Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Plum Television, Vail, Colo.
PLUM TV: Secretary Rumsfeld, thank you so much for joining me here on Plum TV. It's quite an honor.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you.
PLUM TV: Now, tell us, what brought you to Vail?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The first time or today?
PLUM TV: Both. Today is a special reason, and I'd love to get your history of Vail after you tell us why.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The first time I came to Vail was in 1974 with President Ford when I was his Chief of Staff in the White House. We came for two or three years. It was a much smaller town in those days. The Red Lion was there and Grand Shammers was there but there weren't a lot of other things. He skied every day, but I skied a little bit but not much because I was busy working as Chief of Staff of the White House.
Then we didn't come back for a good many years. We came back with friends from Chicago who had a group of us out and we skied probably seven or eight years ago.
The reason we're back this time is because we have 24 of the wounded from the military. This is their third year out here and this wonderful town of Vail just turns out for them. They provide everything in the world to make their several days here just a special experience. The instructors know how to work with people who have disabilities. The town, so many of the stores and restaurants make their things available to them. We've had a terrific day up skiing with them.
PLUM TV: So you're a skier?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yes, I love to ski.
PLUM TV: You had an arm injury I know last time that I saw you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, I had the Statue of Liberty. I had an operation on my hand and I had to hold my hand up for 30 days or something in the air. I felt like I was the Statue of Liberty, but I really wasn't.
PLUM TV: Are all these Soldiers from Iraq or Afghanistan?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Both. They're folks who have lost legs or arms or sight and have demonstrated a determination to be able to go out and live a life, a normal life. So they're out here skiing. And of course what will happen is they'll go back and be with their fellow Soldiers and inspire them to do the same thing, to be able to take a disability and manage it and live a good life and make a contribution.
If anyone ever wants to be inspired all you need to do is go to Walter Reed Army Hospital or Bethesda Naval Hospital and meet with the Soldiers, Marines, Airman, and Sailors and understand how proud they are of their service to the country and how much they believe in what they're doing, and their families have the same attitude. It's just inspirational for me.
PLUM TV: Now Walter Reed's closing down.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Actually it's going to be moved out to Bethesda. They're going to combine them and create a major military medical center, a first-class operation.
PLUM TV: With the Improvised Explosive Devices that we're seeing and we hear about almost daily on the news. Is there an increase in these types of injuries?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The thing that's changed is in previous wars people were not moved off the battlefield very rapidly. They were then not moved from a field hospital very rapidly, and so a great many died. In this conflict the medical attention is so terrific that within a matter of minutes they're moved off of the battlefield. They're put in a field hospital in several locations in Iraq, for the sake of argument, then they're moved to Landstuhl, Germany where they're stabilized.
They're generally back in Walter Reed or Bethesda within two to five days. The medical attention they're receiving is absolutely amazing. What they're able to do to these young folks in putting them back together so they can live normal lives is just breathtaking, it's so impressive. It's never been that way before.
So the kinds of people today that are out here skiing in previous wars wouldn't have been around. The medical attention just wasn't that good, that rapid, that fast.
PLUM TV: The war in Iraq, they have been putting these curfews down because of the civil unrest. There have been positives but right now we're seeing all the negatives come to the front. Do you think the news media is doing an accurate job of covering the war in both Iraq and Afghanistan?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You know what they do is they see something that happens and they report it. What gets in the paper or the television is something that's dramatic. If you put a generator into a hospital and save people's lives, it's not newsworthy. If all the clinics are open, and if the stock market's open, and if in 14 of the 18 provinces in Iraq it's peaceful, that's not newsworthy. What's newsworthy is when some terrorist straps himself up with a suicide vest and goes in and kills a bunch of innocent Iraqis, and that gets in the press.
The impression one gets by reading the press is that Iraq is aflame. I was over there a month I guess ago, and every time I go it's not aflame. It's not burning. There are people being killed every day. Under Saddam Hussein they had over several hundred thousand people murdered and put into mass graves. So it's not as though it was peaceful and now it's violent. It's always been violent. That's part of that part of the world, I'm afraid. There's been sectarian differences between the various religious sects for, you know, hundreds of years.
But the impression that one gets from the media that it is in total disarray simply isn't accurate. That is not to say that what is being reported doesn't happen. It does. It's just that the context isn't there the way one would hope that it would be. People consistently -- When I go out there and meet with the troops, in every single meeting I'm asked why in the world does the press only report the negative. Why do they only see -- I don't have any answer to that. That's just the way it is. I've got a lot of confidence in the American people. With 132,000 troops over there, they all send e-mails back and they have families. So there are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people in the United States who are getting direct reports from the battlefield as to what's taking place. That's why you see the media is way down in public respect. It's right down near the bottom, right near lawyers and congressmen. I think that people do understand that it dramatizes things. But that's not to say it's inaccurate.
PLUM TV: Do you think it was the right move to have the embedded media --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I do.
PLUM TV: Do you regret that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No. I'm glad I did it. The effect of it was that you took -- we no longer have the draft in our country so an awful lot of people in our Congress, in the journalist profession never serve in the military. Therefore they don't understand it, they don't know a lot about it, and yet they're reporting on it. And to have them embedded during the war was a terrific thing because it took perfectly fine young men and women who were journalists, put them in a position where they could see what a truly professional, terrific job these Soldiers and Sailors and Airmen and Marines are doing for the country. They saw it, they reported it, it was accurate, and it was their slice that they saw. The rest of their lives when they hear things that are terrible about the American military they're not going to believe them because they were there. They saw these people.
PLUM TV: Do you think they've realized how dangerous it was? We had ABC's Bob Woodruff who's still recovering. Do you think that they realized the risks they were taking?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Sure, of course.
PLUM TV: Do you think there's going to be a change in public perception of the war? Right now the polls and the numbers are saying that people aren't necessarily supporting this war. Captain Rozelle said an interesting thing. He said, people say that I don't support the war but I support the troops. The question is how? And things like this week when we're having these veterans come in, that's something that's tangible. How else are people going to change the way they're thinking about this war, and to change the public perception?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think the biggest problem we've got in the country is people don't study history any more. People who go to school in high schools and colleges, they tend to study current events and call it history.
There's never been a popular war. George Washington was almost fired. The Civil War was the ugliest thing -- carnage, 10,000, 15,000 people killed in a battle. The same thing in World War II in the Pacific War. The carnage was just horrendous. And Franklin Roosevelt was one of the most hated people in the country and he was President of the United States. He was Commander in Chief. He did a terrific job.
The Korean War. Harry Truman went out of office with 23 percent popularity in the polls. Think of that. In the Korean War. And what do you have today? You've got a Korean Peninsula with a demilitarized zone in the middle, the same people North and South, same resources North and South, and you have a 12th biggest economy on the face of the earth in South Korea and people starving in North Korea. They're taking people into the military in North Korea who are 4'10" tall -- men, grown men -- and weigh less than 100 pounds. Why? Because of starvation. Same people, same resources, the difference is a free political system and a free economic system in the South and a dictatorship and a command economy in the North. And President Truman is responsible for having that happen, that those people are free. The millions and millions and millions of people who are free and have opportunity in their lives and he was vilified.
Now, the Vietnam War. Unpopular war. You can't name a popular war. There isn't such a thing. They're ugly, terrible things. And if throughout the history of our country every time people looked at it and said my Lord, war is a terrible thing, and it is a terrible thing. They look at it and say it's a terrible thing. It's not worth the cost; it's not worth the lives; they tossed in the towel. There wouldn't be a United States of America. There are just too darn few people in our country who study history enough and understand that and understand our history and understand the importance of being free and the importance of our liberty and our way of life. We need to do a better job of having people understand that, and frankly, journalists ought to do a better job of providing context for what's taking place rather than just running around trying to win a Pulitzer by dramatizing something that's negative that in fact is negative.
PLUM TV: I should be talking more about things like this wonderful week here in Vail.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Think of it. What a great country! You've got these people here in Vail who have such generosity of spirit and compassion that they want to help these troops and they're doing it and they're stepping up and making financial contributions so that these people who never would have a chance to come to Vail, Colorado, never in their lives, to come out here and spend several days and just have a fantastic time and understand that they are capable of going up on that mountain and beating the mountain.
They're going to go back to their communities and they're going to be around people who are wounded and who are down, and they're going to inspire them with the things they can do. And the accomplishments they have. And they're going to be like dropping pebbles in a pond and those ripples going out. They're going to leave here better people for having come, but make other better people through the circle of contacts they're going to have the rest of their lives.
PLUM TV: Secretary Rumsfeld, thank you so much for your time.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you. It's good to visit with you.
PLUM TV: I appreciate it.