(Interview with Dick Brennan, WNYW-TV (Fox), New York.)
Q: Thank you so much for doing this we greatly appreciate it.
Rumsfeld: That’s a pretty fancy library you have there.
Q: Sir, thank you once again for doing this.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
Q: First of all, I just have to ask you before we really get started. You had a car accident today?
Rumsfeld: Ah, yes. I guess we did. We were coming down en route to the airport and I was working in the back seat and I looked up and a car was coming at us - we were on a three-lane highway going one way and it was a car coming at us. It apparently had spun after an accident up ahead of us and we were pretty well stopped by the time it hit us, but it did hit us.
Q: No broken bones, bruises?
Rumsfeld: No, no, no, no. The driver in the other car I’m told is had an air bag which helped.
Q: It just seems odd, the Defense Secretary it happens to you too. I’m glad it didn’t happen in New York.
Anyway, first of all in Iraq the past few days, Memorial Day weekend we lost four soldiers. Is there any indication that this is a coordinated effort by the enemy?
Rumsfeld: We haven’t seen anything that suggests that, it’s hard to know but it’s clearly the victory was so fast that there were a good many Ba’ath Party members and Fedayeen Saddam people that are still left loose in the country.
Second there were maybe as many as 50 to 75 to 100 thousand criminals let out of all the prisons in Iraq, so they are out there on the streets. I don’t know how many people was killed in the major cities of Europe or the United States over the weekend but I would guess that there were a number and so I think what we have to be is patient and recognize that it is not a perfectly stable situation there, there are still dangers and we’ll just have to keep working the problem.
Q: Any indication that Saddam himself is one: alive, or two: somehow orchestrating this?
Rumsfeld: I have not seen any suggestion that he’s alive or orchestrating it.
Q: That he may not be in the country itself. There was rumor that his son might be alive.
Rumsfeld: There’s a rumor a day about this and I just don’t chase rumors. We don’t know if he or his son’s are alive or dead. Well, they are not running Iraq.
Q: Weapons of mass destruction, we are still searching no conclusive evidence as of yet, I’m sure you’ve heard the criticism. Were as perhaps Senator Byrd suggested, were we misled about the weapons of mass destruction?
Rumsfeld: Oh I don’t believe so, I think the intelligence community provided the best intelligence available and that we will find additional substantiating evidence of that. Colin Powell if you may recall at the UN mentioned the existence of these mobile biological laboratories and two of those are now in our custody and they seem to look very much like precisely what Colin Powell said would exist.
Q: There had been some suggestion earlier on that Syria might have taken some of them away or they may be in another country. Has Syria been cooperating as the President had put them on notice to do?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think you could say stopped doing some things that were notably unhelpful but I wouldn’t say that they are in a cooperative mode at the present time, no.
Q: And what consequences do they face if they don’t cooperate?
Rumsfeld: I guess that’s up to the President.
Q: There was a talk for many time, the President has said many times that you will cooperate, whether that just be-- we heard it just today. Ari Fleisher said it about Iraq. Is Iran holding members of al Qaeda?
Rumsfeld: There are senior al Qaeda in Iran whether they’re in some form of custody with the Iranians is for the Iranians to say, but there’s no question but that senior al Qaeda have been in Iran.
Q: What can you do about that besides threaten?
Rumsfeld: Well those are decisions that presidents make and it is, there are things we can do about Iranian influence in Iraq where they have military people from Iran in Iraq and we have ways that we can go after and either capture or kill them and we intend to do that.
Q: Is there an element of frustration in attempting to make what may be considered rouge nations, members of the axis of evil, somehow come to the fore without having to use weapons?
Rumsfeld: Well, I wouldn’t say there’s frustration at all. I think that we’ve got a problem in the world and the problem is that there are a hand full of countries on the terrorist list that have been sponsoring and promoting and harboring terrorists and terrorists have been killing innocent men, women and children around the world, in every continent, in every part of the globe. And the President has determined that, that’s a danger to the American people and to our interests and we intend to continue to pursue the various terrorist networks and we’re having good success. A great many people have been stopped and arrested and detained.
Q: Along our front here in New York and around the nation we are on heightened alert, we were this weekend. What can you say to Americans who are worried and perhaps the better question is what should American’s worry about most?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think they can have confidence that the problem has been properly identified. The United States has provided leadership in the world with something in excess of 100 nations now who are cooperating in the global war on terror. Exchanging intelligence information, helping to freeze bank accounts, make the movement of money more difficult for terrorist, arresting people, interrogating people, disrupting terrorist networks and preventing terrorist attacks. It’s not possible to prevent them all and we know that and a terrorist can attack at any time, at any place using every technique and those of us who believe in free systems are not capable of defending in every place at every moment of the day or night against every conceivable terrorist technique. What we can do is pursue them and put pressure on them and make it much more difficult for them and that’s being done and that’s a good thing.
Q: As Defense Secretary you carry knowledge that most of us don’t. Every day there may be a threat, there may be an attack. On a personal level how difficult is that with the knowledge that you have of the dangers that this country is facing now a days?
Rumsfeld: Well, you learn to live with it -- you take all of those scraps of information and try to find ways to make sense out of them. We have fine people in the intelligence community working on that and then we organize and train and equip to go out and attempt to go out and attempt to take that information and put additional pressure on terrorist and terrorist networks. And I think we are having good success. I’m afraid to say that the truth is there undoubtedly will continue to be terrorist attacks in other countries in the world, as well as in our country and that’s something that we can live with. We don’t want it and we ought to do everything humanly possible to prevent them and we are but it is not possible to prevent everything in the world.
Q: Are we safer than we were two years ago?
Rumsfeld: I believe we are and I think we are. I think we have much better procedures, we’ve put much greater pressure on these networks, it’s more difficult for people to recruit and retain people, it’s more difficult for them to move money, it’s more difficult for them to move across national boundaries. There’s a better watch list that can be addressed, we’ve got an awful lot of people arrested who were giving us additional information about how they operate so I feel that we are safer today. That doesn’t mean we are perfectly safe and we have to certainly continue to pursue them and we will.
Q: What do you worry about the most?
Rumsfeld: I think that the thing that is most worrisome is the risk that a terrorist network will get its hands on chemical or biological, particularly biological weapons capabilities, and succeed in an attack somewhere in the world using a biological agent.
Q: And that may be easier than it seems. I mean we have ports we have an open border. How do you take a look at all those threats and realize someday it just may come through?
Rumsfeld: Well you do your best and we’ve got an awful lot of fine people doing their best and I think that’s a good thing and if there’s any country on the face of the earth that can live in this kind of environment it’s the United States of America. We’ve got the ability to continue to function as free people and recognize the nature of the threat and live with that threat but continue to apply maximum pressure against the terrorists.
Q: Do you think the American people will continue to support the policy in Iraq when we still may be losing soldiers and we may be spending vast amounts of money? Do you think that support will stay for a few years?
Rumsfeld: The American people have good center of gravity and they understand that there are people killed in every major city in the world everyday. The fact that there are people attempting to kill people in Iraq ought not to surprise anybody and they understand that. No one likes to lose life, innocent life and terrorists and the Fedayeen Saddam and the Ba’ath Party people in that country are trying to kill innocent people who aren’t doing anything to them. But I think that we’ll be successful there, I think the American people have the patience. We’ve been there 7 weeks since Baghdad fell. It’s not like 7 years and yet the impatience that you get in the media – well, will they be patient, will they accept this, will they do that, I don’t find that when I talk to the American people, I find it only in the media.
Q: Is there an exit strategy?
Q: What is it?
Rumsfeld: Well the exit strategy is we create a sufficiently secure environment in Iraq so that the Iraqi people can have the kinds of services and kinds of food and water and medicines that are needed to live and function and begin to take a hold of their country and put themselves on a path of first an interim governmental authority or I think it’s called the Iraqi Interim Authority and then some sort of a constitutional convention and then some sort of a provisional government and then eventually a permanent government.
Q: Is there a timetable, can there be one?
Rumsfeld: Well it’s hard to have an exact timetable because it really depends on how quickly you can create a sufficiently secure environment that, that can go forward and then it’s difficult to predict precisely how rapidly the Iraqi’s will be able to take control of their country. We hope it happens as soon as possible but the President has said we are willing, this is important, we have a stake in their success and we will stay there as long as it takes to get that job done and not a minute longer. We have no desire to keep people in other people’s countries. We are only there to help them.
Q: When we were in Iraq we talked to a 21-year-old U.S. soldier who was veteran of two wars. Is that our future, will we be fighting battles all around the world?
Rumsfeld: Well, I doubt it. I think we will probably be engaged in a variety of things as we have been with Bosnia and Kosovo and then Afghanistan. There will be times that we have to as a country to protect our own interests and to go after terrorist networks.
On the other hand the American people are not aggressive, we don’t seek anyone else’s real estate, we don’t seek anyone else’s treasure. We want to be able to live in peace and freedom and security and so I think to the extent that we can we will be going about our business here in the United States.
Q: You got to forgive me for this one Mr. Secretary but I got to throw you at least one softball from your fans in our newsroom wanted to know what is it like being picked as one of the sexiest men in America?
Rumsfeld: Come on, I don’t do those questions.
Q: (Laughter.) Okay.
Rumsfeld: That’s nonsense. (Laughter.)
Q: Okay, I agree with you on that -- one and one more point. What was the hardest part of the war for you?
Rumsfeld: Well, the decision that the President made to go in and to feel that he had to use force in Iraq obviously is the most difficult. No one wants to go to war, war is your last choice, not your first choice. He exhausted every diplomatic and economic sanction and approach that could have been taken and that’s a critical decision that he made and I support him in it, I think he made the right decision and I think our country is fortunate to have a President who has the courage and the clarity that he does in his leadership.
Q: Thank you so very much.