HARRY SMITH: This Veterans' Day, Americans will pause to remember the U.S. troops who have fought so bravely on behalf of all of us in the past, as well as those who continue to serve and sacrifice today in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is marking the day at the Pentagon this morning. He joins us now.
Good morning, sir.
RUMSFELD: Good morning.
SMITH: Thirty-seven Americans killed in Iraq this month; more than 150 have been killed since major fighting declared finished this past spring. If my son or my daughter is fighting in Iraq today, can you guarantee me that the United States military is doing everything it possibly can to prosecute this war?
RUMSFELD: Oh, there's no question but that that's the case. We've got truly outstanding leadership in the armed forces today, and they are doing a terrific job.
I've had a chance on many occasions to go to Walter Reed Hospital, Bethesda Hospital, Brooks Army Hospital, and visit with the people you're talking about who've been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and who've been wounded. They are proud of their service. They understand how important it is to defend the freedom of the United States of America. And their morale is high.
And we are so fortunate as a country to have such wonderful young men and women -- soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines -- willing to volunteer. Every one is a volunteer who stepped forward and said, "Send me; I want to help defend our country."
SMITH: As we look at the people you just talked about, though, I think the question remains -- Senator John McCain and others have raised the question, are there enough troops on the ground?
To quote McCain on "Face the Nation" just the other day, "The number of attacks are up. The number of American soldiers wounded are up. The number of American soldiers killed is up. And at the same time, the Pentagon is announcing troop withdrawals for next spring."
Do we have enough people on the ground to fight this war?
RUMSFELD: Well, that's a fair question and it's one that I ask almost weekly. And every single military leader in Iraq answers that question yes; we do have a sufficient number of U.S. forces.
The total number of security forces in Iraq is going up every day. Indeed, we're at a point where we now have as many or more Iraqi security forces as there are American forces in the country of Iraq. We've been training up police and army and site protection forces, civil defense forces, border patrols, so that they can assume responsibility for the security of their own country.
Needless to say, if at any moment the military commanders indicated that they needed more U.S. troops, I would certainly recommend it to the president and we would increase the number of troops.
SMITH: Mr. Secretary --
RUMSFELD: But the advice we're getting is just the opposite.
SMITH: Mr. Secretary, sometimes, though, in a situation like this, don't these commanders on the ground tell you the answer you want to hear?
RUMSFELD: No, you don't know these commanders. They don't do that at all. These are enormously confident, talented individuals who are speaking their mind every day.
SMITH: Let me ask another question about equipment over there. The Chinook that was shot down last night was not flying with the latest deflection devices. Don't our soldiers deserve better than that?
RUMSFELD: The helicopters in the region, both the Reserve and the Guard as well as the active-force helicopters, are equipped with defense mechanisms, I'm advised. And they vary by type of helicopter. But certainly whatever is needed over there, the Army has an obligation to see that they send over there. And I know that the senior leadership in the United States Army is doing just that.
SMITH: Thousands of --
RUMSFELD: Wait a second. I'd like to go back and say one comment about something you said. You suggested that the generals and the leadership in Iraq might be telling me the answer I want to hear. That suggested you know what I want to hear, and you don't.
What I want to hear is the truth. And I hope they're telling the truth, and I believe they're telling the truth. And if they're not, they're not serving the country very well, because I have no bias one way or the other. I'm perfectly willing to recommend to the president we increase the number of forces if, in fact, that is what is in the best interest of this country.
SMITH: Thousands of reservists are being called up, nine-month to year-long tours. If they wanted to be in the military full-time, isn't that where they'd be? This is an issue you've fought with the Pentagon about since you took office almost three years ago. Is the size of the U.S. military too small?
RUMSFELD: The men and women who serve in the Guard and the Reserve have volunteered to do that. And what they've said is they do not want to be on the active force; they want to be in a capability of the country's where they would surge in the event of a conflict. And that's what we're in is a conflict in Iraq. We're in a low-intensity war that needs to be won, and we intend to win it.
These young men and women who are serving over there recognize that that's what they volunteered to do. And I must say, the recruiting and retention numbers have been very positive. So, apparently, people are quite understanding of the fact that the United States faces a period when we're going to have a spike in activity.
SMITH: I'm going to rephrase something that you readdressed, and I think that what I was trying to say is, aren't they telling you what they think you want to hear as opposed to assuming that I know what you want to hear? Let me go on --
RUMSFELD: That's fair enough.
SMITH: Okay. Let me go on to another question. Last January you said of Saddam Hussein, "His regime has large unaccounted stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, including VX, sarin, mustard gas, anthrax, botulism, possibly smallpox. He has an active program to develop and acquire nuclear weapons."
This was certainly part of the justification for war. There's still no WMD. Were you wrong?
RUMSFELD: Well, the intelligence was the same intelligence that was given during the last administration and during this administration and by other countries' intelligence services as well.
We know that when the declaration was filed by the Iraqis and by Saddam Hussein that it was considered fraudulent by the United Nations and by the countries in the United Nations. Indeed, the debate in the United Nations was not whether or not the declaration was fraudulent. The debate was whether or not more time ought to be allowed for inspectors to try to discover where Saddam Hussein has these caches of chemical or biological weapons.
The Iraq study group, survey group, is working on this. They've developed an interim report --
RUMSFELD: -- which suggests a good deal of information. And they'll ultimately have a final report and we'll all know.
SMITH: Mr. Secretary, we thank you for your time this morning. Thank you very much.
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