Q: The Clinton Administration was criticized for being soft on terrorism, not finding Osama. Madeline Albright mentioned that they took their time looking and then she said look, the Bush people can’t even find Osama. Where is bin Laden, why can’t we find him?
Rumsfeld: Well it’s hard to find a single human being, there’s no question about that. Look at the FBI’s Most Wanted List - some of those folks have been on there for decades. That’s no criticism, it’s just a fact that we have a big country and people who are determined not to be found, single individuals who have resources, can do that.
We don’t know where he is - he may be in some neighboring country - but we’ll find him. A lot of pressure is on him, he maybe alive, he may dead, he may be injured. I can tell you this, he’s having trouble moving around and he’s having trouble organizing and operating his network.
Q: Are there back channel talks with Saddam Hussein?
Q: You’ve said before that there’s no need to call up extra troops but we’ve got the news reports coming out about reservists possibly being called up.
Rumsfeld: I didn’t say there’s no need to call up additional troops.
Q: Well you’ve said before that you’d leave that to your commanders when there was talk about more troops in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: Oh you mean more troops in Iraq.
Q: More troops in Iraq.
Rumsfeld: That’s different than call-up, because call-up involves rotation where you leave the same number in Iraq or Afghanistan but you rotate, and that’s why I misunderstood your question.
Q: So the determination between calling-up more troops, more troops being needed and reservists, separate those for us.
Rumsfeld: The number of troops in Iraq is a combination of three things, U.S. forces, Coalition Forces and Iraqi Security Forces. The Iraqi Security Forces are growing at a very rapid rate: in 4 months they’ve gone from zero to 70,000. The Coalition Forces have stayed about the same at about 20,000 and we’ve stayed about the same at about 130,000 so the aggregate number is going up because the Iraqi Forces are going up. Within that, those numbers the Iraqi Forces are going up, the Coalition Forces are rotating in and out after they’ve served a certain period depending on what those countries have by way of a rotation plan, and the same things true with the United States Forces and we rotate them. We rotate - sometimes we’ll send in active forces, sometimes we’ll send in Guard or Reserve. It’s a matter of getting in cue and trying to be as respectful of everybody’s circumstances, we try to avoid back-to-back deployments for active forces and we try to use as many volunteers out of the Guard and Reserve as possible and we try to use elements from the Guard and Reserve that have not been called up recently, rather than the ones who’ve been called up repeatedly, which is just not fair to them.
Q: Before the war in Iraq, you stated the case very eloquently and you said, I remember this it was done very well, you said they would welcome us with open arms.
Rumsfeld: Never said that.
Q: Never said that.
Rumsfeld: Never did. You may remember it well, but you’re thinking of somebody else. You can’t find anywhere me saying anything like either one of those two things you just said I said. I may look like somebody else.
Q: Well what’s happened since then? Let’s get it to this point. Is negative press emboldening the terrorists in Iraq, do you think?
Rumsfeld: Oh goodness. I think there’s a – I never said anything like that because I never knew what would happen and I knew I didn’t know, and therefore I also had reasons to question how good our intelligence was as to what might happen on the ground.
Q: Well, now in regard to the negative press (inaudible) had said that, but I’m going back to the case for war, the fact that we would be democratizing – in certain terms they would be welcoming us with open arms and we haven’t – is the fact that we’re not seeing that?
Rumsfeld: I never said that.
Q: Even if you didn’t say that. What’s happening to the democracy process now because it is somewhat mired?
Rumsfeld: Moving forward. Ambassador Bremer has 7-point plan, he has put in place a governing council that representative of all the people in the country. They’ve appointed – the governing council has appointed Ministers, these are things that took years to do in Germany and in Japan so we’re way ahead of scheduled compared to other situations. The Ministers have been appointed; they have now appointed a constitutional committee to come back with recommendations as to how to develop a constitution. They next step would be to actually write the constitution – the Iraqi people write it. The next step would be to ratify it by the Iraqi people and the next would be to have elections that came out of that constitutional process and then transfer over sovereignty, so we’re about 3 or 4 steps along a 7-step process and it’s going well.
Q: What would you tell critics? A State Department friend of mine who’s been there for a long time said the culture is not conducive to democracy, it’s winner takes all. This is not a culture that knows how to handle democracy?
Rumsfeld: That’s a fair comment. It would be in a distinctively different thing than the culture that we’ve seen in that part of the world. There are one or two democracies in that part of the world and that’s it, and certainly the Iraqi people have to have been psychologically affected by the decades that they’ve had under this repressive regime, Stalinist centralized control regime, so they don’t have experience with compromise, with open debate and discussion and that’s going to be something that’s now…you see it happening. There’s some that didn’t have a press and suddenly there’s a hundred newspapers. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but there they are, and you allow freedom and liberation and people begin to try it and work it, roll it around in their heads and see how they do. Do I think that the natural state of man is to be free? Yes I do. Do I think that Iraqi people are intelligent enough to navigate from where they’ve been towards something approximating a representative government that’s not a repressive regime and not a threat to its neighbors? I do, I do think that they’ll have a government some day that won’t be killing thousands and thousands of people and creating mass graves all across that country, I do hope that.
Q: Guantanamo real quick. In light of the arrest of James Yee, Senator Charles Schumer has renewed his call for federal investigations into the institutions that train Islamic priests. He said the Bureau of Prisons is doing it through the Justice Department, why not the Department of Defense investigating how Muslim clerics are trained?
Rumsfeld: It’s not a subject that I have addressed at this point, it’s a subject that I probably ought to think about. I don’t know that I would restrict it to any one religion, but it certainly is a fair question and possibly the services that handle the organizing and training and equipping of people in the military ought to reflect on that suggestion.
Q: Is there a concern that U.S. forces who are Muslim might be compromising national security - religion first, patriotism second? Are you concerned about that?
Rumsfeld: See, the implication of your question is that Muslims are anti-U.S. or anti-American or in favor of terrorism, and that’s not fair to that religion. The overwhelming majority of that people – people in that religion - are perfectly fine citizens of our country and other countries. There’s a very small fraction that’s trying to hijack that religion and conduct themselves in a way that are inconsistent with the precepts and tenets and principles of that religion, and I think that the way you cast it is not a good way to cast it. And it is a task that the world faces that is important. There are a lot of people being taught to go out and kill innocent men, women and children. There is a battle of ideas; it is not a battle of religions, it is almost a battle within that religion and it is a very small minority that’s trying to hijack it and take away people into their terrorist approach to the world. That is a problem for the whole world but it’s particularly a problem for the people of that religion and I think it’s something that we all have to address and think about because it is not going to be a nice world to live in if people keep financing terrorists, people keep training young men and women to go out and kill innocent people in large numbers. That’s not a good world for anybody in any religion.
Q: Good. Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.