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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with El Tiempo, Bogota, Colombia

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 19, 2003

Q: How was the meeting with President Uribe and the Colombian Generals?

Rumsfeld: Just terrific! I have a great deal of respect for him. He is a man of vision. He is a man of personal courage. He is an individual who is purposeful. I have met with him previously and each time I am with him I come away thinking that the world would be a somewhat better place if we had more leaders of his talent and his determination.

Q: What did you talk about with the Generals?

Rumsfeld: We had a good meeting at the Ministry of Defense. We had lunch with them first. We had a very long discussion on every conceivable topic. Then we went over to the Ministry of Defense and had a meeting specifically with them. General Mora talked at some length about his plan and where he feels they are with respect to the progress here in Colombia and the relationship between the United States and the Military of Colombia. It was a very a good meeting. The Minister was there, and General Mora, as well as the senior military officials.

Q: Three days ago, President Uribe was very angry with some results of military operations. Do you know something about that?

Rumsfeld: I don’t.

Q: The Minister of Defense talks about the Colombian need for real-time satellite information. Did you talk about that?

Rumsfeld: That subject came up. The militaries of the world are organized to fight armies, navies and air forces, and they get good at that. They organize, they train, they equip, they practice and have exercises; and all of a sudden we are in a world where the problem is not so much with armies, navies or air forces but with terrorist networks, terrorist organizations, asymmetric threats, cyber attacks, problems with attacks on space capabilities. What that does is it suddenly changes circumstances for the military, and what they have to do is to pause and recognize that they have to adjust how they organize, how they train, how they equip, how they maneuver, how they operate, and it calls for a more agile military. It calls for a greater use of special operations forces that are distinctive in the kinds of things they do. It puts a much greater premium on intelligence gathering and it requires the fusing of intelligence, the different types of intelligence: human intelligence and electronic intelligence, satellite intelligence. She is right to focus on those things because they are one element in the new security environment that free people are now living in and we have to learn how to live in that environment. So, there are things that can be done that will better equip us to live in this security environment.

Q: Can we expect some changes in training of the Colombia troops, more equipment?

Rumsfeld: Sure, not for everybody, but for elements of our militaries, ours and NATO, and Colombia’s and other countries; we are all asking questions. What are the lessons that we have learned in the last five years, what does it tell us about the kinds of things that we have to learn to do differently and better, what will happen? General Hill, who has been meeting with the Colombian military, will come back to the United States at some point and General Myers who was just here, and there will be discussions and asking the question what are the kinds of things that as the Colombian government and military have success, their circumstances changed somewhat, and therefore how we can work with them and be helpful to them changes somewhat as well.

They will be looking to refine that relationship as they go through the coming weeks and months. I suspect that the way we are working together today is different than we were a year ago, and a year ago is different than the year before that, and next year will be different as well because of the kinds of changes and adjustments that will be made.

Q: How do you see the damage that drugs are doing to the region?

Rumsfeld: Drugs are an enormous problem for the world. The damage that it does to human lives and the million of dollars that it puts in the hands of criminals, terrorists, hostage takers, people who are trying to deny freedom and opportunity to other people; it poses a very serious threat to the world. Drugs are fueling terrorism and terrorist networks and it is something that like-thinking people need to work together to deal with. It is a regional problem, it is a global problem in a very real sense. It is not simply a problem that one country can deal with alone. The drug problem, if you isolate it, is in many respects a demand problem as well as supply problem and it is an education problem. I don’t know how much more education the world ought to need, when you see the carnage from heroine and cocaine, spread in country after country, the human damage that is done. But it is more than just that problem. Those billions of dollars are available to people who are willing to sell drugs and do that damage and who are antisocial, who do not believe in legitimate governments, and free people, and civil societies, and normal behavior. They are people who take hostages; they are people who try to terrorize other people. It is in the interest of all like-thinking people who want to be free and want to live sensible lives to be against that with determination and conviction. As I say, I am enormously impressed with this national security team’s conviction as well as the success that it achieves.

Q: Did your see the story a couple of weeks ago that the U.S. Government compared Venezuela with Syria?

Rumsfeld: I am told that is not true. I don’t know; I wasn’t here. And the U.S. government doesn’t have a voice, so it had to be a person as opposed to a government. Right? Buildings don’t talk. I was told that by somebody else and they corrected the questioner and said that they didn’t think that is what that gentleman said. I was not there so I don’t know. I am old fashioned; I like to engage my brain before my mouth.

Q: We have a kind of a peace process with paramilitary groups known as a terrorist organization, with the AUC.

Rumsfeld: That is something that the Colombian Government is engaged in. To the extent the United States is knowledgeable about it, it would be to the Department of State, not the Department of Defense. I am not up to speed on it. All I would say is that in life things tend not to be simple, they tend not to be all one way; they tend not to be only military, or only political, or only economic, or only diplomatic. It does not surprise me that if you look in other countries in the world, there are terrorist organizations that are in discussions with government. Sometimes they are successful; sometimes they are not. In this instance, I am not knowledgeable enough to talk about it.

Q: They are talking about freezing the extradition process in the government, so that involves the American Government.

Rumsfeld: In another department, so I will take a pass.

Moderator: You have time for one last question.

Rumsfeld: Make it a pill.

Q: You don’t travel very often. How come we are one of those few countries you go to?

Rumsfeld: I travel to places that are important to the United States and the Department of Defense. I travel to places where we are engaged in some sort of partnership or alliance or relationship. I travel to places where we have U.S. Military people engaged. We are in the same hemisphere. Colombia is an important country in this hemisphere. It is a country that is on the front line of the global war on terrorism. It is a country that I felt I wanted to show and demonstrate my support for, and my encouragement and respect.

Thank you.

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