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Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on "Bill Bennett's Morning In America"

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 22, 2006
BENNETT: Bill Bennett, "Morning in America." Much awaited, the United States Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld, joins us this morning. Good morning, Secretary.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Good morning, Bill. How are you?

BENNETT: Great. Thanks for joining us.

We wanted to name our new puppy Rummy, but I lost.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

BENNETT: Now, there are people in this town who would say, "I wouldn't name my dog Rummy," you know.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

BENNETT: You've probably heard some of that.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, your family has good judgment.

BENNETT: (Chuckles.)

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

BENNETT: Well, you have excellent judgment yourself in a wife. And one of the questions was, what's your wife's -- what's your favorite recipe of Joyce Rumsfeld? Do you have one that can pick out?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You know, I am the easiest person in the world when it comes to food. That dear lady, she produces whatever it is -- Welsh rarebit or all kinds of things -- and I just enjoy it thoroughly.

BENNETT: Oh --

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We've been married 51 years, and she's terrific.

BENNETT: That's terrific. That's terrific. I'm -- unfortunately, I'm a soft touch for food, too, but in a different way.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

BENNETT: Listen, I want -- I know you want to talk about the America Supports You program. Why don't we do that off the top, and then we'll get to the listeners' questions.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Good.

This program is really a website that is -- has accumulated all the things that people around the country are doing to help the troops and support the troops and to support their families. And if anyone goes to AmericaSupportsYou.mil, what they'll see is what individuals and corporations and schools and churches and families have decided they can do, personally, to be supportive of the troops. And it's just been a wonderful thing. It shows a lot about America and how compassionate the American people are and how supportive they are.

BENNETT: Right. All right. We'll put a link up and -- at our site. We have it up already, so people can get to it.

Let's start with this thing that, you know, everybody said to me before the show, you know, all around Washington: "Well, are you going to ask him about, you know, the people calling for his resignation?" I see you've already addressed that. You've said you've offered it to the president, if he wants it. The president doesn't want it. The president wants you in the job, you stay in the job. Is that basically it?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's it.

BENNETT: Well, okay. (Chuckles.)

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Chuckles.)

BENNETT: What else is to be said?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

BENNETT: I mean, I -- good. Fine. Let's move on.

The Shi'a against Shi'a -- what can we do? What can the military do about that when you've got Shi'a on Shi'a? This really complicates things, doesn't it? People have asked that, and they've said: Is there a way to take the militias down, these militias that are acting in the name of the government?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Actually, there are militias -- there are various militias.

BENNETT: Right.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: And the peshmerga, for example, are not doing violence to anybody. They're the Kurdish force up north.

BENNETT: Right.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: And then there's Sadr's people, the Mahdi Army, and they are people who have engaged in sectarian violence.

And then there's the Iranian Qods Force that are operating, to some extent, in the country.

You say Shi'a on Shi'a. I would describe it as a mixture of crime, criminals; Sunni, in attacks against Shi'a --

BENNETT: Right.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: -- and Shi'a attacks against Sunni; and undoubtedly conflict within those sects as well.

But the basic message there is that what's happening is that there are a lot of Muslims killing innocent men, women and children who are Muslims, and that is a shame for that country. If you think about it, 12 million people went out and voted in the last election and said they want a free system, they want to have a constitution, they want to have elections, they want to be at peace with their neighbors. And yet, a small minority, a very small minority continue to engage in this violence. And it doesn't take a genius to kill innocent men, women and children. You can just take a bomb and blow it up in a restaurant or something. And that's what's happening, and it's a shame for the people in that country.

I think that the government now is starting to get its legs under it and able to make decisions that ought to tell the people of that country that there is a better way than killing each other.

BENNETT: Right. We had what many people regard a critical moment -- I thought it was, too -- the hearings a couple weeks ago, where your guys, Pete Pace and John Abizaid, said, yes, we could be on the verge of civil war, but it's not inevitable. We heard Dan Senor say the same thing. Your assessment of the situation?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yeah, that's exactly right. There's no question there's a high level of sectarian violence, and a lot of people, a lot of innocent Iraqis being killed by other Iraqis.

BENNETT: Right.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: And that's a shame.

In terms of could it go into a civil war? Of course. And that's a possibility. But it -- the people who look at it contend that they're not in it, and the government of Iraq says they're not in a civil war -- although this level of sectarian violence is the kind of thing that people cite when they contend that it is.

BENNETT: By way of segue to the question -- I know you've heard it a million times, but I got to ask it anyway -- Dan Senor said one of the reasons that he thinks we may want to consider more troops -- and that's obviously something for the guys on the ground to call, as you've said over and over again -- is that our troops can be trusted, if you will, not to engage in this, you know, sectarian, you know, group-on-group violence, but that when you equip a group of people there who are not converted to, you know, the doctrines of democracy and fair play, you can make the situation worse. This by way of saying is there a need for more troops, which is a question that keeps coming up. I heard McCain again saying it’s Whac-A-Mole, you know, we take Fallujah, we lose Fallujah, we have to take it again. I know you've heard this. What's your -- what are you seeing there?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, General Casey decided we did need some more troops and asked for them and got them, and moved them into Baghdad and now is engaged in a(n) operation in Baghdad with the Iraqi security forces in an attempt to restore and assure that there's reasonable order in that city. He has been making these judgments. I've been supporting him in his recommendations. It's a tough call, and it's perfectly proper for people to say, "Well, there's too many," or, "There's too few."

The tension between them is that to the extent you have too many, you have the risk of creating a dependency on the part of the Iraqi government so they'll let you do the work instead of they do the work.

Second, you run the risk of creating the impression that you're there to stay forever, looking for their oil, creating an occupation force that's permanent, and you don't want that.

If you have too few, you run the risk that the level of violence is so high that the political progress can't go forward in an orderly way. And that is an art, not a science.

It's a tough set of calls. We now have over 260,000 Iraqi security forces, the bulk of which are behaving in a very responsible way. So who knows? I mean, General Casey and General Abizaid are making their recommendations, and the president and I have been approving them.

BENNETT: Okay. And if they ask for more, they --

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: They got more.

BENNETT: They got more, right.

The president was very good yesterday, very strong, you know, showed that conviction again. And I'm recommending -- I recommended to the White House they borrow a page from Foreign Secretary Downer in Australia, when he went before his parliament and said, "Stop talking to me about whether we should have gotten in or shouldn't have. The question is whether we win or lose. Are you for winning this thing or losing this thing?"

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's exactly right. The consequences -- were we to pull out precipitously and leave that country, you can imagine -- I mean, think of the mischief that Iran is engaged in today, and if you had a situation in Iraq, that was a sponsor of terrorism, and with that oil wealth and with that water wealth and with that population, the difficulties in the Middle East would be compounded.

BENNETT: Secretary Rumsfeld, what would -- what does victory look like? What -- I mean, obviously, we wouldn't be devolving towards civil war. What would be some of the signs, Don Rumsfeld, that victory's, you know, coming to the Iraqi people?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it would be a situation where people increasingly were respectful of the government and supportive of the government, that a reconciliation process got some steam under it and assured the various sectarian elements in the country that they could get a fair shake from the government, that there was a national compact and support from the neighboring countries, which -- Jordan just very recently assigned an ambassador there, for example, which was a good sign.

The basic fundamentals in the country, the economy -- the currency's been stable, the schools are open, the hospitals are open, and many of the provinces are relatively peaceful. Baghdad is not, and there are three or four provinces that have a high degree of sectarian violence going on, but there are 14 that don't have a high degree of sectarian violence.

BENNETT: Sure. But it's interesting the litany, as you put it -- because you can have a democratic state and have a lot of violence. Look at Israel.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You bet.

BENNETT: I mean, they're never free of it.

I know you got to go. One or two more quick questions; you said something very early on in your administration that I tucked away, and that is you said, you know, they are producing them faster than we can address them, the madrassas and so on. You think about military things, you think about broader things. What are your thoughts lately about the generator -- you have the greenhouse -- you got to think about this in regard to London --

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yeah.

BENNETT: -- the citizens of London becoming bombers, you know?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, see, I don't know that I said what you said. I think I wrote a memo that asked the question.

BENNETT: Okay. Okay.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Are the madrassas producing more --

BENNETT: Okay.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: -- terrorists? These extreme radical madrassas, are they producing more terrorists every week or month than we're able to capture or kill?

And I don't know the answer, and I don't think anyone knows the answer to that. But it is a fair question, it seems to me. I asked that back in 2003, I believe. And what I was trying to point out to the people in the Department of Defense was that there's a tendency when you call this a global war on terror to think of it as a war of big militaries -- armies, navies, and air forces -- against armies, navies and air forces, and it is not. It is a totally different thing, and it is not something that the Army is going to be able to prevail and -- or the Navy and have a signing ceremony on the USS Missouri at the end of World War II. It is going to be something that's going to take time. It's going to be a long struggle. It's a struggle basically within the Muslim faith of a small minority of violent extremists against the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are not violent extremists, and we need to find ways to empower and strengthen those moderates who are determined to not have their faith hijacked by these violent extremists.

BENNETT: They need to find their voice, don't they?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: They do indeed.

BENNETT: I want to give you a chance -- sentiment to our audience, but not before I thank you on air. Coming to my book party, you were the star of the party; you got the whole spotlight. It went off me, it was on you.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

BENNETT: All of that was fine, and then, I turn and look, and you are signing my book. I mean, what was going on there?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I've never written a book, Bill, so I -- why shouldn't I sign your book? (Laughs.)

BENNETT: (Laughs.) Well, it was a thrill for everybody who got one.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Continues laughing.)

BENNETT: They wanted your signature not mine.

A final thought, two and a half million people here listening who have a lot of regard and respect for this country, for this president and for you, sir.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, thank you, and let me just say something about our country. You know, if you think about it, the country in the world that people are lined up wanting to come to is the United States, and it's because we are a country that stands for the values that are important and the values that you've written about. And it is a great country. We're a fortunate people to be able to be living in the United States of America.

BENNETT: Thank you, Secretary Rumsfeld. Thank you, Don, very much.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you, Bill. Bye.

BENNETT: Appreciate it. Back to work. Back to work.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Okay.

BENNETT: Terrific.



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