Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on the Laura Ingraham Show
INGRAHAM: We're joined by Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Laura, it's a pleasure to be with you.
INGRAHAM: Secretary Rumsfeld, of course the media has made quite a lot of the seven generals who have come out and are pushing for you to step aside. We've been making a joke every time; it's like three, four, five, six, seven. But why do you think people like David Brooks, pretty conservative - supported what we're doing in Iraq - why do you think people like him and some other more moderate voices have come out and taken this stance?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You know, I don't have any idea except that if you think back through history, which you know as well as I do, there's never been a popular war, really. The longer it goes on and the more people are injured, people start wanting to put some daylight between themselves and what's happening.
As the Secretary of Defense of the United States I'm an obvious target for people who can't quite reach the President on it. They go after me. Furthermore, it's an election year so you're going to see a drumbeat go up I think that would be somewhat greater than were it not an election year.
INGRAHAM: I saw Charles Krauthammer a couple of nights ago saying there is absolutely no chance that you would step down. Is he right about that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: He is a very smart man. [Laughter].
INGRAHAM: Well, I would agree on that. Some people have said, and I'm going to get to this Iran issue, but some people have said, Mr. Secretary that…look - it's good for these former generals to speak out. It keeps the discussion going. Others have said look - we're in a time of war, this is not good for the mission. Which side of that are you on?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You know, I want to think about that and I doubt if I'll even comment on it until I'm out of this job and have a chance to reflect on it a bit.
The center of gravity of this war is not in Iraq or Afghanistan or in the Middle East. It's here in the United States. It's a test of wills between people who are determined to deny us freedom and kill innocent men, women and children. They've killed 3,000 people in our country, some of them right here in the building I'm sitting in, in the Pentagon, and they are a vicious enemy, and I believe that. They need to be stopped and they need to be prevented and we have to do everything we can to protect the American people and to see that they're safe.
If the center of gravity is here and it's a test of wills then we have to recognize that and we have to find the way as a democracy to see that we are able to persevere and not lose our will.
INGRAHAM: Before we get into Iran, we need to talk about what's happening on the ground now in Iraq and some difficult days, and certainly in the last few weeks. How would you describe the situation there now as it stands, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It's that awkward period between an election when 10 or 12 million Iraqis brave the terrorists and the risks and went out and cast their vote for a democratic system, for a free system, and elected people and now they have not yet formed a government. So you go from December 15th, now it's the middle of April, and they don't have a government. So the people are starting to wonder about what's going on, why isn't there a government. And it's an awkward period in a democracy.
You think back to the period here in the United States when there's a debate over who won an election, and it's an awkward period.
INGRAHAM: It's also been a very violent period. I mean on Monday I think I'm right about this, maybe about 50 of the terrorists mounted a pretty brazen attack against our Iraqi forces and then they had to be supported by our forces. It was a battle that lasted almost seven hours, which was a fairly significant one considering what's happened in recent weeks.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's right. The terrorists tried to stop the election, they tried to stop the constitution drafting, they tried to stop the referendum, now they're trying to stop the formation of a government. And they're violent people. They cut off people's heads and they do terrible things.
My guess is they're going to fail again and there is going to be a government, and it will probably get announced in the period ahead, and that that will have I hope, a settling effect.
If you think about what's at stake, the people involved in this process recognize that if they are unable to form a government and put some stability into this system and calm the people down, the whole effort, they're looking over a precipice --
INGRAHAM: They sure are.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The thought of that country being turned over to the Zarqawis of the world, the terrorists who behead people, and the Saddamists who fill up mass graves with hundreds of thousands of people and use the money and the oil money and the water money to breed terrorists and send them around the world to kill free people is just a terrible thought. We can't let that happen.
INGRAHAM: We're talking to the Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld.
If Americans here in this country continue to, for a variety of reasons, see the current situation in Iraq as either just not as successful as they'd like or an utter failure as so many of them do which disturbs me, does that then undermine our ability to do anything about Iran, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think time will tell. Of course there are different circumstances there. The effort towards a nuclear program in that country raises the stakes, and the utterances of that government, obviously, raise the stakes. The President talked about it today and indicated his concern about the situation and his hope and effort on the diplomatic track to get Western Europe and other countries, Japan and Russia and China, to cooperate in putting pressure on the Iranians.
I think the Iranian people, they're a people that I don't think want to be isolated from the world, and my impression of the behavior of this government is that their acts may very likely have the effect of isolating the Iranian people from the world and I think the Iranian people aren't going to like it.
INGRAHAM: They don't seem to care, though. What indication do you have realistically that the Mullahs and those in government now in Iran are interested in raising their reputation in the Western world? I mean they despise us, they despise Israel, and they hope for our utter destruction. So how is a carrot going to work with them, or negotiations at this point?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I guess only time will tell. But you're quite right about the leadership in the government and the President and the utterances he's made are quite extreme. On the other hand, the Iranian people are a proud people - the Persian people - they've got a proud history. And they're not isolated from the rest of the world the way people, for example, in the Soviet Union used to be or people today in North Korea are. These people go in and out of that country. There are Westerners that go in and out of the country. They have a window on the world and they know the difference that exists between the rest of the world and their behavior pattern and the behavior pattern of their leadership.
So my hope is that that will begin to have an effect eventually.
INGRAHAM: Are you concerned with the money that Russia has made and helping them build their nuclear power plant and some of the spare parts that are sold to Iran from other countries around the world, that that's going to make it more difficult for us to move along any line other than a military one?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think that Russia's role in their civilian nuclear program has been something we've talked to Russia about over a period of time. I don't know the actual statistics on that, Laura, as to the amount of money they're making there. My guess is they're making a whale of a lot more money with their energy industry because of oil prices, and the weapon sales they're making to countries like China, that anything they make out of the nuclear program is probably relatively small.
I would think that at some point the Russian people would look at their neighbor in Iran and the proximity to Russia, and the thought of having an Iranian government that's nuclear armed that is obviously supporting terrorists like Hezbollah, ought to be worrisome to the people in Russia.
INGRAHAM: Are you confident that that estimate of a few days ago of being five years or perhaps even ten years away is realistic and accurate given the fact that in the past we've certainly underestimated nuclear capabilities?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No.
INGRAHAM: No which part?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No, I'm not confident.
INGRAHAM: Uh huh.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think it's a very difficult target for our intelligence community. They work hard at it and they're fine people, but it's a difficult thing to do. Our visibility into their circumstance is imperfect. I would add that if one is asked the question how long would it take them to do certain things totally, alone, on an indigenous basis without assistance from other countries you'd get one answer. If you said to them, if you said what if they were able to get ballistic missiles from North Korea, as they have, and what if they were able to acquire fissile material from somebody? How long would it take? I think you'd get a somewhat different answer.
INGRAHAM: Mr. Secretary, we appreciate you joining us. These are busy days for you. We continue to support the efforts to help our troops and our veterans, everyone who serves our country -- AmericaSupportsYou.mil is one of our favorite sites and we link up to it on LauraIngraham.com, because all of you obviously promote that and we do our best to give those men and women a real, real hug over the air waves every day because they're doing such hard work and it's invaluable.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, we sure appreciate it. I also want you to know how much I appreciate your going over to Iraq and spending so much time and reporting from over there and getting a first-hand look at things. You're terrific to do that.
INGRAHAM: Well, I had the best time and I'm going back in October.
Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us and taking time out of your schedule today.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thanks so much Laura. I'm looking forward to seeing you.
INGRAHAM: All right, you take care.