E.D. HILL: Of course, today, we honor the men and women who have served our country’s military, who still are serving over in the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Joining us now from the Pentagon is the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: Good morning, E.D.
HILL: A very special day here in America, especially as we know that there are so many of our citizens that are over there on the front lines right now. Here at home there’s been talk about the exit strategy, bringing the troops out of Iraq, as one of our guests mentioned, not as much focus on a victory strategy. Are we there for the long haul? I mean, are we there for good till it gets done? Or do you foresee at some point perhaps leaving early?
RUMSFELD: Well, the only exit strategy I know of is success. And the success is defined as transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people and transferring the capability, assuring the capability of the Iraqis to provide for their own security. And we’re making good progress in both, as a matter of fact. We now have almost as many Iraqi security forces in Iraq as we have Americans in Iraq, something like a hundred and twenty-five to thirty thousand. And they’re going up every day. So the total security forces are increasing.
HILL: When we look at what’s happening in Iraq, and I know it’s got to frustrate you when you watch the program in the morning, because, of course, we have to talk about the attacks; we have to talk about the deaths, because they are important. But sometimes –
HILL: -- that does overshadow the enormous success we’ve had in the bulk of the country. Yet there are these little pockets, Fallujah and Tikrit, and it seems that we need, perhaps, more special forces in there. It’s some sort of a different plan for those specific areas where they just can’t stand that Saddam’s gone and they don’t want change. What can we do there?
RUMSFELD: Well, you’re absolutely right. The military leadership there is constantly adjusting the techniques and procedures and tactics that they use to suit the security situation on the ground. And, as you point out, the security situation is very different in the north and the south and the west compared to the central area. And something like 95% of all of the attacks by the Ba’athists and the terrorists are occurring in Baghdad and the area north up to Tikrit, that triangle area.
So the commanders have to make changes and adjust as they go along to suit the situation, depending on where they are. And certainly, the Special Forces are enormously talented and capable and have done a wonderful job, and are doing a good job today.
HILL: Do we need to use more of them there? Or do we need to bring in more of those 500-pound bombs?
RUMSFELD: Well, we need to do whatever we need to do. And in my view, that’s up to the battlefield commanders, and they’re outstanding people, General Abizaid, General Sanchez and others. I’ve got a lot of confidence in them. They are convinced we’ve got the right force levels and the right types of forces. And, certainly, we also know we have wonderful young men and women in service, in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines. They’ve done such a wonderful job, and they’re proud of what they’re doing, and they understand the mission, and they feel they’re making – they’re having good success.
HILL: In those three areas where we’re getting most of the – where we’ve got the Saddam lovers, but what do you think is the greatest threat that we have on the ground there? Is it from the RPGs, or is it from those surface-to-air missiles, or simply, you know, the people on the wings that are waiting for us to pass by?
RUMSFELD: Well, at the moment, it is these improvised explosive devices which have been set in any number of locations. We’ve had good success in finding them before they’ve been exploded. But nonetheless, you can’t find 100%, and we’ve been finding something over 50%, or 60%. But a number of them have gone off, and they’ve killed and wounded a number of people.
Interestingly, they’ve killed a lot more Iraqis than they have coalition forces. The attacks have been very much against the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces, as well as against the coalition.
HILL: What about the greatest success that perhaps has been overlooked by all of us in the media?
RUMSFELD: Well, I think what’s happened is that 23 million people in Afghanistan have been liberated and 23 million people, roughly, in Iraq have been liberated. And here’s a regime that killed hundreds of thousands of people. On your station, we saw videotapes of them cutting off people’s hands and fingers and chopping off their heads and throwing them off the tops of buildings and cutting off tongues. This was a particularly vicious regime. And those people are now free and liberated from that regime. It’s a dangerous country; it’s still today in parts. It’s going to be a difficult, long low-intensity conflict we’re going to have to work our way through. But we’re going to succeed here. We’ve going to have good success. And I’ve got a lot of confidence in the people that are engaged in this effort.
HILL: The war on terror also depends on the success of cutting off terrorist funding. And we watched with great interest what happened over in Saudi Arabia and the comments that have been made by King Fahd since, that he’s going to come down with an iron fist.
Of course, Al-Jubeir’s spokesmen are still saying that the Saudis can’t find any link between terrorist funding and their country. Do you sense a change, a real change in Saudi Arabia?
RUMSFELD: I do. I think the attacks there have been a shock and that they have reacted and they have been very cooperative in sharing intelligence. They’ve been going after al Qaeda in their country. And I think that’s a good thing.
You’re quite right that one of the most serious problems with terrorism is the fact that there are people who provide funds to them, and they come in large measure out of the Gulf states, and that it is – it is those funds that are enabling so many terrorists to be trained and taught to go out and kill innocent men, women and children. And it’s enormously important that we cooperate with other nations in the world and squeeze off that funding, because that’s the lifeblood of terrorism.
HILL: Do you think they’re at the point now where they’re going to try to squeeze them? Some of this comes from the Royal Family itself. Are they going to shut it down?
RUMSFELD: I don’t know that. I don’t know that.
HILL: Well, we know that – we know that members of the Royal Family have been involved in the very public fund-raisers, the telethons that raise money, say, for the Palestinian suicide bombers’ families. So even on those obviously traceable levels, we know that there has been a connection. But do you get a sense from the Royal Family that they truly will crack down in any way on any kind of funding?
RUMSFELD: Well, one of the problems you have is a number of these so-called non-governmental organizations are supposed charitable organizations –
RUMSFELD: -- and people innocently give money to them. But, in fact, a number of the organizations are truly not charitable. They may give 50% of their money to build hospitals and the other 50% of the money to train terrorists. And so it’s been a complicated problem for all of us to deal with. But we simply have got to squeeze off those funds. We’ve got so many wonderful people serving over there today in the Middle East, and they’re brave and they’re talented and they’re heroic. And we appreciate them on this Veterans Day, and we also appreciate their families and their loved ones for their service too.
HILL: Well, I want you to get one more message out as well. Charlie Rangel, who is a Representative here in New York, along with about 25 of his Democratic cohorts in the House, want to kick you out. And they sent a note over to the President, and he said he needs to just, you know, give you the boot. What’s your response?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I haven’t seen that as yet. But, I guess when you have 535 members of the House and Senate, they never agree with themselves either. So it would be unexpected if we found unanimity and agreed with an administration.
HILL: Okay. Well, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it –
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You bet.
HILL: -- especially on this Veterans Day.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you.
HILL: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
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