Secretary of Defense Radio Interview with Bill Cunningham, 700 WLW, Cincinnati, Ohio
Cunningham: Donald Rumsfeld, welcome to the Bill Cunningham Show.
Rumsfeld: Yes, right here Bill Cunningham.
Cunningham: How are you doing?
Cunningham: I watched you on C-Span the other day, I'm one of the weird people that watch.
Cunningham: You had cited 1946, it might have been from your favorite newspaper, the New York Times, about how bad things were going in Europe for the Americans. This is in relationship to the media coverage, what the boys are doing in Iraq today, about there's disasters. The media doesn't like the military, the media doesn't like Republicans so they only run the negative stories. Will you share with those of us in the red states -- Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana -- the 1946 article about how bad things were going in Europe and apply that to today?
Rumsfeld: You know, there's no circumstance in history that fits identically on all fours with subsequent circumstances, but it is interesting to note that George Washington was almost fired and lost most of his early battles, never won very much, and was under great criticism. In the Civil War there were enormous critics of what was going on. In World War II, as you point out, the criticism was just endless. We lost almost every battle in the first two or three years of the war. We're not losing today. In the post-war period the hand-wringers decided that oh, my goodness, everything was terrible in Europe and everyone didn't like America and the allies after the war, and in fact it took a period of time but Europe is now healthy economically and recovered and fascism is gone from Germany and the countries that had been conquered have been freed and have free systems.
The New York Times had an article when we'd been I think in Afghanistan in 2001 after September 11th when 3,000 people were killed here in our country, front page, above the fold, saying that we were in a quagmire in Afghanistan after a few weeks, and a few weeks later Afghans were free and liberated.
Cunningham: Yeah. Well, you know 60 percent of the American people, according to some poll, said we shouldn't have done this in the first place. Does that say a lot about the people who don't pay attention? Does that speak to the instant gratification we must have today? It's not the failure of the soldiers, it's not your failure, it's not Cheney, it's not my good friend Joe Hagan, it's not the President. I think what it amounts to is that we live in an instant gratification society and if we don't have constant gratification instantly we turn on things.
If this number continues to rise is that going to be a problem for you in Washington?
Rumsfeld: You know, I think if people constantly hear only negative things on television and read it in the media or a large measure they hear eight negatives for one positive, one ought not to be surprised that they're concerned about it. And on the other hand, if you look at our 250-plus year history, the American people have a pretty good center of gravity. They've got an inner gyroscope and it can go off to one side for a period, but they tend to center themselves, they're well rooted, given sufficient information they find their way to right decisions, and I have a lot of confidence in the American people. There's no doubt in my mind but that the reality, the truth of what's taking place in the world is very simple. It's that we were attacked, we lost 3,000 people, there are some very dangerous people out there trying to get still more powerful weapons to do additional killing in our country. I think most people with any sense would rather fight them overseas than they would here at home.
Cunningham: Here in the GTMO situation, I've seen you go through some facts and figures. If 28,000 interrogations go right, it's not news. If one GI one time does something suspicious it's front page of the New York Times. Will you tell we in the red states the number of interrogations, the number of complaints, and why it's relatively irrelevant relative to what the media is doing to GTMO?
Rumsfeld: First of all let me say that the young men and women in uniform down at Guantanamo Bay are doing an outstanding job and they've got some very bad people down there.
Rumsfeld: There have been about 800 people sent to Guantanamo. About 520 are still there, 235 have been released. We’ve made some mistakes in the people released because 10 or 12 of them we found back on the battlefield trying to kill innocent Americans.
The detainees that are down there have been trained to resist interrogation. They are bad people. These are not car thieves, these are people who are UBL's body guards, they're facilitators, they're terrorists, they're people who, we believe the 20th hijacker from September 11th. The bomb makers, recruiters, would-be suicide bombers.
We're learning a lot from these people. We've prevented additional terrorist attacks through interrogation. We've learned a great deal about the al-Qaida organizational structure and other terrorist groups -- how they recruit, how they transfer money. And the intelligence gained has prevented terrorist attacks and saved Americans' lives.
So I think that it's a shame that you have people who have never been down there criticizing and saying things about it, as one Senator did, that it was like Pol Pot and a Russian Gulag. It's just inexcusable for someone to say that. And of course it's carried on al-Jazeera five minutes after he says it and the whole world says well my goodness, a United States Senator said that.
Cunningham: One last question about America Supports You, and we're also the hometown here of Specialist Matt Maupin. He's from here. He's the only soldier missing in Iraq. Do you still have hope for him? And then what about America Supports You?
Rumsfeld: Well, we always have hope. We have to keep working and we're doing that from this conflict, we're doing it from prior conflicts. We care deeply about those that are missing or unaccounted for.
One of the things that you mentioned, thank you for mentioning the America Supports You program. The web site is AmericaSupportsYou.mil. And what it is, it's an opportunity for anyone who wants to be helpful to go to that web site and they can see all the wonderful things that people are doing. They may be individually, it may be a family or a school or an organization or a corporation, but people have stepped up to support those troops over there because those troops are doing noble work for the world. They're fighting terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here. I've just got so much respect for the people who are doing all these things.
This web site simply takes all the good things that are being done to support the troops and makes them available to other people who might want to be helpful as well.
Cunningham: Thank you for coming on. Most guys your age are sipping pina colladas in Miami Beach, and you've got to listen to people like Ted Kennedy.
Cunningham: You ought to slap him now and then, you know what I'm saying? Just let him have it.
Rumsfeld: [Laughter]. Okay. Thank you. Good to talk to you.
Cunningham: Thank you. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.