Gill: Good morning, this is the Steve Gill show. Welcome back. We have a very special guest with us this morning, one of my favorite people, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on with us this morning. Mr. Secretary, I've got to tell you, the last time you were in Nashville we were actually over in Fallujah and Baghdad with our troops. You got to be here at the Grand Ole Opry with Dolly Parton while we're over there eating dust. You got the better end of the deal.
Rumsfeld: [Laughter]. Listen, that Grand Ole Opry is such a special place and the people there in that audience are such supporters of the men and women in uniform who you were visiting with over in Iraq.
But Dolly Parton, when she gets up on the stage, she owns that stage. She was terrific. I was delighted to be there again.
Gill: They're getting ready to celebrate their 80th birthday, and I know they're going to try and invite you and get you down here for that, but I would encourage you to do it if you can.
Rumsfeld: Well I must say, I love country music. When I was Ambassador to NATO I had to live over in Belgium. One of the things I did was I brought along country music tapes so my children would grow up on America.
Gill: [Laughter]. That was before iPods. You had to do it with CDs and cassettes.
Rumsfeld: That's right.
Gill: We appreciate your coming to Nashville. More importantly, we appreciate the great job you're doing for our men and women in uniform. Obviously with Fort Campbell just up the road from us here, with the 278th and all the other National Guard and Reserve units in middle Tennessee and across the state of Tennessee serving in these hot spots all over the world, we appreciate your focus on those young men and women. And some not so young men and women who are out there serving us so well.
Rumsfeld: Well, they're doing a superb job and the wonderful thing is to visit with them, as you experienced, and to see how professional they are and how courageous they are, and how consonant they are that what they're doing is the right thing and that they're making progress.
Gill: I know as somebody who spends a lot of time with them, and as we have over time as well, the attacks, the rhetorical attacks on them, calling them oil cops, calling them, comparing them to Nazis and these other things, it really grates on you personally because you do have a personal relationship with these guys.
Rumsfeld: Well, it does. It hurts to hear it. I know it hurts them when they hear it. And the other thing, the reality is it also hurts our country to hear things that aren't true said about our forces.
These are fabulous young people and they're doing a superb job, and to be denigrated that way is harmful to them and it also makes their task more difficult because there are always going to be people in the world who want to believe the worst.
Gill: It seems that we've seen an upsurge in violence in Afghanistan, we had some Navy SEALs, some shot down, some that were taken out on the ground in Iraq. We're continuing to see the violence directed as they try to get to our soldiers, even killing innocent children who are just there for candy and toys. Are we really seeing an upsurge in the violence or is it kind of these death throes that we've heard about?
Rumsfeld: Well, it goes up and down. It oscillates some. As we get closer to these September elections I suspect -- September 18th I think it is in Afghanistan -- I suspect we will see an upsurge. We did during the last elections. Now we've got these provincial elections and the parliamentary elections that are scheduled for September 18th in Afghanistan, and the Taliban and al-Qaida obviously are going to seize on that as an opportunity for them to try to be disruptive.
So I suspect we will see somewhat of an upsurge. But Afghanistan's on a path towards democracy. It's got an elected president for the first time in 5,000 years. The people are increasingly economically better off and I have a lot of confidence in Afghanistan.
Gill: I used the word death throes. I don't want to play semantics -- There does seem to have been some debate on how much progress we've made. Are they in their death throes? Is it a semantic debate or is there any real disagreement in the administration or with the military personnel on the kind of progress we have made in Iraq and in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: No, I don't know of any disagreement among the military personnel or the civilian people in the administration with respect to the situation in Afghanistan. The fact is that they have been on a steady path of progress politically, economically and militarily. Now, I think the Vice President said they're in their last throes, but I thought that was about Iraq and not Afghanistan.
Gill: Again, you're going to continue to see surges of violence from time to time --
Gill: -- these are dangerous parts of the world.
Rumsfeld: Exactly. And it's tough. We've got a problem with narcotics in Afghanistan. I don't mean to paint an excessively rosy picture. But the people are doing a great job. We've got NATO increasingly involved with more and more provincial reconstruction teams, with greater outreach into the countryside. I think that Afghanistan's on a good solid path towards progress.
Gill: One of the other issues that's received a lot of attention in the last several weeks and months has been the situation at Guantanamo Bay. Just this week, a federal court ruled that military commissions could be used to try some of these detainees, and begin the process of determining which are the bad guys that need to be kept and which are the ones that need to be terminated or exterminated is the case I guess could be in some instances.
What's your take on that, and how soon will we see this kind of military trial progress move ahead which the federal courts have authorized?
Rumsfeld: Well, this circuit court of appeals ruled unanimously, as you suggested, in favor of the President's military commission policy, and we've announced that we're going to push forward as fast as possible. The presiding officer over the military commission's indicated that he thought it might take 30 to 40 days to actually have the process start. There's a lot of legal rights that people have and there will be, as is any court case, there will be various delaying motions made by lawyers and people. But the process will get going and we will be on our way towards successful military commissions to deal with a problem where you have a bunch of people down there, who are arrested and captured on the battlefield for being terrorist trainers and bomb makers and financiers and UBL's body guards and would-be suicide bombers, and these are not car thieves. These are not people who just did a little something wrong and they need to be punished. These are people that have to be kept off the battlefield.
We've already let 12 people go out of Guantanamo who've been recaptured or killed. So it's a complicated thing and obviously we didn't intentionally let them loose, but the process let them loose.
Gill: In fact contrary to what the mainstream media has portrayed in some instances, these people have received at least some form of hearing which allowed some to go free that then came back, it's kind of like a bass fishing tournament -- catch and release, unfortunately on some of these --
Rumsfeld: [Laughter]. Exactly right. I haven't thought of it that way. It sure isn't intentional. But you're quite right. Each one --
Gill: -- catch them the first time, you don't want to have to go through the process a second time.
Rumsfeld: No, because they're out there trying to kill our people.
Gill: And unfortunately, are successful in so many instances.
Obviously the controversy of Guantanamo was also in the news again this week where another commission has determined that there may have been some level of abuse in some instances. But torture is much too harsh of a term to use for what's been going on down there.
Rumsfeld: That's right. Guantanamo has been operated exceedingly well. The people down there are doing a terrific job. The allegations that have been made, the characterization to call it a Gulag and compare it to Pol Pot and to things that have been said in the United States Senate are so inaccurate and damaging.
We've had people go down there, I think there have been 77 members of the House and Senate who have gone down there, and every one who's been down there has come back impressed by the way the place is handled. The press has been down there. Foreigners have been down there. Lawyers for these people have been down there. The International Community of the Red Cross has had 24 hour access to the facility. The media sent over 400 visits by a thousand national and international journalists have been down there. It's the people who haven't been down there who are making these wild charges about it.
Gill: I understand some of these folks that have been detained down there have actually gained weight eating down there. That's the main reason I'm not going down there, Mr. Secretary, I don't need to add any more to what we've got.
Gill: I do want to give you one moment to promote something I know is near and dear to your heart, and that's the America Supports You program that really gives Americans a chance to stand up and support our troops. AmericaSupportsYou.Mil on the web is where folks can get more information, but I know that as much time as you spend with the troops, you're seeing the feedback from them of what it means to them for America to stand up for them.
Rumsfeld: It really, it's not just the troops, though, it's also the troops' families. On the web site it shows all the things that we're aware of that Americans on their own, spontaneously, individually or their companies or their clubs or their organizations have voluntarily done to support the troops and the families of the troops who are serving overseas. It is just, when the President mentioned it in his speech about two weeks ago, the surge in support across the country has just been heartwarming.
Gill: We appreciate the great job that you're doing. The folks with AmericaSupportsYou.Mil and what they're doing, and we're going to slip a few extra country music CDs up there. I know they do have some available in Washington, but just to make sure that you're not outside the country music genre --
Gill: -- we'll ship some hot new ones up your way down there.
Gill: I don't want to get you in any trouble, but we'll send some your way.
Rumsfeld: Terrific, Steve. Thank you so much. It's always good to be with you.
Gill: Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld doing a great job. We appreciate your being with us this morning and we'll talk with you again soon.
Rumsfeld: Terrific. I look forward to it.
Gill: Thank you.