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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with El Mercurio Daily Newspaper, Chile

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 18, 2002

(Interview with Tamara Avetikian of El Mercurio Daily Newspaper, Santiago, Chile)

Q: You have told the press that you are looking for more cooperation with the governments of the hemisphere and that is why you are coming here to this meeting. You said terrorism and drug trafficking were the threats you are trying to manage together.

Rumsfeld: Rather than trying to respond to something that you read in the press that was inaccurate, why don't I just tell you why I am here. It would be easier, because I saw one reference to something that didn't have any connection to me. It was inaccurate.

The reason I am here is because I am a defense minister in the hemisphere and this is the fifth hemisphere defense ministerial meeting and I wanted to be here. We were all asked if we had thoughts or suggestions for the meeting. We in the United States had a couple of suggestions. One was that we find ways to have somewhat greater cooperation with respect to our navies, and exercise and practice together in ways that we would be able to improve our interoperability and our effectiveness. Not just the United States, but regionally here.

The second initiative that we suggested be discussed or considered would be the issue of unoccupied parts of countries where sometimes terrorists, and narco-traffickers, and hostage takers, and arms smugglers...

Q: We are talking about Colombia?

Rumsfeld: I am talking about the whole world, but there is no question that there is a difficulty in Colombia. There are also portions of Yemen where that is an issue. There are other parts of the world: Somalia, there are portions of the Philippines where the government is now reestablishing control, where the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. So it is something the world is living with, and because of the power of weapons today--the lethality-it is important that we recognize those new threats and talk about them and consider how we as countries can best deal with them.

Q: You said-well, I don't know if you really said it-that Al Qaeda members would try to hide here...

Rumsfeld: I didn't say anything like that.

Q: No? Really?

Rumsfeld: You should ask me questions. Instead of repeating things that are not accurate you should just ask me something.

Q: Because we have great concerns about what we read, so...

Rumsfeld: I never said anything like that.

Q: No? Really? Good, because there is no evidence that those people are here, or try to hide here.

Rumsfeld: I did not say that, either.

Q: No? Really?

Rumsfeld: I did not say there were and I did not say there were not.

Q: Ah, you did not say there were not. But is there concern about that?

Rumsfeld: There is. There is certainly a concern about terrorist networks in the world. There is no question but that there are a number of networks. They have trained thousands of people. They are raising money in different continents. They are purchasing arms in different continents. They are using borders to their advantage by moving back and forth across borders in ways that frustrate their being stopped. They are using some countries as transit points, and it is something the entire world needs to think about and address.

In the old days, in the last century, we were dealing essentially with conventional weapons. That being the case, the threat to the respective countries was one of drugs, and conventional arms, and some hostage takers. Today, terrorist networks have relationships with terrorist states that have weapons of mass destruction: chemical and biological weapons. So, the danger is a greater one in the 21st century than it was before.

Q: I didn't want to talk about Iraq yet, but you have just said something... When you are talking about countries that have weapons of mass destruction and that support terrorism, are you talking about Iraq?

Rumsfeld: What I was talking about is there are six or seven countries that are agreed and labeled as terrorist states. They are Iran, and Iraq, and North Korea, and Cuba, and Syria, and Libya. They have been on the terrorist list for many, many years. Most of those countries have weapons of mass destruction. Most of them have chemical weapons. A number of them have biological weapons, and a number of them are developing nuclear weapons. In one case, North Korea, they have already announced that they have nuclear weapons. So, it is that category of country that has those capabilities to kill thousands and thousands of people, and they have relations with terrorist networks like Hizbollah, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and a number of other ones that are well known.

Q: But the States are now focusing on Iraq, not on North Korea or Cuba...

Rumsfeld: You mean the United Nations?

Q: No, the United States.

Rumsfeld: You made a comment. Do you want me to say something about why? Is that your question? Iraq kind of stands out in the sense that it has violated 16, now 17...16 or 17 United Nations resolutions. 16, is it?

Q: I read it in the newspaper, so I'm not sure it is correct.

Rumsfeld: And now they have passed a 17th resolution, and Iraq has to decide what it wants to do about that. President Bush's speech to the United Nations led to a unanimous Security Council resolution, and I think the reason was that the United Nations in order to be relevant, to have any standing in the world, cannot have 16 resolutions ignored by a country. If they really don't care, they should not pass resolutions. If they do care, they ought to pass resolutions and then not simply sit there year after year after year and have the country, in this case Iraq, ignore those resolutions. And that's one of the reasons that Iraq...

The second reason is that Iraq has already used chemical weapons against its own people, and against its neighbors, so it is kind of a distinctively different situation with Iraq.

Q: So, after the last resolution, we have some time before we know if Iraq will try to cheat again, or try to tell the truth. You have been with Saddam Hussein, quite a few years ago, but you met him. I am sure you have studied his character during these months, I suppose. What is your bet? He will say the truth, or he will lie again or try to hide his weapons?

Rumsfeld: Certainly, if the United Nations is willing to let him get away with it, he will lie again. That has been his pattern. Nothing has happened in the last year or two that would suggest that he would suddenly change. If the United Nations decides not to let him get away with it again, then I don't know the answer to your question. He has several choices: he could pack up his family and go to another country...

Q: To Libya, I suppose.

Rumsfeld: Well, there is discussion of that.

Q: He speaks Italian.

Rumsfeld: That's a possibility. A number of leaders of countries have decided they were in a corner and they had no choice and, rather than have a conflict in their country, or rather than have their family and friends killed, that they will leave. So, that is a possibility.

Another possibility is that he will try to do what he has done repeatedly before: to lie, and to pretend-as he is already saying-that they do not have weapons of mass destruction and see how long he can fool the inspectors.

Another possibility would be simply to say, "Fair enough. We've got them, and you can come in and we will destroy them and life will go on." And try to stay in office that way. Try to keep his regime intact that way. Which of those three courses of action he will end up taking I think is probably a function of how the world behaves as much as how he behaves.

If there is a determination and a steadiness of purpose, so that the countries of the world and the United Nations demonstrate to him that he really does not have a lot of choices; he does not have the choice of not disarming. Then, he may decide one thing. If, on the other hand, the world community and the United Nations do what they have done repeatedly during recent years and show a lack of steadiness, a lack of purpose and a tolerance level to accept his lies, then his choices are quite different and they are much more advantageous to him. So, it seems to me that that is kind of a judgment that every country has to decide how they want to behave, and how they want to handle this.

Q: Now we have the deadline of the 8th of December for the list that Iraq has to give to inspectors. What is the United States waiting for Saddam to give in that list? The real thing or, if the United States considers that the list is not full enough...

Rumsfeld: There are three choices he has: he can say he has nothing, which would not be true; he could say he has decided to give them all up, and give a complete accounting, and say, "Inspectors, come in and look. I want to stay in office, but I'll disarm and not have those weapons;" or he could do this. He could say, "Well I do have some." And not tell the full truth. He has those choices.

Q: And in that case the United States is going to go to the Security Council immediately to ask for an attack or give another choice...

Rumsfeld: My impression is that the inspectors can make a judgment as to whether or not they think it is correct, and go to the Security Council; any member of the Security Council can go to the Security Council; and, I would think that probably the secretary-general, Kofi Annan, could decide to raise it with the Security Council.

Q: So, you are leaving the decisions to the Security Council? Because I have heard Colin Powell saying that you reserve the right to attack without asking.

Rumsfeld: The president has said something like that. Any member state has the right to do that. So, I have no idea what the president would decide.

Q: What would you recommend?

Rumsfeld: I only give my recommendations to him privately.

Q: What are you going to say tomorrow, because your speech is tomorrow?

Rumsfeld: We are going to release it tomorrow.

Q: No. Tell me something to put in my headline.

Rumsfeld: I am going to say that I am here because I think it is an important meeting, and that I appreciate the hospitality of the Chilean government and the Ministry of Defense...look at, she wants something.

Q: Yes, I want something. You are not going to say anything? What did you talk about with President Lagos?

Rumsfeld: I had a wonderful discussion with him. We talked about the global war on terrorism, we talked about the ministerial meeting, we discussed your country's upcoming role as a member of the Security Council and the kinds of issues that will be facing the Security Council during that period. We discussed Iraq.

Q: And he will support America's position?

Rumsfeld: He is the president of this country and is perfectly capable of discussing anything he wants to with the press. I don't speak for presidents, mine or others.