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Radio Interview with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the Kern News/Talk Radio with Inga Barks

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 25, 2006
MS. BARKS: Welcome back. My name is Inga. This is the Inga Barks Show broadcasting live from the White House. Thank you, Oreck Clean Homes Center, for sending me here and giving me the opportunity to meet Donald Rumsfeld, who -- she forewarned you I would call you Uncle Rummy, didn't she?

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

MS. BARKS: That's just so disrespectful!

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, not at all.

MS. BARKS: You've heard that term before, though, right?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure! Of course.

MS. BARKS: You know, you, for me -- whether I vote -- well, I don't agree or disagree with anything you've done militarily because I'm not smart enough to know that stuff. But from the first time I ever saw you post-9/11, when we needed comfort, we had George W. Bush and we had Rummy. He's Uncle Rummy!

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.) Well, thanks --

MS. BARKS: What a huge burden that must be --

SEC. RUMSFELD: It is.

MS. BARKS: And you don't have to do it.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It is, but -- no, I don't. (Laughs.) I do feel fortunate, though, to be -- at a tough time in our country's history, to be able to be serving and to be able to work with these wonderful men and women in uniform that do such amazing things for our country. God bless them and their families, who are so supportive of them.

MS. BARKS: You know, I'm a local girl; I'm from Bakersfield, California. I call my Congressman Thomas -- everybody likes to remind me, getting ready to retire. And just this week we got word that Lester Baroncini, who was a hometown boy who just wanted to be in the military -- I think he was 32 years old, no wife, no children. And I know you hear about these young men who die --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I meet with their families. I met with two families in -- I think it was Maxwell Field last week. And I go out to Bethesda and Walter Reed and visit with the families out there and the wounded. And they are just wonderful, wonderful young people and proud of what they're doing, convinced what they're doing is the right thing to be doing, and that they're making progress.

I had one moment, I think it was a week ago Saturday; we were at Bethesda, my wife and I, and in the bed was, of course, a Marine who'd been wounded and he had a tube in his nose and a number of shrapnel wounds. And he looked up and paused, and said: "If the American people will just give us time. We're getting it done. We can do it. We're going to win."

MS. BARKS: You know, the next thing I wanted to ask you about, Secretary Rumsfeld, we went to the World War II beautiful memorial yesterday --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Isn't it?

MS. BARKS: And the Korean, which is so stunning, it really is, and Vietnam as well -- quotes and quotes and quotes from presidents. President Lincoln has quotes, and the presidents of World War II, and they say: "However long it takes. This blood that is being shed is being shed for a reason." What has happened that -- was there this much dissent way back when? Has the media affected this country so that we have a negative attitude toward these efforts? We still have a president or you say, "Whatever it takes, we will accomplish this."

SEC. RUMSFELD: Leadership is important, and there's no question but that, God bless him, President Bush's leadership is so strong and so firm and so determined. I think the answer to your question is this: There's always been dissent.

MS. BARKS: Yeah, but you've got -- (off mike) --

SEC. RUMSFELD: That's the difference. The difference is today the media is so present, so powerful, so constant, and such a drumbeat. In those days, the newspaper would get a story and people wouldn't read it for a week, and then they'd see it once. Here, anything that's on is on -- every 15 minutes it's on, if something's burning in Baghdad. I mean, I fly over Baghdad frequently, and it's where -- within 30 miles of Baghdad is about 90 percent of the violence in the country. And you fly over it and there are people waiting at gas stations, there are people out eating and doing things. The place is not in flames. Now, there are a lot of people being killed -- a lot of Iraqis being killed, and the sectarian violence is real and serious.

But it is -- that is the difference. It is not that there wasn't dissent in the Civil War; there was -- or even the Revolutionary War, or World War II. I was alive. I'm aware of it; I remember the dissent, and the criticism of President Roosevelt was strong. But the media environment was totally different back in those days. I mean, television didn't exist, and radio, you'd have periodic programs you'd listen to with the family.

MS. BARKS: How do you think that affects us? Because -- I was so fortunate to be in Israel just a month ago, two days after the cease-fire --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Amazing place.

MS. BARKS: It was amazing. Hope? You've got this -- bombs coming over your head, and people filled with hope! It's an amazing dichotomy, you know? But what I found from the Israeli people, to a person, was, you know, "We're grateful for the financial support; we're grateful for military support from America, but what we really want to know is that they know that we need them, that we continue to have a relationship with them." And I worry that as long as the media pictures are showing the poor victims, you know, on the Hezbollah side, the children being blown up by these bombs left over, you know, things like that, that it chips away slowly at our resolve to continue to support Israel. It chips away at our resolve to support our soldiers.

SEC. RUMSFELD: On the other hand, you're right, it does. And this is the first war that's been conducted in the 21st century with all the new media realities of 24-hour talk radio and Sony cams and digital cameras and news constantly on television. But the American people have a pretty good center of gravity. They've got a good inner gyroscope. And it may be disorienting for a time, it may blow us off course somewhat, but we tend to re-center. And I admit people's carburetors have to get flooded with so much information coming at them all the time, and most of it negative. There's a pattern that news is negative as opposed to positive, so that's understandable. But I think the American people can absorb it and synthesize it and find their way to right decisions.

MS. BARKS: Make us understand, Secretary Rumsfeld, how North Korea ultimately affects this whole big picture. It does, doesn't it?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it does. I mean, once they have, as they have, detonated a nuclear device of some kind, they have within some reasonable period of time -- maybe already, but probably not -- the ability to weaponize a missile with a nuclear weapon, so that's a danger.


The other danger in the face of North Korea is that they are one of the world's biggest proliferators of missile technology, and anything they have -- they'll sell anything they have. And to the extent that they would sell nuclear technologies to other countries or even to a non-state entity, a terrorist organization, then they would represent a danger of a totally different kind -- a threat of a totally different kind.

If you think about it, nuclear deterrents have tended to work against nations. People who have a population to defend, a leadership class, industrial base, they don't want to lose it, so they tend -- we've had 60 years of not having those weapons used in anger. That's an impressive accomplishment for humanity. Once you transfer those weapons to a non-state entity that doesn't have a population to defend, that doesn't have an industrial base, and it is not deterred or dissuaded from using those nuclear devices, that's a real danger for the world, and that's what the prospect is with a country like North Korea.

MS. BARKS: How is it different than the Cold War? I mean, all we had to do was continue to raise the bar. You know, that's how we won that. I was talking to a friend of mine who used to work for the CIA. He said, "You know, we didn't want to push the button any more than they did, because we all loved our children."

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure.

MS. BARKS: And yet now we're talking about leaders, whether it's in the Middle East or it's in North Korea, that don't care about this, don't care about --

SEC. RUMSFELD: You're quite right. I mean, they either don't have countries, or you couldn't find them, and they have the ability to use these weapons against us potentially.

MS. BARKS: And we love our babies, and we love life.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Indeed. And of course, some of the leaders, like in Iran, have a martyrdom complex where they envision that their world will see chaos and violence and destruction.

MS. BARKS: The messiah -- (inaudible). Holy cow! I'm a Baptist and I don't -- (inaudible). (Laughs.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: It's a particular risk with people of that nature that have a different -- they're rooted differently.

MS. BARKS: Secretary Rumsfeld, I thank you so much for your time. I know you've got so many places to go. You get Hannity next. He's a -- (inaudible).

SEC. RUMSFELD: Is that right? (Laughs.)

MS. BARKS: He's such a troublemaker. I don't even know why you're going --

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.) Inga, you're a superstar. Good for you.

MS. BARKS: (Inaudible.) I want to thank you -- in these final moments I have with you, I just -- I want to thank you for what I know is in your heart. And I don't know you, other than watching you on TV and calling you Uncle Rummy. But I do know this: All the criticisms, all the people that say things about your character or about your position, about the war, you know, your change of course, all these things -- you talked about going to Bethesda. I know you don't take this lightly. My sons, my 13-year-old and my 11-year-old twins, I don't want them fighting this -- (inaudible) -- and I don't want you visiting them in the hospital some day. And you don't take this lightly, I know that.

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, indeed. It's serious and it's important, and our task is to see that our country prevails and that we succeed in this effort. The consequences for our country were Iraq to be turned over to the terrorists and terrorist training camp, as Afghanistan was, with their water and their oil and their size and their geographic location, it would impose an enormous threat to our country and to our friends and allies around the world.

MS. BARKS: (Off mike.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: That's right.

MS. BARKS: (Off mike.) Just remember that. Every decision you make, think, "What about Inga's 13-year-old and her 11-year-old boys?"

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

MS. BARKS: Because they're already young Marines, and I don't want them growing up to be big Marines in trouble, so --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I've got grandchildren from two to 20.

MS. BARKS: Do you really? Do you get time with them?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Occasionally. (Laughs.)

MS. BARKS: (Off mike.) That must make Christmas expensive.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I suppose. I talked to her on the phone today, the 2-year-old, as a matter of fact.

MS. BARKS: Really?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes.

MS. BARKS: It must have been kind of like talking to me! (Laughs.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

MS. BARKS: (Off mike) -- I thank you so much for your time, sir. I can't tell you, of all the people we've talked to today, I am a little star struck to talk to you. You have a privileged job and a difficult job, and I admire you greatly --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you so much. We'll keep at it and get it done.

MS. BARKS: Yeah! Well -- same to you, Mister. Thank you so much.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, Inga.

MS. BARKS: (Inaudible) -- we're broadcasting live from the White House here on KERN NEWS/TALK 1410. Thank you to Oreck, the Clean Home Center.

I want to take one more -- can I take one more picture with you? [Inaudible].

SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet!

MS. BARKS: [Inaudible] Folks, have a great day. I'll bring you some more stories tomorrow. I've got to jump over a table to take a picture with Secretary Rumsfeld before he goes away. (Laughs.) Thank you.