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Secretary Rumsfeld Appears on Newshour with Jim Lehrer, PBS

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 18, 2004

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld Appears on Newshour with Jim Lehrer, PBS

 

            JIM LEHRER: And now to our Newsmaker interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  Mr. Secretary, welcome.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.

 

            JIM LEHRER: First, 9/11 Commission proposals, you told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that you had yet to reach conviction on the specifics.  Why is that?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, first of all it's very complex. It's very easy to make some macro proposals, and that's useful, don't get me wrong, but it's... the devil's in the details.

 

            Underneath those macro proposals one has to then flesh it out. And that is a responsibility of government that has to follow the initial direction that is set.  The president has agreed with a number of the proposals from the Commission. The Commission did a good job. It was a useful thing to do.  And these hearings are a good thing because they're bringing people from government, from out of government, from military, civilian, intelligence world, defense world, and getting these issues surfaced.

 

            And I think if you listen carefully, I think there are a lot of people who need to develop conviction as to exactly how these things ought to be rearranged.  For one thing, we're in a war, and he who would tear down what is falls the responsibility of recommending something better and putting something better in place and knowing that it will work. So we have to approach it with the seriousness that it merits.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with the basic thrust of the 9/11 Commission's finding that the intelligence system, as is, is broken and needs to be fixed and fixed fast?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, no. Yes and no. Put it this way: The 9/11 Commission basically looked at how the world worked on 9/11.  And their report was accurate. That set of problems needed to be addressed in ways that the system wasn't addressing that set of problems.  There has been a great deal that's been done since. So to take the analysis as to what it was like on 9/11 and suggest that it's the case today, it would not be accurate. And the 9/11 Commission said that. I mean, they said there's been a great deal that's been done. I mean, you've got a Department of Homeland Security.

 

            You've got an assistant secretary, undersecretary of defense for intelligence. You've got a combatant commander for the northern command for North America.  There are any number of things that have been done. We've increased the intelligence budget dramatically. Director Tenet has been working to increase human intelligence, which was one of the problem areas, and so a good deal has been done.

 

            And I think that this discussion is helpful. It's a good thing that our country recognizes that we are in the 21st Century, that the way we were arranged in the last century just doesn't fit. There are new technologies. There are new sets of problems.

 

            JIM LEHRER: You testified before the 9/11 Commission, and I remember-- I have got a quote here that you said something to this effect, now where is it here -- you told the Commission, "There may be ways we can strengthen intelligence, but centralization is most certainly not one of them."  Now, of course, one of the central parts of the 9/11 Commission recommendations is centralization of intelligence with a national intelligence director.  The president has endorsed that as a concept. What's your opinion of it now?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I favor a national intelligence director. I don't... depending on how it's arranged, it will or will not involve centralization.  That's not written. Those details are wide open. Let me make my point.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Okay.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I was in industry and was involved in research and development. And anyone in that field knows that what you want to do is you don't want all of your R & D people in the same place, going to lunch together, thinking alike.  That is not the way to get innovation or creativity or differing views.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Why not? Why not –

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: It just doesn't work.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Okay.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: They get homogenized.

 

            JIM LEHRER: All right.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: And what you need is to have people who are looking at things from different perspectives. You need competitive analysis.  And, now, it's fine to centralize planning and -- but to bring everything together and think that you're going to get the best intelligence or the best research and development, as the case may be, I think is a mistake.  I think that what we need is to recognize that there are various ways to collect intelligence. You know, it could be in satellite, it could be human intelligence; it could be electronic.  The user doesn't care where it came from. The user needs to see good all source analysis.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Good all source analysis?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Right. We need analysis that is using all the sources of intelligence, taking all of those pieces, and doing a professional job analyzing it and having competition in views and not having it all single perspective.  If you think about the user of intelligence, the same piece of intelligence, the same piece of information can simultaneously be something that is of strategic importance. It can be of tactical importance on the battlefield.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Explain the difference.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, strategic importance might be something that tells us that a country's direction is thus or its capability...

 

            JIM LEHRER: Big-picture stuff?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Big-picture stuff that a president has got to be interested in.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Okay.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Tactical intelligence might be how do you find Saddam Hussein. Now, that also happened to be strategic.

 

            JIM LEHRER: And it could be the same piece of information –

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: The same piece of information.

 

            JIM LEHRER: -- from the same source

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes, or from –

 

            JIM LEHRER: Multiple sources.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: -- multiple sources. Now, what does that tell us? It tells us that if anyone thinks they can say, someone should be in charge of national intelligence, you could just as equally say someone should be totally in charge of military intelligence, tactical, battlefield intelligence. That's equally true.  And the problem is it's the same piece of intelligence. So you can't find -- H.L. Mencken once said - for every solution -- for every problem there's a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.  The idea that you can put everything in one place is belied by the reality that we have different uses for that information and it can't be in one place.  Therefore, you have to have this coordinated, cooperative arrangement where you break out these stovepipes that categorize everything and then no one can look in those categories, unless they're cleared for that. You've got to...

 

            JIM LEHRER: One stovepipe doesn't know what the other stovepipe knows, et cetera, et cetera.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, yeah.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Now, there is a practical side of this. Sen. Roberts, who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said to you and the others at the table with you today, hey, there's a practical issue here, and the momentum is moving toward a national director of intelligence. The president is endorsing it.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: True.

 

            JIM LEHRER: So all the things you've just said to me and you've said to the Committee, are you trying to slow things down? Where are you trying to influence this in a way that you'll be comfortable? Are you doing it through the president? I mean, what is your role in trying to make this thing work for you?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm just one individual who is involved in this process, not as a central responsibility, but...

 

            JIM LEHRER: But isn't 80 percent of the intelligence money, isn't it spent by the Pentagon –

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, they put a lot of the intelligence budget in the Pentagon's budget.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Okay. All right.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: That's a different thing. The Department of Defense is the biggest user of intelligence.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Okay.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Walking away.

 

            JIM LEHRER: All right.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Now, so I care about it. On the other hand, the task of the director of central intelligence is intelligence. My task is not. We use it. We need to have it.  We have to have it in -- where it's needed in the system to protect the United States of America.  So as any member of the national security team in the government, obviously we're all involved in discussing this and trying to fill in the details and Congress asks for us to testify, so I was happy to do that.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Some of the senators, Sen. Levin, for one, the ranking Democrat, was disappointed, I think, is a safe way of saying it that you didn't answer any of these questions specifically about your own personal views, and you said you were going to wait until... you were still involved in a process.  That process is an internal process within the administration, then the president will come up with the details? You will tell him, but you're not going to talk to anybody else about it?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we told the Committee, look, hold your hearings, bring in outsiders, and have us come up after the president has completed this process and we're prepared to present the administration's view.  They said, no, no we want you up now. I said, fine, accept me on that basis, I'll come up, but what I'll have to do is to tell you what the president's decided, and then discuss pros and cons of these specific elements.  Now --and no one should have been disappointed, least of all Carl Levin.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Well, that was my word; that was a characterization word.  One thing you said in testimony today that made me kind of lean back is you said that the Department of Defense on Iraq did a series of lessons-learned studies, including one on intelligence, and nobody asked you, which I'm going to ask you the question I'm going to ask you now, and you said particularly on intelligence concerning Iraq, what was the lesson learned it turned out?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Actually, I was asked the question, "Did we do, an after the battle analysis of intelligence in the Pentagon? I answered what we did do, which is slightly different.  I said we had a significant lessons-learned activity that began at the very beginning, before the war ever started. It was done by the joint forces command.  It's a superb piece of work. It includes intelligence as well a lot of other things. The slowness of getting battle damage, for example, because of sandstorms, any there are just any number of things.  We completed that and then joint forces command went out and interviewed Iraqis and got a lessons-learned effort, a significant one again, but totally from the Iraqis' perspective.  And the marriage of those two things represents a significantly important body of work.

 

            JIM LEHRER: All right. Specifically on intelligence - did your folks determine why the intelligence turned out to be so wrong about weapons of mass destruction?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Ooh, no, that wasn't what we did, no. The Central Intelligence Agency did that.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Right. So you didn't... that was not part of your lessons learned?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: No. We're not in that business.

 

            JIM LEHRER: What about the intensity of the insurgency after major combat, was that an intelligence failure within the Pentagon -- or not?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Within the Pentagon, that's an interesting phrase.

 

            JIM LEHRER: In other words –

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: The intelligence is the task of the director of central intelligence. He is the principal intelligence official.  He uses all of the assets, State Department, Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, FBI....

 

            JIM LEHRER: Let me extract “within the Pentagon.”  Did your lessons learned include a look at whether or not the pre-war estimations about an insurgency postwar were correct or not, wherever the intelligence came from?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm trying to dredge it up in my mind. I think there are pieces of it that comment on that, both from our side and from the Iraqi side.  But, we recommended, and the central intelligence agency did its own, and that was, I think, a part of it clearly because it was part of their intelligence work.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Let me be... I'm not -- I don't want to play word games here, but the bottom line is: Do you feel that the intelligence that your commanders received was wrong about what an insurgency might be, the intensity of an insurgency might be after major combat ended?  Is that a concern of yours and to this day?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure. First of all, things are always different than anyone anticipates.  And it is quite clear that the circumstances on the ground today represent a level of insurgency that had not been predicted.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Okay. But you don't consider that an intelligence failure. It's just wrong?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know, failure this, failure that.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Okay.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: It's a tough business, intelligence. It's a very hard thing to do, because first of all, it isn't static. It changes. And the facts on the ground adjust.  They say a war plan doesn't ever outlive the first contact with the enemy. Why? Because the enemy is not static; it's active; and it's constantly doing things that are different.  We did not anticipate in the intelligence that I can recall the level to which the Fedayeen Saddam would intimidate Iraqi people to keep them from surrendering, for example, or cooperating. And fear works. I mean, intimidation works and it's - Now, we're fortunate today that it's not working. They're out killing a lot of Iraqis, and the Iraqis are lining up to go into the police force and into the army and serve on the Iraqi governing bodies, their city councils and their provincial leadership.

 

            JIM LEHRER: But, speaking of today as I just reported in the News Summary, we have got a real problem in Najaf with Muqtada al-Sadr, a guy that early on was being dismissed by American officials as a thug, nobody followed him. And now here he is holed up in this holy city, and is there a peaceful solution?  Do you see... you heard what I just... you probably already knew that, that he wouldn't see the Iraqis from Baghdad and all of that. How is this going to get resolved, Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, Iraq's a sovereign country. And they have a prime minister and a president and a set of ministers.  And it's hard for me to say how they can run that country and allow a militia to seize portions of a city or city and kill innocent Iraqis and consistently oppose that government.  So at some point, one would think, that will have to change. Now, they've tried different ways to have it change: Negotiations and the like. And he has developed a pattern of offering to negotiate and discuss and then at the last minute not doing it.  And he clearly has behaved in an unstable manner. He's not a predictable person. He's young. He's not well thought of as a religious leader in the country. He clearly has attracted a cadre of young, basically young Shia’a.  And at some point he's going to have to stop behaving that way and one would hope it would be peaceful. I think having watched him over a period of times, it seems doubtful if it will be peaceful.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Is the U.S.... I assume the U.S. is prepared to militarily help out the interim government –

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: My goodness, yes. They've been occupying non-trivial chunks of an Najaf already. It's unlikely that the U.S. forces would be the ones that would deal with the holy places. That's just not something that we are likely to do. I would think that the Iraqi forces would be the ones that would deal with that because it's such a significant thing to the religion.

 

            JIM LEHRER: What would you say to those who say, Wait a minute, the worst solution in this case would be a military solution; the repercussions of that all over Iraq and the Muslim world would be awful?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: It's always the worst solution, a military solution. Your first choice -- it's always your last choice. Your first choice is always a peaceful solution, a diplomatic solution.  And the question is: If you can't get it, what do you do? Can you have this fellah running around killing innocent Iraqis and firing off mortars and artillery pieces and rocket-propelled grenades and taking over a city indefinitely? I think probably the Iraqi government will decide not.

 

            JIM LEHRER: That is the Iraqi government's decision? The U.S. is not going to influence that in any way whatsoever?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Obviously they talk all the time. And who influences whom, but the discussions go on. They've been in close contact. They meet every day. We're trying to be helpful.  And the Iraqi government has stepped up and assumed responsibility and the prime minister has been making decisions and functioning as a sovereign government would.

 

            JIM LEHRER: How do you feel about public opinion polls in this country? I reviewed them today; all the major ones that have been done recently show you're -- around 50 percent of the American people believe that invading Iraq was not worth the cost, either in American lives or in resources.  How do you feel about that kind of thing?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, no one can be in a war and like it. It just is an, it's an ugly, tough business. And people are killed.  And you cannot see that and not be heartbroken for the lives that aren't lived, for the families that have losses, for the wounded that all of us visit out at Walter Reed and Bethesda Hospital.  The other side of the coin is: Does that mean that there is never an appropriate time to use force?  And I think history suggests the contrary, that there are things that are worth fighting for and that there are situations where the risk of not using force is greater than the risk of using force.  And it seems to me that one can expect public opinion polls to go up and down, depending on what the circumstances being reported by the media are.  And we're living in a time with a war, almost for the first time in history, with twenty-four-hour-a-day news, seven days a week; gripping scenes of things taking place, a clear emphasis on the negative, not the positive. 

 

            I mean, here you have got a country that had 25 million people repressed for decades; Saddam Hussein shoving people off the buildings and killing them, chopping off heads, chopping off hands, ghastly circumstances for these people, and today the schools are open, the clinics are open, the hospitals are working.  They've got a team in the Olympics. They've got a symphony orchestra. They're getting ready for elections. They have a sovereign government. They've gone from zero to 200,000 Iraqi security forces of which 110 probably are well-trained and well equipped, and the others are in the process.  The goal is to have a nation there that is at peace with its neighbors, that is not repressing its people, that's respectful of the different religious and groups in the country.  And that would be a wonderful thing for that region and just a tremendous accomplishment.  Do they have a crack at achieving it? Yes, they do. Is it going to be tough? Yes. Has it always been tough to go from a vicious dictatorship to a democracy? You bet. 

 

            JIM LEHRER: But without support of the American people, that's the question I was asking - I mean, whether or not –

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: But your characterization wouldn't be correct.

 

            JIM LEHRER: No, no. I mean, in other words that only -- that half the American people don't think -- what you just said, all the great things that are happening, are not worth it in terms of American lives and American resources, and that that was –

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I had an experience in Korea where a Korean woman said to me, "Why should we send our troops all the way around the world to Iraq to be wounded or die?" and I said, "Why should Americans have sent their troops all the way around the world to Korea?" and here was South Korea, an energetic democracy, a wonderful economy and up North people are starving. There are concentration camps in North Korea.  And I looked at her and said, "This is why it's worth it." And it is worth it. You have got people starving in North Korea, and you've got people engaging in economic activity all over the globe in South Korea, the same people with the same resources, with the same population.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Speaking of North Korea and South Korea, the troop announcement yesterday: Sen. McCain, among others, asked you about that today.  And Sen. McCain was concerned about the message, pulling some troops, U.S. troops out of South Korea, the message that sends to North Korea, particularly when we're negotiating with them, or trying to get them to get rid of their nuclear weapons. Are you concerned about that at all?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: We obviously - we have been working on these things for three years. We've given a great deal of attention to it. We've worked very closely with the South Korean government.  We've worked very closely with governments all over the world, our allies in Europe. And the short answer is not in the slightest. We obviously wouldn't have done it if there were any risk of a weakening in the deterrent up there. 

 

            In fact, the process that's been under way is to move U.S. forces south of the DMZ, south of the Han River, get out of downtown Seoul in the Yongsan Base, and have two hubs, an air hub and a sea hub, and transfer over time carefully in a measured way responsibilities to the South Korean military. They have an enormous military. They have a vibrant economy.  Their GDP is probably 30 times what the North Koreans' GDP is; it's 50 years since the Korean War ended. We wouldn't think of doing something that would create an instability, and furthermore, it is a mistake, it's a 20th century industrial age perspective to think of quantities of things as measures of military capability. It's just wrong.

 

            The numbers of troops is interesting, but the capability of the troops or the capability of the precision aircraft, precision bombs and the aircraft, the capability of the naval power, all of that is what creates the deterrent and the defense capability.  And people who understand these things see that. And so there's no doubt in my mind but that there won't be any weakening of the deterrent because I happen to know for a fact that the capability of the United States will be in fact as strong or stronger.

 

            JIM LEHRER: But the concern of some of the senators wasn't so much the reality as the message it sends to North Korea. One of the senators quoted somebody today as saying it's a preemptive concession, or at least the North Koreans might look at it like that.  We're trying to get the North Koreans to do something, and they pick up the paper one day and discover the U.S. is going to pull out some of its troops without having to give anything in exchange; that's the concern.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: No. That's just not the facts. I mean, we're not trading off our people for something there. They've got a government that is clearly announcing that they are interested in having nuclear weapons and may have nuclear weapons.  There's a debate about whether they're lying or not. And the idea that we could say to them, gee, don't have nuclear weapons and we'll take a few of our troops out is silliness.  There's five or six countries in these talks, China, and Russia, and Japan, and the United States, the People's Republic... the South Koreans and the North Koreans. They're all working on this problem. 

 

            It would be wonderful if we could achieve a solution to it, but the movement of -- with no change in military capability but a shift in the capability from some troops and where they're located to a shift towards air or sea power or the ability to deploy forces is certainly not something that ought to be negotiated as such. That's a 20th Century thought.

 

            JIM LEHRER: A 20th Century thought. Why do so many people have it, do you think?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't think many do. People have been briefed. People have thought about it. People have taken the time -- invested the time to see what it's about.  I don't think they think that way. In fact, I don't know anyone who thinks that way who has been through the process.

 

            JIM LEHRER: Okay. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.