Q: First of all, did Ariel Sharon make a mistake by bombing Syria?
RUMSFELD: The Pentagon is not involved in that end of the Middle East business. That is the Department of State and it is a sensitive subject. There are constantly discussions between the President and the leaders of that region, between Colin Powell and the leaders of that region. And I think because of the sensitivity, I’m inclined to leave it to the two of them, rather than injecting myself in there.
Q: Right, because it hasn’t been the Defense Department’s position to get involved in any way, shape or form?
RUMSFELD: We really don’t, and participate occasionally in NSC meetings where that subject comes up and the Department of Defense does not have a role in that activity.
Q: Is it fair to say that there’s still a low-level war going on in Iraq?
RUMSFELD: Yes. I think of it as a low-intensity conflict, and it’s not, well you’ve been there and you know what’s going on. It is not one thing. There are -- problems, the killings, the explosions, the difficulties, the looting. In some cases, it’s just plain criminal. There are hundreds plus thousands of these criminals let out of a jail --
RUMSFELD: -- and they’re bad people and they do this stuff. There are clearly foreign fighters that come in from other countries across the borders, and they were paid to come in, and in some instances. In some instances they’ve organized and are attempting to kill Americans and coalition figures. There are also the remnants of the Ba’athists that are there, and the Fedayeen Sadaam, that crowd, that are hopeful they can re-impose a Ba’athist rule over that nation. It varies dramatically in different parts of the country. It’s much calmer in the north than in the south probably and in the west that it is in the..
RUMSFELD: -- central area, the Baghdad area. But --
Q: But it’s a war.
RUMSFELD: It’s a low-intensity war. It is a -- I was talking to General Sanchez, the Central Command leader for Iraq. I think he said something like this that if you had 1,700 patrols per day all across that country. There may be some kind of kinetic action in one-tenth of 1 percent of those patrols, and they tend to be ambushes. They tend to be targeted against coalition or coalition successes. Like they killed the woman who was on the governing council.
RUMSFELD: It’s a message to the rest of the governing council, “Be careful.”
RUMSFELD: They had an attack on a training -- the first graduation of the police academy --
RUMSFELD: -- that type of thing, and then they go after coalition forces.
Q: When you saw what looked to be a quick conclusion to open warfare there, did you ever expect that six months, ten months, maybe a couple of years later, you’d be having this discussion that low-level activity like that is just not going away?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I think the answer is, yes, I did expect it. You don’t know precisely. We certainly had information that it could happen --
RUMSFELD: -- we had intelligence that you could end up with these types of things. And of course, we’re still in Afghanistan and there are still situations there, where the Taliban moved across those borders and tried to come back in -- al Qaeda also -- particularly the Pakistan border. And so, things just don’t end neatly. In Germany after World War II, there were organizations, the Werewolves, who -- called “Werewolves” I think, one of the groups was. They would try to – they killed a mayor of one of the German towns who was cooperating with the Allies after the war --
RUMSFELD: -- they would ambush cars going down the road. They did a lot of things like that.
Q: So what you think about it is that there’s nothing that could be done differently, or should have been done differently, that would in any way prevent that because you simply expect there’s going to be some attrition like that. There are going to be losses.
RUMSFELD: Well, the one thing that -- you know, with 20/20 hindsight -- if we had gotten in from the north on the 4th Infantry Division through Turkey which we could not, and had been able to close faster from the north and capture or kill more of the Ba’athists -- and of course, the area from Baghdad north was the hotbed of --
Q: Tikrit and everything else?
RUMSFELD: Yeah. Tikrit -- was the hotbed of Saddam Hussein’s cadre.
Q: Still is.
RUMSFELD: Still is. If more of them had been killed or captured, it would have been a good thing. Instead, what happened is most of the effort came up from the south, as you know, and by the time Baghdad was taken, most of these forces in that area north of Baghdad just bled into the countryside. So they’re still there --
RUMSFELD: -- and into the cities.
Q: I’ll quickly mention the Condoleezza Rice situation, if we might, just to put it to rest. You have had to address the issue a number of times. We know where it stands. It’s not a problem for you.
RUMSFELD: Indeed not.
Q: And you aren’t 100 percent surprised by it?
RUMSFELD: Well, we talk all the time, and Colin and Condi and I have a phone call every morning at 7:15. And the way it was carried in the press was a surprise to me, and I think it was probably a surprise to Condi and Colin, but I don’t know that. I haven’t had a chance to talk to them, because I’ve been in Colorado Springs at the NATO Ministerial Meeting.
RUMSFELD: But it’s much to-do about nothing.
Q: Does it change anything about your day --
RUMSFELD: Not that I can think of.
Q: -- at all?
RUMSFELD: Not that I can think of.
Q: The handling in Iraq of everything that goes on really is the same as it was two weeks ago?
RUMSFELD: That’s my understanding, except that she has established some working groups, and it will help to coordinate some of the inter-agency activities. The longer we go through this, the more important the political process and the economic pieces of it are. We’ve got all different departments and agencies involved, and that -- if those things that she is thinking of setting up by that memorandum evolve and can add value, that’s a good thing.
Q: And a quick word on that, too, is this, and I spent time in there talking to people in this particular condition. They run a power plant; they run the electric company; they’re involved in infrastructure matters. And they’ll say, “All we need to do is get a hold of General Electric. All we need to do is get a hold of Babcock and Wilcox to build the turbine that we need. They won’t take my phone calls. They won’t deal with us. We can’t get them here” -- constant frustration. I mean, people that --
Q: Yeah, that go into an office -- good guys that go into an office every day and say, “I’m waiting for Western technology to show up” --
Q: -- “and it’s not here.”
Q: What can you say to them?
RUMSFELD: Those people suffering from, as you’ve personally seen, from 35 years of Saddam Hussein’s Stalinist-like economic regime.
RUMSFELD: And that country has intelligent people, energetic people, educated people, and it could look very much like its neighbors in the Gulf States --
RUMSFELD: -- it was oil, it has wealth. But it doesn’t, why? It’s because of the repressive system that existed there. That isn’t going to change in five minutes. That takes years to change and no country -- the United States or the international community are not going to go in there and say, “Oh, gee, let’s take Iraq and make it like New York, or make it like Kuwait, or
make it like some city -- country that didn’t have 35 years of Saddam Hussein.” That’s not going to happen. Those people are going to have to rebuild that country themselves. What we have to do is help them get a political process going, so that sovereignty can be transferred over, help them kick-start their economy, and give them some assistance, just like we did Western Europe --
RUMSFELD: -- and get them going, train up enough Iraqis to take over their own security responsibilities. And let me say, we talk about the Americans and the coalition countries, that their people are being killed. It’s equally true that Iraqis are being killed. They’ve lost 58 Iraqis just since May 1st --
RUMSFELD: -- who are assisting us with security activities.
Q: So you think the economic pipeline, though, may be down the road then, because you’re laying out a military scenario, a governmental scenario, that has to be in place first before open economy --
RUMSFELD: No. I think they all --
Q: -- trade improvement --
RUMSFELD: I think they all have to go together. I think the political, the economic, the security -- and one is not going to get too far ahead of the other.
RUMSFELD: People have to see some hope. They have to see a better day coming. They have to see some money in their pocket, so that they can provide for their family. And they have to see the beginning of control, of political control, the ability to affect what’s happening in their lives. And they have to feel reasonably secure, but if they’re able, with the resources they have -- if we can get a sufficient security apparatus going, that outside investment companies, the economic situation is going to take care of itself. There’s an awful lot of people that want to participate.
Q: And you’re as optimistic today as you were May 1st?
RUMSFELD: I am. I’m realistic. I’m not going to suggest it’s easy. It’s hard. It’s very difficult. The biggest concern I have is that these people are undoubtedly starved by 35 years of political repression and economic repression.
RUMSFELD: And all of their instincts are not to do what someone would do in a free country is to be entrepreneurial -- or to make a decision and get up and go and do something. It’s to wait for the central government and see what they’ll let us do.
RUMSFELD: That is that a scarring experience, and it’s going to take them some time to get adjusted to the idea that they can go say what they want, and think what they want, and behave how they wish. Some of it will not be perfect behavior, but that’s true in a free country.
Q: Okay. (Inaudible) time. Thank you so much.
RUMSFELD: Thank you.