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Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld Interview with David Frost (BBC)

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 13, 2004

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld Interview with David Frost (BBC)

DAVID FROST:   President Bush, Tony Blair and other NATO leaders are arriving today at all different hours for a crucial NATO summit.   The President, of course, coming just from Ankara across to Istanbul.   One key issue is, of course, Iraq.   So far, British and American troops have been the primary force trying to establish security ahead of the handover to the interim government this week.   The U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is the man in charge of all American military operations -- therefore, military operations in Iraq.   And he has just arrived in Istanbul.   I spoke to him just a few minutes ago for a rare interview and I began by asking him whether the NATO alliance remained as important as it was during the Cold War.  

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  Well, I think it is.   It is different and a different time in our world’s history, but NATO remains the most outstanding military alliance on the face of the earth.   It serves as the critical linkage between Europe and North America and it fulfills a function and has the potential to perspectively that really can’t be filled by any other institution.  

 

Q:  It could, of course, do more on some issues like Iraq.   But for the fact, obviously, that you have the three members of old Europe there, France, Germany and Belgium.   It would be difficult to have anything other than a coalition of the willing if you’re going into a new crisis.   It does hold back what NATO can do a bit.  

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:   Well, when you have an organization with that many members, now 26, and you have a operation that’s based on consensus, it’s understandable that it will take some time to discuss and debate and consider and make sure everyone’s working off the same fact pattern.   To the extent people have a same threat assessment, they tend to do the same things and react the same way, to the extent people look at things from a different perspective and they're not working off the same sheet of music, it's not surprising when they go off in different directions. 

 

With the case of Iraq, we anticipate that at this summit the heads of state will end up agreeing that NATO -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- will in fact have a role in training and equipping the Iraqi security forces which is a very good thing if that happens. 

 

Q:  Tell me, Mr. Secretary, are you where you hoped to be 14 months ago when the war came to an end, or not?

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  Oh no.   One would always hope for better.  You know, wars are unpredictable and post-war recoveries are unpredictable.   Most countries have a very difficult time.   I've been reading statements about how long it took the United States to move towards a democracy and history books on Japan and Germany, and some of the Eastern European countries.   It's never been easy, it's always difficult, it's frequently violent and sometimes it's even ugly.   It was Jefferson who said that one ought not to expect to be transported towards democracy on a feather bed. 

 

It is a tough path and the Iraqis are going to go through a tough period, but they're doing pretty well.   The schools are open, the hospitals are open, the people are coming back in, refugees are returning, internally displaced people there.   They have food, they have electricity, they're selling oil, they have a budget.   They also have a lot of Iraqis being killed by, in some cases, violent Iraqis, extremists in some cases, by foreign terrorists. 

 

But they're on a path, the new government is a good thing and it’ll take responsibility in two or three days.   I have a lot of confidence that they'll be able to find their way towards a truly Iraqi solution.   It won't look like your country and it won't look like our country, but it will certainly look an awful lot better than the Saddam Hussein killing fields and mass graves, and shoving people off the tops of buildings to kill them, and cutting off their hands and pulling out their tongues with pliers and chopping them off, which is what that repressive regime did. 

 

Q:   But people do all say Mr. Secretary, at the same time, that we were responsible, partially, for the security situation.  We clearly, completely underestimated the degree of violence, lack of security, that there would have been.  We would have had more soldiers there.  We would have done something different if we hadn't underestimated the danger on security. 

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  Well, there are people who say that.  There are also people who argue the other side, that the real task of security is not to flood a country with more and more troops, and become a foreign occupier.   If you think about it, the Soviet Union had 300,000 troops in Afghanistan and lost the war.  So victory and success is not inversely proportional to the number of people you have in the country.  We don't want to be an occupying power.  In the last analysis governance and essential services and progress economically go hand in hand with successful security.  The Iraqi people are going to have to provide for the security of that country and they're well on the way to doing it. 

 

Q:   And in terms though of Mr. Allawi, the Prime Minister, when he was with us back in December and again just a few weeks ago, said on both occasions that he thought that one of the big mistakes was to disband the Iraqi Army.  He could see why it might have been seen as a good idea at the time, but putting all of those people out of jobs, that was a really serious error and affected our inability to patrol the borders and all of those things. 

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  I've read that and I've heard him say it.  In fact I've visited with him about it.  His hope is to de-constitute some aspects of the Iraqi Army and I think that's a good thing.  The reality is that we did not in effect disband the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Army disbanded itself.  It stopped fighting, it left, it disappeared into its villages and took their weapons with them.  And now the task, I think Mr. Allawi is exactly correct, is to try to keep recruiting those people back. 

 

We've already recruited back some 206,000 Iraqis into the security forces, the police, the army, the civil defense corps, site protection and border patrol.  And his goal is to increase that number above the current 206,000 by some significant margin.  And I think that's a good thing. 

 

Q:   But do you think, I mean, Tony Blair was saying here on the program that he was hoping very much that the number of British troops in Iraq by the end of next year would be greatly reduced.  And the President said you're there for as long as it takes.  But it actually is possible, isn't it, that you will need in this current crisis of the handover, maybe to increase the number of troops. 

 

There are reports that your nominee for the next commander wants 25,000 more troops.  Is it possible in the short term you'll have to put in more troops?

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  Well, what the new commander, General Casey, said in his confirmation hearing was that if he needed more troops he would ask for them, number one.  Number two, that we were already doing the planning in the event that that requirement became necessary, and that's only prudent planning. 

 

I initiated that some months ago, that we would take a look, and I said to General Myers, the chairman of our joint Chiefs of Staff, get the work done now in case General Abizaid or General Casey decide they need more troops, I need to know where we would get them, what they would look like, where they would be located and how they'd be deployed.  That does not mean we will need them; it means that we're doing the prudent planning to need them. 

 

Now, in answer to your other question, we've actually gone from 113,000 troops up to 141,000 troops over the past three or four months already.  So we've had a fairly significant increase. 

 

Q:   Coming on for a moment to the awesome subject really, of the abuse of prisoners and so on.  The headlines about that probably in every country in the world have been there all this week, of course, because of the administration's release of the documents regarding prisoner abuse and so on. 

 

And reading through them, Mr. Secretary, there's one that says about how in December 2002 you approved a list of new interrogation techniques to be used at Guantanamo Bay, which included dogs, nudity, hooding of prisoners, fear of dogs, use of stress positions, isolation of up to 30 days, 20-hour interrogations, forced shaving and so on.  Now, instantly one would say that six weeks later you retracted that.  But what changed your mind?

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  Well, the sequence went like this.  I received a proposal from the commander in charge of Guantanamo Bay, to permit a series of techniques to be used for interrogation.  They were checked with the lawyers, they were determined to be within the President's order that the treatment be humane and I ended up looking at the list and rejected a number of them, and accepted some and approved it.  Shortly after I approved it, in a matter of weeks, there was some discussion that took place among some lawyers, that they were concerned about some of those techniques. 

 

So I said, fine, I orally discontinued the use of those techniques, said get the lawyers grouped together, let's have another discussion over this and come back and tell me what we think is the appropriate way consistent with Geneva Conventions and consistent with humane treatment, that they ought to be treated. 

 

So that first tranche of techniques were in place, I believe, for a matter of five or six weeks, and then they were discontinued, and about a month later we issued a new order indicating what the procedures and techniques would be permitted. 

 

You asked how it happened.  It happened because there was a single detainee that was being interrogated.  His name was Katani -- Al Katani -- who was considered to be the 20th hijacker in connection with the 9-11 attack on the United States where 3,000 people were killed -- men women and children from dozens of different countries.  And he was not being cooperative and the request came up in connection with that person.  The techniques that you described were not used, I'm told, on anyone one other than Katani.  We may find out that's not correct at some point in the future, but at least my information thus far is that that's the case.  And that's kind of the background for that. 

 

This was a very bad person, a person who clearly had information about attacks against the United States and the techniques had all been approved by the legal community and the joint staff and in the Department of Defense and at the combatant command.  And it was after some concern came up that we decided to rescind them and re-look at them. 

 

Q:   And, of course you're very close to these things, but when one reads things in these documents about lawyers in the Justice Department or other departments coming up with judgments like certain acts may be cruel, inhuman or degrading, but still not produce pain and suffering within the requisite intensity to fall within the law's prescription against torture. 

 

You can probably understand that's shocking to think of people trying to widen the definition of what they can do that isn't torture.  It just seems bizarre, or worse.

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  Well, it seems like a bunch of lawyers debating legal points.  In fact, that set of debates took place not in the Department of Defense, as I recall, but in the Department of Justice. 

 

Q:   Right. 

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  And didn't really have any bearing on the procedures and techniques that ended up being used by the Department of Defense. 

 

Q:   And in terms of the famous Maj. Gen. Miller, the hard man of Guantanamo who was sent to improve the record of the flow of information on his first trip just for a few days, people say that in those few days he affected the whole climate, that he sent lists of what he did in Guantanamo to battalion commanders and so on, and your brigadier general, or then-Brigadier General, Janis Karpinski said that Maj. Gen. Miller insisted that prisoners should be treated like dogs.  Now the FT say this, and I don't know, this is the FT --the Financial Times -- said "one fact remains undisputed less than two months after his departure from Iraq the first of the shocking photographs were taken.  Whether one event helped cause the other, is the question that could decide the fate of an administration". 

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  Well, I have not seen the article you're referring to.  I think the reality is that the administration has seen those photographs.  The photographs were released by the government of the United States, by the military, in Baghdad.  They weren't found by the press, there was no investigative reporting or anything -- discovering anything. 

 

The minute it was determined that those photographs existed the military went out to the press and said there are allegations of abuse and there's an investigation.  Within a short period of time they announced that there are criminal prosecutions underway with respect to those photographs.  Everything we know thus far suggests that what was taking place in the photographs was abuse. 

 

We have not yet determined in any connection at all between that abuse and an interrogation process.  Indeed, the majority of the people in those pictures engaged in that abuse were individuals who were not even security detainees, that is to say they were not people that were even being interrogated for the most part.  Some may very well have been -- being interrogated but not necessarily in those photographs. 

 

There may have been detainees that people wanted information from.  But, those activities I think it would be a mistake to suggest represented interrogation techniques.  Now, we're going to know as the trials proceed, precisely what happened.  And I'm in an awkward position because I'm not allowed to talk about these things for fear of being accused of command influence.  What one can say is the acts depicted in the pictures were abusive.  We now have to complete the investigations to determine exactly how they occurred, why they occurred, and to see that the individuals engaged in them receive a punishment that's appropriate with whatever may have been done that was incorrect. 

 

Q:   Well we've mentioned Guantanamo.  And moving on to, in fact, this week, Mr. Secretary, on Guantanamo, that as you will have read that Lord Goldsmith who's the attorney general here, said that there are certain principles which there could be no compromise.  Fair trial is one of those and the reason why we in the UK have been unable to accept that the US military tribunals proposed for those at Guantanamo Bay offer sufficient guarantees of a fair trial and so on.  What's your response to that?

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  Well I'm not a lawyer and I'm familiar with his views and of course there are other views by other individuals who are considered to be fine Attorneys.  The circumstance at the present time is there is a process in Guantanamo Bay, to review the detainees.  They currently have still I believe about 595.  Some 150-200 have already been released.  Some have been released to the UK, I think four or five.  There is an annual review process where each individual is reviewed to determine whether or not their continued detention is appropriate.  If you think about it, the, in every war people who have been captured have been captured for various reasons. 

 

One reason might be to try them for having done something wrong.  Another reason might be to interrogate them to see what one can learn that could save additional lives.  And the third reason is to keep them off the battlefield during the continuation of the conflict. 

 

Even though you may not learn any information more from them, and even though you may not end up trying them, you simply don't want them going back on the battlefield and killing more of your people.  We've let loose thousands and thousands of people that have been captured. 

 

Q:   It's a case, I think, that a few weeks ago the prime minister asked whether the four Brits out there could be sent back to Britain, and then another suggestion was, could they be tried under American trial rules in America.  But is that now no longer negotiable, I mean, that they are going to be tried in Guantanamo or is it still negotiable?

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  I just don't know.  My recollection is there were nine Brits involved and four or five have already been released ... 

 

Q:   That's right. 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:   ...  back to the U.K. and that there are four or five left. And what ultimately will be done whether they'll be tried in a military commission or eventually returned to the U.K. for their handling, I just don't know.  That's all being dealt with.  I don't make those decisions.  It's being dealt with in an orderly process. 

 

Q:   Well I guess the Prime Minister and the President can sort it out over the soup today, or something?

 

SEC.  RUMSELD: [Laughter] Exactly. 

 

Q:   What about Iran, Mr. Secretary?  I would have asked you about this anyway, but we had that announcement on Friday that they are resuming their nuclear program, at least for the centrifuges and so on.  That's a bad sign isn't it?

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  Well it is.   You have a country that's ruled by a handful of clerics that is repressing the Iranian people, that he is causing harm in Afghanistan, causing harm in Iraq -- is actively working with Hezbollah and Syria to spread terrorism down through Lebanon into Israel.  It's a government that has been not telling the truth about its role in its nuclear development.  It's a country that has been harboring senior Al Qaeda leadership for some time.  And, most recently we've seen them resisting the U.N. process that they previously seemed to have agreed to, but are obviously not adhering to. 

 

Q:   Are we winning the battle with Al Qaeda?  How much of what you were saying earlier about the two forces that are causing death in Iraq -- do you think we're winning that battle or is it a draw at the moment, a tie?

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  Well, in Iraq I think that over time we'll see that despite the difficulties, despite the deaths, and despite the problems that we see, that the Iraqi people will end up re-capturing their country and fashioning an approach to government that will be a peaceful one for its neighbors, and ultimately provide much greater prosperity for the region. 

 

Separate out the global war on terror or the struggle that's taking place between extremists and radicals against moderates, both within that religion and out of that religion. 

 

Answering the question as to whether we're winning that is a very difficult one.  I wrote a memorandum that ended up leaking -- finding its way into the newspaper unintentionally, where I described it as "it'll be a long hard slog".  And the reason I say that is because we're being very successful with a 90-nation coalition.  We're being very successful in exchanging intelligence information, in freezing bank accounts, in capturing and killing senior members of these organizations. 

 

On the other hand, we don't have a good visibility into how many new recruits are coming in, the intake, and going to these radical Madras schools and learning how to go out and kill people, and being encouraged and equipped and trained, and deployed to do those suicide missions.  We don't know that and unless one knows that you can't answer the question are you winning or losing. 

 

I think the struggle is not so much a global war on terror.  Terror is really the weapon of choice, it's the technique they're using.  What the struggle really is, it's almost a global insurgency by a very small number of extremists and radicals that are determined to attack the state system, countries, civilized societies in an attempt to terrorize them and intimidate them and alter their behavior. 

 

Q:   And one final question, just briefly, Mr. Secretary.  If President Bush wins the election and invites you to return to the Pentagon.  Would you do a second term?

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  [Laughs.]  I'm already doing my second term, David. 

 

Q:   Oh yes.  You were the 13th Defense Secretary as well, weren't you?

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:  [Laughs.]  That’s right.  Adlai Stevenson said, “I'll jump off that bridge when I get to it.” 

 

Q:  [Laughs.]  Well, thank you very much for joining us today for that wide-ranging discussion and we hope to do it again soon. 

 

SEC.  RUMSFELD:   I look forward to it.   Thank you very much

 

Q:  Thank you.

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