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Infinity Radio Town Hall with Secretary Rumsfeld

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
May 29, 2003 4:00 PM EDT

(Infinity Radio Town Hall, moderated by Steve Kroft, CBS News.)

 

     Kroft:  Welcome back.  This is Steve Kroft, and I am now at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. 

 

     (To Secretary Rumsfeld.)  I won't ask you what you were doing, but I'm glad you could join us.  You missed one call, and I want to ask -- there were two very good questions.  The first one was how many personnel do we have in Iraq right now?  And what do you see as the outside limits, in terms of the number of people we might need to keep the peace there?

 

     Rumsfeld:  At the present time, the United States has in Iraq roughly 147,000.  It's gone up several thousand in the past week or so.  I think it was 142,000 the last time I looked.  And then there are coalition forces.  And the coalition forces vary from -- anywhere from, I suppose, 12 (thousand) to 18,000.  So that in addition, we have a large number of Kurdish forces in the north that have been providing stability operations.  And in addition, there are a number of Iraqis who have been recruited and hired as policemen and security officials in a number of the locations throughout the country.  So, the total number has to be, you know, well up close towards 200,000, I would think, if you count all the different -- with 147,000 being the U.S.

 

     Kroft:  The second part of the question, and -- is about Saddam Hussein.  And the last time we did one of these live radio hookups a little more than six months ago, that was the main topic of conversation.  Do you have any idea where he is and whether he is dead or alive?  And is there anything that you can tell us about that?

 

     Rumsfeld:  No.  We don't know if he's dead or alive, and we -- if he's alive, we don't know where he is, and if he's alive, we don't know whether or not he's healthy.  Until you have him, you don't have him.  And it's simply a matter of continuing to interrogate people that have been taken into custody and learning more and then pursuing it.  We do know he's no longer running Iraq.

 

     Kroft:  There was a number of -- there were a number of targets in which you had hoped that perhaps you had killed him.  Have those sites been excavated, and are you satisfied that he was not killed in either of those attacks?

 

     Rumsfeld:  There were only two locations that I recall where they suspected senior officials might have been, command-and-control- type leadership officials.  And I believe they've done some preliminary site exploration on at least -- I think on both of them, but have not found anything that's determinative.  

 

     Kroft:  We're ready for our next call.  This is from Tracy (sp) at KCBS in San Francisco.

 

     Q:  Hello --

 

     Kroft:  Go ahead, Tracy (sp).

 

     Q:  Hello, Mr. Secretary.

 

     First of all, I'd like to say thank you very much for your service to our country.

 

     Rumsfeld:  (To Mr. Kroft.) Tell her she's going to have to start over.  I didn't hear it.

 

     Q:  Oh, I'm sorry.  I first of all wanted to thank you for your service to our country, Mr. Secretary.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Thank you very much.

 

     Q:  You're doing a great job.

 

     I listened to the steps that you outlined the other day at the Council of Foreign Relations and in your op-ed piece.  And my question is, when will we know if we're doing enough to improve the current situation in Iraq?  Will it be a matter of months?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I would think that what we ought to be able to do is we can measure certain things and know whether or not they're getting better.  For example, we can actually have metrics that determine the extent to which the electric power is either below where it was pre-war, about where it was pre-war, or better than where it was.  And we're trying to develop the ability to track that on electric power.  The same thing on clean water, the same thing on food supplies, the same thing on hospitals and medicines.  So those kinds of things we can track and have a reasonably high confidence that they're going to continue on a line, a trend line that we can project.

 

     What we can't project, really, is the security situation.  We can measure it and know what is actually happening, but in terms of being able to judge how many people -- for example, there were something like 100,000 criminals that were let out of Iraqi prisons.  All the prisons were empty when the coalition forces arrived in the country. And those people are out on the streets, and it's just going to take time to arrest them, and they're going to keep doing bad things, one would think.

 

     In addition, the enforcers for the Saddam Hussein regime are still there.  All of them were not captured or killed.  And these are Ba'ath Party members, senior Ba'ath Party members, they're the Special Republican Guards, they're the intelligence service people, the Fedayeen Saddam.  And to the extent they manage to cause problems, that could increase or decrease, depending on how successful they were, and then how successful we were in pursuing them.

 

     There's one other major source of adverse influence in the country and that is there are a number of Iranian Revolutionary Guard and so-called Quds forces -- people in the country.  And the Iranians are beaming in radio programs trying to stir up people in Iraq to oppose the coalition.  How successful they'll be, again, is not something we can measure in advance.  We certainly intend to try to prevent them from being successful.

 

     Kroft:  Next caller is Alex from KDKA in Pittsburgh. 

 

     Go ahead, Alex.

 

     Q:  Mr. Secretary, it's an honor and a privilege to speak with you.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Thank you very much.

 

     Q:  My question is, being that the -- things have changed quite a bit since 9/11, the world is changing, and you yourself said so, are we planning and are we able to establish a military base in Iraq, strategically placed somewhere in that sector, from where we can operate and do whatever would be necessary in the future to do whatever we would need to do?

 

     For example, if we would have tensions occur to a heightened level with Iran, et cetera, if we would have a military base or beachhead established, it might aid us in that event, maybe a Guantanamo-type arrangement or something along that line.  Do we have any plans, and are we able to do anything like that?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, it's an interesting question, and let me answer it this way.  First, there eventually will be an Iraqi government, and it will -- at the present time, Special Envoy Jerry Bremer is taking those steps that would be appropriate to have some sort of an interim Iraqi authority, and that will be followed by a constitutional process.  And that would be followed by eventually an Iraqi government. 

 

     It would be up to an Iraqi government to make a judgment as to whether or not they would want any kind of U.S. presence physically after we were no longer needed from the standpoint of their security. At the present time, we do have forces there, and we are, of course, trying to provide the security that's necessary for them to be successful in navigating from a dictatorship to a freer system, a more civil society. 

 

     I would say this:  We don't have any plans to maintain permanent forces in Iraq.  We like to be where people want us to be and where it's a hospitable environment.  And the neighbors of Iraq have been very hospitable to us.  And we have -- at the present time, we have air bases and sea bases and staging areas for forces that seem to be quite appropriate for our needs in the region, so we don't feel we have a need for anything additional in Iraq.

 

     Kroft:  Mr. Secretary, are you saying that we're not welcome in Iraq?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Not at all.  I'm just simply saying there's no government yet in Iraq that could make a judgment on that subject. There are governments in the neighboring countries, which is where we've been invited and in some cases been involved for 50 years, have very close military-to-military relationships.  And it is, I think, premature to even have an idea what might be appropriate in Iraq.  But we don't have any plans for Iraq.

 

     Kroft:  When do you think there might be --

 

     Rumsfeld:  From a military standpoint.

 

     Kroft:  When do you think there might be a government in place, even a provisional government in place in Iraq?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I don't know.  I wouldn't call it a provisional government.   Currently there's a coalition provisional authority, which is the coalition.  It will be followed by some sort of an interim authority, as opposed to a government.  And Jerry Bremer is working at the present time with the Iraqis to fashion something that could be considered an interim Iraqi authority, which would then begin to take some responsibility for some of the less sensitive ministries, for example. 

 

     And then that group of people would begin the process of thinking through how they want to approach their constitution.  Do they want to have a constitutional convention?  Do they want to fashion a constitution and then put it to a vote in the country?  And then that constitution would determine what kinds of elections might follow. That could be some time off.

 

     Kroft:  You wasted no time in replacing General Garner. Obviously --

 

     Rumsfeld:  That's just not correct.

 

     Kroft:  No?

 

     Rumsfeld:  That's just not correct.  General Garner is not being replaced.  General Garner is -- he has done and is doing a wonderful job, and he is first-rate individual.  We asked him last year to undertake this responsibility and begin the process of organizing and being prepared for success, in the event that a change of regime took place.  He did that, and he's done it very well.

 

     He said at that time that he did not want to make a long commitment.  We said at that time that we knew we'd want to bring in a senior civilian official at some point.  It was all understood at the outset.  He is not being replaced.  And the way the press has carried it has been most unfortunate.

 

     Kroft:  Are you happy with the way things are going in Baghdad, in particular?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I am.  I'm never satisfied, and no one ever is. But if you look at the number of murders in the American cities and in places like Paris and Moscow and Los Angeles and Baltimore, and the numbers of robberies and larcenies and burglaries, it -- and then you compare the size of Baghdad -- you ask specifically about Baghdad -- it's pretty clear that in our cities and in the cities of the world there is something other than perfect order.  There are a lot of people getting murdered every month in American and European cities. There are a lot of thefts that take place every month.  No one likes it.  No one wants to condone it.  No one thinks that that's good.

 

     On the other hand, in a city of 5-1/2 million people, as Baghdad is, there -- I guess -- we can't expect that it -- that when 100,000 criminals have been let loose out of the jails of the country, and there are still people in the Ba'ath Party who are attempting to cause disorder, we can't expect that there's going to be perfect order.

 

     We're -- we intend to impose order, to the extent that's necessary.  And we intend to, as soon as possible, pass off the responsibility for providing security in that country to Iraqi people.

 

     Kroft:  The call-in number here at the Pentagon is 1-800-736-3666.   Live from the Pentagon, this is Infinity Radio Connect with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  I'm Steve Kroft, CBS News. We'll pause briefly now on these Infinity Broadcasting stations.

 

(Pause.)

 

     Kroft:  This is Infinity Radio Connect.  I'm Steve Kroft, CBS News, live at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

 

     Mr. Secretary, we have a call from Mike in your hometown, listening on WBBM in Chicago.

 

     Q:  Hello, Mr. Secretary.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Hello, Mike.

 

     Q:  Hey.  Glad that you could make it today.  My question is, concerning the military pay structure, these members of the military services put their lives on the line, they do a lot of work, and yet we read that a lot of them seem to be living at a poverty type of scenario.  And I've got a nephew that's in the Marines, and I would hope that we were able to do something to bring them into some sort of commensurate pay for what they do.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, your -- that's certainly a fair comment. And I can assure you that the administration and the Congress both agree with that and have, in fact, increased the pay of the military each of the last two years.  And there's proposals in again this year for an increase.  I think there's a slight misunderstanding about the number of people who are living at a food stamp or poverty level, as you point out.  There are some.  They tend to be people who do not stay in that circumstance.  They tend to be people who go into the military because they want to be in the military, they are volunteering, and they come in with sizable families and they start at the very lowest pay grade.  So, almost by definition, they're in that circumstance.  As they get promoted and as their circumstance changes, they get training and so forth, they end up moving out of that.  So they're -- it would not be correct to think that there are a large number of people who are in that status and stay there, because it simply isn't the case.

 

     Kroft:  Thank you.  We have another caller from Philadelphia. This is Carl , who's listening on KYW.

 

     Q:  Yes, Mr. Secretary.  My name is Carl.  Mr. Secretary?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Yes, I'm here, Carl.

 

     Q:  Oh, I'm sorry.  Yes, it's a pleasure speaking to you sir. And my question is the Armed Services Committee -- the Senate Armed Services Committee was debating the merits of the use or the possible research into the so-called mini nukes.  And as -- and the criticism seemed to be that this would be a problem with regard to proliferation throughout the other nations of the world.  I was wondering your opinion on the idea of the mini nukes for the use against bio-chem weapons, I believe they were referring to.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Yes, you're correct, that there has been that discussion on Capitol Hill.  And it's a useful debate and discussion, because it informs and educated the world on the subject.  We, of course, as a country and other countries -- Russia and a number of others -- have what we call strategic nuclear weapons, which are very high-powered, and we also have theater nuclear weapons, or tactical weapons, which are at a much lower power.  The discussion that's going on is that we have proposed that there be a study to determine whether or not it makes sense to develop a very low-yield nuclear weapon for the purpose of deeply penetrating the ground, because there are increasingly around the world a number of situations where people are doing things underground -- they're manufacturing underground, they're storing underground, they are even in some cases capable of launching from underground. 

 

     In addition, we don't have today a very effective deep-earth penetrator.  We're not proposing to develop one.  What we're proposing at the moment is to study a variety of ways, including a low-yield nuclear weapon, for the purpose of deep-earth penetrating it, at which point we then would make a judgment and have to go back to the Congress, in the event we thought that was something that was needed. But we've just not gotten to that point yet.

 

     In terms of causing additional proliferation, I think that's really not the case at all.  There are nuclear weapons being -- we haven't made new nuclear weapons for some time.  The nuclear weapons are being made all the time in Russia.  Any number of countries currently have nuclear programs that are underway -- Iran does, North Korea does, and other nations as well -- China.  So I think that any suggestion that it would contribute to proliferation, which is at the present time -- I would almost have to describe it as pervasive, the proliferation situation doesn't need any further encouragement from anybody to be going and doing what's being done.

 

     Kroft:  Mr. Secretary, we've gotten some questions that have been sent in by e-mail, and I wanted to read one to you.  It begins, "In the months leading up to the war with Iraq, both the United States and British governments claimed that they had compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.  Because of national security, the exact nature of the information could not be revealed.  We are now some seven weeks into the occupation of Iraq, and I have to ask where are the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction?  Was this war waged under a false pretext, or are there intelligence-gathering failures?  An affirmative answer to either would be unsettling."

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, I can assure you that this war was not waged under any false pretext.  The material that Secretary Powell presented to the world and the United Nations, and the material that Prime Minister Blair and his government in England presented to the world, was intelligence information that had been gathered, accumulated and was appropriate for declassification.

 

     We believed then, and we believe now, that the Iraqis have -- had chemical weapons, biological weapons, and that they had a program to develop nuclear weapons, but did not have nuclear weapons.  That is what the United Kingdom's intelligence suggested as well.  We still believe that.  We also know that he has used chemical weapons -- Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against his own people, against the Kurds, and against the Iranians.  So it -- you have the combination of intelligence, good intelligence, plus a pattern of having already used those weapons. 

 

     Now, why haven't we been able to provide the kind of evidence that would have validated all of that in the last seven weeks -- less than seven weeks, still, since Baghdad fell.  And I think the answers are several reasons.  And number one, it's not because they're not there.  We believe they're there.  But it is a country about the size of California.  There are literally hundreds of suspect sites.  Saddam Hussein had been functioning in an inspections environment for years and years, and has gotten very good at it.

 

     They were able to hide things very successfully.  They took documentation.  They threatened people and killed people who said that they might talk.  You may recall that two of his sons-in-law left the country and went to, I believe, Jordan and revealed their WMD programs.  And when they came back to Iraq, they were murdered by Saddam Hussein -- his two sons-in-law.  So the people were intimidated and threatened.

 

     We never believed that we or inspectors would just suddenly trip over them and find them.  We always believed that because he was so successful at hiding things and denial and deception, that when -- the way we would ultimately find them would be through other people telling us where they were -- defectors, people we capture, who finally decide to just tell the truth.  And we still believe that's going to be the case.

 

     We have teams of people that are out looking.  They've investigated a number of sites.  And within the last week or two, they have in fact captured and have in custody two of the mobile trailers that Secretary Powell talked about at the United Nations as being biological weapons laboratories.  We have people who are telling that they worked in these vehicles.  And they look at panels and say, "That was my work station in that panel, and that's what it's for."

 

     Now people are saying, "Well, why haven't we found anything?" And I would respond by saying, A, it's going take some time, and B, we have found things.  The CIA very recently, I believe, issued a declassified document on their website, where someone can actually go and find photographs and data that discusses these mobile laboratories, which are precisely what Secretary Powell talked about to the United Nations.

 

     Kroft:  We're going to take a break, Mr. Secretary, be right back.  Live from the Pentagon, this is Infinity Radio Connect with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  I'm Steve Kroft, CBS News. We'll pause briefly now on these Infinity Broadcasting stations.

 

(Pause.)

 

     Kroft:  This is Steve Kroft, live at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  You're listening to Infinity Radio Connect.

 

     I want to follow up one question about the weapons of mass destruction, because it's been the subject of a lot of e-mail that we've gotten.  The other day you said that although we're still searching for them, it's possible that Saddam may have destroyed his chemical and biological weapons before the beginning of the war.  Does that mean that we weren't sure, at the time that we invaded Iraq, whether Saddam actually had them and was prepared to use them?

 

     Rumsfeld:  No.  If anyone would look at the transcript of what I actually said, I -- they speculated as to why we haven't -- I was asked the question why we haven't found them yet.  And I listed, I believe, four or five possibilities.  And I responded very much the way I just did to you here:  that he was very good at functioning in an -- Saddam Hussein -- in an inspection environment.

 

     So, he dispersed things -- we know that from the intelligence.  He hid things -- we know that from the intelligence; he hid documentation. He intimidated the people that were working on those programs so that they wouldn't talk to the U.N. inspectors.  And there was speculation that they might try to arrange their program so that they could do what in business you would call "just-in-time delivery"; that is to say, not maintain large stocks, which are dangerous and can be a problem, but in fact, have things like this mobile laboratory which can produce things in a rapid way and have them when you need them.

 

     There also was speculation and rumors and chatter in intelligence that suggested that they buried things, and that it would be hard to find.  There also was speculation in intelligence chatter that they might have tried to move some of them to a neighboring country. 

 

     And my personal view is not any of those, because that's just intelligence chatter.  My personal view is we're going to find them, just as we found these two mobile laboratories.

 

     So it is -- you say is it possible?  Is it possible, I just don't know.

 

     Q:  Briefly, are you happy with the quality of the U.S. intelligence that you have been getting?

 

     Rumsfeld:  You know, you always wish you had perfect visibility into what's going on in the world because you'd be better able to save lives and better able to defend the American people.  We don't live in a perfect world.  And when you're dealing with repressive dictatorships and closed societies, it is very, very difficult to do that. 

 

     When you were dealing with the old Soviet Union, 30 years ago, you could get quite good because you were looking at one country and over a long period of time, decades, and you could develop a lot of skills and knowledge and determine behavior patterns.  When you're dealing with a number of countries and the flow of weapons of mass destruction among those countries, it is much more difficult, and particularly when you're dealing with countries that are such dictatorial, closed systems; that people don't roam around freely and people don't go in and out freely, and you don't have an opportunity to learn through defectors, to the extent you did with the Soviet Union.

 

     Kroft:  We have a caller, John, from KDKA in Pittsburgh.

 

     John, are you there?

 

     Q:  Yes.  Secretary, it's a pleasure and honor to speak to you. Prior to the war, there was talk of the nuclear power plant that the Iranians are building.  I was wondering how close to completion and being operational would that be?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, there's a -- that falls on my -- the answer to the last question.  We don't know of certain knowledge how close the Iranians are.  The U.S. intelligence community, and other intelligence communities in the world, John, do assess that the Iranians have a nuclear weapon program.  We also know that there are -- that they have an active ballistic missile program.

 

     How close they are to having a weapon -- certainly, they're intelligent people.  There's a great deal of information about how to do these things that is available in the public these days.  There are also a number of technicians who used to do it in other countries who hire themselves out to assist people in how to do it.  So, one reasonably has to believe that if you have seriousness of purpose, you have money, you have intelligent people and you have networks of people around the world that are available to help you with the more difficult aspects of it, that it's going to happen.  And the -- I think reasonable people assume that sometime in this decade, the Iranians, if they continue to pursue this, which is unfortunate, that they will, in fact, have nuclear weapons.  Some would estimate earlier, some would estimate later.

 

     Kroft:  Mr. Secretary, you've said in the last week that there is evidence that the bombings in Saudi Arabia, the terrorist attacks, were at least monitored, perhaps controlled, out of Iran.  If we have evidence that the Iranian government is sheltering al Qaeda terrorists, does that mean that America would be justified in taking the same actions in Iran that we took against the Taliban government in Afghanistan?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, those are decisions not for me.  Those are decisions for the president.  And he went to the Congress on Iraq -- or, on Afghanistan -- I guess he went to Congress on Iraq -- he went to the United Nations on Iraq.  What might be decided?  It depends, of course, on people's behavior, but -- and I just don't have -- I'm not in a position to respond to a question like that.  It is worrisome that that country has -- clearly is not being helpful in Iraq today. It is also clear that they have permitted senior al Qaeda to operate in their country.  And that is something that is -- creates a danger to the world, because we know what the al Qaeda can do in terms of killing innocent men, women and children.

 

     Kroft:  I think one of the questions on many listeners' mind and on minds of Americans all over the country is are we gearing up for a war against Iran?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Not to my knowledge.

 

     Kroft:  Not in your plans?

 

     Rumsfeld:  We are -- the president is -- sets the policy for this country.  He has set it.  He has indicated that he was hopeful that we could get Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq, and that the United Nations would be successful in the inspections regime, and that did not work out.  And as a result, he led a coalition as he said he would.

 

     In the case of Iran, he has, as I have, expressed the hope that they will conduct themselves in a way that will not be supportive of terrorism, will not continue to help the Hezbollah and supply terrorists and terrorist equipment in a way that causes the loss of innocent life, and that they will not harbor al Qaeda.

 

     Kroft:  We'll be back with more callers in just a minute. Live from the Pentagon, this is Infinity Radio Connect with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  I'm Steve Kroft, CBS News.  We'll pause briefly now on these Infinity Broadcasting Stations.

 

(Pause.)

 

     Kroft:  This is Infinity Radio Connect.  We're live at the Pentagon.  Steve Kroft here with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. And on the line we have Andy from New York, who's listening on 1010 WINS, New York.

 

     Q:  Good afternoon.  Thank you for speaking with us today, Mr. Secretary.

 

     My question concerns the state of the economy in Iraq at the moment.  From what we see on television and in the news, obviously it's not a good situation, with the looting that we see.  What role will we play, if any, in helping to, you know, bring back some sort of economy to the country?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, Andy, we're working very hard on it.  And indeed, what you see on television or read in the press tends to be the problem areas, not surprisingly.  The north is reasonably stable and functioning, and the economy is really quite good, by comparison. In the south, the situation has been relatively stable.  The biggest problems have been in Baghdad and then in a few of the cities north of Baghdad.  And what we are doing is we are working with the coalition countries and the international community and the Iraqi people to try to make sure that the basic services get restarted so that they do have food, water, and we're working hard to see that there's reasonable security and that the police -- numbers of police on the street are increased, the patrols.  And we're beginning also working hard to try to get the political process going so that they will feel they have a stake in the country.

 

     The problem is, as I mentioned, that there are a lot of people that were let out of jails that are criminals and doing bad things. There also are people from Iran and from the Ba'ath Party and from leftover remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime that are out trying to kill coalition forces, and they're robbing and looting.

 

     Now, I guess if you think about it, all we can do is what we're doing, and that is to increase the presence and to attempt to capture and detain the people that are breaking the -- breaching the secure situation there.

 

     Kroft:  On the line, Mr. Secretary, we have Sarah from San Francisco, who's listening on KCBS.

 

     Go ahead, Sarah.  You're talking to Secretary Rumsfeld.

 

     Q:  Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary.  I had a question for you about your stance on the road map for the Middle East peace plan.  You were accused once again, last night on "Hardball," of being at odds with the State Department on this issue.  And it was even said that Ariel Sharon has gone farther than you in calling the occupation what it is, an occupation.  And I've never heard you say anything against the president and Secretary Powell's position over there, and I would just like for you to make it clear that -- whether or not you support the plan.  Thank you.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh -- thank you very much, Sarah.  Indeed, I do, and I have consistently.  The president, in my view, is doing exactly the right thing.  Secretary Powell is doing the right thing. And I think that it is an appropriate time for an initiative of this type.  It is not easy; it's complicated.  And it, undoubtedly, will take some time.  But I am hopeful that it's conceivable that because of what took place in the region very recently, that there may be a chance here. 

 

     The important thing that's happened is that Arafat has resisted, but finally acquiesced in the fact that there is a prime minister. And the rest of the world, the neighboring countries, and increasingly, I think, the Palestinian people are trying to shift their support towards that prime minister with the hope that he may be an effective interlocutor with the Israelis, and that some process could get going that could really produce peace there. 

 

     So any suggestion on any television show or in press that I'm not supportive of what the president's doing or what Secretary Powell is doing in the Middle East is just factually untrue.

 

     Kroft:  Live from the Pentagon, this is Infinity Radio Connect with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  I'm Steve Kroft, CBS News.  We're going to pause now briefly on these Infinity broadcasting stations.

 

(Announcements.)

 

     Kroft:  We're live from the Pentagon.  This is Infinity Radio Connect.  I'm Steve Kroft.  Next to me, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. 

 

     And on the line from New York City, listening on WCBS, is Rita.

 

     Go ahead, Rita.  You're talking to Don Rumsfeld.

 

     Q:  (Off mike.) -- Mr. Secretary, and thank you for taking my call.  I'd like to know what happens to all those millions and millions of dollars in gold that was found in and around Baghdad, and why that money cannot be used to rebuild Iraq, rather than our hard-earned tax dollars?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh, my goodness, you're so right.  We have concluded that the way to do it is exactly what you said; that the money that was Iraqi governmental money and belongs to the Iraqi people ought to be used to help rebuild Iraq.

 

     So, too, the assets that were part of the Iraqi government's assets outside of Iraq that were frozen by various countries ought to also be used to help rebuild Iraq.  And third, there are billions of dollars in the U.N. -- the United Nations oil-for-food program that also ought to, and in fact, are now being used to rebuild Iraq.  So, the other sources are international donors, and we're engaged in soliciting assistance from other countries, and a number of countries have stepped up and are providing assistance.  And of course, the United States has spent already a good deal in removing that regime.  So, we ought not to be the funder of first resort, but rather, the funder of last resort, after all those other sources, as your question suggested.

 

     Kroft:  Mr. Secretary, what do you consider right now to be the biggest security threat facing the United States?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I think that clearly, there are two that are -- one that's quite immediate and the other that is less immediate, but terribly dangerous.  The first is terrorism.  And free people cannot defend against every kind of an attack using every conceivable type of weapon in any location at any time.  We can defend against a lot.  And -- but you cannot defend against everything, as we know.  So what we have to do is go out and try to put pressure on those terrorist networks and stop them before they attack, and that's what the global war on terrorism is about, and the president has marshaled a coalition of something in excess of 100 nations that are assisting in this process.  That is a very real threat, and I think that the reality is we're going to have to keep the pressure on.

 

     Second is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  We live in a world where in the next five, 10 to 12 years, we could see a -- oh, another three, four, five, six nuclear powers in the world, and several of them could be terrorist states.  That is not a happy prospect.  And I personally believe that it's terribly important for the United States and the free world to make sure that our publics understand how serious that problem is, how dangerous it is, how dangerous biological weapons are.  The fact that we lost 3,000 people on September 11th, but you could lose 30,000 or 300,000 with a biological weapon or a nuclear weapon.

 

     And we, as a community of free nations, are going to have to take steps to see that that threat doesn't materialize the way it looks like it will if you look at a straight-line projection.

 

     Kroft:  Do you think our relations with some of our European allies have started to improve?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Sure. 

 

     Kroft:  That's a short answer.  (Laughter.)  Visible signs of it?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh, I suppose, sure.  I mean, the president's traveling to Europe, and these are countries where we have relationships for many decades.

 

     Kroft:  Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule and joining us for most of the broadcast, anyway.  And -- that was a joke.

 

     Rumsfeld:  (Groans.)

 

     Kroft:  (Laughs.)  This has been Infinity Radio Connect, with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld --

 

     Rumsfeld:  (Gestures, makes the sound that indicates "Cut.")

 

     Kroft:  And he just cut my throat.

 

     Rumsfeld:  (Laughs.)

 

     Kroft:  I'm Steve Kroft, CBS News, in Washington, live at the Pentagon.  Thanks for joining us today and on many -- many of these Infinity radio stations across the country.

 

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