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Secretary of Defense Interview with Bob Woodward - 23 Oct, 2003

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
April 19, 2004
Secretary of Defense Interview with Bob Woodward - 23 Oct, 2003

(Interview with Bob Woodward of the Washington Post.  Also participating was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Lawrence Di Rita and the Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Lt. Gen. John Craddock)

 

Rumsfeld:  I’ve told you before that my memory tends to go toward concepts, principles and approaches as opposed to details, so if there are factual differences at anything I say, alert us and we’ll check them.  And they’ve got a timeline that Tom Franks had.

 

            Q:  Ah that’s great.

 

            Rumsfeld:  No. And---yes, we’ll make it available to the President or people you’re going to interview so they’ll know what.  And you’ve seen Franks, Renuart, Luck, Myers, Pace and Giambastiani.

 

            Q:  Your predecessor, yes sir.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Let me just open with a couple of comments.

 

            I do not remember much about Iraq being discussed at all with the President or me or the NSC prior to when the President asked me to – asked me what I thought of the Iraq contingency plan.  That I believe was November 21st of ‘01.

 

            Q:  That’s great to pin that date down. That makes sense.

 

            Rumsfeld:  It feels right to me because I believe I talked to Tom Franks on the -- he thinks on the 27th.

 

            Di Rita:  Yes sir, that’s right, when you went down to Tampa, you had a press conference that day and I think you spent an hour with General Franks.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And I would not have waited long from the President asking me to do it when he asked me what I thought of the war plan -- the contingency plan -- and I told him that I didn’t think it was current, that I didn’t think it represented Tom Franks’ thinking.  That I knew it didn’t represent mine and that it was basically Desert Storm II Plus and that I thought we could – that I was in the process of reviewing all of the contingency plans in the department and had been since earlier in ‘01.  And he asked if I could do it on a basis that wasn’t, you know, terribly noticeable, and I said sure, because I’m doing all of them.  I was uncomfortable with many of them sufficiently enough that after I reviewed two, I stopped everything and had a whole Saturday blocked out.

 

            Q:  Either August 1st or August 8th.

 

            Rumsfeld:  To go through all the assumptions in all of the key plans.  Did I mention this?

 

            Q:  This is –

 

            Rumsfeld:  And I wanted to hear if the ones I saw had assumptions that I knew were stale, then I better see them all, and I did.

 

            Q:  And this – you told this to the President on this November 21st when he took you aside after an NSC meeting?

 

            Rumsfeld:  What he did was at the end of an NSC meeting he said, I need to see you.  We walked out and went in a little cubby hole office right off the NSC Situation Room, closed the door and he said, how do you feel about the plan – the war plan for Iraq?  I said what I said.  And I then answered him with what I had done and where we were, and I said that there isn’t a combatant commander who doesn’t know how I feel and that I’m getting them refreshed.

 

            Q:  So you could do this under the radar so to speak.

 

            Rumsfeld: Yeah. Which I was doing with the others.

 

            Q:  Did he say anything else in terms of urgency?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No.   There wasn’t any urgency, and the only thing he asked me was not to talk about it with other people, and I said, well it would be helpful for me to be able to know who I can talk to when he had brought other people into his thinking.  And I said it’s particularly important that I talk to George Tenet on things like this.  And he said, fine, and at a later date he did tell me that I could talk to Tenet.

 

            Q:  But not at that point?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, because he had not talked to Tenet.  He had not talked to anybody that I know of -- he left me with that impression.

 

            The discussions on Iraq preceding that, and subsequent to that, had been basically on Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch and I think I mentioned to you that we had a plan for a downed aircraft called Desert Badger.  And that I was uncomfortable with the fact that our planes were being shot at and we weren’t able to do much about it under the constraints that existed.

 

            I was also uncomfortable with Desert Badger, and I thought the President ought to have additional options, so I told him that I was going to see if we could pre-package some additional options, and we ended up pre-packaging a Desert Badger Plus and a Desert Badger Plus Plus.  So that he knew about it, and that in the event a plane went down, I could call him and recommend one of those three.

 

            Q:  This had all been done before 9/11 even or before --?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Desert Badger existed prior to 9/11.

 

            Q:  And the Plus Plus?

 

            Rumsfeld:  And the Plus Plus we fashioned afterwards.  It would have been.  Now what do you have?

 

            Q:  Well I’ve gone through this in lots of detail with people and I’m looking for the story of him and you -- the President and you -- dealing on this, and clearly General Franks brought up a number of iterations of this December 4th, December 12th -- I think it’s in the list -- and then there was the briefing in Crawford that he gave the President on December 28th.  You were at your place and you were on video that day I understand?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t think so.

 

            Di Rita:  We do have a video of you on SVTC [Secure Video Teleconference] that day from your place.

 

            Rumsfeld [to staff]:  Oh, do you? Okay.  [to Woodward]  There was a time that I suggested that Tom go down alone.

 

            Q:  That was it.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And I wanted him to spend some time with the President because I felt it was important that the President develop a confidence level that I had in Tom. And I thought it would be an easier thing to do if I weren’t there. So I purposely stayed away from one of the meetings in Crawford and I asked Tom to go physically rather than by SVTC. I said I thought it would be a good idea.

 

Q:  And having talked to people -- it seems to be the breakthrough in that, if there’s a breakthrough, and this is what I would ask you that you develop -- you with General Franks but General Franks making the presentation.  This is kind of a summary version of it, the lines of operation versus slices of regime vulnerability that you set up the things that -- these are the lines of operations, kinetics, SOF, all the way down to humanitarian.  And then these are the targets or the things that could be attacked.  Does that sound--?

 

            Rumsfeld:  There’s no question that he had lines of operations and we had things that worked this way.

 

            Q:  And that day there was a chart presented, a series of charts somewhat like this, of “this is the way we can do it” and it strikes me that by doing the slices and dividing it into these categories seemed to me a breakthrough -- seemed to General Franks and some of the other people listening to this on that day.  And this strikes me as kind of the now we’re presenting to you, and as I understand, the President was quite interested in this because what it says is--

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t know if that’s the first time that presentation was made. Does Tommy think so?

 

            Q:  As best I can tell, and as best I can tell from others -- and you know conceptually -- is this a breakthrough that you see as significant?  Does it lead you down the path or the opportunity of doing this quicker and with more precision over less time?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I’ve fashioned a couple of things.  One was this, which is a listing of the briefings that I asked Tom to prepare or that he recommended that he prepare or that someone suggested to me be prepared.

 

            Q: Right.

 

              Rumsfeld:  And then the question was well, who would do that briefing?  And then who would get it?  And in this case it could be the Secretary of Defense gets the briefing.  It could be that the Deputy’s Committee or the Principal’s Committee or the NSC or POTUS without the NSC separately.  And that tended to be all the things relating to targeting that were in the last category or operations that were sensitive.

 

            Q:  When was that developed Sir?

 

            Rumsfeld [to staff]:  I don’t know how many versions I had of this, but there were a lot of versions. 

 

            Craddock:  We started tracking this in August of ‘02.

 

            Rumsfeld:  August of ’02.  And I kept saying to myself, what do I owe the President?  How do I fashion the process in a way that he is fully briefed on every piece of this that he needs to be?  That he has enough time with Tom and me.  That he develops confidence that the things that he ought to be interested in and about have, in fact, been explored by us.  How do we fashion the process so that the things that the National Security Council needs to be engaged in -- and the interagency?  How do we shove things to the Deputy’s Committee or the Principal’s Committee without the President that need their thought and interaction?  And then beyond that, what do I need, which is a lot more than any of those, so that I feel conviction and confidence.

 

            Q:  Could you go through that because that’s incredibly important -- because it’s clear from the reporting that there were all kinds of briefings and summaries and re-briefings?

 

            Rumsfeld:  The topics run the gamut, but you don’t have any years on here interestingly.  What year would that be?

 

            Craddock:  That would be ‘02.

 

            Rumsfeld:  That would be ’02.

 

            Craddock:  Yes, Sir, 2002.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, they started before then.

 

            Q:  Okay.  This is what?

 

            Rumsfeld:  This is a timeline that – the President was in the process of negotiating with the UN and sending signals to Saddam Hussein the things he ought to stop doing and he ought to cooperate with the UN, and toward the end that he ought to leave, the ultimatum period.  And I kept – my task was to have to link all of the complex things that were going on in the world and that would affect the President’s timing in the event he decided to go.  And what needed to be done prior to that and how long would things take not knowing if he wanted to go to – if he would ultimately feel he had to go to war, I had to be prepared and be able to tell him so his body language and his words fit the circumstance of what was going on.  And so we had -- this one, for example, is from January 29th.

 

            Q:  Of ‘03.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Of ’03.  But they go back before and they come closer to the very end.  They get shorter and shorter toward the end, but this one had that there was a Prime Minister of Italy visit to D.C., there was a Prime Minister of the UK visit to D.C. on the 31st, the UN is getting organized, Germany assumes the Presidency, European Summit of Foreign Ministers, Sec State presents the case to the UN Security Council.

 

            Q:  That’s February 5th.

 

            Rumsfeld:  The 4th I got.  Yeah we -- he -- presents the case – here it is on the 5th.  President speaks to the world and says, you’ve heard the inspectors and so forth and this was dated – this was back on January 29th, and it was projecting how it might go.  And then it would have something like this:  U.S. teams go to allied capitals and to Congress and begin talking about what the inspectors are doing – or not doing, finding.   Then the Sec State submits the second resolution, the 4th ID ships begin to arrive in the Med.  And Turkey…

 

            Q:   What is the date on that? On the 4th ID?

 

            Rumsfeld:  The 10th of February.  And then we had a date Turkey will be addressing their decision whether ground forces can go through or whether they have to go around.  And then an end day, a Presidential decision day.

 

            Q:  When was that date on there?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well it moved and on each one of these it moved.

 

            Q:  When was it on that one?  February 22nd is that?

 

            Rumsfeld:   That’s February 22nd on that one and that’s a January 29th one and this one is a March 13th one and we dropped the phrase N-Day.  Here’s where we had to have CRAF 2 [Civil Reserve Air Fleet] might have to activated.  U.S. announces coalition of the willing, CRAF 2.  And then there’s Ashura -- the end of the 10-day Shia holy period -- and then U.S. government gives coalition, allies and Congress notice of impending ultimatum.  Ultimatum day – and I had to finally put “to be decided” because it was moving – all these things were moving around.  And then we ended up with an “A” day, which is – well, then there was a period we put coalition and some Special Operators on the ground, and then there was “A” day when the air war began.

 

            Q:  And was on that one “A” day the 21st or…?

 

            Rumsfeld:  It was in that range, but I didn’t have a date on this, it’s not the latest one.  We ought to get – well these are all fascinating.  But I ended up having to do this myself because I was the only one talking to the President.

 

            Q:  You had to bring all the pieces together.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yeah, and he was talking to me about what he was thinking and what he might have to do, but to know -- he needs to know how all these other pieces would fit with him.

 

            Q:  And you would go over that with him each period or each day?

 

            Rumsfeld:  We ended up with hours because it all had to be sequenced and we did it, we did.   Now this is the list.

 

            Q: And where is it?

 

            Craddock:  It goes back to May of ‘02.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh look at this.  Okay, here it is.  Here is the first briefing that I’ve got down here where there was a specific briefing.  What was your first date?  You said – Crawford was when?

 

            Q:  Crawford was the 28th of December 2001 and I think that would be on Franks.

 

Craddock:  Well these are briefings about the plan after the plan was developed and as it progressed.

 

            Q:  May 11th I have was Franks to Camp David with the President and the NSC.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well let me read you these titles...May 11th ‘02 was “General” and it was at Camp David and June 19th was a compartmented concept paper, August 5th was –

 

            Q:  And that was – is there anymore on what that is?  I’m sorry to interrupt but I have June 19th introducing the concept of the running start to the President.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And then August 5th was updates and targets --and that was Franks and me at the White House.  And then September 6th was threat analysis, September 6th was WMD and theater ballistic missiles, September 7th was the plan air, ground, SOF, Information Ops at Camp David and then October 29th was Info Ops, WMD theatre ballistic missiles waived, SAP [Special Access Programs] program, Franks at the White House Sit Room.  And then December 4th ‘02 was operations in Baghdad, Iraqi operations, preparations and sustaining momentum at the White House with Franks.  September 18th was DoD, CIA Strategic Integration for Operations in Iraq.  The 19th was campaign overview and strategic timing pursuit of al-Qaeda senior leadership.  The 20th was securing and repairing Iraqi oil infrastructure, collateral damage estimates, hardened and underground facilities, targeting for OP Plan 1003 Victor, Iraqi hydrology update.  January 8th was Desert Badger update and 1003 Victor force deployment.  The 10th of January global impacts, regional country support.  The 10th was importance of the North.  The 15th was U.S. policy on Israel and plans to implement DoD planning to deter and defend against Iraqi WMD.  The 17th of January was U.S. NorthCom support to the war in Iraq -- what you do in terms of homeland?  These are all briefings we’ve got on file.

 

            Q: To the President?

 

            Rumsfeld:  They’re all to the President, every one of these.

 

            Q:  He really had his hands in it didn’t he?  Keep going if you are willing to.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Then the 27th we briefed him on Korea update. And on the 31st a timeline -- that would be one of these things I just showed you.

 

            Q:  That’s January 31st.

 

            Rumsfeld:  January 31st -- and also targeting and operational objectives -- and that’s me and Myers I’m sure.  And the 31st on intelligence surveillance and the reconnaissance, collection options.  And then on the 5th a timeline again of March and then on the 12th – correction that was February and on February 12th military response to suspect al-Qaeda facility in Iraq.  On the 14th, Free Iraqi Forces status.  On the 14th, catastrophic success -- what you do if it collapsed and things went fast in terms of humanitarian things and the like.  The 19th, a timeline again, potential Iraqi-related briefings, targeting approval authority, where we actually agreed as to what targets he would deal with, what targets I would deal with, what targets Tom would deal with.  Targeting and collateral damage on the 19th; 2/25 -- human shields, possible U.S. responses; 2/25 -- swift defeat – that’s different, 2/25 -- Operation Southern Watch concept of operations, rules of engagement; 2/26 -- Northern Operations, operations in Baghdad; 2/28 -- Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance; 3/5 -- Special Access Programs and Approval Authorities.  March 5th -- conventional response to Iraqi WMD attack; March 5th -- combat operation timelines again -- Franks was with me on this one.  March 5th -- status update on initial combat operations, Franks was with me for that.  The next one -- reshaping the Iraqi military.  Another is targeting and collateral damage on the 24th with Myers and me.  So it’s those kind of things that was long, long list of and here are the ones we didn’t get in here for some reason -- Reserve call-ups, briefings, congressional contact plans, Fortress Baghdad, legal basis, CENTCOM-CIA synchronization, high risk operations, oil field security and repair, targeting on collateral damage.  Hydrology -- I guess I did mention some of those -- humanitarian and Civic Affairs, global impacts I mentioned, post conflict governance, chem and bio warfare impact on coalition forces, strategic information operations, declaratory policy -- that’s what that means, global logistics and medical preparedness.  These are not to the President.

 

            Q:  Those were all to the President?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No.  Some were just to the – oh, strategic operations was to the President, NSC.  Global logistics was just to the Deputies, opposition strategy was to the NSC, catastrophic success I mentioned, oil production sales was to the NSC.  Yeah, they’re just one after another, after another. Some were to him, some were to the NSC, some were to be PC and the DC.

 

            Q:  I’m trying to look for -- if you were to devise this into segments, Mr. Secretary, kind of say, this is what happened, and as I’ve gone through one of the things that came up kind of early in 2002 -- I understand you said to General Franks, we’ve got this old---the full generated start plan, you’re starting to think -- at some point you said to him, look, I want you to assemble a group to do a plan that’s kind of “out of the box” thinking.  Is that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I did.  I don’t know that I used that phrase, but I said look, there are various ways something could happen.  Saddam could do something untoward to a neighbor, Saddam could shoot down one of our planes, the President could decide that he received some intelligence information that led him to believe that something should be done.  And your plan was a slow, long, leisurely troop buildup with full notification to the world of what you were doing.  You would have to do all these things.   So, if he’s going to be negotiating at the UN we can support the diplomacy by doing a lot of those things.  And then either the war gets started because a coalition of the willing decides that he’s violated the UN Resolution or he’s submitted fraudulent inspection—a declaration of what he has----or the UN decides to do something, or the President decides to do something.  And so it could start either without any notice or with a modest amount of notice or with a little bit more than a modest amount of notice, and therefore you’ve got to have plan that fits any one of those scenarios.  And that’s doable.  It’s just a matter of doing it, and so we agreed, and he set about the task of thinking how that would happen and he had multiple plans to do that.

 

            Q:  And what I get is that the first – you’ve said to him at one point you may have to be even ready to go as early April or May, now this is of 2002, and that you just need to think that could happen.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I said, if we had a plane shot down and they captured somebody, or they did something to a neighbor, you need to know -- we need to know what we would do, what we would recommend to the President.

 

            Q:  Did you have in your mind what you would recommend to the President at that point?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No.  I mean, I needed to know what the President needed to know, and I needed to know what we could do.  What are the all the things that could happen and what are the various things that we could develop the capability to deal with those, with options for the President?  My goal always is to see that a President has options, multiple options, as opposed to reduced options.

 

            Q:  One of your theories of operating is that in a sense you have to think like the President or think…?

 

            Rumsfeld:  What is it that if you were in his seat you need to know and what would you want your Secretary of Defense to be thinking about and getting his Combatant Commanders thinking about and preparing for and developing improved options -- in other words, you could say – and he could say -- at any given point to me today, what are our options for X, Y, or Z and I could tell him.  But if he said, and he should want to say, let’s think through the kinds of things that might happen in the world and what kinds of ways – what are the things we can do today to take steps so that we are in a better position and have better options in the event certain things happen.  That is what I took it upon myself to try to do.

 

            Q:  Did you explain to him that you were doing this?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh sure.

 

            Q:  You did.  And do you have some idea of when because –

 

            Rumsfeld:  I’m not talking about Iraq in this case I’m talking about all the things I do over here.

 

            Q:  That this is your job.

 

            Rumsfeld:  That’s my job.

 

            Q:  And his, do you remember what he said his sense of what –

 

            Rumsfeld:  We’d have discussions about various parts of the world and different things but he – the President needs to – the President ought not to say things that can’t be backed up and he has to know what the physical limits of our capabilities are.  He has to make the judgments about the policies, but he can’t make judgments about the policies unless he has a sense of what’s on the playing field, what’s possible, what policies are possible, and that is the task we have -- to say what policy options are currently possible for him and if we did various things what policy options might be available for him.

 

            Q:  Do you have sense of when?

 

            Rumsfeld:  It affects his words, it affects his body language, it affects his thinking.

 

            Q:  I remember during the Gulf War and the lead up to it -- sitting at this very table with your good friend Dick Cheney, when he had this job, talking about the Gulf War and the war plan and how he got into it and realized the initial war plan was up the middle and he was the one who kind of said, now wait a minute why are you going at their strength and so forth?  Did you ever talk to Cheney in a way that you could tell me this that I can use it to explain what the job of the Secretary of Defense in a situation like this is or was it just obvious to you?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t understand the question?

 

            Q:  I mean what did you talk to Cheney about?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Cheney was in 99% of the meetings.

 

            Q:  Did you ever talk with him about you need to make?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh sure we had lots of talks.

 

            Q:  Can you give me some idea of what?

 

            Rumsfeld:  And I talk to Colin and the Vice President, I talk to George Tenet and bounce ideas off of them, think things through.

 

            Q:  Can you recall any of those because I’m very interested in relating what Cheney did in the Gulf War -- not extensively to what you’re doing here -- but see if there was any?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Wolfowitz and the Vice President were both involved in the Gulf War.  Paul, as the policy person, and both had contributions throughout the process that reflected their knowledge of the neighbors, things that might be avoided, concerns that one ought to be attentive to, and they both were quite helpful.

 

            Q:  Could you recall any specifics of?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I can’t -- not off the top of my head.

 

            Q:  Did General Franks say to you -- because he said to others -- that because he had fought in the Iraq war – the Gulf War -- himself, he said, I fought these people and I know that when it gets down to push and shove that they’ll walk -- that they’re not very strong, that he very much had an attitude that this is not a formidable military?

 

            Rumsfeld:  We had discussions about – the Gulf War was a benchmark one could look at.  It was old, a long time ago; lot of changes in the world since then, and so what we did was we got multiple opinions about the relative strength of the Iraqi military capabilities then and now in March.  And we looked at our capabilities and coalition capabilities and measured them then and now, and drew some conclusions from that –

 

            Q:  Which were?

 

            Rumsfeld:  That then informed the war plan.  The conclusions were that the Iraqi military was at a lower level of capability at that time than it was in the Gulf War.

 

            Q:  I got those numbers, and it was really quite a cutback.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And that U.S. capabilities were as demonstrated in Afghanistan in precision weapons and mobility better by some fraction, and we talked about those things.  Then there are a whole lot of other factors -- how’s your intelligence compared to theirs, and our folks had been doing Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch and felt they had a pretty good fix on a non-trivial portion of the country north and south.  They also recognized that the human intelligence we had was modest and they also recognized that the non-human intelligence was dealing with a very hard target with a lot of underground capability, with a master of deception, with a lot of experience in deceiving and --

 

            Q:  Stopping coups also.

 

            Rumsfeld:  That there were some things we knew quite a bit about and a lot of things we knew precious little about.

 

            Q:  Did you get the CIA briefing where they did the lessons learned from their operations in Iraq going back to the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s?

 

            Rumsfeld:  You mean their lessons learned after this recent Iraq war?

 

            Q:  No Sir, no -- before the Iraq war.  I think there was a briefing that their Iraq Chief, Iraq Operations Group, did at the end of 2001.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I think I do. 

 

            Q:  And what was interesting about it was that they did a scrub of their past operations and reached the conclusion that covert, CIA operations will not bring down the Iraqi regime.  Flat out that we need – that if we’re going to do it we need this -- it sounds like your language almost -- we need to use all elements of national power and that we have to have a military operation if we want to make sure we’re going to bring the regime down.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I’ve heard that.  I certainly believe it.  Repression works unless you get a lucky shot.  You can repress people for a heck of long time and stay in power.

 

            Q:  But that’s somewhat of a normally -- the CIA is kind of -- we can take of it Mr. President we’ll try, we’ll do it.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I’ve never heard that from them.

 

            Q: Not on this.

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, not on that subject.

 

            Q:  But that’s a real change for them

 

Rumsfeld:  I don’t know that.

 

Q:  I don’t know that you perceived it – when you heard it you agreed that this?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I mean my recent experience in this term of office is that George knows what they can do and knows what they can’t do and is quite forthright about it.

 

            Q:  And that this couldn’t be done by them alone?

 

            Rumsfeld:  That was my impression, certainly.

 

            Q:  Now when we talked last time I was very struck by your discussion of the assumptions in the war plan and I’m going back because I’m trying to start at the beginning of this Crawford briefing.  I understand General Franks said these were the assumptions that were being incorporated at this point.  Now this is a very preliminary point.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I would – one and two I agree with, three I think I wouldn’t phrase it that way.  There’s no question, that Tom would get priority on resources but to use the phrase “would have to be put on hold” -- other contingencies -- we never felt that way.  We believed then and we believe now that we had the ability to deal with another contingency on a “swiftly-defeat-but-not-a-win-decisively, occupy-the-country” basis.

 

            Q:  Opposition groups.

 

            Rumsfeld:  We were told of that, that there was contact with opposition groups and that we could expect some cooperation.  I don’t know what support the military means.  The opposition groups – we certainly had the feeling that there would be elements of them that would not resist, which is a little different than the implication here of military support to the military inside, and I don’t remember ever believing – ever being assured -- that we could count on that. Just to clarify.

 

            Q:  Israel?

 

            Rumsfeld:  That was a risk.  If we had decided we wanted to try to get the rest of the Arab countries antagonistic by attacking Israel.  That was a risk.  Six certainly is correct.  We had lot going in the region.

 

            Q:  And this force level was presented at that meeting.

 

            Rumsfeld: I don’t remember that back in December of ‘01.

 

            Q:  Does that sound wrong?

 

            Rumsfeld: It does to me.

 

            Q:  I’ll check.  I’ve gone through it with about four people, Mr. Secretary, and they all use that number.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Could be.  It’s just -- it’s surprises me.

 

            Q:  Department of State would promote.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t remember that one either.  But I don’t remember 8 or 9 being greeted that way, no.  Regional states would not – I guess that’s right. Yeah.

 

            Q:  You had to assume that for this kind of operation.  These are your – these are General Franks’ assumptions of what we presented you Mr. President.  I mean what’s interesting to me is it’s a very cautious list.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Eleven seems internally contradictory.  We had concerns that they might not and some would and some wouldn’t.

 

            Q:  I guess it was the way it presented that they need adequate basing and an overflight but it’s kind of –

 

            Rumsfeld:  I see.

 

            Q: That there is a concern here of these countries.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Right.  I guess that’s ballpark.

 

            Q:  Did the President ever talk about the assumptions with you because it’s – I mean if I were sitting in his chair, I would say this is very useful because that tells me.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I insist on assumptions in a briefing, and we just stick them up and it’s particularly true that you have to put up assumptions that are things that you either can’t control or can’t be controlled.  In other words, some of them are external to the department so they have to be there so that other people looking at it know that, and then some that just aren’t controllable.  Nobody has the ability to determine it.

 

            Q:  If we were both retired and you were doing your book on your life in government, which I know you said you wouldn’t do unless you talked to everyone, and I were interviewing you?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I’d have to an awful lot older.  {Laughter} 

 

            Q: Well said. 

 

            Rumsfeld: I’m too young to write a book.  [Looking at list]  I never heard number eight that I recall but – and I think the things that aren’t there -- well there’s things that aren’t there that I would---there are things missing.  Go ahead.

 

            Q: Okay, no.  My goal here is to present enough so people can see the shoes the president walked in, in other words the experiences he had -- that’s why your list of all of those things is so important to understand.  He wasn’t just sitting around.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh my goodness.

 

            Q:  The public – there is a public perception that you know the decision to go to war is binary and you make it one day.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Whooo.

 

            Q:   Well there is, as I’m sure you’re aware of, and I’m trying to take each step.

 

            Rumsfeld:  This President spent, you know, just enormous numbers of hours.

 

            Q:  It’s an exercise in patience not impatience.  Would you agree with that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  And thoughtfulness and probing and in questions.  He spent time in the National Security Council with his key advisors, he spent time alone with me and Dick Myers, he spent time with Dick Myers, Tom Franks and me, he spent time on some occasions with Tom Franks and one or two of his key people like Dell Dailey and Dick Myers and me.  He made a personal commitment and investment.

 

            Q:  Can you cite some examples that I might not have heard that would particularly -- just the two of you alone, questions?  How he looked at this?  You mentioned in a very tantalizing way last time you recall very vividly when he decided to go to war, when the decision was made.  For some of your colleagues he called in -- I think one-on-one -- in February and said, I think I’m going to do this.  Was there such a moment with you?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yes.

 

            Q:  Can you tell me about it for the history of this.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t remember when it was.  I do remember him telling me alone.  I can remember telling him, again, trying to put myself in his shoes and not wanting him to get so far out in his words or body language or mental – the evolution of his thinking -- that he couldn’t get back, and there comes a moment, as all these things are happening, when we have to look a neighboring country in the eye and they have to make a decision that puts them at risk. And at that moment, the President needs to know that.  He needs to know that we’re arriving at a point where we’re going to ask a neighboring country to put themselves at risk and make a commitment to do things and begin doing them and accept the preliminary preparation that has to be – that they have to participate in for it to work, which puts them at risk prior to the time the President makes a final decision. The same thing’s true if you have forces in the country, the same thing’s true if you’re dealing with people in the country, which the agency was, that are at risk.  And a responsible person like the President of the United States, and this President, has to have internalized that.  That as you go forward there’s going to come a day well before the final decision---not hours, but days.

 

            Q:  Really -- weeks and maybe more, isn’t it?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Certainly days where you have gotten to the point where the penalty for our country and for our relationships and potentially the lives of some people are at risk -- if you have to make a decision to not go forward -- so he needs that degree of granularity and –

 

            Q:  Did you tell him this or discuss it with him?

 

            Rumsfeld: You bet.  {Laughter}.

 

            Q:  What did he say?

 

            Rumsfeld:  When others of us are talking to people and doing things that are moving very close to that point where the country is at risk if it doesn’t go forward.

 

            Q:  When was that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I shouldn’t say the country -- where the relationships that the country has and the credibility of the country -- of the Administration -- is at risk, absent going forward unless there is some very highly visible reason not to go forward like a capitulation or the departure of Saddam Hussein or something like that.  A President is owed that.

 

            Q: Yes sir.  When was that in this?  At what point, can you isolate a day or a period?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I can’t.  I can remember trying to give him as early a clue as possible that that was coming down the road so that when I got there I didn’t have to walk in and say well, today is the day.  From here on the credibility of our country is at stake and we were putting people in jeopardy unless -- therefore you’re losing your option.  I don’t like to do that.  I like to say well in advance of that, here it is in D-Day minus months, as we move down this path we’re going to arrive at that point, and it’s not going to be on D-Day or decision day it is going to be in advance of that.

 

            Q:  When was the first clue you gave him?  I totally understand exactly what you’re saying.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t remember.

 

            Q:  You remember what it was?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t.

 

            Q:  When did the President decide to go to war?  You say you don’t know when, but take me to that scene.  What did he say?

 

            Rumsfeld: There were two times.  There was one time when he took me aside and said that he is –

 

            Q: Let me just turn this over if I may.  (Turning over tape).

 

            Rumsfeld:  He took me aside and he said, look we’re going to have to do this I’m afraid, I don’t see how we’re going to get him [Saddam Hussein] to a position where he will do something in a manner that’s consistent with the UN requirements, and we’ve got to make an assumption that he will not, if we do, do the ultimatum, which has not been finally decided, we’ve got to make the assumption that he may not accept the ultimatum.  It sounds like his - he would be - knowing what we know about him it’s probably more likely that he wouldn’t but we do -- I wanted to give him the last crack and the President was close to deciding that he agreed with that.

 

            Q:  Would this have been in February, sir, or March?

 

            Rumsfeld: I just don’t remember, it was a later moment when in fact, in his office, I took something over physically and asked that it be signed and I don’t even remember what it was that I had him sign but he did sign a –

 

            Q:  A warning order or a -- ?

 

            Di Rita:  I think it was the execute order and that would be in early March.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Exactly, he signed the execute order, I signed the execute order, I guess, and I asked him to countersign it, or a cover note that he authorized me to sign an execute order to go to war.

 

            Q:  And that was, was that that Monday the 17th?

 

            Rumsfeld:  (laughter) This is what I’m not good at.

 

            Q:  I’m sorry.

 

            Rumsfeld:  That’s all right - I just don’t even think that (inaudible).

 

            Q:  That ‘s great.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And it was – I’m sure Tom told you that we had some forces on the ground.  That everyone was expecting at the beginning a long air war, and instead, we put forces in on the ground and then began the ground war prior to the air war.  And at Tom’s design, and I do not know if the execute order was signed, it was certainly signed prior to the time the ground war began, whether it was signed prior to the time we put the ground – the Special Operators in, I don’t know.

 

            Q:  I have it on the 17th because on that morning General Franks had all the component commanders up on the screen, there’s that NSC meeting and the President said, it’s a go.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Did he?

 

            Q:  And I think that, that would be, but again there are levels of knowledge.

 

            Rumsfeld [to staff]:  Check it. It is checkable.

 

            Q:  When you took it to him in the Oval Office.

 

            Q: Do you remember anything he said or you said?  Was this a one-page execute order?

 

            Rumsfeld:  There isn’t anything in this building that’s one page.  There was a cover memo that he signed, which was very short, but all of the preliminary instructions had been sent out but subject to execute, and then I signed an execute order.  And he signed it or co-signed.

 

            Q:  Did he say anything when you did that?  Was it just the two of you in the Oval Office or Cheney and Card and Condi there?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Probably.  It was probably the larger group is my guess at that moment.  They would be the likely people, Card and the Vice President and Condi.  But I just can’t remember.

 

            Q:  What was the hardest moment in this for you if there was one?  In the whole thing I mean?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well it’s an enormous decision -- one just does not do – engage in a war – lightly, and it was something that you thought about and thought about and thought about, and at a certain point knowing it’s not your decision or even your recommendation.  It is something that you have to -- my whole focus was less on that than it was on making sure that we had done everything humanly possible to prepare him for what could go wrong, to prepare so that things would go right.

 

            Q:  Do you have that list of the things that could go wrong? 

 

Rumsfeld:  I do.

 

Q:  Is that something I could get?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I looked at it this morning and the answer is no.  It is –

 

            Q:  You’ve read some before to reporters.  Can you give me some – it’s three pages?  Is there a date because General Myers said you kept revising it?

 

            Rumsfeld: There are 29 items, and it begins by saying Iraq, an illustrative list of potential problems to be considered and addressed.  “The following is illustrative list of the types of problems that could result from a conflict with Iraq.  It’s offered simply as a checklist so that they are part of our deliberations.”  It ends. And then there’s 29 items and then it ends by saying “Note:  It is possible, of course, to prepare a similar illustrative list of all of the potential problems that need to be considered if there is no regime change in Iraq.”  So I’m saying, look here’s all the bad stuff, on the other hand, there’s a risk of action, there’s a risk of inaction.

 

            Q: This is Cheney’s point always.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And the –

 

            Q:  Give me a range of like what’s the first one and some – not the language from them, but just so that I can --?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well you would have to be aware of it while you were engaged in Iraq another state could try to take advantage of your involvement or pre-occupation.  Oil disruption could cause an international shock wave.  Iraqi intelligence services have a global presence including in the U.S., and could strike the U.S., our allies or other deployed forces in unconventional ways.  There could be higher than expected collateral damage.

 

            Q:  You’re smiling.  The smiling is breaking my heart.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Fortress Baghdad could prove to be long and unpleasant for all.  Iraq could experience ethnic strife among Sunni, Shi’a and Kurds, as they did at an earlier period.  Iraq could use chemical weapons against the Shi’a and blame the United States, Iraq could successfully best us in public relations and persuade the world that it was a war against Muslims, which it was not.  They’re just a whole host of those things.

 

            Q:  Is there a date on that final – is that the final version?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, this one is dated October 15th so it was – what happened was I was sitting in an NSC meeting –

 

            Q:  You told me this last time.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And I doodled with a bunch of things and I developed a list of about 15 things and I said look, we better keep this in mind, and I listed all 15 of these, then I came back and wrote the 15 and added and made the list and then I sent it around to 3 or 4 people and they added a couple of items and that was the final.  But it was months before March.

 

            Q:  Right, October 15th, 2002.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And the earlier draft, I bet you, was a month before that so.

 

            Q:  And then you went over that list with the President?

 

            Rumsfeld:  In the NSC meeting I did it, and off the top of my head the 15 plus or minus, and then at a later date I sent this to him and walked him through it.  You bet, and our people here.

 

            Q:  Kept adding to it?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, I would go over them because these are things we have to take account of and be prepared to deal with.

 

            Q:  Did you recommend going to war in the end?  Was it –

 

            Rumsfeld:  It’s an interesting question.  There’s no question in anyone’s mind, but I agreed with the President’s approach and his decision.  Whether there ever was a formal moment where he asked me, do I think he should go to war, I can’t recall that.  I do recall him going around to his combatant commanders and saying, can we win this?

 

            Q:  Are you ready?  Do you have everything you need?

 

            Di Rita:  And the Chiefs too.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And the Chiefs, around the room twice with the Chiefs, and I can remember him asking me, do I have confidence in General Franks?  Do I have confidence in the war plan?  And do I have confidence in these pieces? 

 

            Q:  When did he ask you that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh I don’t remember but I just know that he had to develop confidence that this institution, which is his instrument – the country’s instrument – had thoroughly examined these things, and that they were people in whom he had developed a level of confidence that he knew on what things they were strong and what things he could give them a long leash on, what things he wanted a shorter leash and he did a – he functioned as a superb executive in the process of this.

 

            Q:  Can you isolate any of the -- I mean the war plan went from this generated start -- running start -- finally down to this hybrid?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, that was what was on the shelf -- to a dramatically improved version through a long series of iterations that Tom and I went through.

 

            Q:  And then it eventually got down to what they call a hybrid.  Is that right?  Which is running start plus, kind of --- and it was this 5, 11, 16, 125…5 days for the air bridge, 11 days to move, 16 days, but as it turned out they reached a very interesting point where the air bridge had already been – you didn’t need those 5 days.

 

            Rumsfeld:  The debate in the UN went on for so long that we never had to activate CRAF 2 – we used all volunteer commercial aircraft – that’s correct isn’t it John?

 

            Craddock:  We had CRAF 1

 

            Rumsfeld:  We used CRAF 1, which is all pick-and-choose, and no one was inconvenienced because we had so much time to do it.  The air bridge became moot, and the TPFDD [Time Phased Force Deployment Database] became moot.  They were disaggregated and done piecemeal in ways – the whole thing was designed for the switch-off to switch-on and nothing in between, and we had to -- on the run -- try to take pieces out and do it in ways that were supportive of the President’s diplomacy.

 

            Q:  Let me just go through some of the kind of major turning points or events in this and get your reaction or your guidance or your concepts on it.  When the President gave the famous “axis of evil” speech January 2002 -- Iraq/Iran -- what was your reaction to that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  [long pause]  I don’t remember.  I certainly have been supportive of a President providing world leadership by designating countries that are problems for the world and characterizing them in a way that the rest of the world has to acknowledge that characterization.  And certainly those three countries on the terrorist list were appropriate candidates.

 

            Q: Wolfowitz has said he didn’t know, he didn’t see this speech in advance.  Do you know whether you did?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I can’t remember.  I suspect I didn’t, but I don’t know that.  It has been relatively late in the game I think that we have starting getting copies of Presidential speeches in enough time that one – there’s two kinds of seeing something in advance.  One is when it arrives and it’s all done, it’s on the teleprompter and you need to get prepared to comment on it.  The other is where you see draft five or six, and it’s going to go to fifteen, and you have an opportunity to input.  We have gotten – the Administration has gotten -- into a rhythm now where we do see them generally days in advance and do have an opportunity or things that are in our area. That speech was not particularly in my area so -

 

            Q: The drafts which I’ve gone through with the people in the White House -- it just was Iraq and then the NSC and then they decided no, you have to have a group.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh interesting.

 

            Q:  And then Condi Rice and Steve Hadley and then the speechwriters did all three -- actually you in an interview earlier, late in 2001, had listed those plus Libya and Syria I think and then the –

 

            Rumsfeld:  I may have listed those, plus Cuba was another on the –

 

            Q:  Cuba was in there.  I was just reading it today.

 

            Rumsfeld:  On the State sponsors.  There are 7.

 

            Q: There’s a list?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yeah.  That are clearly there as everyone agreed upon -- State Department designated it if I’m not mistaken.

 

            Q: And Rice and Hadley took out Iran, and the President put it back in.

 

            Rumsfeld:  No knowledge of any of that.

 

            Q:  None of that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I should say no recollection of any of that because I just don’t --- I have a feeling I did not, I was not aware of that speech before it was made.

 

            Q:  I think as best I can tell, but again you don’t know.  What was this in June of 2002 the President gave his speech at West Point, which is the preemption speech where he specifically said we will preempt if necessary.  Did you have any?

 

            Rumsfeld:  When was it?

 

            Q:  June, June 1st.

 

            Rumsfeld:  of?

 

            Q:  of 2002.

 

            Rumsfeld:  2002 okay.

 

            Q:  Yes – your reaction to that?

 

            Rumsfeld: I’m not sure I saw that one.

 

Di Rita: You did.

 

            Rumsfeld:  We did?

 

            Di Rita:  And I remember – this is my recollection, I’m not saying this is your recollection.  We did see it and you saw it and some tweaks and things like that.  We had been – the Secretary and the Department had been talking about this for a while -- the concept of preemption.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yes we did.

 

            Q: People forget the Panama Operation under the first President.  Total preemption.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Of course.  I mean think of the Cuba Missile Crisis.  The quarantine was preemptive action to stop something before it had happened, there were no missiles flying at us.

 

            Q:  Thank God.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Throughout history there’d been preemption.  I mean in the old circumstances where you saw a massing Army on your border, people have the tendency to go hit it before it while it was on their territory rather than your own territory.  And so preemption requires discussion as opposed to a bumper sticker in my view.

 

            Q:  Somebody like Condi Rice would say the war with Iraq was not a preemptive war for the reasons that it was an enforcement of UN Resolutions…

 

            Rumsfeld:  Sure, exactly.

 

            Q:  And the second we had Southern Watch and Northern Watch and we’re engaged in military exercises against them for 12 years. 

 

            Rumsfeld:  Sure, sure.

 

            Q:  Do you agree with that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I think that – I mean I don’t know how to describe the word.  You could look it up in the dictionary and I suppose it has a technical meaning but throughout history there have been acts that were in self-defense in anticipation and that is a different way of saying preemption.

 

            Q:  When the President on September 12, 2002 gave his famous UN speech in which he put it to the UN…

 

Rumsfeld:  Yes, yes.

 

Q:  …but we will enforce these resolutions if you don’t and the UN has flubbed the job and so forth.  What was your thought about that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I thought it was an excellent speech.

 

            Q:  Did you support going to the UN and seeking new resolutions?

 

            Rumsfeld:  It’s interesting that you say that.  We don’t vote and we don’t go around the room and say what do you think about this.  What happens is discussion takes place, pros and cons are considered, and we participate in those.  The President then begins leaning in a direction.  People say well, if that’s the direction, you need to understand that the alternative direction has these advantages and disadvantages and the one you’re leaning towards has this advantage and disadvantage and begin anticipating the problems that can accrue and one problem for example is a practical one and that was the heat in the summer.

 

            Once you start down a path you’re committed to it for a period and you have to accept the fact that if you stay committed to that particular path beyond a certain point you may have to wait a period of 6 additional months and that’s fair enough as long as you have that on the table.

 

            Q:   And General Franks had those charts, timings.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Right.  We kept surfacing things up so that the President could look at all of those things and make his judgment.

 

            Q:  But the UN – going to the UN you didn’t have an opinion or you didn’t voice one or you don’t want to voice one now?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I hate to say because my memory on something like that is not perfect and I don’t recall whether I wrote memos on it or chimed in at meetings particularly.  Clearly there were advantages in going and there were potential disadvantages in going.  My impression personally is that in retrospect it was the right thing to go and the advantages were in large measure achieved and the disadvantages were for the most part avoided.

 

            Q:  But that speech was, whatever, it was really crossing the threshold wasn’t it?

 

            Rumsfeld:  It was.  It was.

 

            Q:  Because it said look, if you guys don’t do it we’re going to, it could not have been plainer.  I think you were quoted as saying don’t cock it unless you are willing to use it.

 

            Rumsfeld:  That’s always been my motto, you best not do that because you lose your credibility.

 

            Q:  And this was the cocking of?

 

            Rumsfeld:  The hope was that it wasn’t the cocking.  It was the cocking but the hope was that the cocking----

 

            Q:  You didn’t have to pull the trigger.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Exactly and you didn’t have to pull the trigger.

 

            Q:  Right okay, but it was definitely the cocking?

 

            Rumsfeld:  When was that?

 

            Q:  September 12th 2002.

 

            Rumsfeld:  It was not the real threshold.  It was a big threshold.  The real threshold for me was when people started putting themselves at risk on your behalf.  What was at risk with the UN speech is that the President might have to climb down and find a way to say that the Iraqi behavior was sufficiently acceptable or that the arguments of the inspectors, the arguments of those who believe the inspectors might be able to do the job were sufficiently persuasive that you could accept that.

 

            The real threshold for me was the later one and that was when people’s lives were at risk and then when –

 

            Q:  And that’s when the Special Ops Forces went in, I think there was a meeting?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No it was before that.

 

            Q:  It was?  When would you say?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Certainly when the Special Ops Forces went in you’d have that problem.

 

            Q:  Because the President at one of the meetings asked when is my last decision point?

 

            Rumsfeld:  And my answer to that was it was when other countries put themselves at risk.

 

            Q:  And when was that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  And when people in the country put themselves at risk and when your people – Mr. President looks people in the eye and tells them you’re going and that they can do that and we’ll share that risk with them, that they won’t be alone.  That for me was the decision point and that was subsequent to the UN speech and prior to our sending troops.

 

            Q:  Do you know when that was?  It was?  Pardon?

 

            Rumsfeld:  It was subsequent to the UN speech and prior to when our Special Operations Forces went in.

 

            Q:  So that’s a six-month period.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Is it really?

 

            Q:  Well from the UN speech September until Special Ops went in March.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t know when it was.

 

            Q:  If you can – what in that period from September to March what you’re talking about.  When somebody had really –

 

            Rumsfeld:  You’ve got more facts than I do about this stuff.

 

            Q:  Had it on the line.  When the UN passed their resolution 15 to 0 on November 8th your reaction?  This was to send inspectors in, 15 to 0 unusual that it was unanimous?

 

            Rumsfeld:  And when was that?

 

            Q:  That was November 8th, 2002.

 

            Rumsfeld:  No recollection.

 

            Q:  When there was time before the war.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I’m sure 15 to nothing,  you’ve got to be pleased.

 

            Q:  Remember March 19th when the war started and you and Director Tenet went over to the White House with that Intelligence about the bunker?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yeah he came over here and –

 

            Q:  Was he here for lunch?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No.  He just called me and said I’ve got to see you and he just showed up with an entourage.

 

            Di Rita:  Sounds right, yeah.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yes, it was afternoon -- it was winter.

 

            Q:  Yeah March 19th.

 

            Rumsfeld:  It was dark out almost and I called the President and said we need to see you.

 

            Q:  Called him directly?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yes.

 

            Q:  What did you think of that Intelligence when Tenet brought it over?

 

            Rumsfeld:  That it was sufficiently credible, that it merited our attention and the President’s.  That the odds were that it was not anyone being duplicitous.  That the odds were that the person’s life probably was at risk.  That it’s very tough to do things rapidly enough of this type to be successful but that it clearly in my mind merited doing, and that was my strong recommendation, I won’t speak for others who were there but I felt that it should be done and sufficiently so that I got people started before I ever went over there and they began the process.

 

            Q:  Did you know about these potential sources before that day?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yes.

 

            Q:  And did you know the day before?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I’m 99% sure I did.  I’d been tracking a number of things that were technical and human with George and we had been anticipating that there might be an opportunity because of the information that we’d been tracking.

 

            Q:  And the granularity was improving over time is that correct?

 

            Rumsfeld:  And there’d be ups and downs.  Sometimes you’d be encouraged and think well this might happen and then other times for whatever reason you think maybe your source isn’t going to have the kind of access you were hoping for – the information might not work.  We went over there and – I’m trying to think who in the heck were we talking to on the phone?

 

            Di Rita: Probably Tommy.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Was it Tommy?  Myers got an open line with Tom Franks in Hadley’s office as I recalled and when the President finally decided to go I went in and talked to Franks and said go but by then we had a plane already half way there over Iraq.

 

            Q:  Two of the F-117’s?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I’m trying to think what they were.  Do you know?

 

            Q:  Stealth bombers.

 

            Di Rita:  I think that’s right.  Plus we had the ships already identified.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And they were going into an area that was a high threat area and the pilots did a terrific job.

 

            Q:  Some other people there, Mr. Secretary said that the one who is most skeptical of this intelligence was the President interestingly enough.  He had a whole lot of questions--

 

            Rumsfeld:  He always does.

 

            Q:  And three of these reports came in during the very long meeting.

 

            Rumsfeld:  They did.  There were reports that came in.

 

            Q:  And people were drawing diagrams of the bunker and where it was and so forth.

 

            Rumsfeld:  That’s right.

 

            Q:  And the President was –

 

            Rumsfeld:  Very good.  Properly asked careful questions and probing questions.  I’m trying to think who was there – Dick Myers, Tenet, me -- can’t remember who else.

 

            Q:  Remember anything else that was said or?

 

            Rumsfeld:  He fairly systematically would press particularly George and his people.  He pressed Dick Myers and me about military capability and risk.

 

            Q:  And whether it would upset Tommy’s plan?

 

            Rumsfeld:  That was always an issue, what did it mean in that regard and neither Tom nor Dick or I had any concern about that and the potential advantage was sufficiently significant that had there been some concerns it nonetheless might have been worthwhile.

 

            Q:  How about – does it look now just in retrospect whether that was good intelligence or bad intelligence?

 

            Rumsfeld:  {laughs} It’s like most intelligence, it’s imperfect. 

 

            Q:  The intelligence?

 

            Rumsfeld:  In retrospect to me it looked pretty good, it looked like the person was probably real.

 

            Q:  There were actually 4 people.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Right – more than 1, I don’t know how many.  The information was pretty good it turns out I think and I could be wrong on this but when they went in and looked at the ground they found that the underground location was different or non-existent.

 

            Q:  Right.  It was not a bunker it was kind of a wine cellar or something like that.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yes and that type of thing.  Do you remember any of this?

 

            Craddock:  Yes sir, that’s about right.

 

            Rumsfeld [to staff]:  Well speak up -- you know more than I do.

 

            Craddock:  No they just did the exploitation later on and –

 

            Rumsfeld:  And it wasn’t the way it was drawn.

 

            Craddock:  Not a bunker as described.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Right.  But you know if you had it to do it over again, I’d do it.

 

            Q:  And you actually as someone had said, they brought in a copy of the speech because the President had to give a speech that night.

 

            Rumsfeld: That’s right.

 

            Q:  Go on and announce.  And there was some debate about whether he should go or not and I think the Vice President said you don’t have to go on television, we didn’t announce the Special Ops and you said well if we do the President or you might go.  And then Karen Hughes I think was in there and said no Mr. President you need to go.

 

            Rumsfeld:  We’re trying to figure out what ought to be done and there was debate about whether the President should or should not and I don’t remember Karen – Karen Hughes did come in later I guess and may very well have recommended that.

 

            Q:  You took the speech and Gerson the speechwriter and you said to him tongue and cheek, you came out and said I’m butchering your speech.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I worked it over heavily.

 

            Q:  And you read it to Franks to make sure that it said exactly what –

 

            Rumsfeld:  I did. I didn’t want to have anything the President said to upset –

 

            Q:  Very sophisticated changes in that speech about the concept of things are beginning but I forget the language.

 

            Rumsfeld:  We bridged what we had to bridge and I did make a lot of edits as I recall.

 

            Q:   Did you ever get involved in the Zircon (ph) chat room that they had set up for these operations which 2,000 people on a chat room intelligence, people operators where they could during the course of the war designate targets and (click) get them like that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t know what he means do you?

 

            Q:  No Sir.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Do you?

 

            Di Rita:  I don’t.

 

            Q:  It’s a classified chat room where intelligence people and operators were all blended together.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yeah I know there was a fused communications cell like that – Intel cell.

 

            Q:  And there were literally that many people on it.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Is that right?

 

            Q:  Could come up and say you know, I’ve got a piece of intelligence and then they would get a verification and –

 

            Rumsfeld: Right, but I never got involved in that.

 

            Q:  They could shoot - you never – because one of the most interesting aspects of the war phase, you had E-2s – not E-2s, E-5s on there essentially saying, making operational decisions to hit targets.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Within red lines and parameters.

 

            Q:  Can I test your memory about how you met Paul Wolfowitz?  That it was the Reagan Inaugural 1980 and the Adelmans had a black tie dinner.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh for sure, that’s right.

 

            Q:  You, Cheney and before the black tie dinner you called him up and said I want to have a brunch at the Ritz – at the Jockey Club and invite someone new and interesting.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Gosh, I did use to have brunch over their once in while.

 

            Q:  And he brought Wolfowitz in.   That’s where you and Cheney met Wolfowitz.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I’ll be darned.

 

            Q:  It that –

 

            Rumsfeld:  It’s logical.

 

            Q:  Logical.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I remember I had a great breakfast there for El Cordobez once, the bullfighter.

 

            Q:  The bullfighter.  {Laughter}.

 

            Rumsfeld:  The famous Spanish bullfighter.  It’s apparently gone, closed.

 

            Q:  Yeah it is.  You know all these changes take over.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I haven’t been back there in ages.

 

            Q:  Anyway Ken Adelman wrote these columns before the Iraq war about it being a cakewalk and apparently you told him “that is not helpful”.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well I didn’t think it was true.  I don’t think anyone can characterize a war as a cakewalk.  I don’t remember telling him that.  I said publicly that, not critical of him but just to properly characterize my view of it.

 

            Q:  And do you ever talk to the President about Vietnam?  You know lessons of Vietnam.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I fashioned guidelines for going to war or using force that I did when I first got here.  And I wrote them and I then went over and walked him, the President, through them.  And said here is how my brain works and I think it’s important for you to know that because if we get to the point where you decide you think you want to commit force I want you to know that this where I’m coming from on it.  And that was in March of ‘01.  I gave it back to the President after 9/11 and I gave it back to the President prior to the Iraq war.

 

            Q:  Can you tell me what the guidelines –

 

            Rumsfeld:  I can give them to you.

 

            Q:  Can you give them to me -- ah that’s great.  Okay there were – specificity is character trait here in my business of (inaudible).  When you first went over with him what was his reaction?  Did he agree?

 

            Rumsfeld:  It was – at that stage it was a theoretical discussion.  It was no – he was just coming in, it was nothing imminent to use a word that is being bandied about.

 

            Q:  Falsely.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Falsely.  It is unbelievable to me how the media can keep repeating it over and over again.  Let the politicians say it.  It’s just inexcusable.

 

            Q:  I agree.  [Handed something] Thank you.

 

            Rumsfeld:  There’s the draft - March of ‘01.

 

            Q:  And then you took them back on –

 

            Rumsfeld:  Took them back twice, after 9/11 before we did Afghanistan and I took them back, before we did it and I think I took it back before Liberia.

 

            Q:  And you read that you know kind of [the president?].  Remember any reaction he had or –

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh he is a person who reads very rapidly and absorbs and then discusses, he’ll ask questions about these and – that’s great.

 

            Q:  You know that might be – because I can ask him about this, I’ll condense it down and then see what –

 

            Rumsfeld:  The other thing I did I think I told you is before I took the job I told him that I thought the United States could do a better job of contributing to a more peaceful world if we were not leaning back.

 

            Q:  Lean forward.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And that if someone popped us he had to know that I would be coming to him leaning forward not back because I think that if people get comfortable, popping us that it would occur more frequently and then you finally have to do something and its worse than you otherwise would have had to do.

 

            Q:  April 9th the day the Saddam statue came down in Baghdad.  At the briefing General Franks to the NSC estimated that there had been 30,000 casualties that’s the number he gave.  You have any reaction at the time?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t know what you’re saying, 30,000 casualties?

 

            Q:  30,000 Iraqi soldiers killed – I’m sorry, it was killed not just casualties.

 

            Rumsfeld: I don’t remember it, I do remember discussing with General Franks at the outset of the war and with the President and the National Security Council that I personally did not believe that it was wise for me and I didn’t intend to -- or frankly wise for anyone else to talk about things they really didn’t know about.  That those things we can’t know about we can learn from history and that is that almost everyone who predicted how long something was going to last was wrong, almost everyone who tried to predict casualties was wrong and there was a third – how much it would cost was wrong and therefore I don’t intend to do it and I would admonish others to not do it and suggest to others they not do it.  And I do remember once being in an NSC meeting with the President present and somebody raising the question on casualties, deaths or I forget what the word was, of Iraqi civilians I think it was meant or Iraqis generally, military and civilian combined in one.  And some CENTCOM voice opined a number and I remember leaping in and suggesting that that person probably really doesn’t know that number and that my impression would be that it would not be helpful that people walked out of the room with that number in their head.  I don’t remember what the number was and I don’t remember which CENTCOM person said it.

 

            Q:  General Pace is terrific about why you shouldn’t do body counts.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Is that right?

 

            Q: And he’s got--- a real interesting story is how he adapted to your style, questions assumptions.  I mean you no doubt saw how General Franks realized this is the way it’s going to be.  There are going to be certain questions, there are going to be endless questions.  In fact I have the list, after the December 28th, you gave Gen. Franks the following questions you wanted answered.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Is that right?  And that’s just half of the questions.

 

            Q:  Exactly. That’s just half of them.

 

            Rumsfeld:      Not even close.

 

            Q:    And then he had to take this down to his people.

 

            Rumsfeld:  That’s right.

 

            Q:   And you know you said what are the targets and it turns out there are 4,000 targets, isn’t that right? And the poor J-2 and J-3 people had to go as somebody said in a dark room as if they would never come back.

 

            Rumsfeld:   We got stacks of these things and looked at them.  I needed to know, and the president had to know that I’d been over them and that he doesn’t need to.  And that there were categories of a few that he probably ought to pull the trigger on. But if he didn’t want to, I would do it.  But if I had not seen it, I couldn’t say that to him.  And I had to be the person to convey the president’s concerns and questions and hopes and expectations down. And also, I had to be the one to connect him with this wonderful person Tom Franks.  And make sure that he had the same confidence that I did in the guy. 

 

            Q:  And it’s – look this is the story of our time, this war - because it tells you about the country and who we are, who the leaders are, who the military is, what we care about, what we don’t care about and you know you’re aware of the immense controversy around it and all I’m trying to do is say this is how we got there, this is what happened.

 

            Rumsfeld: That’s fair enough.  But Tom Franks is a man of -- who is a very professional person and we ended up working in a very intense way together over a sustained period of time and there’s no doubt but that at the beginning we had to find our way.

 

            Q:  Was there a “Come to Jesus” meeting with him?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, we had some dinner meetings.  I decided that I needed to know him personally as well as professionally and we’d end up having dinner alone, we’d end up having dinner with our wives and I’d invite him to lunch with oh Alan Greenspan or someone  was having lunch with here if he was in town, take him home to the house.  And it was a way of getting me comfortable with who he was and getting him comfortable with who I am.

 

            Q:  Tell me about one of the things from my meager study of history is about presidents and making tough decisions and that if you look at the presidents in history they have – you know what’s the most important trait the president has -- do you think?  If you had to say one – what the most important characteristic a president should have?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well and I’m sure it’s not what’s on your mind because it doesn’t relate to decisiveness or – I think the things that I look for in a president are a person who is comfortable with himself and is therefore much more likely than many to find a course and a direction and set it and be there and stay with it, which enables the people that he’s working with and that he’s meeting to develop confidence and this president has a lot of the same quality that Ronald Reagan did where he would -- he’d look out, way out to the horizon and plan a standard out there and then point towards it.  And so when everyone else gets up in the morning they have a sense of where they were going and what he wanted done and it didn’t require micromanagement, it didn’t require saying you can’t do this and you can’t do that or hire this secretary or don’t hire that secretary, it had to do with something that was big and important for the country.

 

            Q:  Is the most important trait courage?

 

            Rumsfeld:  You have to have it.  And you have to have courage that is not rooted in directional leadership and that kind of courage can be called something else.  But clearly this President has courage but he gets it by having a sense of where he wants to go and then being willing to invest enough time to develop conviction about what he’s doing.

 

            Q:  And it means a will – it has to be willingness to walk the road alone?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh sure because he is alone.

 

            Q:  Yeah.  He is alone, see that’s what’s so – because you go down to the White House to any of these briefings, the president could have gone (clap) you know what guys, I don’t think we’re going to do this.

 

            Rumsfeld:  That’s right.

 

            Q:  So it sat on his shoulders and his head alone.

 

            Rumsfeld:  You bet.  He carries his responsibilities very well, which goes to the point that I made earlier.  A person who has not invested the same amount of time and developed the same amount of conviction about what it is they’re doing, why they’re doing it and why that’s right tends to be uncomfortable with the decisions and can be blown off the wind – blown by the wind -- and change their mind and be worried and anguished.  And his worry and investment was before the fact, not after the fact and he knows of certain knowledge.  The truth was he thought it through and he invested an enormous amount of time and he tried lots of other ways to have it come out and it didn’t come out other ways, it came out this way.

 

            Q:  Was there any moment where to you is this going back to 9/11 to the war actually started where it looked like it might not require military action?

 

            Rumsfeld:  In Iraq?

 

            Q:  Yes Sir.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh my goodness yes.

 

            Q:  I mean –

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh I didn’t – there was never going back to 9/11, the only, it was so far from certain I mean it was not even on the radar scope for me except for Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch.

 

            Q:  And then when he took you aside that November 21st, if that’s the right date and said, you know what have we got?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Yeah what’s the Iraq plan look like?

 

            Q:  That’s where I should start my book.

 

            Rumsfeld:  On that day.  At that moment clearly he told me and in fact that he had on his mind that I as his Secretary of Defense and we as an administration and a country had to be thinking that through so that options and contingencies had been thought through.

 

            Q:  What should I ask him that I – it’s like your memo about the war on terrorism.  What are the questions that are rolling around there that I haven’t thought?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Boy you’ve got me.  I haven’t thought about that.

 

            It’s always the reverse I’m interested in -- what it is I can do to help make his job easier, what it is I owe him and the American people to have thought through.  How can I see that we position people that he has to rely on, have confidence in, in close proximity to him so that he can develop that conviction about them?

 

            Q:  Did he ever voice disappointment in you?  Did he ever say – criticize or say I don’t think that’s right or we didn’t do well on that or?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh I’m sure he must have.

 

            Q: Remember any?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t.

 

            Q:  Because he always will say get after it – let’s get after this.

 

            Rumsfeld: I’m trying to think who it was -- neither of them go to those meetings.  But the subject of Fortress Baghdad came up and I don’t know –

 

            Q:  Repeatedly I understand – repeatedly.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And I never could tell if it was Condi or –

 

            Q:  It was, it was some of the Chiefs too

 

            Rumsfeld:  Andy Card.

 

            Q:  It was Andy Card also, yes.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well I worried about it here with the chiefs and worried about it with Tommy.

 

            Q:  They raised it in those meetings with the President.

 

            Rumsfeld:  You bet. That’s right – that’s right.  And we must have been asked to go back and brief that and finally – well I started sending briefers over and anyone who wanted to get the briefing got it, I didn’t even bother I’d heard it so many times.  But it was –

 

            Craddock:  It was a bunch of times.

 

            Rumsfeld:  And I never believed that it was the president, he was interested but not repetitively, he, I think, got it the first two or three times.  But others were I think you know understandably concerned about it, there were a lot of concerns we had.  That was one of them.

 

            Q:   Is the president a friend?  Do you consider him a friend?  I mean it’s one of the Greeks who always said there are three kinds of friends, the ones you have good time, enjoy things with; the other were useful, business, professional; and then the other one is one kind of a complete friendship and you get one or two of those in your life.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don’t think of it quite that way.  I didn’t know him as well at all when I came here.  I briefed him a number of times during his presidential campaign but we’re you know, I’m closer to his father’s generation than his.

 

            He is a person that when you get home at night and Joyce says – well or Joyce is with him, we go to a movie with them at the White House and have dinner or something or a function and we’ll come home and the two of us will look at each other and say isn’t that just a delight to be working with a person who is that way, who is that straight forward, that open, that comfortable with himself, that rooted -- that has that confidence, courage I guess the words you’ve used.  And we smile to each other and say isn’t that –

 

            Q:  And you do that often where it’s just kind of a movie and dinner.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh not often but we’ve been over there a couple of times for movies, two or three times I suppose.

 

            Q:  With lots of people or just the two of you?

 

            Rumsfeld: No not just the two of us, oh no, no he’ll have – we had the movie “Chicago” and he had the movie “Black Hawk Down” I think and he had the people who did it and then he had another one recently, the film about the Twin Towers.  But they’ll be thirty people or something and they’ll show in a little theatre that he has and have dinner before hand and it’s very pleasant.  Or we’ll be up at Camp David or something and – but we invariably will go home and say, “isn’t that just a delight to be working with him?”

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