Q: It is our honor to have on the news line right now Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Good morning, secretary.
Rumsfeld: Good morning. How are you?
Q: Oh, it’s wonderful to have you on the show. We are fine here and very honored to have you on the Jimmy Ray show. This being, like, the hub of the United States Navy, the largest Naval base in the world. We’re just so proud to have you on the show today.
Rumsfeld: Well, thank you. I know Norfolk well. I had a daughter born in Portsmouth about 48 years ago here.
Q: Well, you know as I think you probably read in my bio that was advanced to you that I was born in Pensacola, was a navy brat.
Q: And my Dad is probably enjoying this interview now from heaven.
Rumsfeld: Well, I was stationed here in Norfolk back in 1956.
Q: That’s only a couple years before I was born, Mr. Secretary.
Unknown: Don’t tell him that.
Q: But it’s an honor to have you on the show. And I got to tell you, we got a lot of response yesterday when we asked our listeners for questions for you. This being a – obviously, a huge military, or not just Navy, but in all the armed services we have bases, as you know here. And so there's a lot of interest at stake and personal investment in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I was wondering if we could throw a couple of questions at you from listeners?
Q: Okay. Randy who lives in Norfolk called in yesterday with this. He has a son and son in-law are both are in Baghdad. And he’s wondering after we turn the country back over to the Iraqi government – the new Iraqi government – what is the troop situation going to look like? How long will we stay there at the same strength? Do you have that idea now or what’s the deal with that?
Rumsfeld: Well, there’s been some confusion about that in the press, I’ve noticed. The June 30th date, that is the planned date to turn over the sovereignty of the government…
Rumsfeld: …to the interim government of Iraq is only for the government. It is not for the security forces because the security forces in Iraq are coming along well. They’re now up to something like 200,000 strong, but they have not been fully trained and not been fully equipped.
Rumsfeld: And they’re not ready to take over security in the country, so the coalition troop situation will stay very much as it is today, until such time as the Iraqis are able to take over those responsibilities.
Q: Now so it’s kind of hard to have a definite timeline then.
Rumsfeld: Exactly. It depends on the facts on the ground.
Q: Yeah. And in that theater, I mean, they’re changing every minute almost.
Rumsfeld: Well, they do. And of course, the president has said we’ll stay there with our forces, as long as it’s necessary and not a day longer.
Q: Right. And you know a lot of the antagonists to the Bush’s take on this whole Iraq situation say, you know, listen, wasn’t this just a convenient way for President Bush to, like, you know, take out his frustrations on the threat on his father’s life and go over to Iraq and, you know, all that kind of stuff? I mean, why Iraq, Secretary Rumsfeld? Why did he pick Iraq, some people say? I know the answer to that, but…
Q: …could you address that?
Rumsfeld: You bet. Here’s a country that had used chemical weapons on its neighbors and on its own people. Here’s a country that was killing somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 people a year and filling up these mass graves and killing fields. It’s a country that was giving $25,000 to suicide bombers who would go out and kill innocent men, women and children, the terrorists.
Rumsfeld: And today what you see is 25 million Iraqi people who are free, who’d been liberated and it is an amazing accomplishment.
Q: It never…
Q: I’m sorry.
Rumsfeld: … men and women over there are doing a superb job.
Q: And we’re so proud of our military. I mean, we thank them every hour of the day on this show. But It’s amazing to me that the pundits always find the little negative things, but neglect the positives like the fact that there are so many people that are free now in Iraq and how strategic that country is now going to become for us.
Rumsfeld: It certainly is for the world. And a peaceful Iraq is going to make an enormous change in the Middle East and we just simply have to see it through. There are going to be good days and bad days. And, obviously, the last few have been bad days. And we’ve seen some violence first in Fallujah and more recently on Najaf by the fellow, Sadr. But our folks are working the problem and have confidence they’ll be able to move ahead.
Q: Well, you know, the Blackwater Security agency is based right out of Moyock, North Carolina, real close to our area. As a matter of fact, we have a lot of listeners in Moyock.
Q: So when that tragedy happened last week with the four Americans getting brutalized and murdered and hung from the bridge there in Fallujah, it was quite a shock to America, in general, but certainly to our area, because of the base being in Moyock. And a lot of people want to know, why didn’t we go in sooner?
Rumsfeld: Well, the military commander on the ground, General Sanchez, made a decision that he needed to prepare some Marines to be ready to go in in an orderly way and find the people who were engaged in that tragedy and slaughter and do it in a proper way and it required something like 48 hours. They began putting special forces in within 48 hours, which is relatively soon, and they intend to find those people and clean them out.
Q: You know, I find the problem back here in the States is not the information we get, but the misinformation that’s spread around…
Q: …about things -- and I’m sure you deal with that all the time, people asking you questions every time you turn around ,that are misinformed about the issue.
Rumsfeld: Indeed, it’s amazing. So many people in the press, they’re not on the radio or television where they can change their story 30 seconds later. They have to print it, so they try to print something and frequently it’s something that has never happened.
Rumsfeld: And they think it might, so they print it as news. People believe it’s news and it wasn’t news, it never happened.
Q: Right. And the good stuff is, I mean, there’s so much good stuff going on in the last year with – you know, with the Afghanistan thing. Obviously, we’ve had some deaths. We’ve had some American soldiers that have fallen in this effort and, you know, we regret all those. And nobody regrets them more than you and President Bush and the people in the administration that actually ordered this thing that started. But, you know, Afghanistan is free. Women have rights in Afghanistan. Now there’s so many good things going on because of our actions after 9/11.
Rumsfeld: Even in Iraq, if you think about it, the hospitals are open, the clinics are open, the schools are open, the oil production is back up, the electricity is working, potable water is available and the economic activity is coming back. The security situation has been uneven. There’s spikes of violence, as we’ve seen this week. And then there’ll be periods in the north and south basically where it’s been relatively calm throughout.
Q: Well – and it’s an amazing story, as far as I m concerned. Now let’s talk about Osama Bin Laden. We got any leads on Osama Bin Laden? (Laughs.)
Rumsfeld: Oh, we have leads every day and everyone works them hard. And, of course, our armies and navies and air forces were organized and trained and equipped to fight armies, navies and air forces, not to hunt individual people.
Q: Right, right.
Rumsfeld: We know how difficult that is. But they are continuing. The intelligence community continues to try to tries to turn up leads and we’ve had good success in capturing or killing a large number of al Qaeda and a large number of Taliban. And the hunt goes on. And my guess is he’s not very effective today. Maybe his lieutenants can be effective…
Rumsfeld: … and certainly they can continue to kill innocent people. But it’s very difficult for him because we’ve got so much pressure on him. And he has to spend an awful lot of time every day trying to not get caught.
Q: Right. That’s time consuming, trying not to get caught.
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Q: And the fact that the Pakistanis are on board with us now at least, you know, in that neck of the woods, because the topography over there has go to be just brutal.
Rumsfeld: It is terrible. And certainly at this time of year it’s still rugged, but the Pakistanis have been very helpful and increasingly helpful. They’ve suffered some terrorist attacks themselves and their cooperation has been going up steadily.
Rumsfeld: Well, I want to thank you very much. I’m going to have to get on with the day.
Q: Well, Secretary – Mr. Secretary, I thank you so much for being on the Jimmy Ray Show. It’s an honor to have you on. And God bless you and Godspeed and, you know, thank you for all that you do for our country.
Rumsfeld: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to talk to you.
Q: All righty. Thank you very much. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the Jimmy Ray Show.