Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on the Laura Ingraham Show
INGRAHAM: Joining us now - delighted to talk to him again - the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld just back from Iraq, where he was with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Historic times in Iraq; after finally moving forward toward a unified government there.
Mr. Secretary, it's good to have you with us.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, thank you and congratulations on your fifth anniversary of your show and your top ratings.
INGRAHAM: Well, we're happy to still be alive. A lot of people were predicting we'd be off the air in a few months, so that's -- They're predicting your demise all the time too, Mr. Secretary, so we're in the same boat.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter]. There you go.
INGRAHAM: First of all, tell us, there seemed to be an extra sense of optimism coming from the delegation that was over there, both you and the Secretary of State, on this most recent trip. Why the optimism, given the fact that we're still seeing so much of these reprisal killings on the streets and obviously militia still active.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It is an historic event for the Iraqi people to vote and then for a new government to be formed with the top seven officials announced. The meetings we had with them could not have been better. One listens to their comments and you can't help but come away encouraged that they understand the importance of having a unified government; of governing from the center; of having non-sectarian ministers administer the government on behalf of the Iraqi people. The recent remarks by Sistani against militias and the government's announcement that they intend to address the militia issue. It is clearly an encouraging time in Iraq and it's important that it be noted.
INGRAHAM: What happened with the Iraqi media coverage of all of this? I'm always curious about how they're covering these events. We understand where the American media often is coming from and their focus, we don't even have to belabor that, but what about the way they're sending the message to their own people?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I asked that question and I came away with the impression that they have been handling it very directly. We had a rather lengthy and interesting press roundtable - Condi Rice and I did - with the Iraqi media. Their questions were thoughtful and substantive and had dimension to them, in contrast to some of the questions we hear elsewhere.
INGRAHAM: And how many of the American reporters were actually with you this entire time? How many people did you have with you?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Goodness, I don't have any idea. I'm going to guess we must have had six or eight with us and Condi Rice certainly had a large number with her. Then there's a population of American media in Baghdad itself.
INGRAHAM: One thing that struck me is when you had all the historic happenings in Iraq over the past week, some of the focus, oddly, especially in the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler's piece, he focused on how, he said "Rice and Rumsfeld often seemed in separate orbits and the visit had little of the warmth of the earlier one." It described your styles, the differences, as "sometimes very jarring."
What do you make of that? Are you and Condoleezza Rice on the outs or something?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, absolutely not. What nonsense. It's just fairly typical Washington Post stuff.
INGRAHAM: One of the things that struck me was a comment made by the brother of one of the former government officials who was killed recently in Iraq. And, he made a comment basically saying, look, my life is not important any more. The lives of Iraqis, if I can do something good for all of them, I will not hesitate at all. It's that kind of bravery and that kind of courage I think that unfortunately gets under-reported in our media all too often.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You're exactly right. These people do live in a violent nation at a violent time and by accepting leadership responsibilities they put themselves at risk and their families at risk and it does take a lot of courage and a lot of conviction and desire to see this effort succeed.
Condi and I both came away from the visit confident that the Iraqi people are going to succeed. I must say we were - to the extent that she was focused on the embassy, understandably, and I was focused on the Iraqi security forces and the military forces we have there - we spent a good deal of time together but we also spent a good deal of time working on our respective areas of concern. In each case we came away very confident that terrific progress is being made.
I met with the advisors to the Ministry of Interior and the Iraqi Minister of Defense and the progress they're making there is notably faster and better than I had appreciated from Washington.
INGRAHAM: What was the new Prime Minister like as a man and as someone who has such a tough task ahead of reigning in the sectarian violence and the insurgent activity and also restoring basic services?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I spent I suppose, several hours with him. We had a meeting and then we had dinner and spent a good deal of time talking. In some instances we were talking alone with him. In other instances we were talking in front of the people who had been his competitors and who represented different elements of the Iraqi government so we could watch him in both settings. He clearly is a person of conviction and determination. He has views. He speaks directly. And I think that he appears to me at least at this early stage to have the kind of strength and fiber that it's going to take to lead a country during a tough time in the history of that nation.
INGRAHAM: And Condoleezza Rice yesterday did something to calm the fears of some of the European leaders about using European bases to launch any military strikes against Iran. Can you tell us anything about that? A lot has been written about the convenience of having bases, air bases inside Iraq for any possible military action that we would have to launch.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I have not seen what she said, I'm not aware of it. But we've not had any discussions with the prior governments or the new governments with respect to any longer term bases there. The bases we have we've been systematically turning over to the Iraqi security forces. We've not initiated any discussions yet with the new Iraqi government on that subject and certainly wouldn't until such time as they form their government completely and selected their ministers and raised the issue with us - which they haven't.
INGRAHAM: Mr. Secretary, we're glad you made the trip and the fact that Muqtada al-Sadr said it was a flagrant interference in Iraqi affairs, means you must have done something right.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter]. Did he really?
INGRAHAM: Yeah, he did say that. He was meeting with Maliki yesterday and he said that. He wanted to give you a little goodbye as you were winging your way back to the United States.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter].
INGRAHAM: Mr. Secretary, we appreciate you joining us and I know this continues to be a very difficult time for the people of Iraq, and our military which is working so hard, and they all appreciate it when our leaders go and visit them so we appreciate the fact that you went there.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much. The military's doing a superb job over there, God bless each one of them.
INGRAHAM: All right, you take good care, and we'll talk to you soon I hope.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Good. Thank you so much. Bye.
INGRAHAM: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the Laura Ingraham Show.