Secretary Rumsfeld Radio Interview with Jack Harris, Tedd Webb and Sharon Taylor, WFLA 970 AM, Tampa Bay Florida
Q: Donald Rumsfeld. Thanks for joining us on AM Tampa Bay this morning.
Sec. Rumsfeld: Thank you.
Q; This is a critical time, one of those, I guess, seminal moments in what's happening in Iraq right now because of the constitution draft and so forth. How important is this to the scheme of things?
Sec. Rumsfeld: Well, of course, it's just an amazing accomplishment that they're engaging in at the present time. To have these disparate groups -- regionally they're separate, tribally they're separate, religiously they're separate. They've been held together only by the very repressive regime of Saddam Hussein, that killed hundreds of thousands of people and stacked them into mass graves and forced people to adhere to his edicts. And here they're debating how they can have a piece of paper called a constitution that will hold them together as a country, and protect them from each other and from repression and the kinds of viciousness that was such an important part of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Sec. Rumsfeld: It is -- to watch it happen is just breathtaking.
Q: Is it reasonable to expect that these folks are going to be able to, quote unquote, "get along" after we leave?
Sec. Rumsfeld: Oh, I think so. I think what'll happen is -- I mean, if you think of what's going on in Afghanistan, they have their first popularly elected president in 5,000 years. They have no history with democracy. They have very badly split ethnic groups in various sections of that country that have been engaged in civil war and hostilities against each other. And yet they are proceeding with the election of a parliament. They've got the provincial elections coming up September 18th, and it's been proceeding in a very orderly, peaceful way. It's impressive.
Q: With the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shi'as being separate entities, how will they get along, though, to try to be one unified country after we're gone?
Sec. Rumsfeld: Well, I think they'll -- they will finally go develop the skill sets to have a parliament that's a real parliament, popularly elected; to understand debate and compromise, which is not an easy thing. If you think of it, it took the United States from 1776 to 1789 to fashion a Constitution, and it wasn't a perfect Constitution. It still had slavery. Women weren't allowed to vote. There were things that we've perfected over the decades since.
Q: We were talking this morning about the similarity between what's happening with them right now and what happened at the -- in the nascent moments of our country, when they're discussing how much federalism there will be, how strong the central government will be or how much power the independent entities would have. The same thing with us in the states and the federal government.
Sec. Rumsfeld: Exactly. And it's a very good point, and those are tough questions, and they have effects, obviously, on different regions of the country. And one has to find ways to compromise so that the interests of everyone are achieved and what everyone gives to get that broader interest is roughly equal.
Q: Mr. Secretary, this weekend President Bush, addressing the Israelis, was asked if indeed we would get involved militarily with Iran if they continued developing their nuclear arsenal, and he said all options are on the table. And they tried to corner him, saying, "You mean military action?" He goes, "All options are on the table." Are we capable right now as a fighting force of being in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in Iran, if necessary?
Sec. Rumsfeld: Let me answer that in a couple of ways.
First of all, every president has consistently preserved options by using that phraseology, that options -- all options -- are on the table. There's nothing new in President Bush saying that, and there's also nothing new in other presidents in previous times using that phraseology. It's kind of mindless to systematically take options off the table when there's no reason to take options off the table. I think of it as a fairly standard comment.
Second, with respect to the Department of Defense and our military capabilities, we have the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the chairman and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a periodic basis, every period of months, review our military capabilities, anticipate the kinds of things that conceivably could occur. And they consistently tell me that we, in this country's military department, have the ability to fulfill the likely missions that might occur. So I'm -- we're quite tight -- quite comfortable with that.
Q: Well, do you think that perhaps we may be beaten to the punch by Israel?
Sec. Rumsfeld: I wouldn't want to speculate about that. I think that that's not for me to comment on.
Q: And you certainly wouldn't want to have to comment on it after the fact! (Laughter.)
Sec. Rumsfeld: (Laughter.)
Q: What do you say to people like Senator Joe Biden, who again was calling for you to be fired because he says he's given nothing but bad advice to the president; because of the lack of safe body armor, good body armor, for our troops in Iraq; the lack of equipment that they need to do their jobs?
Sec. Rumsfeld: Well, of course he's a politician, and apparently he's running for office, and that happens from time to time when people get into that position.
Q: When are our troops going to have better body armor, though?
Sec. Rumsfeld: Well, they've had better body armor every week and every month since the beginning of the conflict. And what happens is the enemy has a brain, and so the enemy anticipates what might happen and then makes adjustments, just as we anticipate what might happen and make adjustments. If you think about it, throughout the history of mankind, for every offense there's been a defense, and for every defense there's been an offense, and it's not static.
Q: One of the difficult things we seem to be facing, and because -- it's indicated by the flagging support in this country for the war -- is that all news that emanates from there, is bad news. The good stuff isn't somehow worthy of being repeated or printed in this country, it's the deaths, it's the setbacks, it's the killings, the bombings and so forth. How do you combat that?
Sec. Rumsfeld: Well, it's a difficult thing to do. If you think about it, there's no way in the world the U.S. military can lose a battle or a war to the enemies that we're dealing with in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the global war on terror. What we're really in is in a battle of ideas and a test of wills, and the way you lose a test of wills -- and they know that -- is to try to undermine support for what it is you're doing in the population. And they use the media. They have media committees, and they systematically manage the news in a way that is attractive to the media to carry it. And it creates a drumbeat of negative impressions, and that is where the battle is taking place.
Q: And they've been fairly successful in --
Sec. Rumsfeld: They're good at it.
Q: -- eroding the American support for the actions that we're taking in Iraq right now. And you don't always see in the 6 o’clock news and read about in the papers is about another bomb going -- roadside bomb taking out a humvee or, you know, killing some soldiers that were on patrol. How long do you think America will tolerate that, Don, without finally saying let's go in there and kill these guys; let's go out there and just all-out offensive? You know, you all's approval ratings are great when we're on the offensive.
Sec. Rumsfeld: Right.
Q: It's only when we play defense that our approval ratings go down.
Sec. Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, the U.S. military is on the offensive. They have been out going after the terrorists and the insurgents where they are and capturing and killing large numbers of them every single month. The numbers of people that are being detained and killed have been growing month by month. The situation in the country is that an insurgency can -- it doesn't take a genius to strap on a suicide vest and go out and kill some Iraqis and some American and coalition forces. That can be done. What is -- what is the -- what it would take over time is for the Iraqi security forces, as they finish developing their capabilities, to repress that insurgency over a period of time.
And I look at the situation and I -- in my mind, I think of the number of people who are lost to traffic accidents in the United States in a given year. I think of any one of our major cities, where two or three hundred people are killed by homicides. And you ask how long will we tolerate it? Now, if there were a daily report about the number of traffic deaths and if the television and the press were reporting these things and photographing them and the homicides, I don't know if -- Washington, D.C. had something like 230 homicides last year -- and if that were reported daily every single day, one would think that the effect might be that it would reduce the number of homicides or reduce the number of traffic deaths. But what's being reported is the fact -- not the fact that the schools are open, not the fact that the hospitals and clinics are open, not the fact that Iraq's got a stock exchange and that their oil and energy circumstances are proceeding apace, not the fact that tens of thousands of people are lined up to join the Iraqi security forces, not the fact that there's hundreds and hundreds of people running for public office and that there were something like 8 million people who voted in the last election on January 30th. Those kinds of things get relatively modest attention, and what gets the attention is the death of Iraqis and the death of coalition forces.
Q: Yeah, I guess it's the old -- it's got to be the man biting the dog. Well, anyway, you have a website, right, that --
Sec. Rumsfeld: We do. It's AmericaSupportsYou.mil, and the wonderful thing about it is, it has tried to find out from all across the country what people are doing to be supportive of the troops and the families of the troops. And they've listed these things about what individuals are doing, classrooms, organizations, clubs, corporations, states, departments and agencies. And it has been a wonderful thing, because it tells something about the heart of America and the support that exists out there for the men and women in uniform who are doing such a superb job.
Q: That is AmericaSupportsYou.mil?
Sec. Rumsfeld: Exactly.
Q: That's Y-O-U; America supports Y-O-U dot mil.
Sec. Rumsfeld: Yeah.
Q: We have a lot of people here who are doing things right here in the Bay area.
Mr. Secretary, we thank you so much for joining us on AM Tampa Bay, and don't be a stranger. Come back and visit us again sometime soon.
Q: Always a pleasure.
Sec. Rumsfeld: Okay, I look forward to it. Thank you so much.
Q: Thank you, sir.
Q: Thank you.
Sec. Rumsfeld: Bye.
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