Americans Quiz Rumsfeld on Radio Call-in Show
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2002 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today explained the threat Iraq poses to the United States on a call-in radio program broadcast around the world.
Callers to the show, hosted by CBS News correspondent Steve Kroft for Infinity Radio, asked Rumsfeld about possible war with Iraq and the war on terrorism.
He told listeners that if the United States has to use force against Iraq, "It's not about oil and it's not about religion." Many of the callers and those who sent e-mail asked if Saddam Hussein is a "real threat" to the United States. Two callers with relatives in the military asked if it was necessary to endanger their lives.
Rumsfeld thanked those people for their relatives' willingness to serve the country. He then very directly laid out the threat an Iraq armed with weapons of mass destruction poses to the United States and the world. He said people should think back to the time before Sept. 11, 2001, and ask themselves when the attack of Sept. 11 became an imminent threat.
"When was it sufficiently dangerous to our country that, had we known about it, we could have stepped up and stopped it?" he asked. "When was it that we could have saved 3,000 lives?"
He asked listeners to move forward in time and imagine what would happen if Saddam Hussein were to use weapons of mass destruction or transfer those weapons to groups like al Qaeda.
"With a weapon of mass destruction, you're not talking 300 people or 3,000 people being killed, but 30,000 or 100,000," he said. "If you think about it, it's the nexus, the connection, the relationship between terrorist states with weapons of mass destruction and terrorist networks that has changed our lives and changed the security environment of the world."
The secretary told listeners that the Congress has engaged with investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks and tried to "connect the dots" on who knew what, when. "Our task ... is to try to connect the dots before something happens, not afterward," he said.
He said many people ask him where the "smoking gun" is in reference to Iraq. "We don't want a smoking gun with a weapon of mass destruction," he said.
Rumsfeld told callers that the United States knows that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear capabilities. The United States is looking at every possible contingency. He said war is not America's first choice, but its last.
Iraq is in material breach of a number of U.N. Security Council resolutions, he said. If the country is found in material breach of the newest Security Council resolution, passed Nov. 8, there will be consequences, he added. Rumsfeld re-emphasized President Bush's recent statements that if Iraq fails to disarm, the United States will lead a coalition to disarm it.
Callers asked Rumsfeld about estimates of casualties in any possible war in Iraq. He said there is no way to know. U.S. experiences in the Persian Gulf War may give some idea, however. "U.S. forces were on the ground fighting for four days," Rumsfeld said. "Tens of thousands of Iraqis surrendered in those days."
He said since the war, U.S. forces have gotten more mobile and more lethal. Iraqi forces have degenerated. Still, Rumsfeld said, he does not want anyone to believe that the possible use of force is without danger.
"The idea that it's going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind is belied by what happened in 1990," he said. "Can you be certain of that? No. Do you have to be prepared for the worst? Yes."
If the United States must lead a coalition and go into Iraq, the military would do so in a manner respectful of human life on all sides and with a determination to do the job and to finish it fast, Rumsfeld said.