Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, are you there?
Rumsfeld: I am. How are you?
Q: The clouds have parted. We have finally gotten our interview with Donald Rumsfeld. I don’t know if I can speak, at this point. I’m going to have to just…
Q: … turn the mike over to someone else.
Rumsfeld: No, no. [Laughs.]
Q: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
Rumsfeld: I’m delighted to do it.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, it’s obviously been a very difficult time for our soldiers over the last 27 days – you’ve said this yourself. We have 115 of our soldiers who’ve died in difficult combat situations. How hard is it for you to hear our U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to say, as he did on Sunday and then again last week, referring to our policy with Israel as “poison” and saying that a military option is never really the useful or appropriate option when dealing with this type of situation?
Rumsfeld: Well, I guess everybody has a right to say what they think and certainly he does and I understand that. When you have people being killed and wounded in coalition forces and hostages being taken, needless to say, it would be preferable, as he suggests, to find a way to negotiate that away. I think realistically the terrorists are not the kind of people who are going to be negotiating. And certainly, the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence organization and his special Republican Guard and his senior Baathists are unlikely to be willing to toss in the towel. So I think that a more correct approach might be to think of it as something that requires both. It requires a recognition of what’s taking place on the ground, but also a willingness to recognize that people who are anxious to go out and kill innocent men, women and children need to be stopped.
Q: And The Journal a few days ago, Secretary Rumsfeld, I’m sure you read the editorial called “The Fallujah Stakes,” and it was specifically dealing with this delay in dealing with the Fallujah situation. And one part of it said: “The danger with delay in Fallujah and Mr. Brahimi’s comments is that they will be interpreted by Iraqis as a sign that the U.S. is losing its resolve and simply wants out.” How do you respond to that?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think that that’s a fair risk. And clearly, that’s the calculation that the military commanders and the Coalition Provisional Authority that are engaged in these various discussions have to make. And they have to weigh the disadvantages that accrue to the coalition as a result of delay against the disadvantages that accrue to the coalition if they don’t give a sufficient amount of time to the local leaders to see if they can’t work it out.
Those are tough calculations. I’ve been listening to the way they’ve calibrated them and there’s advantages and disadvantages on both sides and I think that the military commanders on the ground are probably in the best position to make that call and they’ve been continuing to engage in fire fights and attacks of various types as they’ve been hit and then they’ve hit back. But by the same token, they have not gone in and physically removed all those terrorists, at least thus far.
Q: If we signal, though, to the insurgents, the terrorists – we just prefer to call them thugs and murderers – that in mosques we’re going to make a very special effort and a serious effort not to target holy sites. But as Paul Bremer said, if mosques are being used -- which I imagine they are being used – to stockpiles weapons and stockpile other type of arms, what choice do we have and doesn’t that make it so difficult for us to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis -- which seems like it’s getting more difficult every day – if this how they’re going to engage in warfare?
Rumsfeld: Well, you’re right. It does make it hard. But the fact of the matter is they’ve been using hospitals, schools and mosques, religious facilities consistently to – for weapon caches and for headquarters and for areas from which they can shoot and attack coalition forces. The Geneva Convention points out that those are protected sites -- religious institutions – until and unless one side uses them as a military outpost and to the extent they engage in attacks from those places, they lose their protection under Geneva Convention. And you’re quite right. We have no choice. If they’re attacking U.S. forces, we simply have to go after those people, regardless of where they are.
Q: But then if we do attack those sites, I mean, we know from what we’ve seen and you’ve seen this every single day, Secretary Rumsfeld, the Arab press will interpret whatever moves we make, even if they’re justified, as more American aggression toward the Islamic people and then that puts us in this – I’m just pointing this out because I feel for what our military is having to go through because it seems like they’re damned if they do and they’re damned if they don’t. And the critics are just going to come out of the woodwork, no matter what they do.
Rumsfeld: Well, I think, Laura, the reality is we’re being accused through lies – vicious lies – on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyah of doing these things, even though we’re not doing them at all. Even when we’re not trying to defend ourselves against a mosque, we’re accused of doing it by people who are perfectly willing to lie. So it seems to me what we have to do is recognize that those kinds of lies are going to occur and we have to go about our business and see that we continue down the track we’re on and I think we’re on the right track.
Q: Well, that brings us to the point about Al Jazeera itself. I mean, we joke around on our show that Al Jazeera is the communications arm of al Qaeda. I mean, anytime al Qaeda wants to get the word out to its people, they give a tape to Al Jazeera and it’s broadcast worldwide. I mean, is there anything we can do about that or just – or nothing?
R: Well, we’re doing everything we can. We’re talking to the world and pointing out that what we have here is networks that are quite popular in that part of the world that are consistently lying and telling things that are not true about coalition forces and, in fact, are from time to time getting information before terrorist attacks even start, so that they’re there and can see and film elements of things like that. So not only are they reporting things that aren’t true, but they’re in many cases seem to be working in concert with the terrorists.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, I know you have to go, but one final question. The issue of the draft has been floated in – from everyone from Chuck Hagel to people like Charlie Rangel and others. Why do you think this is being floated now and is there a need to seriously study this issue? Charlie Rangel said you’re studying it and looking at it seriously.
Rumsfeld: We’re not. I know of nobody who is studying re-instituting the draft at the present time. And I would think I would know. We are perfectly capable…
Rumsfeld: … of attracting and retaining the number of people we need without using compulsion. All we have to do is to increase the incentives. That’s what anyone does in any activity in the world, except for situations that use compulsion for their military. But in everything else – in business, in government – we don’t use compulsion to get people to be firemen or policemen or any number of other things. And as long as we’re willing to compete in the civilian manpower market, we are perfectly able – in fact, at the present time, our recruiting and retention’s quite good. So I don’t know what’s causing this discussion. I personally don’t favor re-instituting the draft. I think we’ve got superb volunteers and we can – if we need a larger military, we certainly are capable of paying for a larger military.
When we had the draft back in the 1940s and ‘50s and ‘60s, we were using compulsion as a way to pay men and women in the armed services about 50, 60 or 70 percent of what the civilian manpower market would pay them. And in addition, we were exempting a lot of people. So we were not taking everybody – just taking some that weren’t married, weren’t in school, weren’t teachers, weren’t conscientious objectors, weren’t some other exemptions. And we were saying to them not only are you going to be the ones that have to serve involuntarily, but we’re going to really give you a break, we’re going to pay you about 60 percent of what you were making in the civilian manpower market. Now I think our country can do better than that and I know we can because we are doing better than that.
Q: Well, Secretary Rumsfeld, we really appreciate you joining us. I know this has been a tough time for coalition forces and we keep our troops in our prayers every day and we keep you in our prayers every day. It’s not easy doing what you’re doing on a daily basis. Thank you so much for joining us.
Rumsfeld: Thank you. It’s good to be with you.