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Secretary Rumfeld Interview With Fox TV Prague

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 21, 2002

(Interview with Fox TV in Prague)

Q: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us. We're told that the U.S. is contacting some 52 nations to ask them what kind of assistance they might offer if it becomes necessary to take military action in Iraq. It sounds like the U.S. is getting its ducks in a row in case military action needs to be taken.

Rumfeld : Well, the president has indicated that it's his intention that Iraq disarm. The United Nations, through a unanimous vote in the Security Council, indicated it's their intention that Iraq disarm. The reason that Iraq is now allowing inspectors in is because of the very visible threat of the use of force. Prior to that, they weren't willing to let anyone do anything. They just kept telling the world that they didn't have weapons of mass destruction, when in fact they do. What we've done is gone to countries and said, look, no decision has been made, but in the event force becomes necessary - which we hope it doesn't, the president says force is the last choice, not the first - it's appropriate that that type of planning and thought go into it. And so those discussions are taking place.

Q: Why now, why at this particular juncture?

Rumfeld: Well, actually we've started previously. It's just now the fact that we've done this and been talking to countries has started to come out. We've talked to a number of countries over the past weeks and months.

Q: Do you think that Saddam Hussein is now convinced that the U.S. and its allies are not bluffing?

Rumfeld: I hope so. I hope so. It seems to me that he's got several choices. He can decide to pack up and leave the country, that the game's up and that he's going to be caught violating 16 UN resolution and he might as well leave and work out a deal some place and go live somewhere. And that's possible.

Q: You don't have any indications that he's thinking that, do you?

Rumfeld: No, but I'm sure there are people in Iraq that would like him to do that.

Q: Just like that?

Rumsfeld: Well, I'm sure he would. First of all, he's got all kinds of ways of moving around. He's got a bunch of doubles. The second possibility is that he could turn over a new leaf and decide, fair enough. The game's up. I'll let the inspectors in. I'll show them what we've got. Let them destroy it all, and maybe I can hang on and survive. And the third possibility is that he makes the mistake he's made before and says he doesn't have anything and that he's got going to leave. And then the use of force occurs.

Q: Why even go through the U.N. with Iraq? You've expressed doubts, as has the vice president, about the efficiency of arms inspections and what they generate. It seems that Saddam's strategy, if we look at the past, would be to cheat around the edges, to stall, not to do anything that would unite the Security Council. Doesn't that carry the risk that we could be thrown into limbo here for who knows how long?

Rumfeld: It does. Yes, it does. The president knew that. He looked at the pluses and the minuses and said, look, there are disadvantages. We can get into our quagmire, where he strings along the U.N. Every time they are almost ready to find something, then he stops them. Then they get mad, and then he finds a way to acquiesce. He's a professional at this. He's so much better at relations, in jerking the press around, than anyone in the United States or the western world that he's quite good at. The president saw that and said, well, that's the disadvantage. The advantage is, people have a chance to think about it, talk about it. It's a new security environment we're in the 21st century. It's different. People do need to get comfortable with the fact that, historically we've been organized to train and equip to deal with armies, navies, and air forces in other countries. Here there's no country, in the case of al Qaeda. There's no army, navy, or air force that's a particular impediment. And the yet the threat is a very, very serious, lethal threat. And so we need time to think about that, and I think the President made the right judgment. And if and when something is required by the way of force, he will have a large coalition of willing countries. Think about it. Today, the coalition in the war against terrorism is 90 nations, the biggest coalition in the history of mankind.

Q: The next moment of truth for Saddam is December 8, when he has to make a full reparation of what weapons of mass destruction he has. They've already said they're going to say they have none. If they do that, which we believe to be completely false, will that in and of itself be a material breach, or do we wait for evidence from the inspectors?

Rumsfeld: I think there's two ways to think of material breach. One is that it is an issue that gets debated, discussed. The Security Council seized the issue. Nations talk about it and then decide that in their own view it is or isn't, in which case that gets ended. If they decided it was not a material breach, the U.N. Security Council, or decided they didn't want to seize the issue, any country is perfectly free to go ahead and do what they wish to do. There's no question that already there is a large coalition of countries that has indicated that really, without a U.N. resolution, they would be willing to participate in the coalition to do what is necessary.

Q: Obviously, we will be keeping a bill of particulars even if the rest of the Security Council doesn't agree that every little action is a material breach.

Rumsfeld: Yes, I think that's really a call that each country is going to make, and the President of the United States and the world opinion will decide those kinds of things.

Q: Let's talk about NATO. This is an amazing week.

Rumfeld: It really is. It's just been thrilling.

Q: I mean, not only are we taking in seven more nations into NATO from Eastern Europe - the president said the other day the Warsaw Pact is becoming NATO - but you also have three nations that were part of the old Soviet Union. The interesting thing to me is that many of these nations have a much fresher taste of what repression and totalitarianism mean. And, while some of our West European allies seem to paralyzed by navel-gazing from time to time, the Eastern Europeans seem to have a much sharper view of quest for freedom. Is that fair?

Rumsfeld: It is. It's exactly on the mark. These countries that have suffered the lost of their freedom value it tremendously. And there's no question they bring an energy and enthusiasm and perspective that really will be a wonderful thing for this alliance. One of the prime ministers who spoke today, very eloquently said that the single word that reflects what took place today is the word "hope." This reflects the hope of these countries that lost their freedom decades ago but never lost their desire to be free. And they hope that their involvement in this institution will revitalize it and reenergize it and the hope that it will live in peace with its neighbors. It's been quite a day.

Q: It is a fascinating time. In terms of NATO, though, there does seem to be a risk. NATO operates on consensus. We now have 26 nations. It's hard to imagine an event that will get all 26 nations, especially all the Western Europeans, to agree to anything. Is that a risk for NATO, and is part of the advantage of bringing in all these nations is we'll now have a larger list of people who are perhaps willing and able to go on the ground with U.S. forces if they are asked?

Rumsfeld: Several things. First, out of this meeting today will come a statement, a communiqué, that's unanimous, that achieved a consensus from the current NATO members. And it's a good communiqué. A NATO response force, which is an important step forward on streamlining the command structure, which is important. And also a very forward-leaning statement on Iraq, supporting the U.N. resolution and the recognizing the fact that the threat of force is what has moved the diplomacy and moved the inspectors into Iraq, because they weren't there. Does the fact that there are seven more coming in create a greater likelihood that you'd lose a consensus? I don't think so.

Q: But about the Western European allies who are already there, who the president suggested might be a little inward-looking?

Rumsfeld: I think your point about the advantage of having those countries in there is the central point. And I think that you're right. And it's fair enough. NATO doesn't have to do everything in the world. But if NATO for some reason decided it did not want to achieve a consensus on a given activity, and yet three-quarters or four-fifths of the countries did, you do have a larger group of countries that are coordinated, interoperable, have trained together and exercised together. And that's an important capability.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.