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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Juan Williams, NPR

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 16, 2004

Friday, July 16, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Juan Williams, NPR

           Q:  We’re joined now by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  Mr. Secretary, thank you for giving us this time. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you, Juan.  It’s good to be back with you. 


            Q:  Yes, sir.   Now that the Iraqi interim government is operating, Mr. Secretary, can you describe for us how U.S. forces are coordinating operations with the Iraqi security forces? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I can.  I talk to General Casey every morning and he has been in a number of meetings with the prime minister and a committee that the prime minister has set up that includes the minister of interior, the minister of defense and the deputy prime minister and the prime minister, along with our military leadership.  What they’re doing is they’re fashioning a military chain of command for the Iraqi forces.  The Army, the National Guard, the police forces and the border patrol and the site protection folks and they are developing linkages with the coalition forces at the top and then down at mid and lower levels throughout the country.  It’ll take a little while to get it working smoothly, but they have a very good relationship and they feel quite good that the communication about the approach that’s being taken by the new government is well understood by our forces and coalition forces.  And I feel that they’re off to a darn good start. 


            Q:  Well, Mr. Secretary, I remember reading that one of the U.S. officials involved in the handover of sovereignty said it’s going to take at least a year to get the Iraqis forces properly trained, properly equipped.  So I’m wondering, given that situation, how do you allow for the U.S. military to take a less visible role, even as the insurgency is continuing? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, we now have trained and are in the process of equipping and completing the training of something like 206,000 Iraqis in those various security forces that I just enumerated.  They – some cases need more training, in many cases, need better equipment.  But the most important thing they need is the softer things, if you will.  As opposed to trucks or weapons, they also need this chain of command and the mid-level leadership, the non-commissioned officer leadership and linkages with the coalition forces.  How long will it take?  I guess it’s the kind of thing that’s never completed for a country.  They always are going to have to keep recruiting new people and training and equipping new people.  But the coalition is working closely with them.  NATO has agreed to assist in training and equipping some additional forces which is a good thing. 


Some additional people I think will be coming in as part of the U.N. resolution and assisting with protection of the U.N. forces, protection of the elections when they occur later this year and next year.  So we have a team of people working with this new government on – first of all, developing the requirement.  That is to say, what do the Iraqi government think they need by – how many policemen per thousand people, for example, do you need in a country like that?  How big ought the National Guard to be and how big ought the army to be?  That process is in a very accelerated pace right now.  And going forward, I was briefed on it yesterday in great detail and I feel quite good about it.  The Iraqi government is the pacing item.  They need to decide those things and then they need to allocate funds for those things and we need to assist them with it, but we’re in a supporting role,


            Q:  I get you.  By the way, Mr. Secretary, when you hit the table, it rattles our microphones.


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  OK. 


            Q:  Let me just quickly come back to what you were talking about, though.  Is the U.S.  military taking, therefore, a less visible role inside Iraq, as we help to train and as we try to get more coalition forces?  U.N. forces are the ones you  mentioned, involved in Iraq and how many of those other, you know, forces from other countries do we expect to get involved? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, it’s unclear how many from other countries that we’ll get.  We have requests out and the Iraqi government has requests out to, I think, it’s five or six countries right now, asking for troops.  I know Pakistan and India and, I believe, Bangladesh and Morocco and several other countries.  There are other countries that have been offering recently.  And I expect that we’ll know over time how many of those will actually evolve.  What we’ve been doing for many months now is as we went from zero Iraqi security forces up to 206,000, as that evolved the coalition forces began the process of conducting joint patrols first, and then starting supplementing those with individual Iraqi patrols and activities, counterterrorist activities, police activities with the U.S. force’s coalition forces in a supporting role.  That process has been going on, oh, for goodness, six months now.  And what will happen is we’ll just continue to see the weight shifted towards the Iraqis.  As Iraqis get better equipped, as their numbers continue to go up, as their chain of command becomes more effective, what we’ll see is that they will be taking a larger and larger role and the coalition forces will be more in a supporting role. 


            Q:  So the visibility of American and coalition forces will decrease over time? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Exactly. 


            Q:  Are you planning – are there any circumstances that you can envision that would require you to send more U.S. troops and do you have any plans in the works as to how many might be called on? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, what we’ve done is what we should do and that is to always plan ahead and think about that possibility.  The president has said that the number of coalition troops that the military leaders out there will have will be the number that they believe they need to do this job – that he intends to see this job through.  And at the present time, they are convinced that the number they have is the right number.  On the other hand, the Department of Defense has to say, well, what if they come in and say they need additional forces or fewer forces – either one – we have to be cocked and ready to know what we would do.  So we have a planning function that’s been going on for some months now, so that we do have arrangements so that if additional requirements are made, we would know what we would do and by the same token, if we see the effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces increasing and the need for U.S. and coalition forces declining, we are also prepared to begin bringing them home and the circumstances on the ground will dictate what’ll happen. 


            Q:  So you don’t have any specific date in mind for when you can begin bringing U.S. forces home? 


SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, we don’t.  What we have is something that is not calibrated to a calendar, but it’s calibrated to the circumstances on the ground and what that security situation is.  If it deteriorates, as we get closer to the elections, as some estimators are guessing because the Baathists and the Saddamists and the former regime elements decide they’ve got one last chance to try to stop a free representative system from evolving in that country, then we might have to react to that.  To the extent that the situation continues to calm down, as it has in the last few weeks, then over a period of time, one could look at the alternative of reducing the size of the coalition forces.


            Q:  Now, Mr. Secretary, there was a recent call up of the Individual Ready Reserves and I’ve also noticed extended – in fact, repeated deployment of active duty and reserve units overseas.  How concerned are you about maintaining or improving recruitment, retention in the armed forces over the next year or so when you’ve got not only Iraq, but Afghanistan and other responsibilities in the world? 


SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, we always have to look ahead and ask the question what might happen in terms of recruiting and retention.  We do have abilities to – as in any organization, that’s a voluntary organization, you have to increase the incentives and reduce disincentives to the extent that that becomes necessary.  Thus far, the recruiting and retention has been very good.  And there’s a couple of soft spots.  But for the most part, we’re finding that, in fact, the Air Force is way above where it should be and is in the process of trying to reduce down some of their numbers. 


The Navy’s about where it wants to be and the Marines are about where they want to be in a couple of areas in the army, there’s one or two areas that retention has not been as good as one would have anticipated.  But what you do is you worry about it and you keep watching it carefully.  And I must say, however, the numbers of Individual Ready Reserves that have been called up have been very small numbers, relatively. 


I think when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be in the low few thousands and that’s out of, you know, what we have a total of close to 2 million men and women 2.5 million.  We have 1.4 million on active force and then we’ve got the guard and the reserve that are in the selected reserve and then we have the Individual Ready Reserve who have a commitment as well and the total number is a very modest number. 


            Q:  So you don’t see any signs, really, of lack of retention or a slowdown in recruitment? 


SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just those two soft areas I mentioned with respect to the army.


            Q:  OK.  Mr. Secretary, the Department of Defense said Friday it’s creating a new Office of Detainee Affairs to improve detainee operations.  I was thinking, why almost three years after establishing the prison at Guantanamo Bay are you now creating a new detainee office? 


SEC. RUMSFELD:  I guess the answer is that when one looks at 24-hour news and digital cameras and the complication of the damage that was done by the abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib.  And you start looking at how does that system work.  And what we found is that the – for example, the inspections that take place tended to stay down at the lower levels of the commands.  Someone would do an inspection and they’d find something that was amiss and they’d report it to that level or the next level up.  The same thing with the International Committee of the Red Cross, they had a policy of going in and basically meeting with the commander, doing an inspection – surprise or not – and then giving an oral report or sometimes a written report at that level of the command.  And that was their pattern and it wasn’t any reason for those things to come flying up to Washington and they didn’t fly up to Washington, for the most part. 


All of a sudden, we have this situation where we have 24-hour news and people have digital cameras.  They take these pictures of these terrible things that are happening and we are aware of it almost simultaneously with the Congress, the press and the world being aware of it, because we did not have in the department a process where everything got elevated up, particularly, for example, this was announced by the Department of Defense.  This was not investigative reporting.  There were some abuses.  They were turned up within the army.  The army then gave them to the public affairs office where the public affairs officer announced that there was some alleged abuses. 


After an investigation, the army went out and announced that there was not only some abuses alleged, but in fact there were now criminal prosecutions underway.  And then these pictures were leaked and it became a worldwide international incident.  Now we said, if that’s the case – and normally the pattern in the department had been not to go down and look into criminal prosecutions because that was not the way things should be handled.  They should be handled through the Uniform Code of Military Justice system. 


In this instance, it became clear that we live in a different era and therefore we have to get the Pentagon involved in these things at the top levels.  We simply have to have a process that those things get kicked up here and you have to have policies and an ability for the legal and public affairs people here at the headquarters to be aware of what’s taking place down at the lower level and we needed an office to communicate that. 


            Q:  Well, that makes sense now.  But you, I believe, had some knowledge of these pictures and the things that we’re talking about that had taken place at Abu Ghraib.  But at the time you knew about it, you didn’t respond or make it public until the newspapers, until I believe The New Yorker made it public. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  If you’re talking about the Seymour Hersh article in The New Yorker.  Is that it?  Was that it?


            Q:  Yes.


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yes. We’ve had people here trying to figure out what in the world he was talking about.  We still can’t figure it out.  So any connection to that article and what we’re talking about here, I just can’t draw any linkages.  I’ve had a team of people trying to find out if there’s anything like what he wrote about and we’ve not been able to discover. 


            Second, I saw the pictures for the first time on television just like you did. 


            Q:  I didn’t realize that.  All right.  Now let me ask when will the investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib be complete? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  There are multiple investigations.  Two are finished, one is the Taguba and the other is a writer report.  There are probably five or six additional ones that are underway.  One is by Admiral Church, another is the Fay Report, which is looking into military intelligence pieces of it.  And then we have several others.  And what we’re trying to do is to look at all of the gaps and seams to see that we’re looking at the thing in its totality.  And predicting when people who are engaged in an investigative or an inspector general process will conclude their work is not possible because we just don’t know what they’re going to find.  And as these things proceed, they find new things and they then report them. 


We also have the panel of former secretaries of defense Jim Schlesinger and Harold Brown, supported by General Horner and former Congresswoman Tillie Fowler looking at the totality of it as well.  And as all of these activities proceed, they periodically come up and say, well no one’s looked at this piece of it.  And oughtn’t we to have someone do that, and new information’s turned up.  So I can’t predict when it’ll end, but it’ll end when it ends and it will be thorough.  And in the process, we have been systematically telling the press and the Congress every piece of it that we can tell them.  We recognize this is an important issue.  Our policy has been to disclose it fully.  And we’ve had, I guess, four hearings that I’ve been involved in.  We’ve had 12 others – some 26 members of Congress have been down to the Pentagon to get briefed, 258 members have attended intell briefs that we’ve provided.  And we’ve briefed the congressional staffs.  We’ve had numerous office calls with them.  We’ve had press briefings almost everyday – some on the record, some on background.  And we’re going to get to the bottom of this and we’re going to get the systems and procedures right. 


            Q:  Mr. Secretary, I’ve been given the cut-off sign, but I have two quick questions, if I could.  One is when we were talking about recruitment, retention, have you ruled out the idea of reinstituting a draft? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Of course, Juan, as you know, I’m not the government of the United States.  I am just one person.  But if you ask me personally would I rule it out, the answer is absolutely.  Back in the 1960s, when I was a congressman, I was one of the first members to introduce legislation to create an all-volunteer force. 


I testified before the House and Senate committees back in those days.  It has worked brilliantly for our country.  We do not need a draft.  The recruiting and retention process is going forward.  It’s working very well to the extent we end up with some areas of concern, all we have to do is to turn the dials up and increase the incentives and reduce the disincentives.  We can do that.  We’re perfectly capable of doing it.  There were a lot of inequities in a draft – in any draft.  There certainly were inequities in the ones that existed back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  And I would argue vigorously against reinstituting a draft. 


            Q:  One final question, Mr. Secretary, I remember that you wrote in a memo about having a metric system that would allow you and the entire country to judge whether or not the U.S. is winning the war on terrorism.  That was about a year ago.  Today, can you measure whether or not that war is being won? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Not with metrics.  We can put on the chart the things that are working well.  And we are unquestionably putting a lot of pressure on the extremists who are conducting these terrorist acts around the world.  We’ve got 90 nations – 80 to 90 nations engaged in the coalition.  They’re sharing intelligence.  They’re putting pressure on bank accounts.  They’re making it harder to move money.  They’re making it harder for those terrorists to recruit people and to retain them.  We’re making it harder for them to communicate with each other, harder for them to move between countries. 


And we have good things happening like they brought down the AQ Khan network that was trading in nuclear materials and technologies.  Libya has come forward and decided to forgo weapons of mass destruction.  So there’s a lot good that’s happening.  There is a lot bad that’s happening, too, and the problem is you can’t quantify that. 


We don’t know how many people are being recruited into these schools that teach people to go out and kill innocent men, women and children and we don’t know how many people are being trained to go out and chop of people’s heads and cut off their hands and blow up innocent men, women and children, as we see in country after country – from Spain to Bali to you name it. 


Now the metrics you end up with, the ways of calculating things, you can – so I say you can do a pretty good job on the positive side.  You can calibrate and calculate the number of events that are occurring in the world that are terrorist acts.  But we don’t now what the intake is and the world doesn’t know the answer to that question.  So it’s a tough thing to do and it’s the balance between all of those that would indicate what net progress is being made. 


            Q:  You know, the question is especially with all the preparations for the democratic and republican conventions, is America safer, I guess becomes the bottom line? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, there’s no question but that the America is safer today than it was on September 11th.  There are an awful lot of terrorists who’ve been captured or killed.  There’s a great deal more information that’s been gleaned.  We have a much better protection system, for example, at our airports.  We have a much higher level of vigilance and awareness on part of the American people.  We have focused significant resources against the force protection.  Now the reality is that a terrorist can attack at any time, at any place, using any technique.  And it is physically impossible to protection at every location every minute of the day or night against every conceivable type of attack and it’s particularly difficult for free people. 


So the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize.  It’s to alter behavior.  And we’re free people.  And if we become terrorized and alter our behavior to the point that we stop being free people and we give up those freedoms and the benefits of a free society, then the terrorists have won.  So there will be more terrorist acts in free countries.  We just know that.  The problem isn’t over.  The Cold War took 40 or 50 years.  How long the global struggle against extremism will take, I don’t know.  But we clearly are safer today because of the steps that had been taken.  But there isn’t such a thing in our world, regrettably, as perfect safety because there are people who are determined to kill other people. 


            Q:  To wrap up, Mr. Secretary, given the difficulty of your job, do you want to serve a second term, if the president asks you to do so? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, you know, that’s a question that’s a tough one.  My family has been in this past week, oh, gosh, three children and six of my seven grandchildren were here and I got asked that question.  And it’s a tough one because clearly it is a tough job.  On the other hand, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to work with the talented people in the Department of Defense, the men and women in uniform and their families who are so supportive of them and doing something that is so terribly important to our country. 


And I would also say we’ve got a lot of very good things happening where we’re transforming the department from a post-Cold War department to a 21st century department and improving our ability to serve the American people and to deal with the kinds of capabilities that threaten us in the 21st century.  And we have a good head of steam up under a number of these transformational activities and I’m enjoying having a chance to see them change and improve and become a stronger and better department. 


            Q:  So would you stay? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  As you know, we serve at the pleasure of the president.  And you are quite right, I also have a choice in it.  And wasn’t it that wonderful former governor of Illinois Adlai Stevenson said – he said “I’ll jump off that bridge when I get to it.”


            Q:  [Laughs.]  Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you, Juan.

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