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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 05, 2003

(Interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp., Camp Victory, Iraq.)

 

     Q:  Mr. Secretary, first of all, thank you very much for this opportunity.

 

     You've come to Iraq to see for yourself what is going on on the ground.  How do you assess the situation?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well I've just been here a day and a half.  I've had very good meetings with the civilian and the military authorities here.  They (Inaudible.) some of the commanders up there.

 

     They are dealing with a difficult situation in this country.  They're dealing with it in a professional way and an orderly way, and there is measurable success.  Is it a perfect picture?  No.  Has it been a bumpy road?  Indeed.  Will it very likely be a bumpy road going forward?  I think so.

 

     But in five and a half months we have seen all these city councils and village councils pop up all across the country, even in Baghdad.  You have a governing council stood up.  You have the governing council select a cabinet and ministers.  That's impressive in a country that really doesn't have any recent experience with democracy or representative government.  So from the political side, I think that's good progress.

 

     Now there are tough spots ahead.  We're going to have to fashion a constitution.  We're going to have to have elections.  That's ahead.

 

     Q:  On the security side, there's no doubt that (Inaudible.) great challenge for the coalition forces.  What is the strategy going to be to try and eliminate the terrorist threat that you're facing (Inaudible.) and foreign elements as well?

 

     Rumsfeld:  It is.  It's a mixed picture as to the nature of the threat.  The threat does involve remnants of the Ba'athist regime.  It also involves terrorists that have come in from other countries.  It also involves a number of --

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     (Inaudible discussion.)

 

     Q:  I was asking about your strategy which you might (Inaudible.). 

 

     Rumsfeld:  The elements that we're dealing with are criminals, remnants of the Ba'athist regime, and terrorists that have come in from other countries.

 

     The disadvantage, of course, is that the terrorists can attack at any time, any place using any technique and it's not possible to defend every place against every conceivable technique.

 

     So what has to be done is pressure has to be put on all of these elements -- the criminals, the Ba'thists and the terrorists.  That's what's taking place.

 

     I always look for metrics.  I look for some indication as to whether things are getting worse or getting better.  One of the things that caught my attention in Afghanistan was when they began tracking the number of refugees who were returning home.  They were coming back into the country because they were making a conscious decision that things were better inside of Afghanistan than where they were outside of Afghanistan.  They were voting with their feet, if you will.

 

     Today we were told, and I don't have hard numbers unfortunately, but we were told by two of the important commanders for the entire northern part of this country that one of the things that's happening is they're getting more and more contacts by local Iraqis telling them information, intelligence information.  Where they can find these people, where there's a cache of weapons, where something bad might happen.  It is to a degree anecdotal, but nonetheless there's a confidence level on the part of those commanders that they can feel the Iraqi people being cooperative and supportive and more helpful.

 

     Q:  But to what extent does it concern you that the level of intelligence being gathered so far to identify the perpetrators of these crimes has not been met?

 

     Rumsfeld:  It's a tough target for intelligence people.  It's a very difficult thing to track that type of thing down.  Is it a surprise to me?  No.  It's not a surprise.  Is it ever going to be possible to prevent terrorist attacks or those types of events?  I think not.  I think those are the kinds of things that are going to happen.  They've been happening in the world since the beginning of mankind.  There are an awful lot of people in the world who have been misled into believing that it's a good thing to kill innocent men, women and children.  In this instance, in this country they're killing Iraqis and they're damaging the Iraqi economy.  I think the Iraqi people aren't going to like that over time.

 

     Q:    Were you surprised by the relatively high toll of casualties (Inaudible.)?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Any casualty is heartbreaking.  A person that's wounded, a person that's killed, it's a terrible thing for them, for their families, and your heart breaks.

 

     I visit the wounded in the United States at Walter Reed and at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Brooks Army Hospital and meet with them and their families.  It's heartbreaking.

 

     On the other hand what they're doing is important.  They know that what they're doing is important.  They're proud of what they're doing.  They feel that they're making progress, and I think the American people understand that.

 

     Q:  If this continues will it cause you to rethink your strategy?  Will they make you rethink your strategy and possibly cede power to the Iraqis at an earlier stage than otherwise anticipated?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well you say other than otherwise anticipated.  The goal always has been to move political responsibility to the Iraqis as rapidly as possible.  Ambassador Bremer is doing an outstanding job.  He is working with the governing council and is urging them to move faster.  He's urging them to appoint ministers, which they've now done.  He's encouraging them to move more rapidly, developing a process for drafting a constitution by the Iraqi people, for the Iraqi people.

 

     When you say other than otherwise anticipated, I think it's hard to have an anticipation or a conviction about how long that process ought to take.  It is moving, on the one hand, very rapidly.  If you think about the United States, we had our Declaration of Independence in 1776 and it was 1789, a good many years later, before we had a constitutional government that resulted from that convening step.

 

     If you look at other countries that have gone through conflict -- Germany or Japan, Bosnia, Kosovo -- it takes some time.

 

     What's happening here is going, by any of those other standards, quite rapidly.  Now is it as fast as we would like?  No.  We'd like it somewhat faster.

 

     Q:  How (Inaudible.) certain countries such as France to move faster on the political front to give more power politically to the Iraqis or the United Nations?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I guess everyone's entitled to their opinion.  There's a wonderful quote, I forget, maybe it's a historically biblical quote, but it's you know, for myself I'd rather light candles than curse the darkness.  That's what we're trying to do.

 

     There are people who like to critique things from afar.  That's understandable, but for those that roll up their sleeves and try to do it, it's hard work.  It's difficult work.  So those who stand on the sidelines and opine on this and opine on that, that's a much easier task.

 

     Q:  You're now going to the United Nations to get a multinational force yet you don't need any more additional forces on the ground.  What is the advantage of going to the U.N. at this point?

 

     Rumsfeld:  The commander here has concluded that we have sufficient U.S. forces in terms of numbers.  On the other hand, you don't want to keep the same people here so you rotate people.  You take them out and bring in others.  So too with the coalition forces that are here.  They're not going to just stay there.  They're going to serve for a period, do their best, and then be replaced by others.

 

     Simultaneously we have this large increase in the number of Iraqis who are involved in the security for their country in terms of the army, the border patrol, the civil defense group, and that number's gone from zero to 55,000 in five and a half months which is an amazing number, I believe anyway.  Someone else can look at it and say it's too slow or not enough, but I look at it and think you go from a standing dead stop up to 55,000 Iraqis engaged, trained, functioning in security responsibilities in this country, I find that impressive.

 

     So the total number has been going up.  Even though the U.S. and coalition forces have been somewhat level. 

 

     Now what happens on the ground is going to determine how many are needed.  How many total and how many at what price.  And it's not for me to decide what that number is.  The commander, General Sanchez, and Ambassador Bremer are reviewing about those things and make recommendations.  And General Sanchez who is the senior military official has said he is comfortable with the level where it is.  On the U.S. forces.  Although he wants significant increases in the Iraqi forces.

 

     Q:  In order to get an increase of multinational forces how willing is the U.S. to (Inaudible.)?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, those are questions that the President and Secretary Powell are working with the members of the United Nations on, and clearly, there must be two dozen different models of how the U.N. participate at any given time.  You look at what they're doing in Liberia, you look at what they're doing in other parts of the world.  Which model makes the most sense here will be something that's under discussion and under debate.

 

     Q:  The (Inaudible.) in Iraq, U.S. forces, coalition forces, are prompting some to ask the question is Iraq turning into a new Afghanistan?  Is it a new breeding ground for terrorism?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Afghanistan used to be a breeding ground for terrorism.  It isn't today.  The al Qaeda has been thrown out, the Taliban has been replaced by a democratically elected transitional government.  The Iraqis [sic] are returning to that country from all over the world.  They have a constitutional process which will introduce a constitution and an elected permanent government sometime over the coming period of months and years.  They still have difficulties along the Pakistan border with terrorists that move across, back and forth.  But it clearly is not a terrorist haven today in my view.

 

     Is Iraq?  No.  Iraq isn't.  Are people coming in from other countries to try to engage in terrorist acts?  Yes, there's no question about it.  What does that mean?  It means they have to be stopped.  We have to do a better job on the borders.  We need better cooperation from the neighboring countries.  It means we have to find them and capture them or kill them.  It's their choice.  And that's taking place.

 

     What does that mean for the future of this country?  It means there's going to be a period of time when there will be incidents, there will be terrorist attacks, there will be incidents against the United States and coalition forces.  I mean basically it's against the Iraqi people.  What's taking place when they bomb a mosque, when they attack the infrastructure of this country they're harming the Iraqi people is what they're doing. 

 

     Q:  And can anything be done to protect these mosques from these sorts of attacks?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Sure.  You need to have more Iraqis engaged in providing security for their country and taking more responsibility for their country.  That's why there's a tremendous effort to increase the number of Iraqi security forces and to get more Iraqis engaged in the political process.

 

     All of these things go together.  The political process, the economic success and movement, as well as the security.  And it's unlikely that anyone succeeds without progress in the other two.

 

     Q:  The issue of security on the borders.  Can there be some sort of security arrangements that engage the neighboring country?  Are there discussions with Syria and Iran that are especially being made on this issue?

 

     Rumsfeld:  There have been discussions going on obviously with Kuwait, with Saudi Arabia, with Jordan, countries that recognize the problem of the border, and with Turkey.  The border with Syria has been a problem.  The reality is that the top two categories of people that have been captured are Syrian.  So that's a problem.

 

     Q:  On Afghanistan, you said that Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists, but reports have shown recently that al Qaeda is regrouping and the Taliban are still there and that as recently as (Inaudible.) seem to be organizing some sort of terrorist threat.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Afghanistan a couple of years ago had terrorist training camps.  The Taliban was in a close working relationship with al Qaeda.  They were facilitating the training of terrorists which then were going out and killing innocent men, women and children such as we saw on September 11th in the United States and in a number of other places in other countries.  That's not happening today.  That's just not happening.

 

     In the last period of weeks the coalition forces in Afghanistan have killed and captured a large number of Taliban and opposition people.

 

     Q:  It's been two years almost to the day after the events of September 11th.  Do you feel, Mr. Secretary, that the resources have been channeled in the right (Inaudible.) in Afghanistan and back in Iraq?  Is the world a safer place?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I certainly agree with the decisions that were made to do what was done in Afghanistan and Iraq.  That was the correct thing to do.

 

     Is the world a safer place?  Yes, I think so.  When you think of the fact there are over 90 countries engaged in the coalition in the global war on terror.  They're sharing intelligence, they're sharing banking information, trying to stop the flow of money to terrorists.  They are cooperating in a variety of maritime interdiction programs.  They're cooperating in coalitions here in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They are using various elements of national power to make life more difficult for terrorists.  They are making it more difficult for them to move from country to country.  They're making it more difficult for them to recruit and to retain people. 

 

     Does that make it a safer world?  Well, I think it certainly helps.  It can't be characterized as making it a less safe world.  It has to be a safer world.

 

     Is it a safe world?  No.  What's happening is we've got increasingly powerful weapons and they are increasingly easy to develop and to transfer to people, and they can kill an awful lot of people.

 

     So we live in a world where there's proliferation regimes that existed back in the Cold War, are in tatters to some extent, and that's a worrisome thing.

 

     I think one of the biggest problems facing the world is that we have to strengthen our common proliferation regimes and cooperation so that we make it still more difficult for these kinds of increasingly powerful capabilities to get their hands on people who go about killing innocent men, women and children.

 

     Q:  Does the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found present embarrassment --

 

     Rumsfeld:  I thought you said two ago was the last question.

 

     Q:  I know, but it was a followup.  Sorry.

 

     Rumsfeld:  (Laughter.) It is something that the coalition forces have a team of people that are interrogating people right now to gather as much information as is possible about the programs involving weapons of mass destruction.  As they gather that information obviously at some point they'll make it available to the public.

 

     Thank you.

 

     Q:  Thank you.

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