Rather: Earlier today, I talked exclusively with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. I asked his opinion on the possibility that Saddam Hussein might choose exile instead of war.
Rumsfeld: History suggests that people do, in fact, if they make a judgment that the game is up, and it's over, and they've run their string, do on occasion leave. Whether this particular individual will do it, I don't know.
Rather: Mr. Secretary, you have dealt with Saddam Hussein since the mid-1980s, been face to face with him, very few people have done that. Is it your judgment that there's some possibility he would go into exile? Is it your judgment he would fight to the finish?
Rumsfeld: If he sees that it's over, and he's not going to keep his country, he may very well decide to leave, and that would be a very good thing for the world. The last thing anyone wants is a war.
Rather: Mr. Secretary, about the possibility, if there is any real possibility, of Iraqi scientists going outside the country to be interviewed, is it realistic to believe that a thousand or more people, keeping in mind the families who would want to go for safety reasons, that this can actually happen?
Rumsfeld: Oh, indeed. I think it can happen, Dan. Most of the people in that country don't like Saddam Hussein, they know he's a vicious dictator. And if they were offered an opportunity to get out of the country, I think that they would be willing to do that. There are people willing to do that, if we can find them, and if he'll allow them to leave.
Rather: Of any number of Iraqi citizens, including a number of university students, say to me, Secretary Rumsfeld keeps saying that Iraq has the possibility of developing nuclear weapons. North Korea says it's already developed nuclear weapons. What would you say to those people if you faced them eyeball to eyeball?
Rumsfeld: The difference with Iraq is that Iraq for the better part of a decade has been subject to U.N. resolutions. Everything has been tried. The world community has pretty well run out the string. This is a regime that has -- it's punched every single ticket of being an irresponsible member of the world community.
Rather: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. We appreciate your time.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
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