Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001
(Meeting with the editorial board of the New York Times.)
Howell Raines, executive editor of the New York Times: Welcome to the Times. We appreciate your making the time to come back, particularly at this hectic and important moment. Shall we be on the record?
Rumsfeld: I'll do whatever you want. I can play it round or square, as L.B.J. used to say.
Raines: Why don't we -- Michael, do you have a preference, should we start on the record and then if you want to go off the record.
Q: That would be better on the record, but, if there was something that you were able to address more fully on background that would be, I think that should be, that would be fine too.
Raines: O.K. Fair enough?
Raines: Good. Well, I'm going to leave it to the experts to ask the difficult questions and I'll ask the easy one, which is I guess the topic that's on everyone's mind today is bin Laden's whereabouts and how close we are to him. And also the state of the Taliban in general as you see it.
Rumsfeld: I've tried to say this in a way that is understandable, but -- and the only thing I could figure out is if you're chasing the chicken around the chicken yard and you don't have him yet. And the question is how close are you? The answer is it's tough to characterize because there's lots of zigs and zags. And it is really a very difficult thing to find not just a person, Osama bin Laden, but also several handfuls of these key people in both -- several handfuls in the Taliban and several handfuls in the al Qaeda, that are all capable of picking up and carrying on and managing those networks in a way that would be deadly to lots of people in the world.
We're hard at it. We are creating a situation that is complicated and difficult for them. It's hard for people to appreciate it, but what we said at the outset is true, I believe. And that is that the task is to put a lot of pressure across the board on them. And the pressure that's been put on bank accounts and the pressure that's been put on their ability to communicate with each other, the pressure that's resulted from arresting a lot of people around the world in different countries and interrogating them and piecing together scraps of information, the pressure from the bombing, the pressure from people on the ground. All of that combined complicates their lives and makes them behave in a different way than they otherwise would behave.
And it forces them to move several times a day. It forces them to make decisions that they probably would not otherwise have made. It limits their effectiveness. And even before two days ago, the Taliban was not really functioning as a government at all. It was pretty much a series of enclaves and a series of commanders that it appears there was some -- there are, were and are, some differences between al Qaeda and Taliban leadership about who should get resupplied, who should be reinforced, how that should happen. And those stresses and strains within organizations are not surprising given the amount of pressure that's been put on.
The problem with it is that people couldn't see all that pressure. And therefore, the impatience grows, of course. And the risk is that with that impatience you end up doing something that you might not at the end wish you'd done. I think that letting it build over a period as it has and is still is probably a good thing. I hope that the pressure also is affecting all of those countries that are likely recipients of those folks if they do decide to flee. They've got easy way to shoot out into Iran or Pakistan, little more difficult up north, at least part of the north.
They, al Qaeda, was housed in Sudan and Somalia for periods. It's had friends in all of those countries on the terrorist list. And there's no question but that they still have some helicopters.
Q: Why do you say it would be easy for them to shoot out into Iran or Pakistan? Are these countries not helpful? Are they not determined to prevent that?
Rumsfeld: Someone said to me what am I doing to protect the U.S. border with Canada. And they've asked us for military assistance to do that. And I don't know if anyone ever sat down with a pencil and paper and tried to figure out what it would take. There are all of these logging roads and people walking across. People don't even know where the border is between the United States and Canada. And in Afghanistan the borders with, particularly Iran and Pakistan, or nomadic tribes have been moving across there, villages are slopped over on both sides. It's porous as anything could -- I mean, people say, aren't they helping? People look at me and say what are you doing about stopping people from coming in from Canada? And the answer is you do what you can. And you do the best you can.
Q: You think Pakistan is doing what they can?
Rumsfeld: Well, I'll tell you what I think about Pakistan. I think he's got one of the toughest jobs in the world right now. I think he took over in a difficult situation for that country.
[Dialogue removed by mutual agreement]
Q: Could we backtrack? Can I just turn you back to the war just a little bit? Can you describe for us what you think the Taliban al Qaeda status and strategy is at this point? Are they going to defend Kandahar? Are they heading into the hills on both sides of the Kandahar-Kabul road? Or, we've had reports that several thousand have actually already crossed into Pakistan, according to Pakistani intelligence. And that's what our people in the region are telling us.
Rumsfeld: Yes. I don't know. I think probably all of the above. I suspect that you'll find people -- this is back on the record now -- I suspect you'll find people just fading into the countryside within Afghanistan. There's no question that the people will be moving out. They've been doing this for centuries.
Q: Are they moving out now, across to -- into Pakistan?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm sure people are.
Q: Al Qaeda and Taliban?
Rumsfeld: I'm sure they are. Can I count them or prove it? No. But there's no question but that when people are flushed out, as they are being flushed out, and when the environment becomes inhospitable to them, they look for alternatives. And the alternatives are many of the ones you've mentioned.
One is to just to fade into the mountains or the countryside and pretend it never happened. And wait your time. In other words, you may still hope to come back. And another is to cross a border, a neighboring border. Another is to defect and join the other side, which a lot of these folks have done a number of occasions. Others are fighting. Up in Kunduz they're still fighting like mad. There's several thousand, probably al Qaeda, but I don't know that of certain knowledge, but Taliban mixed with al Qaeda that are seemingly cut off because Kabul, the Taliban in Kabul, left the city leaving the Kunduz crowd up north without a easy access route out. And so they're up there fighting even as we sit here.
In terms of leadership they have more options. They have the ability to go to an entirely different country.
Q: We had a report that Pakistan had sent an aircraft up to Kunduz to evacuate some Pakistanis up there with American permission. Is that the case?
Rumsfeld: Hadn't heard that. I don't know where they'd land.
Q: Could we get back on bin Laden for a second? What is your best guess of one, where he is now? I assume he's in the south in some mountain or something. Is that your sense of it? And what's your guess of what he's likely to do? Is he one of those who will try to get into Pakistan in some way or Iran or --
Rumsfeld: He's got the wherewithal to do pretty much what he wants, at least to try to. He has, I suspect, the ability to get into Pakistan relatively easily. There's just so many routes in and out of there, it's so porous and he's got a number of doubles, so he's perfectly capable of figuring out a way to do that, I would think. Whether he'll do it or not, I just don't know.
There are a variety of places that, in his circumstance, he could go, I suppose. One would be Pakistan or Kashmir or Chechnya. He's got friends up there. He used to be in Sudan, Somalia. He's got countries that have -- on the terrorist list that they've had connections with over the years: Iraq and Syria, Libya. Different places elsewhere on the world, for that matter. What he'll do I don't know.
We're actively trying to make it hard for him to do anything. And we spend a lot of time looking for the leadership cells of al Qaeda and Taliban, and when we find them we try to destroy them.
Q: Do you have any idea of airfields, for example, in that part of Pakistan or elsewhere if he were to flee Afghanistan and want to go to some place that was a long distance away he might be trying to get in the air somehow.
Rumsfeld: My guess is what he'd probably do is take a helicopter down one of those valleys that we couldn't pick up and pop over to some part of the country where there is an airfield and have a plane waiting for him.
Q: Do you think he has a helicopter at his disposal?
Rumsfeld: I am pretty sure they do. We've destroyed probably three-quarters, four-fifths of them, although you don't know what you don't know, and we know we don't know. We get scraps of information that they may have some helicopters hidden under canvas, camouflage in different locations, in populated areas, in residential areas so that we wouldn't hit them if we did discover them. But how many or whether they're operable at this stage, I don't know. Most of the airstrips we've damaged to the point that it'd be tough to take anything other than a helicopter.
Q: Are our aircraft in position to force their helicopters down if they're airborne and do they have the authority to do that or to shoot them down if necessary?
Rumsfeld: Oh, you bet your life they do, good grief. They would -- if they didn't, they would be in trouble. You bet they've got the authority to shoot them down. They don't even have to say may I? This is a dangerous part of the world and there aren't any helicopters that aren't ours flying around that belong there.
Do we have the ability to find them? The answer's probably no. I've heard reports that helicopters have been observed in and around the Pakistani border in weeks past that we were not able to detect. And the reason for that is because the weather conditions vary, where our assets are located vary. If they stay deep in those valleys and you're not right on top, it's difficult to observe them. It's also very difficult to target them.
Q: What degree of influence do you feel like you have right now over the Northern Alliance's behavior? How much attention are they paying to your recommendations?
Rumsfeld: We've got people from -- well, I'll just speak for my department, we've got people from the Defense Department in there, teams of people with most of the Northern Alliance factions. They are young Special Forces teams, a few handfuls of people with thousands of forces. They have had, as their function, to manage the communication link for re-supplies of ammunition and food and medical supplies and winter gear, to manage the communication between other special forces teams with the other factions, and to do the targeting and to serve as the U.S. link to those faction leaders, like Dostam and the Qata and Fahim and the like. That's been their role, and they serve as a communication belt, these several numbers of teams.
I would guess the answer to your question is it varies from faction to faction. I think it probably varies from team to team, depending on personalities and how long they've been in. I think that there aren't enough people to affect them, that is to say physically. I was asked a question yesterday, are you monitoring what they're doing? That kind of a question in Kabul. And of course, how could you do that with thousands of people and a handful of -- a small team of people? It's physically impossible to monitor what's being done in that city or any major city. That would be like asking The New York Times editorial board are you monitoring what's going on in New York? And you get (inaudible) can't do that.
Do I think we have had an ability to communicate with them that has been probably helpful? Yes. I think when you're the one supplying air support and bringing in that kind of air power and food and weapons and ammunition and gear that they probably are attentive. To the extent they still have an interest in those things; I would guess that they would tend to be somewhat responsive.
The Special Forces teams have been -- had to recognize that those people live there, those people were there before we came and those people are going to be there after we leave. And they're going to make up their own mind, people we're talking about. Should they be stopped from going in Kabul? Should they be told to go in Kabul? Should they do this, that or the other thing in Kabul? And I kind of put out my hands and say, my goodness, they're going to make that decision themselves.
And what we can do is to encourage them in what I consider to be their preference, and that is to recognize their shortcomings and the fact that they're not going to dominate the country, that they are a minority. And that therefore if they do go into Kabul, which they have done, not in force but they've gone in, I think, probably a couple of thousand people is all, as opposed to the thousands that are outside, that they do it in a manner that tells the world that they understand there's got to be a broad-based government, there's got to be representation of the various demographic elements in the country, there's got to be an understanding of the interests of the neighboring countries, there's got to be an understanding of our interests to get the terrorist networks the dickens out of there and to not make a haven for terrorists.
We've obviously orally and in writing discussed the problems of unprofessional behavior, I guess is the phraseology I'll select, and the importance of behaving in a way that reflects their understanding of the kind of country that that ought to be. And I don't know how it'll all shake out when people get on the ground and figure out what's actually happened, but if you think of the carnage that's been wrought in that country for decades and decades and decades, hundreds of years where whole towns have been eliminated and so forth, and the last time the Taliban came in the number of people murdered and killed, abused, one can only hope that this will be true to what you see on television today: the faces of people who are very happy to be relieved of a vicious, vicious regime, the Taliban, and the music being played and beards being cut off and women taking off their veils. I think that how it will work out, I don't know. I'm sure there'll be some things that one would wish don't happen, but in any conflict of this type there's going to be -- the process will be imperfect and all we can do is hope that it's the best possible.
Q: You use the phrase, recognize the interests of neighboring countries. The Northern Alliance people have been fighting the Taliban when it was backed by Pakistan for years, they probably have a lot of ill will or bad memories about Pakistan. Do you sense that any among their leadership can appreciate, now, some broader, real, political reason that they ought to accommodate Pakistan's interests or are they emotionally beyond that?
Rumsfeld: It's too soon to tell. I think that the tribes to the south, of course, have much closer relationships with Pakistan. And my impression of everything I've seen and heard and read is that the folks in the north understand that the role of the people in the south has to be recognized and accepted and understood. And if that is -- I get a -- I sense a very moderate balanced approach by the president of Pakistan and I think that the chances of that being reciprocated are not unreasonable, that that's a possibility partly because of the tone that the president's setting, but also because of the reality of the tribes in the south being more dominant.
Q: Following up on that, we've relied a lot on the Northern Alliance in the northern part of the country. But for all of the reasons you've specified, it's unlikely that they can be a ground force among the Pashtuns in the south. Do you foresee a greater use of American forces in the southern campaign, special operations forces? And also because they're going to hide in the hills. And potentially more than that, conventional forces?
Rumsfeld: Well, we've got forces in the south now. We have a number of special operation teams that have gone in and are doing some things that needed to be done. I guess the answer is that from Day one there has been no road map for this, this has not been done before, it is a distinctly different situation. And I suspect that the honest answer is I don't know.
At the moment, it looks like the tribes in the south are taking advantage of the weakness of Taliban and the disarray of Taliban, and that what they perceive to be only limited ability of Taliban to counterattack in the south. And if that's true, the work may very well get done in the south by the tribes in the south.
Q: But if they're in the caves and they go up in the hills, who's going to go get them, the Americans, the Brits or the tribes in the south?
Rumsfeld: Well, that reward is out, millions of dollars, which is not nothing. And there are, you can be sure, people who are interested in having that money and they're busy around him. And once the situation in the country becomes still less hospitable to Taliban, and that is happening every hour in different parts of the country for two reasons, one is because the people are emboldened, which they had not been previously -- so the tribes are emboldened -- and the people that are -- pockets that are left are being killed up north in Kunduz, they're being attacked by the Northern Alliance in the enclaves where they remain. So once that environment becomes less hospitable, then the options that the remaining leadership people have will be more limited, their ability to communicate will be less.
People talk about winter being inhospitable; there are some aspects of winter that might be quite hospitable to determine where people are.
And what might be done, who knows? There could be Special Forces, special operations activities as we've been doing now. There could be teams of Afghans who decide that they'd like to earn some money. And I don't think there's a lot of love for those folks. They were considered, to some extent, foreign invaders, the al Qaeda. And the Taliban behaved in a way that was so ruthless and oppressive that my guess is there are folks around who'd like to help.
Q: Do you think that -- those special operations teams, so far as far as I can tell, have been doing things like advising the Northern Alliance militias and --
Rumsfeld: Those are Special Forces that have been advising. I'm talking about special operations, it's different, kind of (inaudible) I'm talking about in the south the ones who parachute in and they interdict roads and they blow up things.
Q: The guys that are in the south now are doing what?
Rumsfeld: All the stuff to make life difficult down there for the Taliban so that they get it in their head that they can't re-supply Farak, for example, on the circumferential roads. And that if they're looking for other places to go that that might not be a great spot to go.
Q: So the guys in the south are not merely advising?
Rumsfeld: They're not advising anybody. They're not advising anybody. Well, I shouldn't say that. We've got some that do, but those are Special Forces. The special ops guys are not advising, they're doing things.
[Dialogue removed by mutual agreement]
Q: Have they had firefights in the south? Have they taken any casualties?
Rumsfeld: No casualties. Well, I shouldn't say that, we have had casualties. Casualties means dead or wounded and we have had two people die in Pakistan who were in a helicopter waiting to go to help somebody, and we've had -- you know, any time you dump a bunch of people in by parachute, they're going to break ankles, they're going to break fingers.
Q: I understand that. I mean, among the guys you're talking about in the south?
Rumsfeld: Yes, there have been some casualties. I'm trying to think. I can't tell you precisely how they all got wounded, most of it came from fragmentation from explosives they use to blow up things.
Q: That's in the Ranger -- the October 19 --
Rumsfeld: But in that case there were a number of people who ended up with wounds that came from fragmentation.
Q: But apart from that, these guys you have down in the south have not have any casualties?
Rumsfeld: I am sure that the ones who (inaudible) that there are some broken ankles and stuff like that. If you're asking me to my knowledge as of 6 o'clock this morning or 5:30 when I left, had anybody been shot or wounded or killed in the south, not to my knowledge.
Q: And have you been operating continuously since the 19th in the south?
Rumsfeld: The 19th, when was that?
Q: When they first --
Rumsfeld: This is September 14?
Q: No, they went in before that, correct?
Rumsfeld: I can't remember. They went in and did a couple of ops. And the Brits have been in and we've had people in there in recent days and they're in there now. And some go in and some go out. They get extracted. But they spend days rampaging around, raising Cain.
Q: Are some of these guys literally looking for bin Laden?
Rumsfeld: You can be sure if they found him that -- I don't know bin Laden, but the top priority for the United States is to seek out and find the leadership of both organizations. Therefore anyone connected with us has that in their head for sure.
The places where he's likely to be are not where our forces have been to any great extent. However, places where he's likely to be are now fewer than they used to be. And our folks are closer than they used to be. And we're doing things -- we've encouraged people, Afghans, to go out on the ground and try to find him, and we're looking from the air. So there's a lot of effort, a lot of eyeballs on the problem.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in your estimation how much of the danger of further major terrorism in the United States would be reduced by personally taking bin Laden out of commission?
Rumsfeld: Gee, I don't know that my judgment's any better than anyone else's on that, but my impression is that he was critical in the development of this network. Whether he's central to its perpetuation is debatable. I think he's -- you know, we take a look at these folks around him and he's got a level of key leadership that is seasoned, hardened, knowledgeable about the network, knowledgeable about the financing of it, the businesses that are connected to it. And I suspect it would go on, that getting him would be a help but not an answer, not a silver bullet, that it's too extensive, in too many countries with too many bank accounts and too many people trained that are already out there as sleepers. So I guess I don't know that I can give you a better answer than that, but it would certainly be a big help.
[Dialogue removed by mutual agreement]
Q: How much do we know about the Taliban? You mentioned a second ago that the Taliban itself consists of people who have defected from other sides over to them, tribal leaders and other kinds of leaders, commanders. And some of them will peel off. Is there are a hardcore of card-carrying Taliban members?
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Q: And is what's the size of it and what do we want to do about them? Do we want to eliminate them or what?
Q: And how big are we talking about.
Rumsfeld: You know, it's like anything else, there are -- you start with Oman and then it goes down and there's a level of people that are very close in, very much a part of that and undoubtedly quite loyal and of a similar bent. And the farther down you go, the softer it gets. And it's the people down here who accommodate and move from side to side. But up at the top, those people are determined and they are willing to undertake all kinds of hardship.
Q: Are we talking about tens of thousands or thousands or hundreds of people who are this hardcore?
Rumsfeld: I guess time will tell. We'll see how hardcore they are. The tougher it gets, the less hardcore people tend to be. And I guess it's not -- what you're asking is not knowable until we see how much pressure we can put on and ultimately what their behavior is. And I don't mean their initial behavior, I mean over a period because some may step back and then get reconstituted and reorganized and re-inspired and decide to go back and take something that they lost. You just can't know that.
Q: What are you hearing from NATO allies about when the bombing should stop? With the fall of Kabul and Ramadan coming, do you sense any pressure from NATO allies to ease off or stop?
Rumsfeld: Well, I'll give you the on-the-record answer, that any number of countries have expressed their views about the sensitivities involving the religious days that are coming up. And some from NATO and some from neighboring countries, and obviously we need to listen to those and be sensitive to it as well.
On the other hand, we had 4,000 people killed in New York City and they've got people out there that are ready to kill thousands more. And wars have gone on during Ramadan for decades, wars between and among different religions. And it, in my view, we have to be sensitive to the threats that exist to Americans and other people in the world, and see if we can't find and root out those terrorists.
[Dialogue removed by mutual agreement]
Q: Can I ask you about Iraq? Your deputy is often described as favoring another phases of the war against terrorism in terms of dealing with Saddam Hussein, perhaps even a military force. And then there are those who argue that any military action against Iraq will fracture the coalition. What are your own views about Iraq?
Rumsfeld: Well, Paul's views and my views and the president's views and Colin Powell's views are all the same. You get up in the morning and you look at the world and what do you find? You find a country that has chemical and biological weapons, a country that has had a big appetite for nuclear weapons, a country that invaded its neighbor, a country that used chemical weapons on the Kurds, a country that's sponsored and harbored terrorists over the years, a country where the regime is repressive and represses their own people. And we've tended, tried to -- through successive administrations -- to reduce the flow of weaponry into that country, to have inspections, which are now all thrown out and he's proceeding apace with his -- without question -- with his weapons of mass destruction efforts in the country, without any interference from anybody. We are continuing to do the northern and southern no-fly zones but it's not terribly effective. The big band in the middle, Baghdad up and down and all the way across is not in either of the so-called no-fly zones. They're not really no-fly zones, he flies helicopters and others fly in and out, so that's an anachronism. I suppose what they really are is they're zones where his ability to get a head start on going after Kuwait or the Shiite in the south or the Kurds in the north is limited because of our air presence, is probably a more accurate way to describe it.
And then the question is what do you do about that? And I don't -- those are decisions for the president and he's obviously -- the Middle East is concerned about Iraq, not just the United States and other countries.
But I think there's been lots of reports that Colin Powell -- your paper had for every other week for about two months wrote that Colin Powell and I were in opposite camps. That's just baloney.
Q: It was a good story, though.
Rumsfeld: It was a hell of a story. I don't know where they got it. Talk about a world class thumb-sucker, that was it. But I talk to Colin Powell probably three times a day, we meet at least once a day and we -- needless to say, we don't agree on everything, just like I don't agree with my wife on everything, but we have a very good relationship. The administration is as knitted together and works as effectively together as I've ever seen an administration. And I've been in several. And Paul Wolfowitz is not some sort of a rogue element careening around in the society. He's my deputy, and he's a brilliant, very responsible, thoughtful person who's been an enormous help to me and an enormous help to the president.
But those are -- the question on Iraq is something that there's been a lot of speculation about. We've not speculated, we've just simply gone about our business dealing with this particular problem.
Q: (inaudible) is here. There's no agreement on missile defense. Are you concerned that your missile defense program may be subordinated to the fight on terrorism and that there's no date for certain being given to withdraw from the A.B.M. treaty?
Rumsfeld: No, not really. The president is a very straightforward person. And he has said that he intends to do a very robust research and development and testing program to see what would be the most appropriate way to develop ballistic missile defenses for limited numbers of missiles. And I'm sure we'll find a way to do that in the period immediately ahead.
Q: Do you think that the work planned -- and some of the tests scheduled for early next year can move ahead on schedule at this point?
Rumsfeld: Well, we're already inhibited, as you know. We've had to not do some things that would have been nice to do. But we're not going to be breaking treaties and it's going to take either some sort of an agreement at Crawford or six months to -- when the president decides that it's time to set it aside, my guess is if they do that at some point, they'd end up continuing right on with their discussions trying to find the framework during the six-month period. But that's up to the president and President Putin to worry through over the coming weeks and I don't know. It's up to them to decide what they want to decide and announce what they want to decide, not me.
It's been too bad that we've been inhibited, but we can live with that. It's better than breaking a treaty. And it certainly is a worthwhile effort to try to get that relationship connected in a way that's constructive for the future. I think it's enormously important that Russia look west and not to their old friends in North Korea and Cuba and Iraq and Iran.
Q: You've ordered the missile defense organization to continue with their planning with these things?
Rumsfeld: Oh, you bet, you bet.
Q: As if they were to go ahead with it?
Rumsfeld: Yeah. My instructions when I arrived after talking to the president and he saying he wanted to do this, I was considered -- this is back off the record -- I was considered to be the world's leading expert on missile defense. And of course I wasn't. I knew a lot about the threat. I had spent a lot of time thinking about the ballistic missile threat, but not about missile defenses. I was in business in Chicago, so when I focused, I focused on it but I got the image as being Mr. Missile Defense.
So I got in there and I looked around at what had been going on. It became -- now we'll go back on the record -- it became clear that the prior administration had not done any of the work that would have violated the treaty.
Q: You want to go on the record criticizing the Clinton administration?
Rumsfeld: No that was their conscious decision. And it isn't a criticism, it's just a fact. They made a conscious decision that they wanted to continue with the treaty and, therefore, their R and D was within the limits.
The first thing I did was say, gee, if the president wants missile defense, the best thing we can do is to find out what's the most cost-effective way to do it. What's the fastest way to do it and what would give you the most effective system for a variety of kinds of limited threats.
And so I said to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, do that kind of research and development and testing. And so they proceeded to do that and that is continuing, except that I said, when you get to the point where you think something's going to be -- the problem with it is there's so many lawyers, they all have different opinions on this and what actually -- the treaty, like any treaty, needs to be almost adjudicated. Its purpose is to keep you from doing what we would like to do. Therefore it's a problem. And you look at the different articles of the treaty and you start thinking, well, this is O.K. here and one lawyer says that's O.K. there. But my attitude is if -- you want to stay well inside the line so you don't have a bunch of people fussing at you saying you're making a practice out of breaking treaties, because that isn't what we do in our country. So every time they get up there, they go to the compliance division, the compliance division says, yeah, this has got some problems, some people could say this or this about this article and that activity. So they bring it to me and I say, well, let's not do it then. And so we can live with that for a period.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about what you've learned over the last year about what can and cannot be done about the reorganization of the armed services?
Rumsfeld: Any big institution is a difficult thing to change and to move and it takes time. And it's probably good that it takes time. That is to say, if you have a big institution and an awful lot of what's going on is going on for a reason. And if you think of our weapons systems, most of the things that won the Gulf War and that are still around today, I was involved in 25 years ago as secretary of defense. I mean, I'm the one who approved the M1 tank. I was at the flyaway for the F16 airplane. I was involved in Cruise missiles in their early days.
They last a long time. So first of all, there's no way to change it fast. All you can do is kind of reach out ahead and force things into the system that will be bubbling and coming along later, which we're doing. And they are truly potentially transformational.
But it is -- you don't spin something like that on a dime, you need your legacy systems. And the biggest thing is attitude and culture. And it is -- events help that. And there's no question that Sept. 11 has and is and will have a significant effect on this institution.
Q: How so?
Rumsfeld: It's having an effect on the world, for one thing. When I traveled around Pakistan and India and these countries, countries are, without question, changing their priorities, changing their perspectives and what they think about their neighbors, what they think about their problems, what they think about their opportunities. And there's a shift.
Now, if the world is wise we may be able to take these big events that just occurred, and the big fears and concerns, and fashion different relationships that will be very positive for the world. I mean, think of the kinds of things that happened coming out of World War II: a big cataclysmic event occurs, everything, the ground shifts, people get up and look around and it's a different -- the terrain's different. Who's next to them is different and what they think about who's next to them is different.
And if we do our job well, we ought to be able to look out a decade or two and say, what can we do now to get things going in a direction that we'll be able to live in a world that is very different.
Q: When you talk about [poking?] things so that they'll aerate, what is it you're trying to poke particularly?
Rumsfeld: Well, connectivity is one thing. Situational awareness is another. And operability is still another. Unmanned vehicles -- land, sea, air, subsea. The ability to do those kinds of things that give you a reach and a capability and a -- that is distinctly different from previous periods.
The Defense Department in decades past, in the World War II, post-World War II period, was the source of a lot of innovation for the world: contributed to the Internet, contributed to computers, contributed to so many things because big dollars were flushed into there scientifically, technically. Today, what's going on outside the Pentagon is going so fast. At a time -- our procurement process has gone from 5 or 10 years to 20 years at a time when technology coming out of the private sector and they're really spontaneously available to the rest of the world as when they are (inaudible)-- that means that we're having to face capabilities in the rest of the world that are superior. Take a poor country that decides to have a telephone system and they don't have any telephone lines, and they don't have any buried wires. They don't have any overhead wires. And they (inaudible) cell phone. And people are doing that with technologies today. I mean, you can go to Surrey in England and they've got these micro-satellites and nano-satellites that you can rent a spot and put them up there. And China's doing it. Lots of countries are doing it. I looked at the -- I've got on my desk a picture of the Pentagon taken by -- You can take it right off the Internet. It's just unbelievable. The definition of the photography is so superior.
The United States of America will not be able to -- the Defense Department in the United States of America will not be able to do what it will have to do if we don't transform ourselves. That is to say, if we don't find ways to link to those technological advantages. And deter and dissuade not just the traditional threats, which is why I think what we've done in our shift of our strategy, from a threat-based strategy to a capability-based strategy is so significant. Because it reflects the reality of the world where you can't know where those threats are coming from necessarily.
But you can know, if you're smart, if you're ahead of the game, the kinds of capabilities you're going to have to defend against. And we ought -- we're going to have to figure out how to do that in a much better way. And that goes to -- it goes to how you're organized. It goes to what you invest in. But it goes to your mindset. It goes to the people and how they think about things. And we've got to have people who are capable of not making risk decisions at a too low a level who are risk adverse. We've got have a process that allows creative things and innovative things to get up high enough.
One of the shocking things for me at the Pentagon was the fact that the -- the things they did they do rather well and they used to do that too. That was no surprise. And they could balance war risks and war playing risks. If you looked at Korea or the Iraq scenario or the Taiwan Straits scenario or one of these set pieces that used to be -- 25 years ago it was Yugoslavia, what if Tito died and Yugoslavia split apart. We used to have war game after war game on that and ...
Q: Did it help?
Rumsfeld: How do you like -- They could not balance the risks of -- those risks -- against the risks of not investing in transformation. They couldn't balance those risks against the risks of not investing in people and infrastructure. And they let it decay. I mean, 192-year recapitalization rate in the military infrastructure: roads, hangars, houses, all this stuff compared to 47 years or 57 years in the private sector. And that's just terrible. These -- the other risks seem -- we don't -- they didn't have a process to connect those risks, to say, would I rather have another 10 airplanes, fighter aircraft, available here. Or would I rather have a bigger research and development budget that five years out would enable me to be assured that no new communication system would be developed that was not, didn't have the connectivity with the other services and the others things we're doing, or even with NATO, for example. Those kinds of decisions, they have a -- there's a phrase in the Pentagon now that's hot, big and it's -- I forget it. What is it again -- It's H.D.L.P. or something?
Rumsfeld: H.D.L.D. It's high density. No, high demand low density. In other words, we need lots of them and we don't have many. It's a euphemism for stupidity, for not buying enough of what you need. And so they've got an acronym. Sometimes I overstate for emphasis and I, obviously, the word stupidity was off the record. But it really -- it was -- here we have these things we need, EP3s, U2s, a Global Hawk, Predator. Predators with de-icing capabilities. Any number of things that we don't have that we should have more of. But they did not fit in the big baskets. They didn't fit in TACAIR, or in surface combatants, or in one of these other categories. So they were orphans. And so we call them --
Rumsfeld: Exactly. And I just smile every time someone says that to me because it is dodging. It is pretending that we -- it's trying to not have to admit that we don't know how to balance risks against the immediate, against the future, against the human. And we've got to do better at that with things moving in this world so fast. So transforming is hard. Part of the -- there's something about the process where people make judgments that this risk is greater than that risk down at a level that that risk issue does not get surfaced so that it can balanced against other risks.
And how in the world you alter that thing -- I sat through a meeting the other day on strategic nuclear weapons, offensive weapons. And I got a snapshot: here's the situation. And I said -- and of course it's all perfectly logical. It starts with the guidance that comes from the president and it comes down to the secretary of defense and it comes down to the S.... And then it comes down and it leads to a whole set of decisions that then get washed through the chiefs. And at some point then requirements are established and things are done. Numbers of warheads on a missile, types of missiles, targets and all the rest of it. And I looked at it. And of course, it started probably two years ago. The guidance came from a prior president. And the process is so long and so torturous and so detailed -- as it should be.
It ought to be done carefully, don't get me wrong. But there's no way to reach in the middle of that with a -- unless you -- because it all comes, it's like a freight train coming down the road. If it is improperly loaded at that end and you're down here at this end and they give you a snapshot here and the thing's going 60-miles-an-hour. The question is what do you do about that? No one surfaces -- in a way that you can grab it.
So it's been a process of trying to, not change things for the sake of changing things, but to get a sense of what's coming down the track on the freight train. And trying to figure out a way in which you can affect that without waiting two years. Because that's what those cycles are. We do four, five year budget planning. And of course, what's happened on Sept. 11 changes a whole lot now. Also, when you have a new president comes in and says, look, I'd like to have deep reductions in strategic offensive weapons. I want to get down to the level that I think is appropriate for our country and our new circumstance in the post-cold-war era. And, of course, to do that we couldn't use the process. We had to intervene in it and start in January and run a separate process. The nuclear posture review is still going on and is not done. The work of statutory and re... that will come out in December or January. So what we had to do was intervene in it -- which we did -- and get some of the people involved and run a separate track so we didn't do something unwise. And that is what led -- that process is what led the president to the point where he could look President Putin in the eye and say, look, the United States is thinking of going down to these levels over a decade period. And making these kinds of adjustments in how we're arranged because we think it's a different world. And we don't look at you as an enemy.
Q: Mr. Secretary, before you leave the H.D.L.D., we have a lot of H.D.L.D. days in regard to news. You can change our density anytime you want to. (inaudible)
Rumsfeld: There's an idea. Yeah. Isn't that a funny phrase? I just, I have almost determined not to learn it. Because I don't want to fall into that trap. It is --
[Dialogue removed by mutual agreement]
But I'll tell you, how in the world do we deal with Taliban, who have said that they have captured and executed over 100 American soldiers; who claim they've shot down three or four helicopters; who take stretchers and stickum out of a clinic over into a warehouse and claim it was a hospital. And then drag the press in to take pictures.
Who lie daily, every day. Who, when the N.G.O.s [Non-Governmental Organizations], these people stand up and fuss at the United States because there's a baby in the street who was killed by something, ignoring the fact that yes, we're dropping bombs, but also there's a heck of a lot of anti-aircraft coming up and that ordinance lands someplace. And there's opposition forces shooting into those towns. And just as they're shooting out of those towns, how they can know that it was an U.S. person who did it in all of this shock. And then you ask them why the N.G.O.s don't ever say what the Taliban are doing. And they look you right in the eye and say, we do, we get shot. Our employees would get shot. If we said against the Taliban what we're perfectly willing to say against the United States of America. That is a tough battle day after day after day in the Pentagon.
And one would think that after a period, when an outfit -- I mean everyone builds their own reputation and they have to live with it. And if someone's a liar in politics, you all pin the tail on the donkey and pretty soon people assume that that person may or may not be telling the truth. My gosh, we can't -- I can't, the idea of granting Taliban moral equivalence with the United States of America in terms of what our utterances are is a -- seems to me -- a disservice. That is to say, if it were Rumsfeld who made a career of it, saying one thing and doing another you'd get the tail pinned on you. And they ought to have the tail pinned on them. They're bad people.
Q: We try to be sensitive to that, Mr. Secretary. Maybe --
Rumsfeld: I'm not fussing at you in particular, I'm just saying --
Q: We try to be sensitive. I mean, one of the things that would help, I think, from our standpoint is just an ability to try to find out what's really happening, from you and from other people.
Rumsfeld: Of course. Me too. Me too. I'm not down on the ground in these towns when they drag a stretcher across. I don't know if they did it. I hear scraps of information saying they did it. But I can't prove it. That's the problem. You can't prove it unless you send someone in there.
Q: That's true.
[Dialogue removed by mutual agreement]
Q: Thank you so much. It's been very interesting.
Rumsfeld: Thank you. Nice to see you.
Q: Good to see you. Thanks for coming.