Q: Good afternoon, Secretary Rumsfeld. Thank you for being with us today.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Delighted to do it.
Q: We’re talking to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and we appreciate you giving us a few minutes today. I know how busy you are. Thank you so much.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I’m very pleased to have a chance to visit with you and your listeners.
Q: Now first, of course, the top question on everybody’s mind is how the war in Iraq is going, the battle in Iraq is going. It appears to be better now that the Iraqi government is controlling things. It appears that they’re getting more cooperation. How are we doing on the ground there?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it’s been up and down. And of course, April was a spike up in incidents. July, thus far, the last two or three weeks, the incidents have been down, but the expectation is that between now and the elections in that country some time in December or January, it’s very likely that the level of terrorist acts and activities by the Saddamists and former regime elements will probably continue. And I’m very pleased and encouraged with the transfer of sovereignty and the competence and frankly the courage that the interim Iraqi government is demonstrating. The leadership there is excellent.
Q: Well, you know, here in Gainesville and in north metro Atlanta, of course, there’s a lot of young women and who are serving. We have one family here, the Gerard (sp) family, who had three sons go over, spend their time and come back. They’re two career army members and one reservist that’s Marine. And you know, we see this every day. When I talk to them, the guys that come back, the people I write, the things we send packages to, the projects we work on, they are very proud of what they’re doing, they feel like they are helping in the war on terror and that, in fact, because they’re there, we haven’t had terrorist attacks in the United States.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there’s no question, but that the struggle that’s taking place in Iraq is the front line of the global struggle between extremism and moderates – between people who want to determine how this world is run in a system by a small handful of clerics and authoritarians versus free people. And I should say that I’ve been around the defense establishment since I was secretary the last time – 25 years ago -- and Georgia has always been a state that, of course, that has been so hospitable to the men and women in uniform. And we have so many wonderfully talented people who live in Georgia, who serve in the armed services, who are over there. And as you point out, are properly proud of the job they’re doing. They’re doing noble work. They’re doing it well. It is, in my view, underreported. And the good things they’re doing and the contribution they’re making to freedom is a significant one and they darn well ought be proud of what they’re doing.
Q: Well, I don’t know if you caught the story then in the Atlanta airport a few days ago. There were 10 soldiers that were returning from Iraq to go home and the only problem they had on a plane was that so many people wanted to give up their first class ticket, so that these soldiers could go home first class, that there were two people that were willing to give their tickets away that couldn’t find soldiers to give them to.
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughter] That’s wonderful.
Q: It is wonderful. Let me ask you question that I get the most often from listeners and I’m certainly a supporter of the all-volunteer army and I think we have a terrific service. I have a nephew that’s in the Navy. But everybody seems to think that there’s going to be a draft at some point in time. In fact, two of my sons were going to see a movie and somebody came up to them about “Fahrenheit 9/11” and said you need to see this movie because Don Rumsfeld wants to draft. What is the status on our readiness and whether we would be considering a draft or not?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, when I was a congressman in the 1960s, I was one of the first people in the country to put in legislation recommending that we go to an all-volunteer military. I’ve been an enthusiastic support of it since the early 1960s, the mid-1960s. The United States is not going to go back to a draft. There are a relatively small number of people who, for whatever reason – maybe hey don’t understand well the situation, who are recommending that we go to a draft, but the president is against a draft. I’m against the draft. And there is no need for the draft and I can’t conceive that our country would go back to a draft. And I would be just vigorously opposed to it, I can assure you. So whoever is talking to those young men is mischievous.
Q: That’s right. What has been the most frustrating thing you’ve had to deal with -- hopefully not the press, but maybe so the press -- in the last 13 months, 14 months since we’ve gone to war?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the – oh, goodness, gracious, you said “not the press.” That makes it so hard. [Laughs.] No, we have had some real problems with Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyah television and radio networks in the region in the Middle East. They have been, in my view, consistently inaccurate. They have been the first to report terrorist acts in many instances, almost as though they had previous notice that something might happen there.
They’ve been serving as a communication link for the beheadings and the messages from Osama bin Laden and kind of fostering the terrorist activities in many respects. And the effect of that is, you know, you say, well, I’m from the free press and they can do anything they want, but when Saddam Hussein was in they had people that were on Saddam Hussein’s payroll, Al Jazeera did. And that isn’t a free press. That’s a bought press or that’s a press that has a view that’s harmful and it costs people’s lives, it cost Iraqis lives. It cost American lives and coalition lives. And it also makes everything hard. If people believe things that aren’t true, that are terrible about our country, and believe things about Saddam Hussein or his people that are not true, that are favorable, it makes everything we’re trying to do that much more difficult.
Q: Now I know you serve at the pleasure of the president. And do you anticipate that in a second George W. Bush term that you would be secretary of defense?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, that’s up to the president. And as you point out and it’s certainly also up to me and it’s something that I haven’t addressed with him and something I’d think carefully about. I think it was Adlai Stevenson who once said, “I’ll jump off that bridge when I get to it.”
Q: But you would want to continue to serve. Maybe you might decide not to, but you would want to continue to serve?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, there’s so many wonderful people in this institution – in uniform and civilian – who are doing such dedicated work for the country that it is – I just feel it’s a great privilege to be able to work with him. And I also recognize that we’ve got a great number of things taking place in this department where we’re transforming it and improving the circumstance, the management of the force, the global posture, the transformation towards a more agile and more deployable and usable force that it is really a pleasure and a privilege for me to be able to be a part of those accomplishments.
Q: Well, you know, and the war on terrorism, I think really solidified our need to become more flexible as a fighting force because in being a fighting force, this kind of war on terror, we have to be more flexible. It’s not your father’s war.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Martha, you’re exactly right. A lot of people said when the attack came on September 11th that there goes the transformation process and I said quite the contrary. The attacks on September 11th prove the urgent need to transform the department so that we’re arranged for the challenges and the threats and the difficulties of the 21st century. And in fact, that’s proven to be the case. It’s given an impetus to everything we’re doing.
Q: Well, Secretary Rumsfeld, I mean, as a person who was just on a panel defending the war with four liberals and I was the conservative, that’s considered a fair balance. I want to thank you…
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughs.]
Q: I want to thank you for what you’re doing and wish you Godspeed in the work that you’re doing for our country.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, Martha, thank you so very much. And I do want the people of Georgia to know how much we appreciate not just the men and women in uniform from that state, but the families of those people who also serve, but also the population generally who create such a hospital environment for our forces.
Q: Thank you, sir. Have a wonderful weekend.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you so much.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, again, my pleasure. Thank you so much.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good to talk to you. Thank you.