INGRAHAM: Back on the Laura Ingraham Show, delighted you're with us, as we continue to go through the colliding world's politics, the cultural media bias.
You know something? You have to search with a microscope to find any coverage of the Afghan elections over the weekend. It's mind boggling how important this was and how little coverage it got.
Joining us now to talk about this, and we have a whole host of issues we have to address with him, the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, thanks for being with us.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you. I'm delighted to be with you, Laura.
INGRAHAM: Secretary Rumsfeld, I've got to tell you, when I read some of the very small stories about the Afghan elections I thought to myself, here we have about a 50 percent turnout rate in a country where we were promised unending violence, unending chaos, and yet women and young people brave the threats and they made it to the polls and you don't get any coverage of it.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It's just amazing. It is such an enormous story in history, what's been accomplished in four years. And the courage of the Afghan people and the Afghan women, and the candidates, thousands of candidates for provincial office and for the parliament. For them to have the courage to go to do that when they know they're being threatened by the Taliban or al-Qaida people around, it just is so admirable. And you're right, I'm just dumb-founded at the lack of attention being paid by the American media. I just think it is something that people ought to register in their minds.
INGRAHAM: One of the things that I think of course is responsible for this, the reason for this refusal to pay attention to the story, is because they'd rather focus on whatever they think is perceived problems in Katrina response, or they'll focus on the difficulty we're facing in Iraq, and on that note, I have to ask you, given everything that you know about the region, what's happening in Iraq, what do you do at the Pentagon to affect public opinion? Because these polls, one after the other, are showing ebbing support for the war. I support the war, I'm think it's worth it, and I'm frustrated that more Americans don't think it's worth it at this juncture.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I think that one of the things that people are not looking at is the alternative. Imagine Iraq turned over to the Zarkawis of the world, the people who behead people, the people who go out and kill 20, 30, 40, 50 innocent men, women and children, Iraqi children on a daily basis, and handing over the billions of dollars in oil revenue and the water resources of that country so that they can operate terrorist networks around the world.
Zarkawi was operating when Saddam Hussein was still in charge. Zarkawi was operating in Iraq, terrorists and networks that involved three or four Western European countries. He is a serious terrorist and he is a serious problem, and the thought of turning that country over to those people is just something that I can't imagine people really contemplate as a legitimate choice. There is no choice to do that.
INGRAHAM: Do we think, Mr. Secretary, that having a military spokesperson on the ground day in and day out, ticking off three positive pieces of news out of Iraq every day, someone that every American knows, comes to know whether it's General Casey or someone else, do you think that's something that would affect the public opinion at this point? Because I'm concerned if these numbers keep going the way they are, it's going to do damage to the President's war on terror overall and obviously his standing on other issues at home.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You're right. The military's not going to lose any battles or any wars over in Iraq. The real war is the test of wills that's taking place and that's being fought here in the United States.
I don't know if that would work. I know there are almost daily briefings out of Iraq by military personnel, and maybe it's once a week or twice a week, and then there are briefings out of the Pentagon, and then other -- The President and others are also involved.
Obviously you're quite right, all of that effort has not overcome the negative press that is --
INGRAHAM: Something's got to change.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think you're probably right, and maybe getting one person who the world does get to know would be a useful thing to think about. I'll do that.
INGRAHAM: North Korea, I've got to say everyone thinking it was such a positive development, North Korea's commitment in the six-party talks to refrain from further pursuit of nuclear materials and nuclear processing and now they say well, we want a white water reactor, otherwise we're not going to move forward on our commitment.
What are the American people supposed to think about this?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know. From time to time you hear things coming out of that country that sound contradictory and I have not had a chance to really find out who said precisely what.
I know what the U.S. position was, and the U.S. position was that we would require that they disassemble any nuclear weapon program and every nuclear weapon program, and on a basis that is verifiable and irreversible, and that only after that was done and they had, as Secretary Rice indicated, they had reentered the IAEA and the non-proliferation treaties, would anything be discussable. At that time the question could conceivably be discussed. But that's a long way off, one would think.
INGRAHAM: The mistake made in 1994 not to look back, but to use it as a way of learning, a mistake of hoping for the best from North Korea just ended up kicking the can down the road, to use the line from one of your former colleagues.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yeah, I think that's right. And that's why the U.S. position here, and as I understand it, the position that was taken by the other parties to the six-party talks with the exception of North Korea, was that you had to take the subject of verification, and elevate it, so that it was clearly understood that the taking apart of any nuclear weapon program would be subject to an intrusive verification regime, that would be comprehensive, and that would demonstrate the irreversibility of what it was they were doing by way of disassembling these things, and that at that point one could talk about a different relationship. But the verification and these actions with respect to their programs had to precede that.
INGRAHAM: Back on Iraq for a second, Mr. Secretary, the major problem outside of Iraq that would affect the future, our future success in Iraq, would it be Iran for you? I know that you talk about the people streaming across the border still, and the foreign fighters we found in Telafar a few weeks ago. But would it be Iran, and what Iran's role in all this is and would be?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: In what sense? Would it be what?
INGRAHAM: A further danger to the situation in Iraq as it is today. What outside forces other than what we're seeing developing on the ground inside of Iraq would you point to as a problem?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, clearly the outside forces include Iran and the activities they're engaged in in Iraq which are unhelpful. Clearly they do not want a democratic Iraq. They want a handful of clerics to do in Iraq what they're doing in Iran, telling everybody what to do every day when they get up in the morning.
Syria is clearly also a harmful influence in Iraq and here again, the borders are very difficult to close just as our borders are very difficult to close, and as these military offensive efforts go forward, the effect of it is to scoop up terrorists and insurgents and you find large numbers of people from these neighboring countries, and that's harmful.
It's important, it seems to me, Iraq's an important country and it's going to be in that neighborhood for a very long time. It strikes me that it's important for them to continue doing what they've recently started to do, and that's to let their neighbors know that the behavior that they're engaged in is harmful to Iraq and it's not well received.
INGRAHAM: And your commanders in the field now in Iraq, there are reports back to you about the progress being made. Of course Americans are greeted by headlines every day, 1900 dead, thousands more wounded, roadside bombs. But the commanders were working with the security forces. I've had a chance to talk to some of them. I hear a very different account of what is happening, very positive stories, again, and yet I don't see the stuff reported. It's frustrating to me. I can't imagine how frustrating to you it must be.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It is. The people who really know what's going on the ground there are the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces and the Coalition forces. And their reports back, our soldiers' reports back to their families and friends, the e-mails, are reports about the progress they see being made, and the reports we receive from the Iraqis are positive. If one looks at the polls the Iraqis are increasingly confident in the future of their country.
You're quite right, the drumbeat of negative information is reminiscent of what we heard about Afghanistan. Five days, less than a month into the Afghan war, newspapers were reporting that the war effort is in deep trouble. The United States is not headed into a quagmire, it already is in a quagmire. We're not just losing the first round to the Taliban, we've already lost it, this newspaper says, the Los Angeles Times. And five days later Mazar-e-Sharif falls, and a few days later Kabul falls and the sky didn't fall in. And yet people don't hold people accountable for that.
INGRAHAM: Two more questions, Mr. Secretary, I know you're on a tight schedule.
Are you confident that a year from now or six months from now public opinion will move toward embracing progress in Iraq and the fact that Iraq was worth it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I look at what's going on in Iraq now and I see successful elections before, I see the successful drafting of a constitution. I expect the constitutional referendum will take place on October 15th. I expect that elections under that new constitution will take place on December 15th, and every one of those milestones that takes place, this is tough stuff for those people. They're not used to democracy. They're not used to negotiating and political maneuvering and fashioning a constitution. It took us from 1776 to 1789 and we had those same issues on federalism. What they're accomplishing is impressive. Is it perfect? No. Is it bumpy as you go along? You bet. Are people still getting killed? Yes, indeed. But do I think they're going to make it? Yes, I do think they're going to make it, and I think the alternative is so unacceptable to contemplate, to turn that country over to terrorists and put our country at still greater and greater risk I think is just unthinkable.
INGRAHAM: You've got a press corps against you and you've got an international media who's oftentimes against you so it's very difficult.
Before I let you go, the AmericaSupportsYou.Mil charity. We continue to link it and promote it on our web site, Mr. Secretary, at a time when everyone's opening their wallets to Katrina I need to remember and remind everyone to support that web site which helps our troops, their families, and continues to just be a huge outpouring to the benefit of our men and women in uniform.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well you're terrific to mention it. As you know, the web site, what it does is it lists all the kinds of things that people across our country are doing to support the troops and to support their families. Whether it's an individual or a school classroom or a corporation or a club of some type, and those activities in support of the troops and their families are terrific. This web site, AmericaSupportsYou.Mil, lists all of those so people can go in there and find something that suits their fancy, and God bless them for it because the men and women in uniform, as you point out, are doing such a wonderful job for our country.
INGRAHAM: Fantastic. If you need someone to be that military spokesperson over in Iraq, I'm happy to give up my microphone any time, Mr. Secretary. Any time you call I'll be happy to jump over there.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You're terrific, Laura. Thanks so much.
INGRAHAM: Secretary Don Rumsfeld on the Laura Ingraham Show. You take care. I've got to take a quick break.