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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Peter Barnes, Hearst-Argyle

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 25, 2003
Q:  I’d like to follow-up on the WMD question.  There are some stories in the newspapers today, as you’ve probably seen, about David Keys report.  Could it be possible that Saddam Hussein was telling the truth that he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction at the end of this whole process?  Is it possible there are no weapons of mass destruction – no banned weapons?


            Rumsfeld:  Well, we’re going to know the answer rather than speculate it seems to me it’s appropriate for someone in my position to wait and see what the answers are when they have had a sufficient opportunity to do a very difficult task and that is to look at a country the size of California and try to find out, in fact, ground truth as to what was taking place.  So I can’t speculate about it, but one can look at what the facts were.  The facts were that he lied repeatedly about his programs.  The U.N. inspectors found his programs – indeed, the external world speculated - that he was within “X” years, and it turns out he was within half of that of having certain capabilities.  He submitted a clearly fraudulent – everyone agrees - a fraudulent response to the declaration as to what he had.  That was the unanimous view of the people who viewed it.  We also had a great deal of intelligence as has now been made public about the fact that he was taking great care to not allow the inspectors to talk to the people that they wanted to talk to.  When they were allowed to talk to somebody, it was with a minder of an attendant there and they had to do it in locations that were clearly wired for transmitting what was being said so that others would know.  Now the other reason that makes it logical that he was not telling the truth is he was under the sanctions.  If he wanted to let the people in and see what he was doing, he could have had billions of dollars of revenues, but he was, for whatever reason, not allowing the people to come in, not allowing open inspections and not doing what other countries did in terms of allowing the international committee to come in and look.  And the affect of that was he denying his own regime billions of dollars.  Now why would one do that?  All the logic points the other way.


            Q:  Well, then do you still maintain that you will find weapons of mass destruction at some point?


            Rumsfeld:  I maintain what we all said at the time, and that is the best intelligence that the intelligence community, the United States of America, put forward by George Tenet, was presented by Secretary Powell at the United Nations.  We believed it then, we believe it now and we believe that at some point as we go forward we’ll find that it wasn’t perfect, I’m sure – no intelligence ever is - but we’ll find that it was generally accurate.


            Q:   If Mr. Kay finds out that there are no weapons of mass destruction at the end of his investigation, are you prepared to accept that result?


            Rumsfeld:  Look, I’m not in that business.  He’s got, I don’t know how many hundred of people working with him, they’re doing massive amounts of document analysis - you know, tens of thousands of pages of documents are being reviewed.   They’re interrogating people and systematically trying to track down.  One person took them to his back yard near rose bush where they had items that had to do with nuclear material.  Now that shows how hard it is – you never would have been able to find that had you not talked to somebody who finally said, sure.  Now, is it possible that the main thing is catching Saddam Hussein first?  Clearly people who are not certain that he is dead or gone or not coming back are concerned and worried about being – we worry about them being intimidated.


            Q:  Let me ask you about your personal plans.  A lot of Administration officials, Cabinet Members have already – planned to leave at the end of the first term.


            Rumsfeld:  Is that right?


            Q:  Tommy Thompson probably going to be leaving.


            Rumsfeld:  Did he announce that?


            Q:  He announced that, he said he’d probably be leaving.


            Rumsfeld:  He’s a good man, does a great job.


            Q:  What are your plans?  Will you run for a second term?


            Rumsfeld:  I have no plans. I have no plans - I serve at the pleasure of the President.


            Q:  If - as you know, you can’t separate the situation in Iraq from domestic politics - if the situation gets politically bad for the President, if it’s not going as well as you all hope and his poll numbers start to tank, is there any chance that you would consider resigning as Secretary of Defense?


            Rumsfeld:  Oh why would we get into something like that?  We’re doing very well, things are going along and it seems to me that is not the kind of a question that’s useful anyone to get into.


            Q:  On the reservist questions, Senator Holland yesterday in the hearing, I believe, said that he had been briefed that as many as 60% of the troops on the ground in Iraq next year could be reservists or National Guard.  Do you agree with that figure, is he accurate?


            Rumsfeld:  Never heard that figure.


            Q:  Do you have any estimate on your own?


            Rumsfeld:  No it depends on who fits into a rotation at any given time.  We’ve got, of course, a large active force and we’ve got somewhat smaller Reserve and Guard force.


            Q:  But you do have to make a decision fairly quickly because of training requirements for reservists and National Guard.  You said you’re going to be meeting with the services next week.


            Rumsfeld:  We’ll be making them in good time.


            Q:  As General Pace said, 4 to 6 weeks…


            Rumsfeld:  I don’t set deadlines.


            Q:  How active are Syria and Iran in trying to undermine the U.S. occupation you think?


            Rumsfeld:  Oh, I don’t know how to characterize it.  They’re certainly not helpful.  We’re getting good cooperation from Turkey and Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – the other neighbors.  Syria has been a problem; the flow of people down through the Syrian border into Iraq has been a problem.  We’ve arrested something in excess of 200 foreign fighters who’ve come in and an overwhelming majority of them are Syrian.  The situation in Iran is different, in a sense, but one of the biggest problems is the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group that was in Iran has moved back into Iraq and that is notably unhelpful, so we’re not getting the kind of cooperation from either of those countries that is notable at the moment.


            Q:  My time is up.  Thanks.


            Rumsfeld:  Thank you.

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