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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with John Mulligan, Belo Broadcasting

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 25, 2003
Q:  Mr. Secretary could you tell us what share of the American casualties since May 1st you would attribute to foreign Islam fighters as opposed to the people you call Saddam’s bitter enders or common criminals or just plain people who hate the occupation?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I can’t answer that question it’s the kind of thing that takes a good deal of effort and interrogations and the interrogation require translations and then over time that information comes in but you’re quite right.  The incidents that occur are occurring from several categories of people including criminals, which don’t believe you did mention.  Saddam Hussein let loose something like 100, 150,000 criminals and they’re out there as well plus the Ba’athist and the remnants of the regime as well as the foreign fighters.

 

            Q:  The members of the governing council who you approved say they’re in sink with the Administration position on transition yet they – many prominent members have said that they think that the pace of transition is too slow and some of them say we don’t want anymore foreign troops which is contrary to your policy.  So why can’t you agree on this?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well I think first of all I don’t think there’s full agreement within the governing council, it’s a council it’s democratic they can say what they want and then at some point they come to closure and make a decision and they make a decision where the votes 13 to 12 or 10 to 5 or 20 to 5 or whatever it may be but if you looking for unanimity that’s like suggesting there’s not unanimity in the United States Congress which of there isn’t, that’s our democratic system so I’m not a bit surprise that you’re hearing different views there.

 

            The comments about foreign troops tend to be a few people concerned about the possibility of troops from some of the neighboring countries and that’s a fair thing, there’s history there and they need to be careful of that.  They also properly I think recognize the importance of building up Iraqi forces so there’s a good deal of support for that.

 

            Q:  If we’re unsuccessful at getting a third multi-national division and the prospect arises that you will have to call up more Reserves and Guard units who haven’t been called up yet, how do you deal with what must be a concern which is not just retention but also moral?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well the moral has just been wonderful, the Guard and the Reserve are doing such a superb job over there and if you go visit with them and talk to them you can see that they’re proud of what they’re doing, they know what they’re doing is important, they recognize the importance of that country and that region to our country.  They recognize the importance of dealing aggressively with the global war on terror and they recognize that this is a part of it.

 

            There’s always going to be somebody who wishes they didn’t get called up but all of these people volunteered, they’re all serving in the Guard or Reserves because they wanted to serve in the Guard or Reserve and volunteers stepped forward, raised their hand and we’ll do it in a equitable way, we’ll hope that we can call up as few as possible, we’ll hope that the ones we call up we’ll give first choice to volunteers as opposed to people who have a complication in their life and would prefer not to.  We certainly will try to call up those that have not been called up as recently as others so that you don’t end up calling the same people too frequently.  That’s not fair to them or their employers but we found that morals been excellent.

 

            Q:  Are we looking for longer terms longer than one year for anyone?

 

            Rumsfeld:  You know if I start answering questions like that piece meal it’s unfortunate because everyone then says well that means me and I’m not going to – the services are the ones that make these announcements and communicate them down through the chain of command, I’m going to leave that to them, there have been several announcements, they’re working through it very carefully, they’re going to come back up and present it to me again sometime in the next week and they want to do it on an equitable basis, they want to provide people with as much certainty as possible so that they know what’s going to happen, when they’re likely to be called up, how long they’re likely to serve, how long they’re likely to serve in Afghanistan or in Iraq if that’s the case.  And our goal is to try to avoid mixed signals going out there.

 

            Q:  You said before the war that we know where the weapons of mass destruction are, if the Iraq survey group proves in the foreseeable future to be unable to find any of those actual weapons would you be relieved that you were mistaken or would you be apprehensive that these weapons may have fallen into the hands of terrorist?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well we’ll know what the Iraqi survey group comes up with when they make their report and I believe that the intelligence that we had was the best intelligence you could have and I have no reason to believe that what Secretary Powell presented to the United Nations is not correct, I believe it is correct and will prove to be correct.

 

            It is possible as you suggest that they have hidden things, we know they had a program to deny people the ability to know what it was they were doing and there is the possibility that some of those programs could have ended up with materials that get into the wrong peoples hands and that have to be concern.  Let me put what I said into context.

 

            Our forces that come out of Kuwait were moving North in Iraq, were about a quarter of the way to Baghdad and I started getting asked by the press, did you find anything, did you find anything?

 

            Q:  No this was before the war?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No it wasn’t, it was right as the war was starting if not mistaken.  And I said look, the suspect sites where we believe they are – I may have said where we know they’re there we haven’t even gotten to that ground yet, we were still well south of that.  So the point I was trying to make is the expectation that you would find them a few days after the war starts in an area that you hadn’t even occupied yet seemed a little unrealistic to me, I think that’s the background.

 

            Q:  Squeeze in one last question.

 

            Rumsfeld:  You bet.

 

            Q:  Some of the items that you specifically are asking for in the reconstruction budget like $100 million dollars for witness relocation have same weight that District Attorneys from this country have been asking Congress for that kind of money, how do you make that case?  Those kinds of things seem like a wireless internet network for Iraq?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Those are fair questions and of course it’s been true in every conflict that someone looks at our circumstance.  I was asked up on the Hill yesterday in a Senate Hearing how can we be paying money for a prison in Iraq for example when we need money for prison in the United States?  And I guess the answer is that there are 100,000 prisoners that were let loose on the society and the prisons were all looted and we’ve got to scoop as many of those people up as possible and put them back in prison before they kill people and the need to communicate in that country is terribly important to the success of that country, political success, economic success.  I think the way to think about it is important that that country be put on a path towards a reasonably representative government that’s respectful of its neighbors, respectful of its own ethnic and religious diversity within the country that is a single country and that that will be in the interest of not just the people in Iraq but the people in the region and the United States of America and to do that requires that we move forward on the political, the economic and the security side in tandem.

 

            Q:  Thank you very much for your time.

 

            Rumsfeld:   Thank you.

 

            I feel like I’m being machine-gunned.