Rumsfeld: Hello. Don Rumsfeld here.
Gerson: Hi. Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, thank you so much for coming on Matt Gerson's "Person to Person Coast to Coast" on American Forces Network. It's an honor to have you on, sir.
Rumsfeld: Well, thank you. I'm delighted to be with you.
Gerson: Thank you so much.
Based on your recent conversations in Iraq and a few that I've had with veterans of Iraq, the terror bombers are getting more deadly and sophisticated at attacking both Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers. What new tactics and strategies are you implementing now to end the carnage?
Rumsfeld: Well, actually the -- if you look at the number of attacks, the number of attacks that actually cause casualties are relatively low -- although, as you point out, the ones that do cause casualties reflect an increasing lethality with respect to the explosives and the techniques being used. What's happened is, over this period of time, because we're up against a sinking enemy -- it's not a static situation -- our forces have had to continuously adjust their tactics, their techniques and their procedures as the enemies have adjusted theirs, having watched how we respond to things. And it is something throughout the history of warfare, there's always been -- for every offense, there's a defense and for every defense, there's an offense. And it will continue to be adjusted as we go through the coming weeks and months.
The thing that's going to make the big difference, it seems to me, is the progress on the political side, as the Iraqi people see that their Iraqi security forces are more successful, that they have a constitution, that they have the opportunity to vote under a new constitution. And they will feel a greater stake in the country, and therefore will be more hostile to the insurgents, who -- of course, if one looks at the data, the insurgents are killing an increasing number of Iraqis. They are up against the Iraqi people at this point, not so much up against the coalition only.
Gerson: One of the reasons that it's happening is the Sunnis don't feel they have a place. They have very few seats in the proposed constitution. We have the talks going on, they've already been delayed. Today at midnight supposedly it may or may not be solved. If the Sunnis feel they don't have a stake in the new constitution, why shouldn't they continue these deadly attacks? What possible role will they have unless they can get a fair shake, which they are obviously not going to get it looks like now?
Rumsfeld: Well, I fundamentally disagree with that conclusion. I think they -- the most interesting things that have taken place since the January 30th election are, first, that the Sunnis have publicly said they made a mistake by not participating, they're not going to make that mistake again, they want to participate, and as a result they have found ways to include Sunnis in the constitutional drafting process.
Second, the Shi'a, having put up with the Sunni dominance for 30 years, could very well have said, okay, Sunnis, you didn't participate, it's your mistake, and now it's our turn to take control. They didn't do that at all. The Shi'a leadership reached out to the Sunnis and said, we want you to be involved because we want a single country and we want a country that's a single entity, and to do that we recognize that we've got to have Kurds, Sunnis, Shi'a all participating. And so that's what's taking place.
Gerson: Do you feel the Sunnis feel they're going to get an equal share in the constitution and the new elections, and therefore they're going to be happy, so that's going to cut down on the number of humongous IED attacks and other attacks on U.S./coalition forces and civilians? Is that it?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I'd say "equal" because they reflect a relatively small fraction of the total people in the country. I think they'll feel they're getting a fair shake and that they have a voice in it, and that they will be protected; that that piece of paper, that constitution, will not be biased against them, and in fact will be the result of a series of compromises, compromises that reflected a lot of tough politics, a lot of tough negotiations, but compromises which do, in fact, end up assuring protection for all three elements in the country and a fair shake for them.
Gerson: Many critics, including Porter Goss, director of the CIA, and I think yourself in a memo at one point, have wondered if unwittingly we are creating more terrorists hardened and trained for urban warfare that someday will be let loose in the U.S. Are you therefore going to get U.S. troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later?
Rumsfeld: Well, our goal obviously is to have the U.S. troops not in Iraq and not in other countries. No one in any country wants to have foreign forces there on a permanent basis. The people in Iraq do, however, want U.S./coalition forces there now because they recognize that's what's been providing the stability and the environment within which the Iraqi people can go about having elections and fashioning a constitution. The --
Gerson: What about the --
Rumsfeld: The issue of new terrorists is one that I wrote about a couple of years ago. And I said that we know the numbers of terrorists we're capturing or killing. What we don't know is how many new terrorists are being trained and brainwashed into believing that killing innocent men, women and children and cutting off people's heads is a good thing to do, and we don't know the answer to that. What we do know is that we're putting a lot of pressure on terrorists in every respect: on their movements, their communications, their fundraising, their travel. And as a result, because of all that pressure and because of 90 nations sharing information, the terrorists have had relatively few successes in the period since September 11th. They've had some dramatic events, London most recent, but the pressure on them is considerable. And just as there's pressure on their finances and their movements, so too is there pressure on their recruiting and their training.
Gerson: Yeah, but don't we have even more al Qaeda? Zarqawi is the ringleader now. He's a member of al Qaeda. More and more coming into Iraq, obviously, from Iran, which the Shi'ites dominate the country politically, it seems to me, and the Syrians. Doesn't that worry you?
Rumsfeld: Well, it is true that there are terrorists that are moving across borders -- Iran and Syria and other borders -- into Iraq. And it's -- that is a bad thing for Iraq. It is a -- certainly a lot better off for other countries that they're not going into other countries and committing terrorist acts. And it gives coalition an opportunity and the Iraqi security forces an opportunity to go after them there. Certainly it's better off fighting terrorists there than it is in the United States.
Gerson: So that's the situation in terms of -- our goal really is to get them fighting in Iraq rather than in the United States, and that's the way to keep the terrorists from attacking on U.S. soil, just so I understand?
Rumsfeld: No, I wouldn't put it that way. I would say that the goal is to reduce -- to get more moderate Muslim leadership into the fight against the radical extremist Muslims, the ones that are training terrorists, and to have people dry up their funding and make life difficult for them. It's to find them where they are, put them in jail and reduce the number of recruits coming into it. Over time, that has to be the goal in this global war on terror.
Gerson: How many Iraqi police and gendarmes are available today to stop the terror on the streets of Iraq, which keeps getting worse and worse and more intense and more casualties? When can U.S. troops be deployed in the rear and let the Iraqis do the fighting themselves?
Rumsfeld: Well, first, I think it's probably not correct to say it's getting worse and worse. The reality is that the numbers of incidents that occur are for the most part concentrated in four provinces out of 18 provinces. What's getting worse is the lethality of their explosives. They are getting more professional in their bomb making and the explosives.
The Iraqi security forces are now up to about 178 or 80 thousand people, I suppose, and when you add them all up, the army, the border patrol, the site protection people, the police, the special police, commandoes and the like. The question as to how many -- how long will it take or how many will it take of them, they obviously are not as capable yet, or maybe ever, as U.S. forces. Our forces are the best in the world. So one for one is not a way to think about it. But they're good, and they're increasingly effective. And in any number of instances in the country, responsibility has already been turned over to Iraqi forces and our forces have stepped more to the back.
We now have an overwhelming majority of all patrols and action are either led by Iraqis, or joint with Iraqis doing them and some Americans embedded advising them, or doing them together, or the U.S. in the lead with some Iraqis supporting. Now, all of those variants or variations on the theme are helpful because it gives us a much better insight into how good they are, where they need to be strengthened, where their equipment has to be improved, and the like. But they are each week and each month taking on more and more responsibility.
Gerson: Why has the name of the war on terror been changed to the global struggle against violent extremism, GSAVE? What's that all about?
Rumsfeld: Well, it hasn't been. We talk about things in a variety of different ways. But it is -- there is a global war on terror. It exists. And there are some 90 nations in the coalition.
An element of it is the reality that there is a struggle within the Muslim faith, between -- a relatively small minority of violent extremists against the overwhelming majority of moderate Muslims. And it is very difficult for the people outside of that faith to be the ones who prevail. It's going to be the Muslim moderates who are ultimately, over time, going to prevail against the violent extremists.
We've always had extremists the world. The difference here is, there's a lot of them that are violent out killing innocent men, women and children.
Gerson: Do we see the moderates banding together with fatwas? We heard a little bit about that. Are they really organized -- Muslim moderates, as you're talking about -- to fight their own people? Isn't that really the big problem, as we end up?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think that probably the correct way to look at it is that a couple of years ago, the moderates were quiet. (Chuckles.) And --
Rumsfeld: Pardon me?
Gerson: Maybe silent.
Rumsfeld: Yeah. And if you look today, you can see that in Pakistan, for example, President Musharraf is a moderate Muslim leader, and he is attacking the extremists in his country regularly, arresting them, putting them in jail, capturing or killing them.
We've seen that ever since the Saudis were attacked, that the Saudi government has now gone after the terrorists in its country for the first time.
We know that President Karzai in Afghanistan has replaced the Taliban. And he's a moderate Muslim leader who is cooperating in this.
Certainly the current Iraqi government and the predecessor government of Allawi -- they're moderate Muslims and have been participating in this.
And elsewhere around the world, we see them. More and more are stepping forward, recognizing the threat that the extremists pose to their faith.
Gerson: Mr. Secretary, I know we’re out of time I want to mention a website, americasupportsyou.mil. It’s a place where you can find out more about how to support the troops. Thank you so much for coming on, we really appreciate it.
Rumsfeld: Matt, thank you so much. It was good to be with you.
Gerson: Thank you so much.
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