CHRIS MATTHEWS: Tonight, an exclusive interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. And as Marines try to negotiate a pull-back in Fallujah, 10 U.S. soldiers are killed in Iraq including eight in a car-bombing on the outskirts of Baghdad. Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski will be with us. Let’s play hardball.
Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews. Welcome to day four of Hardball’s seventh anniversary week. Two hours ago, I sat down with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who told me that President Bush never asked him if the United States should go to war, and he found that interesting. Here’s my first question to Secretary Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, we lost 10 Americans today over in Iraq. What is the condition over there right now as you see it?
RUMSFELD: It’s difficult. Many of them were in one incident. We’ve been losing people for the last three or four weeks at a level considerably higher than the preceding series of months and it is – I guess the word is difficult. It’s a difficult time.
MATTHEWS: Do you sense the resistance and what it’s made of? Is it just nationalism or is it organized by the former Ba’athist regime?
RUMSFELD: I think it’s much more the latter. The former regime remnants – these people – the – their intelligence service, their SSO, the special Republican Guard group, Fedayeen Saddam group, plus foreign terrorists mixed into that mix. And then I suppose these people – there are always people in any organization – any cluster of people that are on the fence, and to the extent it looks like it’s going to go that way, well, they tip that way or vice versa. And then there’s people you can hire and thugs to go do something, but there still are suicide bombers. Now those are not – pick up people off the street that you give a few bucks to go kill themselves. They’re not going to do that. But within the last week there have been two or three suicide bombers, so these are really the extremists – the terrorists.
MATTHEWS: What about Fallujah? Has that become like a Madrid in the 1930s or a Stalingrad – a sort of the point of principle that we must win and they must win? It’s a decisive battle?
RUMSFELD: Well, there’s no question but that for success in Iraq you can’t have a city taken over by a bunch of terrorists and former regime elements and have that persist over a sustained period of time. That means it has to end at some point. How it ends I guess is an open question. It could end by the Marines having to go in and go through the place and root out the terrorists. They’re trained to do that. They know how to do it. They’re capable of doing it. I don’t think people doubt the military power of these folks. They’re outstanding soldiers, and courageous.
It also is possible it could end differently. It could end with this conclave of some 50 to 80 tribal sheiks and former Iraq military people actually taking over the city and getting the terrorists out of there and turning over the names of the people who killed the Blackwater folks and rounding up the weapons.
The Marines on the ground are the ones that are making those judgments, and thus far they’ve calculated that it’s in our interest to do it the way they’re doing it and to have these discussions with the Sunni tribal leaders.
MATTHEWS: Are our terms so tough that we’re demanding the turning – that they turn over the people who killed our people? Are they that tough or do we allow – are we going to allow them to let them escape?
RUMSFELD: Certainly the Marines are not inclined to allow the people – the terrorists to escape.
MATTHEWS: So basically it’s an ultimatum: turn over the bad guys and that’s the deal?
RUMSFELD: I wouldn’t phrase it that way and I’m not on the ground. There are several things they’re interested in. They’re interested in getting the terrorists out of that city and they’re interested in turning it back to the people of the city.
MATTHEWS: Okay. What is the White House role? The Washington Post reported today the White House is so concerned about the political – I mean, grandly political – sensitivity about the issue of Fallujah that they’re involved in calling the shots over there.
RUMSFELD: The president has said to me, that’s up to the combatant commanders and you. You figure it out.
MATTHEWS: So there is no sort of micromanagement going – Lyndon Johnson style micromanagement going on?
RUMSFELD: No, indeed. The president is – is very clear on that and there’s no question in Abizaid’s mind or my mind as to that. The connection that’s taking place is at the ground level with General Sanchez and Ambassador Bremer. They talk continuously about who can be helpful to the other and what they can do to be of assistance.
MATTHEWS: I just talked to Michael Weisskopf. Of course you know about him. The Time magazine reporter who lost his hand over there a couple months back and I said, what was it like to go through the streets of – outside the green zone in the Sunni triangle area among the Sunnis? And he said, all you see are the faces of hatred – the people looking at you as you go by. Did that surprise you – that level of hostility a whole year after major combat operations?
RUMSFELD: I think the fact that the Sunnis, who ran that country and benefited for – from a number of the senior Sunni types – Baathists – benefited from the Saddam Hussein regime. The – they’re a minority and they had a position of dominance and I think as time has gone on they have seen the likelihood that they clearly are not going to have a position of dominance. They’re not going to be running the country. They’re not going to be able to deal from a position of strength – that the Shi’a and the Kurds are going to have a role – a big role, and that everyone in the country will be on a – if it works out properly, that they’ll all be in a country where there is respect for everybody and that no one element is dominant over the others. So that’s a big change.
I think that they believed, from the way things were being communicated, that not only was that the case, but it was worse for them – that they weren’t going to be able to play, and that just isn’t right. They – the Sunnis – have to have a stake in that country and I think the face – facial expressions you’re talking about undoubtedly came from the perception that the de-Ba’athification process was going to taint all of them with the same brush, which just wouldn’t have been fair. And I think that – that is the feeling. And I think that’s going to change.
MATTHEWS: Is there a – I mean, you’ve been in Congress all these years. You’ve been – before this you worked in the White House. You’re a political student as much as anybody I can imagine. Were you surprised at the national – nationalism of the people, across the board, that we faced when we got in? Just we don’t like being occupied. As the president said in his press conference the other night, they don’t like being occupied; I wouldn’t like being occupied. Did that level of hostility, generally across the board in the country – in the faces of mobs – surprise you?
RUMSFELD: I guess if you asked me a year ago I would have expected that the word occupation and the negative aspects of that would not have been assigned to us to the extent it has been.
MATTHEWS: Why not? Is that the intel you were getting? Was that the Iraqi National Congress folks that thought that once you decapitated Saddam you’d have a country ready to move on?
RUMSFELD: No, there were some people who talked like that. Certainly I didn’t, and I – but the intelligence was all over the lot on that. As some – our intelligence people had a great many contacts, both with Sunni and Shi’a and the information was mixed and it turns out after the fact that it was not perfect. As you know, most intelligence is not perfect. But the – it seems to me that the – how do you put this? The – over time the – particularly the Sunnis, but the Shi’as are now jockeying for their position in the future and that is a complicated thing. Their lives, their futures, their circumstances are at stake and we are there in a difficult situation, so it ought not to surprise us that there is that feeling.
And our task is to see that we get an Iraqi face on this, which is why the president’s so determined to see that sovereignty does pass over to the Iraqis on – by June 30th and that the Iraqis take an increasing role in governing their country.
MATTHEWS: Who was it? Mubarak or one of the Arab moderate leaders who said you should have just given them three months pay – the entire Iraqi army – just bought them with bakshish.
RUMSFELD: They’ve been paying them.
MATTHEWS: Would that have been smarter?
RUMSFELD: They’ve been paying them.
MATTHEWS: I mean the army that was disassembled once we went in.
RUMSFELD: Oh, well, they’ve been paying army people that was – were disassembled. That didn’t solve it.
MATTHEWS: I thought the army was disbanded when we came in – the Iraqi army – the special forces and the Fedayeen all – I mean, organized regular army was disbanded. That was a mistake that was made.
RUMSFELD: That’s what some people are saying. It disappeared. It was gone.
MATTHEWS: All right, so you couldn’t pay them 3 months’ pay.
RUMSFELD: Well, the bulk of the army was Shi’a conscripts and they didn’t want to be there anyway, and they disappeared. The Sunni generals – and there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of generals and colonels from the Sunnis, and they disappeared. They didn’t – at the end, large numbers of them didn’t fight and the decision was made to reconstitute an army and they started hiring back the people that they could and they started paying pensions to a lot of army people. So I think there’s kind of a – the facts – certain things – the myths arise and people then repeat them over and over and over again even though they’re inaccurate.
MATTHEWS: Do you – back in ’91 a friend of yours, Dick Cheney, when he was Secretary of Defense sitting in this Pentagon running the Pentagon, he said, how much credit would a government which we set up – if we’d gone into Baghdad back in ’91 – would it have if it was set up by the United States military when they’re there and how long is the United States military have to stay there to protect the people who do sign onto that government? And what happens to it once we leave?
Are those concerns still alive today – credibility of the government?
RUMSFELD: You bet. You bet, and that’s why everyone has to say, look, it’s interim. Anything we set up is interim. The only way they’re going to have a government that is – some people use the word legitimate; I use the word acceptable to the Iraqi people – is if it in fact results from a constitution that’s fashioned by the Iraqi people and elections by the Iraqi people.
MATTHEWS: Could that happen while we’re still in force – we’re still there with a strong force there of military people?
MATTHEWS: It never happened in Vietnam. Those governments were all considered jokes by the world as long as we were – you know, we were so strong –
RUMSFELD: Yeah, it’s a very different situation – very different situation.
MATTHEWS: Why? What’s different?
RUMSFELD: Well, you – in Vietnam you had a very nationalistic element in North Vietnam that – and the Vietcong that was part of the situation there and you had a government that was not a popular government in the South that had – they didn’t have – hadn’t fashioned their own constitution. They hadn’t had their own elections. It was a – they were governments that were considered by the rest of the Vietnamese people to be puppet governments.
MATTHEWS: So the Ba’athist elements that remain – the remnants are nowhere as strong, as you believe, in their passion as the VC were and the North Vietnamese were?
RUMSFELD: That’s right.
MATTHEWS: They wouldn’t be as much of a – let’s come back. Thank you for your time, Mr. Secretary. We’ll be right back talking to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld here at the Pentagon.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Secretary, let me ask you about the war in Iraq and the boldest question I could put to you here in the Pentagon. Did you ever advise the president to go to war?
RUMSFELD: Well, Chris, I saw some clipping of your interviews on this subject. When you asked that question of Woodward, Woodward said that the president said he had not asked me, now – so why would you ask me? You have it from the horse’s mouth.
MATTHEWS: Because – well, that’s right, in that circumstance in that room, but all those months in the run up to war I would imagine that at some point sitting in the interstices of the West Wing he would have said, hey Don, do you think we ought to go? I mean, is there any – weren’t you ever asked your advice?
RUMSFELD: I don’t know who he might have asked their advice.
MATTHEWS: Well, apparently he asked the vice president.
RUMSFELD: Possibly. I just don’t know that. I haven’t read the – all these –
MATTHEWS: He didn’t ask his father. We know that.
RUMSFELD: Is that right?
MATTHEWS: Well, that’s all I go by – these books –
RUMSFELD: You ought to get a life. You could do something besides read those books. (Laughter.)
MATTHEWS: This is my life. (Laughter.) Let me ask you about something a little more (pointed ?).
RUMSFELD: Well, let me answer your question.
MATTHEWS: Did you advise the president to go to war?
RUMSFELD: Yeah, he did not ask me is the question, and to my knowledge there are any number of people he did not ask. It’s his response –
MATTHEWS: Did that surprise you as secretary of defense?
RUMSFELD: Well, I thought it was interesting. He clearly asked us could we win and I said, obviously, that the military are sure that they can prevail in that conflict in terms of the – changing the regime. He asked if they had everything they needed. We – he must have asked about 5,000 questions over a period of a year about this, that, and the other things. What could go wrong? What about a humanitarian crisis? What about an environmental crisis? What about internally displaced people? What about a fortress Baghdad? Thousands of questions along those lines and – as a president should, to have looked at the risks and concerns that –
MATTHEWS: So he knew the tally sheet of costs and benefits without asking you the bottom line?
RUMSFELD: You bet. You bet. I gave him a list. I gave him a list –
MATTHEWS: He knew that the chances of resistance down the road –
RUMSFELD: – of about 35 things that could go wrong.
MATTHEWS: He knew the difficulties of occupation? The chances we’d have to face the Ba’athist remnants? The difficulties between these different groups – the Shi’a and the Sunni and the Kurds? He knew all that?
RUMSFELD: And the risk of ethnic cleansing. The –
MATTHEWS: By the winners.
RUMSFELD: Yeah. No question he worried through all of those issues in a very thoughtful and probing way. I keep coming back to this question you asked: it does not surprise me that he didn’t. His response, I thought, was –
MATTHEWS: But isn’t that the role of the cabinet – to advise the president?
RUMSFELD: Goodness, we advise him all the time, but his point was he said I knew where Rumsfeld was, so he didn’t have to.
MATTHEWS: Did he?
MATTHEWS: He knew you were for it?
RUMSFELD: He knew that I had done my job over here and I had looked at the downsides as well as the upsides.
MATTHEWS: Did you think it was the right thing to do?
RUMSFELD: I did.
MATTHEWS: At the time?
RUMSFELD: At the time.
MATTHEWS: Any second thoughts?
RUMSFELD: Well, my goodness. You –
MATTHEWS: I mean, given the costs, you admit that there’s been a different – a slightly different – well, a different level of resistance than you thought.
RUMSFELD: Exactly. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: So the costs are higher. You think the fact that – you didn’t expect hundreds of guys to get killed after we took occupation – or took over the country.
RUMSFELD: I still think it was the right decision by the president.
MATTHEWS: You know, we were over at Walter Reed a couple weeks ago and I’ll tell you, there’s nothing like it – to meet those young guys.
RUMSFELD: You don’t need to tell me. I go over there frequently.
MATTHEWS: They’re gung-ho. They’re gung-ho guys, and the ones that lost like a limb – they’re going to make, you know –
RUMSFELD: They’re fabulous.
MATTHEWS: – the guy’s going to go back to UPS, he’s going to learn how to use the prosthetic device, but the other guys, you know, totally blind, both arms gone, brain injury, how – is that worth it? I mean, the blunt statement: is this worth what we’re likely to get out of Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Chris, you’re a historian. You know that there are – throughout the history of our country there have always been things that need to be done where lives are put at risk, and the – this country wouldn’t be here if people hadn’t been willing to put their lives at risk.
MR. MATTHEWS: What do you make of the New York Times poll today? And I know polls aren’t everything. Fifty-eight percent of people say it’s not worth the loss of life – this war in Iraq.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I didn’t read the poll.
MATTHEWS: It’s spiked up, you know. Is this the bad news that’s done this? What do you think has done it?
RUMSFELD: Well, I suppose it’s the most recent three weeks of casualties that have been taken in Iraq that might have affected the polls. I don’t know. I don’t follow the polls. The president doesn’t follow the polls.
MATTHEWS: You know when you watch – when you watch the culture of the country, there’s a great sense on country music – you remember how you felt – you’ve heard these songs. They’re so American and they talk about the war in Iraq as being some kind of payback or justice for what happened to us 9/11. Do you think that’s a fair way to look at it morally and sort of sentimentally – the idea that we’re getting back at the people that hit us? I think soldiers – and many of them probably think that – I’m just guessing. They think, we’ve got to go back and hit them. They hit us, like Pearl Harbor. They hit us; we’re hitting them back. Is that accurate in history?
RUMSFELD: I guess in life things are never quite as simple as they seem. There’s no doubt but that you’re fighting terrorists in Iraq today and that it’s part of the global war on terror. The direct connection between 9/11 and Iraq –
MATTHEWS: Do you see a direct connection?
RUMSFELD: – is a different one. No.
MATTHEWS: Do you see one?
MATTHEWS: You don’t see an al Qaeda-Iraq connection before 9/11?
RUMSFELD: Well, I – it’s not a matter for me to see it. The Central Intelligence Agency and the director of central intelligence has testified to the relationships between Iraq and terrorists. We know he was paying $25,000 to suicide bombers.
MATTHEWS: Sure, the ones in Israel. Sure, to those people.
MATTHEWS: But in terms of 9/11, there’s no connection, or is there – between Iraq and 9/11?
RUMSFELD: It’s too complex a subject for me to answer yes or no. The – George Tenet has testified publicly and privately on that subject before Congress and that is the official position of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Which way? There’s no connection?
RUMSFELD: No. You have to go back and read it because it is a complex set of issues and imperfect intelligence scraps.
MATTHEWS: But the president said recently when he was asked – and he was with Tony Blair that time – the prime minister of Great Britain – and he said there’s no connection between 9/11 and Iraq.
RUMSFELD: If you’re asking were they Iraqis who were 18 people –
RUMSFELD: – engaged in 9/11, the answer is no.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe there’s still a possibility that the Iraqi government had something to do with planning the attack on us 9/11?
RUMSFELD: Not to my knowledge.
MATTHEWS: Therefore this was not payback for what was done to us 9/11?
RUMSFELD: The –
MATTHEWS: Iraqi war is not getting even with the people that hit us 9/11.
RUMSFELD: No, I see your point. Yeah, it –
MATTHEWS: Is that the case? It’s not payback?
RUMSFELD: You asked it originally in a different way.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me try correctly. Is this payback? Is this war – in the sentiments of the music, in the culture of our country, in many people’s minds, this is somehow justice for what happened to us 9/11. Is it, or is it unrelated, or is it not directly related? How would you connect the two?
RUMSFELD: It’s –
MATTHEWS: You were hit here in the Pentagon. We’re hitting them in Iraq. Is that connected?
RUMSFELD: If you’re –
MATTHEWS: Is it justice?
RUMSFELD: – asking is it a direct link between 9/11 and Iraq, I – the answer is no. If you’re asking is the United – the threat to the United States from terrorists that exists and it was demonstrated on 9/11 in its – in one manifestation but exists in a variety of manifestations and is what we’re doing in Iraq today a part of that effort against terrorists, most certainly it is.
MATTHEWS: We’ll come right back with Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
(Portion of broadcast unrelated to interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld deleted.)
MATTHEWS: Yesterday in the New York Times, Mr. Secretary, they talked on the front page – a reporter talked about a group within the Pentagon here headed by Douglas Feith, the undersecretary for policy – it’s a two-man shop – a very small shop that is basically developing intel – either existing intel or developing it from Iraqi National Congress sources including Mohammed – Ahmed Chalaby –
RUMSFELD: That’s just not correct. They were not developing intelligence. They were not creating intelligence. They were reviewing intelligence that had been established by other people.
MATTHEWS: They weren’t meeting with the Iraqi National Congress? That's what the Times reported – they were meeting with Ahmed Chalaby getting information from him about connections between al Qaeda – the thing we were talking about before.
MATTHEWS: Direct connections between al Qaeda and 9/11 and the Iraqi government. You don’t believe that was the case?
RUMSFELD: My understanding of that, and I have not read the article, so I can’t speak to the article, which is – which is the basis of your question. My understanding of it is that there were two people that – most times; four people on occasion – and what they were doing was reviewing intelligence that was provided from a variety of sources.
MATTHEWS: In and out of the intelligence agencies – both?
RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Okay. That’s what I –
MATTHEWS: And they were providing the vice president’s office, the NSC, people like John Bolton over at the Defense Department – over at the State Department – people who were pretty hawkish to begin with. They were giving it to Scooter at the vice president’s office. They were giving it to Hadley (sp). They were – it was being used, according to the Times yesterday, it was actually finding its way into the speeches of the vice president.
RUMSFELD: That I don’t know. I do know that they – in fact, I encouraged them to brief George Tenet. I mean, he’s the director of central intelligence. When I heard that they had this information, I said, why don’t you go brief George Tenet? So they did.
MATTHEWS: Colin Powell has called it –
MATTHEWS: Colin Powell has called this a second government. In fact, he’s called Feith’s operation a Gestapo –
RUMSFELD: You don’t know that.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is what Bob Woodward has reported in his book.
RUMSFELD: I’m correct when I said you don’t know that. I’ve talked to Colin about it and I think that you ought to ask Colin what he –
MATTHEWS: He has said on the record – I can only get what he’s said on the record. We haven’t gotten to him yet. But he has said that’s something he doesn’t recall saying, so then that’s his cover –
RUMSFELD: And why would you say he said it?
MATTHEWS: Because he says he doesn’t recall saying it.
RUMSFELD: No, but why would you say he said it?
MATTHEWS: Because if he didn’t say it, he would have said I didn’t say that.
RUMSFELD: I see. Is that the code in Washington, DC? Is that the insider code?
MATTHEWS: That would be – that would be – I would think that would be – that (wouldn’t ?) be what I would call a clear-cut denial, Mr. Secretary. So would you. That would be a clear-cut denial. Let me move on here because – it’s just –
RUMSFELD: Listen, the – any thought that that’s a second government is utter nonsense.
MATTHEWS: Separate government. There isn’t a separate –
RUMSFELD: It’s nonsense.
MATTHEWS: And there’s no traffic in intel from the Iraqi National Congress pushing – intel that would support the connection between al Qaeda and Iraq didn’t find its way through these various – these people working here in the Defense Department to the vice –
RUMSFELD: This is the conspiratorial view of the world.
MATTHEWS: No, it’s just – this is in the New York Times yesterday front page.
RUMSFELD: Does that make it so?
MATTHEWS: No, it’s a heavily reported article. It’s not conjecture. It’s heavily reported. And if you deny it, fine. That’s all I can ask you – if it’s true.
RUMSFELD: I can’t deny it, I’m – what I am saying is that it is appropriate for policymakers to review intelligence from a wide variety of sources, including the director of central intelligence, to do it carefully, to come to conclusions, to pass those conclusions to other people. The people take them or leave them. That’s the way it is. That’s an effective user of that kind of intelligence. That’s no more a separate government than the man on the moon. It’s just nonsense.
MATTHEWS: Well, why don’t the – why don’t the people in your department report up to you instead of crossway over to the vice president’s office?
RUMSFELD: They do. They came and asked to brief me. I’m busy. They said, we’d like to brief you. They briefed me. I said, gee, I don’t do intelligence. Go brief George Tenet and they did. There’s no mystery about any of this.
MATTHEWS: So there wasn’t any effort within this department to push the case there was a – like we were talking about in the last segment – that al Qaeda-Iraqi connection through the various portions of this U.S. government and to become part of the United States’ public statements on the subject?
RUMSFELD: There clearly was an effort on the part of this department and every department to try to know what the facts were, so what I did was I called up John McLaughlin and I said, say, I understand George Tenet testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the relationship between al Qaeda and the government and I’d like to know what you said. And he said, you bet, and he showed me and it was classified. So I said back to him, look, I’m getting asked publicly. Why don’t you tell me on an unclassified basis what I can say about that relationship. No one made up anything. And then what did I do?
MATTHEWS: No. No.
RUMSFELD: I used that –
RUMSFELD: I – unclassified version of George Tenet’s testimony in a press briefing. Condi Rice used the same piece of paper and that was the government’s position. Not complicated.
MATTHEWS: The last question I want to ask you about is the role of Ahmed Chalaby, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, and what I’m trying to get to here is that there was a reliance on the part of smart people in this department – people like Douglass Feith, people like David Wormser (sp) – relying on Chalaby, who had in interest in us going into that country – to give him back his country, if you will – and that a lot of that information was faulty – faulty on WMD, faulty on al Qaeda connections, faulty on the hopeful limited nature of the resistance we’re facing right now, and all that bad intel has been damaging to our effort. I just wondered if you thought that that was something that should be looked at.
RUMSFELD: There are several –
MATTHEWS: Like the New York Times is doing.
RUMSFELD: Which is fine. I’m all for –
MATTHEWS: Doesn’t it disturb you that people within your department –
RUMSFELD: – journalism.
MATTHEWS: – might be pushing a cause?
RUMSFELD: Well let me answer your question. Let me answer your question. There were a variety of Iraqi expatriate groups in the world and they had contacts in Iraq and they provided information to the United States government – to the central intelligence agency, to the Defense Intelligence Agency. In fact, the Congress passed the Iraqi Liberation Act and provided money for some of these groups, as you know.
MATTHEWS: I know.
RUMSFELD: And it was partly in exchange for intelligence information that they were gathering so that they could do that. So it was a – it was a – passed by Congress, authorized by Congress, signed by the president –
RUMSFELD: – and then they provided information. Now –
MATTHEWS: But they were lobbying –
RUMSFELD: Well, let me finish the thought. Let me finish the thought.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
RUMSFELD: They get information and they give it to people. People are on notice. As they say in the law, caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.
RUMSFELD: So you have to read that and you have to think about it and you’ve got to know who your source is.
RUMSFELD: And that’s true with all these –
MATTHEWS: This guy was a convicted embezzler in Jordan and we’re taking his word. Isn’t that odd? Ahmed Chalaby – we’re believing him on this?
RUMSFELD: There were more people in that organization than one.
MATTHEWS: We’re paying him $350,000 a month right now.
RUMSFELD: Under the act of Congress.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that’s good that we’re paying this guy this kind of money for intel that’s been so questionable, if not corrupted, so far?
RUMSFELD: It’s – it happens I know an awful lot about this subject. In the last three days I’ve had occasion to interest myself in it. And there are – one, two – three people. One in Iraq that is looking at intelligence every day that feels that what they’re getting from that organization has been very, very helpful and helps save people’s lives in Iraq. Another that was a mixed review and positive on tactical intelligence, less positive on some other things. And a third was a report evaluating the contribution of that organization in terms of the work that is being done in Iraq, and that was positive.
Now, it’s a mixed bag as most things are in life. There are very few things that are perfect one way or another. But he is a member of the governing council along with 24 other people and there are –
MATTHEWS: Does that corrupt his position that we’re paying him $350 (thousand) a month -- $350,000 a month and he’s meant to be independent of us?
RUMSFELD: I think that it’s known that the Congress passed a law, provided for that arrangement with them, and if you think of all the countries that are doing various things in Iraq, I think – I guess one – like anything else, one has to look at the benefit for the cost. It’s a cost-benefit ratio and those are the kinds of things people look at and they have to make a judgment about them.
MATTHEWS: If you had to make a quick reaction – If I said the name Ahmed Chalaby and I said, reliable? Unreliable? What would be your answer?
RUMSFELD: Oh, look, I’m not going to start criticizing members of the Iraqi governing council.
MATTHEWS: But he’s an employee of yours.
RUMSFELD: He’s not an employee at all.
MATTHEWS: You give $350 (thousand) a month from the Defense Department.
RUMSFELD: Come on. He – under the law passed by Congress, he’s – his organization, the INC, receives funds to do a variety of things. The employee – that’s unbelievable, Chris. You know better than that.
MATTHEWS: No, I just think that people in the world who hear that he’s making this kind of money from us would question his independence. Wouldn’t you?
MATTHEWS: Suppose we cut him off?
RUMSFELD: You’re an employee. You get paid. Do I question your independence?
MATTHEWS: No, but I work for NBC News. At least I know – you know who I get paid by.
RUMSFELD: You’re perfectly capable of leaving.
MATTHEWS: I know. Okay. All right. That's a good point. He could drop us right now.
MATTHEWS: Let me – let me ask you – I think we’re going to have – just run out of time here now. You’ve seen these photos from CBS of the treatment of some of the prisoners over there where some of our GIs just – you’re a good man. What is your reaction when you see that? Is these bad apples? Is this something in the pressure on these troops over there? The heat? What is it that brings them to – these guys were being paraded around, made to do all these things naked, and these weird kind of things to humiliate themselves. What’s that about?
RUMSFELD: I watched – the program –
RUMSFELD: – is all I have seen on it and I watched General Kimmet on that program who is in Iraq and is a professional soldier and the pain in his face, the expressions that he gave of his disappointment and his heartbreak at seeing those accusations and allegations that are there – I’m in the chain of command. I am not allowed to opine about things like that.
MATTHEWS: I understand. Because they have to go to military justice, right?
RUMSFELD: You bet. Allegations like that will end up in the military justice system as they should. And they will be dealt with in an appropriate and just way and I’m not in a position – it could alter circumstances if I made expressions on the subject at this time.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Colin Powell’s notion of the Powell doctrine. I’m sure you’ve heard it recently or lately. It’s got some interesting standards that he set about war. War is a last resort. This was the last resort.
RUMSFELD: We agree absolutely.
MATTHEWS: You both agree on that.
RUMSFELD: And I – if you – I'm told by Woodward that if you read the book you’ll find that was my view.
MATTHEWS: National security definitely at risk. We had to act.
RUMSFELD: That’s –
MATTHEWS: This country’s security was in danger.
RUMSFELD: That’s a judgment people have to make, but clearly in my view the president made the right decision.
MATTHEWS: Did we have overwhelming and disproportionate force in the field sufficient to do this job and this – including the occupation? Disproportionate and overwhelming force in the field? Is that still true – your assessment.
RUMSFELD: There’s no question we had overwhelming, disproportionate force. We –
MATTHEWS: A year ago.
RUMSFELD: – accomplished it in a matter of days.
MATTHEWS: Today and where we’re at now. We have enough troops?
RUMSFELD: His is not in terms of postwar stabilization – his rules.
MATTHEWS: I see. Okay. So that’s a different standard. Let me ask you about the campaign and the general public. There’s been so many changes –
RUMSFELD: What campaign?
MATTHEWS: The – this military campaign.
RUMSFELD: Ah, the military campaign.
MATTHEWS: Putting it up against public opinion. I know public opinion shifts. You know that. We’re in there in the beginning for WMD, for liberation, for threat to the region – all the reasons were filled out. The WMD thing is questionable. The al Qaeda thing is certainly questionable. We talked about that. Do you think there’s enough remaining arguments for the war that if the public understood those remaining arguments they’d still be for this war? Perfect vision as to what we’re really able to accomplish and to what the threat really was.
RUMSFELD: The – it appears that we’re going to go through a period where public opinion will move up and down, as you suggested. It tends to. Decisions can’t move up and down. The decision the president made I believe was the right one. I believe it’s the right one today.
MATTHEWS: Given the new condition – the new – this list of conditions.
RUMSFELD: And I think as we said at the outset, this is a difficult time and – but I think it is – the prospect – if that country is able to navigate through this difficult period and end up as a single country that’s respectful of the different religious groups in the country and not a threat to its neighbor – those people are intelligent. They’ve got water. They’ve got oil. The economic circumstance in that part of the world for the neighboring countries in Turkey and Jordan and Saudi Arabia will be so beneficial that it – 25 billion people are in school. Women are in school. There – they’re not – the mass graves are not being filled. The people aren’t being murdered. He’s not using chemicals against his own people or against his neighbors.
The number of amazing things that have been accomplished in a year. You’ve only cited negative ones, but they’ve got a new currency. They’ve got the schools open. They’ve got the hospitals open. They’ve got the clinics open. There was not a humanitarian crisis. Food is there and available to the people. The people are able to form a part of an Olympic team. They’ve got a symphony that’s started.
MATTHEWS: Will all that last when we leave?
RUMSFELD: I couldn’t see into the future before and I can’t see into the future now. Nobody can. Certainly there’s that opportunity for 25 million human beings – men, women, and children who lived in a repressive, vicious dictatorship have an opportunity to get on a path towards a freer, more civilized system, and that’s a wonderful opportunity.
MATTHEWS: And last point in the Powell doctrine, you do have an exit strategy?
RUMSFELD: We do. We’re going to pass sovereignty sometime between now and June 30th and we’re going to assist with security until we have enough security forces that they can take it over. And it isn’t an easy road, but if you look back, it’s never been an easy road to go from a dictatorship to a free system. It’s bumpy. It’s hard and it isn’t going to be a straight path. There are going to be some – a couple of steps forward and a couple of steps back and then we have to keep moving.
MATTHEWS: Well, once again I’ve learned that this is a great country because I get to have – come over here to the Pentagon and to challenge you on these tough issues. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
RUMSFELD: We’re glad to have you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
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