld: That there will be a great many countries that will be part of this process. There already are. Another country, Spain, has some troops on the ground in the port city of Umm Qasr, where you were recently.

Schieffer: Including Arab countries?

Rumsfeld: Sure. Why not, and certainly Muslim countries. NATO I've suggested to the Secretary General that I thought that would be a good thing. If NATO wanted to do that obviously France would be opposed I'm told. They are opposed to a lot of things so that shouldn't be a problem, because you can do it at 18 instead of at 19 countries since they're not a member of the defense planning committee. So I would hope that NATO would play a role. Some of the United Nations is playing a role and been very helpful and we expect that that will grow.

Schieffer: What about Germany?

Rumsfeld: I can't speak for any country.

Schieffer: I mean would they be welcome if they wanted to help?

Rumsfeld: Oh look, the needs there are real. We've got to find people who are willing to assist and I'm certainly hopeful that a lot of countries will participate in various ways.

Friedman: You know the French Foreign Minister today said that the time is not right for the United States to put pressure on Syria, by accusing it of aiding Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime. Do these guys piss you off?

Rumsfeld: The French?

Friedman: Yeah.

Rumsfeld: Oh goodness. I think I'll leave diplomacy to Secretary Powell.

Friedman: Why? (Laughter.) Why start now? (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: You know, I'm always a believer that people ought to - sovereign nations and individuals ought to have their own views. And they ought to argue them and debate them and discuss them. And I think that's good. That's healthy. And I like debate and discussion and competition of ideas. I think that's healthy. I think what is not healthy is when a - someone tries to define themselves by their opposition to others as opposed to what they're for or what they're doing. And the comment that you just sited, suggests that the truth doesn't have any value. And the truth does have value. And the fact of the matter is that Syria has been unhelpful and pretending that that's not the case it strikes me, is to deny the truth. And I don't think you can live a lie.

Schieffer: Let me shift just a minute from diplomacy to intelligence matters. David Martin of CBS News has learned that the - that we have in custody, I guess is the word, of the head of the Iraqi Nuclear Program. Can you tell us anything about that?

Rumsfeld: I'm sure there are a number of people who have been or were involved at senior levels of the Iraqi Nuclear Program and I have been told that one of those individuals may be in custody, but I wouldn't want to get into who it was.

Schieffer: Well the name we have been given is Jafar dhia Jafar.

Rumsfeld: I'll let the people who do this announce names. I don't do that.

Schieffer: All right. One of the things that apparently he has told U.S. officials is that the Iraqi Nuclear Program ended in 1991.

Rumsfeld: That's been the standard mantra from the Iraqis over a sustained period of time.

Schieffer: Do you believe that?

Rumsfeld: Did you believe the Minister of Information of Iraq when he said there were U.S. forces in Baghdad?

Schieffer: No.

Rumsfeld: There hasn't been much that they've said that is believable. Anyone who's watched them over the years knows that they're liars, skillful to be sure. And they've been able to get the world's press to carry their lies around as though they were true without saying, "Be on notice. Caution. These people lie repeatedly." And it wasn't until they had the split screen with the U.S. forces at the Baghdad Airport and the Minister of Information saying they weren't there. That people said, "Oh my goodness he's lying. Isn't that amazing."

Schieffer: Let's take a break right there. We'll come back in just a moment.

Schieffer: Back again with the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. Secretary, what is the latest on Saddam Hussein? Do we believe he's dead? Do we have DNA that if we do turn up a body we'll be able to identify it? Just tell us what you can tell us about the whole business of where he is or if you think he's dead.

Rumsfeld: Well, there isn't a day that goes by that we aren't given intelligence information. When I say intelligence - I shouldn't say that, it's scraps of information and it's this report or that report. And if you add it all up and inhale it I think reasonable people come to the conclusion that we don't know, that there are people who think he's dead, there are people who think he was badly injured, there are people who think he may be alive. I don't chase those rabbits. My attitude is we'll find out and eventually he'll be through, but ---

Schieffer: Do you think we'll ever know?

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Schieffer: We will know?

Rumsfeld: I think so.

Friedman: Mr. Secretary, in the vacuum that was naturally created between the collapse of this regime and a new order, obviously, there's been a lot of chaos, we've seen looting in all the major cities now. What are you doing now to secure that situation now? Are you sending more troops, are you devoting different units to secure different ministries now? There was a report in the Washington Post today that the oil ministry had been secured but the national museum hadn't, people are raising questions about that. What are you doing to secure the situation?

Rumsfeld: People raise questions about everything. That's fair enough. There have been more troops arriving in the country every day for the past three weeks, ever since they went in, three weeks and two days ago, additional troops have been arriving. They've been going up, oh, anywhere from fifteen hundred to thirty-five hundred a day and - ours and some other countries as well. They are also able as the war was being won and is in the process of succeeding, the troops have been spreading all across the country. There are places where we have a control in a way that people can go out in the streets and do what they do and start rebuilding their lives. There are places where we do not have that kind of control at the present time. And we do find that everywhere we do, when our terrific young men and women in uniform go into a town and create that presence, the security and see that there isn't anarchy, there's not disorder and that people can safely go out into the street, people are coming in and volunteering. They're volunteering to engage in joint patrols with our people, the clerics are calling for people to not loot, not riot, the humanitarian assistance flows in and the beginning of a return to a more normal situation is occurring and it's a good thing. And they're doing that in the south and they're doing it now in the north. There are patrols -- Baghdad, to be quite honest, is a very big place and that is not the case yet and that's sad, it's unfortunate. But it will be the case in very short order and that's a good thing.

Schieffer: Mr. Secretary, you talked to us a minute ago about the Iraqi information minister and some of these statements that they're putting out. A lot of the Arab world, as you well know, the information they get about this comes from Al Jazeera, the Arab television network. What do you think about -

Rumsfeld: I wouldn't say "the Arab" -

Schieffer: Well, one of them, it's certainly the main one.

Rumsfeld: It is one of many -

Schieffer: Do you believe Al Jazeera is anything more than an Arab television network?

Rumsfeld: It puts out television images in Arabic, in Arabic language and I don't watch it carefully. People who do tell me that it has a pattern of being anti-U.S., anti-West and I've also seen pieces of information that suggests that they're influenced by people like Saddam Hussein's regime.

Schieffer: Do you have any information that would lead you to believe that it goes beyond being influenced, that perhaps they've been infiltrated by Saddam's people?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I've seen allegations to that effect, but I don't watch it so I can't speak from certain knowledge.

It's unfortunate that the people of the world don't see as open and accurate a set of images in Arabic as I think they might and anything that can be done about that is a good thing. I think the free press and free television and the opportunity for people to do things badly and to do things well and to gain supporters and listenership when they do it well, and lose it when they lie and don't have balance, I think that's the answer to it.

Schieffer: What lessons should North Korea and its leaders draw from what they are seeing on television in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I think the circumstances are quite different. But the United States is attempting to see if there isn't a way to deal with this problem from a diplomatic standpoint. It's a terrible risk to the world that if North Korea does in fact go through the reprocessing of nuclear materials and end up with sufficient materials to make six or eight more weapons in three or four, five months, that would be not a good thing. If they started selling that material to countries around the world and we ended up with a large increase in the total number of nuclear powers in the world, that's not a happy place.

Schieffer: Would we stand for that?

Rumsfeld: That's up to other people.

But I think what the world needs to do is recognize that these weapons are enormously powerful -- biological weapons, chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, radiation weapons -- and that they can kill tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of human beings and that's a risk to the world.

And the idea that those things could get in the hands of additional terrorist states, terrorist networks is something that the world needs to grasp. And I think that the like-thinking countries in the world, free people need to -- international organizations and collectively -- recognize how serious that threat is and -

Schieffer: Are you still convinced we will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: Oh my goodness, there's been so much intelligence, CIA material about what's been going on in that country that if we can find the right people who will tell us where they've located them then that's the way we're going to find them. Inspectors didn't find them and certainly we're not going to find them. It's not like a treasure hunt when you run around and dig down and see if there's a tunnel some place. You've got to find the people who dug the tunnels, the people who've worked in those operations.

Schieffer: And you think we will?

Rumsfeld: I do.

Schieffer: All right. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

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