Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Jerry Agar KMBZ News Radio 980 Kansas City, Kan.
Agar: Thank you for doing this.
Rumsfeld: You bet. Happy to do it, Jerry.
Agar: All right. Headlines today refer to your comments that an insurgency could last 12 years, and some Americans now seem to be all the more willing to give up. How do you think Americans should react to your comment?
Rumsfeld: Well, the statement is not a statement that I made. I was asked about insurgencies generically and I said insurgencies around the world through history have lasted varying times -- two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve years sometimes. I did not predict a 12 year insurgency in Iraq, and anyone who carried it that way was misinformed.
Agar: All right. Ted Kennedy is in the news this morning paralleling Vietnam and Iraq. I just want to play you a very short clip from him making that parallel in his mind.
"One, is that the Americans weren't given the facts about Vietnam. And secondly, we always believed that there was a military solution to a political problem."
How do you react to that?
Rumsfeld: Well, the first thing I would say is the American people are being given so many facts on this conflict in Iraq that it's like a deluge, it's of historic proportions in terms of the information that's available. We've embedded reporters, we have now got 24 hour news and talk radio and digital cameras and e-mails and bloggers. There's so much information on what's going on in Iraq that it's like a flood tide.
The second point I'd make with respect to Ted Kennedy's Vietnam comparison, is that there's no one I know who thinks that there's a military solution to the insurgency. The situation is that the insurgency is going to be defeated by the Iraqi people, by the Iraqi government, by the Iraqi security forces over a period of time, not by the United States, not by the coalition. What needs to be done is to see that there's a political track and things move forward with the constitution drafting and with the election under there, and that that process persuades the Iraqi people that they should not support an insurgency. In fact, they should do just the opposite, they should go against the insurgents and they should provide information to their Iraqi security forces about insurgents and where they're located and how they might be captured or killed.
So I guess that would be my response to what you said.
Agar: You know, I was over in Iraq in April, and I met a lot of soldiers.
Agar: And I met people on the streets of Baghdad, and I saw and heard from the soldiers that they were so positive, and there were people that came running up to the soldiers to shake their hands, and I saw them give fresh-baked bread to the soldiers. And just a little bit ago, as you and General Casey were giving a briefing, General Casey said the troops wonder why there's a disconnect between what they see and what the Americans at home see. Why is there a disconnect there?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know. Everyone I talk to who goes to Iraq and comes back, say they are just amazed at the difference between their impressions from what they've heard in the media and see on television, and what they actually saw first-hand in Iraq. I suppose part of that is because the news media seem to want to carry the negative, and the news media doesn't present on television every day, the large number of people who are killed in car accidents, or the large number of people who are homicide victims in the United States every day. Maybe if they did, there would be fewer car accidents and less homicides. But they do carry every act of violence that occurs in Iraq it seems, over and over and over. And the net impression of that is they don't talk about the fact that the schools are open and the hospitals are functioning or the stock market's there, or that in large chunks of the country it's relatively peaceful. Some 14 out of 18 provinces and a number of the provinces are currently under Iraqi control for all practical purposes, and that it's a sovereign nation. Those things seem not to get emphasized to the same extent that the violence does. So the impression that the people have here is of violence, and the impression people have in Iraq is of a more balanced situation.
Agar: Yeah, and I find it frustrating because I come back and I say this is what I saw and it squares with other people who have gotten out on the streets, from Oliver North, to a reporter from Kansas who embeds with the Marines over there named J.D. Johannes. We all kind of compare notes and say we're not seeing over there on the street what we see on television, and it's frustrating to me because I know some people don't believe me. It must be hugely frustrating to you.
Rumsfeld: Well it is. If you think about it, fortunately about 265 Members of the House of Representatives, correction, of the United States Congress, and some of them, 57 Senators have been over to Iraq and come back and have seen what's going on. Eighteen of the Members have been there more than once. I don't believe Senator Kennedy's been there at all.
Agar: Well, maybe it's time, and he can stay, as far as I'm concerned, but you don't have to comment on that.
One of the people calling for a date of withdrawal from Iraq, tragically for me, is a friend of mine. It's Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina. What would you like me to tell him on that issue?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think each person has to make up their own mind on something like that, as the President and I have both said, and certainly General Abizaid and General Casey. The disadvantages of setting a fixed date for a timetable to leave are obvious. It tells the enemy all you have to do is wait us out. It tells our forces that are there, that anything they do between now and that deadline date, if they get killed or wounded it's really not for any purpose of any note, and why should they do that? I just can't imagine why you'd want to go out and try to do your job if you know you're just going to toss in the towel in a matter of weeks. And obviously it tells the Iraqi people that the effort that's underway there is likely to fail, and that their future is going to be to turn back to darkness and repression and violence.
If you think about it, the mass graves that Saddam Hussein filled up involved hundreds of thousands of people. He used chemical weapons on his neighbors and his own people. He gave $25,000 to suicide bombers, to the families of survivors, to the surviving family members of suicide bombers. This is a country that, were it to turn back into a terrorist training camp and support terrorism, it would be a terrible thing for the region and it would be a terrible thing for the United States and the free world and free people everywhere.
Agar: Another area where there seems to be a disconnect, perhaps what you would see, and what you would tell us, and what much of the media is carrying, is Guantanamo Bay. Has anything happened at GTMO that you're embarrassed about?
Rumsfeld: You know, the Guantanamo Bay situation is an interesting one. There's so much misinformation flying around on that subject.
There have been a few allegations of misbehavior down there, but they have all been investigated and in any instance where it was validated, the people were convicted and punished. But for the most part I've heard people on television say there have been a hundred people killed at Guantanamo. It's just utter nonsense. There hasn't been anyone that I know of that's died at Guantanamo of anything other than a natural death and I don't know of anyone who's died of a natural death.
Agar: But the perception out there is different. I said that to somebody in the hall the other day, nobody died at GTMO, and the guy went, "That's a lie. Eighteen people have died." It's amazing that there's a different story out there.
Rumsfeld: Well, there is. If you think of the people down there, these are people all of whom were captured on a battlefield. They're terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, UBL's body guards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th hijacker, 9/11 hijacker. We're learning a great deal of information about how al-Qaida operates, and able to stop other terrorist attacks. The transparency's just been enormous. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been down there since the beginning. Their media's had over 400 visits by a thousand journalists. Lawyers for detainees go down there. Congressmen and Senators go down there. I'm amazed at the misinformation that's flying around.
The one thing that I will say about Guantanamo is, that there is some legitimate discussion on the subject of how a person who is an unlawful combatant ought to be -- what process they ought to be put through. Should they go through Article 3 of our Constitution and be treated like a criminal in the United States? Should they go through the Uniform Code of Military Justice? Or should as the President decided, they be handled in what we call military commissions as was handled in World War II? And should we treat them more like a person who, a terrorist who if he got out, would try to kill people again? In fact 12 of them have already gotten out, we've released them by mistake, and they've gone right back to the battlefield. But should we treat them like terrorists who we can't let get out, or should we treat them like common criminals who have a trial, you sentence them, after a year or two you let them loose, and they can go back and do some more of that? The answer is, I think they're very different from a common criminal, just as other people in previous wars have felt prisoners of war were different from common criminals.
Agar: Mr. Secretary, I know you've got to go, but just take a moment, because you’ve got something called “America Supports You.”
Rumsfeld: We do. We have a wonderful web site called AmericaSupportsYou.mil. They are putting on that web site all the things that people are doing, ingenious things that people are doing to support the troops, to support the wounded who have come back, to support the families of those who have died, to support the families of those who have people serving in combat zones, and I hope that all your listeners will give some thought, if they'd like to find a way to be helpful, to go into that web site, AmericaSupportsYou.mil, and seeing what they might like to do. Their club or their school, or their class or their family, because these folks over there, the men and women in uniform are doing an absolutely superb job for our country and we are very much in their debt. And I don't doubt for a minute but that they and their families are going to look back in five or ten years and recognize the historic accomplishment that they have achieved and feel a great deal of pride as they should.
Agar: Go to KMBZ.Com and you can link to AmericaSupportsYou.mil in case you're driving home and forget that as you get there. Look it up.
And Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, thanks for talking to Kansas City today.
Rumsfeld: Thank you so much, Jerry, it was good to be with you.
Agar: Great. Thank you.