Q: My guest is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, thanks for being here. It’s my pleasure to have you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, Mike. I’m glad to be with you.
Q: For starters, I’ve always been of the opinion that Republicans have never been that good at fighting back against bogus accusations.
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughs]
Q: The whole idea that the Administration lied about weapons of mass destruction started as a chant that became a bumper sticker, then a T-shirt and now it’s a full-fledged slogan. Just kind of curious. If you’re somebody who believes that it was a lie, just how many people would have to be in on a cover-up of that size, speaking just, you know, in our country and abroad?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I mean, it’s just a mindless accusation. Anyone who understands our government and the government of the United Kingdom and the governments of the other countries and the fact that we have a Congress and the Congress saw the same intelligence that the president saw, the British saw the same intelligence and everyone came to the same understanding that the Iraqis were, in fact, engaged in submitting a fraudulent declaration of their weapons and it was unanimous. The debate in the U.N. was not whether or not they had submitted a fraudulent declaration; the debate was how much longer should we give them? They gave them 17 resolutions. Should you go to 20, 27?
Q: Sure. Hans Blix believed they were there. I mean, if it were a lie, somebody would have made a lot of money writing the book by now, I would think.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That’s for sure.
Q: All right. Up to the present-day insurgency, I think the average American might think that by this point in time, the insurgency may be better infiltrated than they are. Is this a matter where domestically we’ll hear that we’ve stopped terrorism before it struck? Have we had any success in Iraq at stopping car bombings or whatever before they strike, thanks to intelligence or, for the most part, did they pretty much have the run of the county as they see it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Let me respond this way. The intelligence is improving every week and it will improve geometrically, I believe, as we go forward because of the fact that the Iraqis now are taking increasing responsibility for their country, both economically and from a security standpoint. And to the extent we have patrols that are U.S. only or coalition only, you have a situational awareness that’s less than is the case if you’ve got joint patrols with Iraqis or if you have only Iraqis patrolling with the U.S. and the coalition forces in support.
Now statistically the answer to your question is that we stop probably something in excess of 50 percent – 50 to 70 percent – I believe, are being stopped before they explode. They’re being found or captured or reported. And – now that number varies from week to week, but I…
SEC. RUMSFELD: … in my head, I saw that number some time within the last month.
Q: Thus far, we’ve trained in the neighborhood of 200,000 security and police in Iraq. True?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Exactly.
Q: Now from where do you cull that leadership?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The leadership is the problem. It’s easy to recruit people and we’ve been able to recruit a large number and we’re up at about, as you say, about 206,000 now. And the people are lined up by the hundreds to join up in the Iraqi security forces, notwithstanding the fact that a large number have been killed in the line of duty.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Now, the leadership is a difficult issue because a lot of the people who have leadership experience in that country, of course, were involved with Saddam Hussein. So one has to be somewhat careful about how they establish this chain of command and the mid-level leadership. But they are recruiting people, putting them through training and moving forward on it at a good clip.
Q: Does the questionable quality of leadership depend on what portion of the country they’re in and therefore, what their religious affiliations might be?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I think that probably I’d answer that no. I think that if you think about it, in Saddam Hussein’s army, the Shia were largely the conscripts and the Sunnis were largely the officers, not exclusively, but largely. And the Kurds had their own militias up north. The vetting process, the process of selecting someone and then having people comment on that person, has been a public vetting process. So if they decide to select some former colonel to be something, everyone has an opinion about that person. And some of them stand the vetting and some don’t.
Q: OK. This question is almost a three-parter. There was talk before the actual invasion began that it might make sense to pay the standing Iraqi army, the regulars, say three months’ salary to remain intact and wait for future orders. There are those who’ve suggested if we had that force in place, they could have been used to guard infrastructure, to guard the border. I believe that the Hosni Mubarak was one who said for $200 million, we could keep that force intact and he believed they would work for us. Number one, is that true? Number two, if so, why didn’t we do it? And number three, I guess, would there be any second thoughts as to not having done it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we’ll never know the answer. I think you can get some clues as to what the answer might have been. First of all, it was impossible to find the Iraqi army. They disappeared. The ones that fought south of Baghdad, and in the few instances north, were captured and released or disappeared and just bled back into their hometowns.
Q: I guess the question would be if they were encouraged to remain with their units when it was obvious that Baghdad was going to fall? And the number I heard was $200 million to just pay them to sit in the sidelines for three months. Would it not have made sense, at least in hindsight, to have attempted to do that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: There was an effort to get them to stay in place and stack their weapons and stay in place and they didn’t. They just left. Now the people that have been recruited into the Iraqi security forces, the army, the police, the border patrol, the national guard, these are in many, many instances, former army people.
Q: Same people.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure.
Q: In this country, I guess we hear certainly that the morale of the National Guard is somewhat low. They feel that this has dragged on longer than, I guess, their role in it was expected to remain. From what I hear, recruiting is still fine, when we’re looking for new troops, but the National Guard -- it is reported there are problems certainly in areas with morale. Do you view it that way and how might you review the future rule of the Guard?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think in any large number of people – and of course, we’ve got, what, two million men and women, active, Reserve, Guard -- you’re going to find some people whose morale is not high. On the other hand, if you want a measurement, retention in the National Guard is at 101 percent of goals.
SEC. RUMSFELD: So that tells you that, it seems to me, that the overwhelming majority of the people have high morale, notwithstanding the fact that at any given moment, if you went to 50 people, you could find someone who was having a problem at home or a difficulty, didn’t like their sergeant or something like that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I’m told we have to wrap it up. I’m curious, have you seen “Fahrenheit 9/11” yet?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No.
Q: Not yet. Not yet. Hey, I appreciate your time very much. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much.
Q: You bet.