(Interview with CNN TV Prague)
Q: Thanks for joining us Mr. Secretary. The president the other day gave the impression that if Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government as promised on December 8, say they have no weapons of mass destruction that the U.S. will begin a military action without waiting from U.N. weapons inspectors.
Rumsfeld: I think the correct interpretation is that the president has determined that Saddam Hussein disarm consistent with the 16, now 17, U.N. resolutions. And my feeling is that what he would do is accept such a declaration as an indication by Saddam Hussein that he was unwilling to disarm and unwilling to cooperate with the U.N. inspectors, but what precisely he would do or where he might do it - whether in the U.N. or elsewhere - I think is a question for the president.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in July in press conference you commented that weapons inspectors would be ineffective. Do you still hold to that position and if so why is the United States going through with this if you feel that they would be ineffective?
Rumsfeld: I think what I said, or what I hope I said, was that inspectors tend to be successful when there is a voluntary compliance on the part of the country that they are inspecting, that is to say, a country that invites in inspectors, opening up their country to prove to the international community that in fact what they are saying is true, then inspections can work. My view of the past - with respect to Saddam Hussein - is that he spent all of his time trying to deceive inspectors and trying to prevent them from having knowledge of exactly what he has. And we know he has weapons of mass destruction, and thus far he denies it. So that situation suggests that he is not in a position of inviting in inspectors for the purpose of proving to the world that he doesn't have those weapons. The reason the president decided to go into the United Nations and accept the reality that inspections might not work was that he concluded that war is the last choice, not the first choice and that Saddam Hussein might see the seriousness of purpose, the resolution, on the part of the international community as a sign that the game was up and that it was time for him to maybe leave the country and go somewhere else with his family and friends. It might be that he would change his mind and open his country up and say that, "Well, I'd rather stay in power that I'm willing to give up my weapons of mass destruction. Now, the problem with that is that he has forgone billions and billions and billions of dollars over the years because he is so determined to have weapons of mass destruction. And it is unlikely for him to do that. And, admittedly, you can get into a relatively long period of time where the inspectors are hidden from one thing and they are prevented from another thing. The president weighted that and decided that the advantage of going to the United Nations and of trying the inspection route one last time was - the advantage was - that other countries would see the fact that there was a very serious problem in the twentieth, twenty-first, century with Iraq and that they have time to think through the change in our security environment and then, in the event that force has to be used, there would be a larger coalition with a broader community of support, and very likely any use of force would take much less time, which would be preferable and probably represent a lower level of loss of life. I am not in a position to indicate what judgment he might make or what judgment other members of the international community might make.
Q: Sir, Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense and chairman of your defense policy board has been highly critical of Hans Blix, the Swedish diplomat who is the chief U.N. weapons inspector. Do you share Mr. Perle's views or do you have full confidence in Mr. Blix?
Rumsfeld: Richard Perle is speaking for himself and not speaking as an official of the U.S. Government. I don't know Mr. Blix. I do think that any inspector would have a very difficult time being successful if the nation and the government, the regime, was determined to frustrate their efforts. And I think that most rational people who observe these things would agree with that.
Q: Mr. Secretary you're in your old stomping ground NATO - you were the U.S. ambassador to NATO some 30 years ago. You just admitted seven new former Eastern Block members into NATO. Do you envision that NATO will have any kind of important role if there is a military operation against Iraq.
Rumsfeld: There is no question but a large number of NATO countries would be participating in one way or another. Today, bringing in seven new members from Warsaw Pact countries and former republics within the Soviet Union was a thrilling, thrilling experience. I am convinced that the energy and enthusiasm that these countries bring, having lost their freedom and being without it for decades, to have their freedom back and then to be able to assure their security by participating in this western alliance, the most important alliance on the earth, I think is just a wonderful thing and I was moved, very deeply by the statements that were made by the prime ministers and presidents that were recently invited to join. Bob, if you think about it, NATO invoked the article that says that an attack against one is an attack against all immediately after September 11, and the Alliance rose to the challenge, they were flying AWAC's aircraft over the United States to help relieve the stress on our forces. They had 90 nations now, including the NATO nations, have joined in a coalition against the global war on terrorism and it is that cooperation and that effectiveness that I think is so important in dealing with this very new set of challenges that we face in the world. NATO was organized and trained and equipped to deal with armies, navies and air forces. And here we are, we're dealing terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction in the hand of a terrorist state, states, which is a very different kind of threat and it is important that these nations come together and operate together and train together and exercise together so that we will have the effectiveness and can transform, individually and collectively, our capabilities to deal with these new threats.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, your old friend and former colleague of Kenneth Adelman was a member of the defense policy board and has said on may occasions that a military operation against Iraq and Saddam Hussein would be a "cake-walk." Do you share that analysis?
Rumfeld: No, I really don't. I think any time the use of force is a possibility, people have to recognize that it is your last choice, not your first, that anytime peoples' lives are going to be put at risk you have to recognize that the history of warfare is one of surprise and of things unfolding that were difficult to anticipate. So, I think that the Desert Storm lasted a relatively few number of days. It's true there were a great many of Iraqi soldiers who had no stomach for defending the Iraqi regime and Saddam Hussein. Seventy, eighty thousand of them defected and changed sides almost instantaneously. So I suppose someone looking at that could say, "Well, it could be relatively easy." On the other hand, notwithstanding the fact that Saddam Hussein's forces are considerably weaker today than they were then and our forces are considerably stronger, the fact remains that the existence of weapons of mass destruction changed the equation. And so the very reason why it's important for him to disarm also changes the circumstance quite substantially, and one has to be sensitive to those risks.
Q: We're almost out of time sir but the big question for Donald Rumsfeld , some military officers tell me that the U.S. military is stretched too thin. Do you believe that any expansion is needed to meet our responsibilities in the world?
Rumsfeld: Of course, we have already expanded our manpower by some seventy thousand guards and reserves being called up. We are now down, I believe, around forty-eight thousand that are still on active duty. And we've asked a number of people, who were due to get out of the service, to stay in, and that number was about twenty thousand. So we're doing two things: we're using the total force concept, the guard and reserve - and, goodness knows, they're doing a wonderful job and their employers have been cooperative, their families have been supportive and we're very much in their debt. We're doing one other thing and that's we're trying to stop doing things with men and women in uniform that aren't military assignments. So we're trying to, we're phasing down some of our operations elsewhere in the world in an orderly way. We're also trying to move military people from civilian functions into military functions. And we're also trying to use contractors and civilians for things like force protection in the United States and various other assignments that don't necessarily require men and women in uniform. We're balancing all of that and trying to do it in a thoughtful way. And I think so far we have been able to do so.
Thank you, Bob.
Q: Thank you very much.
Rumsfeld: Okay. Oh, it's been terrific. It really has.