Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with WCHS-AM Radio, Hoppy Kercheval, Charleston, West Virginia
Q: Mr. Secretary, why is the insurgency or the terrorist acts, however we want to label them in Iraq, why are they, quote unquote, “getting worse,” as Colin Powell has said and you’ve alluded to, as well?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. I think they’re getting worse because the people that oppose the Iraqi government and are determined to not have a democratic system there and want to reestablish the Baath Party and a terrorist state are determined to stop it and they’re doing everything they can to stop it and I believe they’re going to fail. But we do expect that the incidents of violence in both Afghanistan and Iraq between now and the elections will very likely increase and that these dead-enders will try to see if they can prevent it from happening.
Q: Mr. Secretary, as that violence increases, are they registering what they might call or others might call successes? You say and we hope that we prevail in the long run. In the meantime, are they having successes, small albeit?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. I mean, it depends on your definition of a success. But if you successfully kill a regional governor or a chief of police, if you successfully do that, why I suppose you can say that was a success from a murderer and a terrorist standpoint. If they can disrupt things, they feel they’ve been successful. But they’re basically killing Iraqis. They’re killing a lot of Iraqis, innocent citizens. They’re also killing a lot of Iraqi security forces, 6 or 700 of them. And indeed, they’re killing coalition members as well.
Q: Are those killings, those atrocities, beheadings, killing of the Iraqi guard, is that attracting more terrorists to Iraq or is that causing the rest of the Iraqi population to recoil? What is happening? What is the offshoot of these attacks?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it’s – as you can well imagine, any answer has to take a series of anecdotes into account and then kind of try to net it all out in your mind. But there’s no doubt, but that they are being successful in some instances in making people believe that it’s not going to work in Iraq, that they’re not going ready for freedom, that they’re not ready, and some of those people undoubtedly are joining the opposition, the former regime elements that are fighting it. They may also be attracting some people in from other countries because of the hope they have of preventing a democracy there.
On the other hand, we have very good anecdotal evidence to the contrary that every time there’s an explosion at a police station and people are killed, and they open it up for recruiting for more policemen, the lines are there -- they’re long. People are stepping forward and willing to put their lives on the line. The same thing’s true with the ministries. People are going to work in the ministries. Refugees are coming back into the country.
A lot of information is suggesting that the Iraqi people – some of the tribes, even in the Sunni areas – are getting fed up with Zarqawi and his terrorist crowd killing their friends and neighbors and relatives. And how it will tip is something that we have to keep our eye on. But I am personally convinced that we’ve got a very good crack -- the Iraqis have a very good crack -- at being successful in this important and noble effort.
Q: Talking with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, how much more progress must be made in securing Iraq to make sure the elections in January are at least reasonably safe and reasonably credible?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the first thing we know is that the whole sweep of human history is for people to want to be free and that’s on our side. We know that the polling that’s been done show that the Iraqi people are determined to have elections. They want elections -- people from all across that country. The security situation, as I said earlier, we know that the opposition does not want there to be elections and they’ll do everything they can to try to stop it.
I think there’ll be elections and I think that we’ll be successful and the U.N. will be successful in helping to assist with it and monitor it. And I mean, people said you couldn’t have it in Afghanistan. It looks to me like next week we’re going to have it.
Q: Will it be possible to have elections in Iraq in the Sunni areas?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I would think so. The Sunnis want to vote. They want elections and I would think they don’t want to be left out either.
Q: Do we have what we would call in this country rule of law? Do we have established rule of law now in Iraq that allows business to take place on a day-to-day basis in some sort of organized form that there is, just that, a rule of law?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I saw data the other day that said that there were, I think, 256 homicides in Washington, D.C. last year in a city of 400,000 people. Is that rule of law? I guess it is. You didn’t see that on the front page of every paper each day when that happened. The second thing I would say, as far as Iraq or Afghanistan is, it is not homogeneous. It’s different in different parts of the country and there are major parts of the country that certainly have what you or I would call rule of law. And there are clearly parts of the country that, in parts of days, are dangerous and where people are at risk. And I think that’s about the only way I could answer it is to say that it’s uneven. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s not perfect in really any major city of the world. There are parts of cities that are dangerous.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I have one or two other questions on other things, but before we leave Iraq and Afghanistan, this issue is debated everyday, it’s opined about everyday on the pages of newspapers and talk shows. You have a forum here in West Virginia, take a moment to say here’s what you want people to know about Iraq and Afghanistan.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, that’s very nice. I think what’s important for the people to know about Iraq and Afghanistan and, indeed, this struggle against extremism throughout the world is that we are a blessed country with the great good fortune of having so many wonderful young men and women volunteer to serve in the Armed Services.
I travel around the world in Iraq and Afghanistan and here in the United States and meet with them and go to the hospitals here at Bethesda and Walter Reed Hospital and talk to them and they are so proud of what they are doing for our country. They are proud of their professionalism. They believe in what they’re doing and I just hope that the people that are listening, if they see folks in uniform, that they’ll walk up and say thank you to them because we’re so fortunate that they’re willing to do what they’re doing for all of us.
Q: A couple of other quick questions. New York Times reported yesterday, Mr. Secretary, that the Army is considering cutting its length of service in Iraq from 12 months back – Iraq and Afghanistan – because they’re worried about hitting recruiting numbers. Is that so?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the recruiting numbers are generally very good. And we’re, for example, on recruiting, the Army is at about 101 percent of goal and Navy is 100 percent, Marine Corps is at 103 percent, Air Force is at 100 percent of goals. We’ve got a soft spot in retention in one area, but basically things are very good. I think the reason they’re doing that and I’ve encouraged them to look at it, the Marines are already down to seven-month tours. And is that I think that a six-month or seven-month or eight or nine-month tour, as opposed to a 12-month tour in this situation, getting into that rhythm would, if we could do it sometime next year, would be a good thing. They’re, at the present time, working on it and I wouldn’t want to get the people’s hopes up because they haven’t figured out quite how they’re going to do that yet. The problem is they’re trying to do several things at once. We’re going from 33 Army brigades to 43 or 48 and that means they’re bringing capabilities down from the division level to the brigade level, increasing modularity so that they can have a greater number of units that can be deployed separately. And to do that at the same time they’re changing the rhythm might prove to be somewhat complicated, but I think it’s generally a good idea.
Q: Mr. Secretary, thanks for your time.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you. I enjoyed visiting with you.