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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview On ABC This Week

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
January 19, 2003

(Interview with George Stephanopoulos, ABC "This Week")

Stephanopoulos: Good morning, everyone. Our guest this morning, fresh off the cover of "Time" magazine, is the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

Welcome, Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

Stephanopoulos: The chief U.N. weapons inspectors are in Baghdad this morning with very tough words for Iraq. But they've also said in recent days that they need more time, perhaps several months, to finish their job. And French president Jacques Chirac has backed that call. Is there any harm in taking that time?

Rumsfeld: Well, you know, it's interesting. It would be logical to take time if one actually believed that we were sending in not inspectors, but finders, discoverers, people who were going to go out and go through that vast country and climb through tunnels and catch things that someone didn't want them to see.

Stephanopoulos: But isn't that what they're doing?

Rumsfeld: Oh, no. My goodness, no! The test here is not whether they can find something. The test is whether or not Iraq is going to cooperate. The reason -- only reason for inspections is if a country is willing to say "yes, we're ready to go along with what the world community wants and show you what we have and you can come in and we'll destroy it." Now, think of it, South Africa did that. Kazakhstan did that. Ukraine did that. We know what an inspection operation looks like.

Stephanopoulos: But Iraq isn't doing that?

Rumsfeld: Of course not. They've submitted a fraudulent declaration. There are great gaps between their records with respect to anthrax and botulism and sarin and VX. They are not submitting the list of scientists that could be taken out of the country. They have systematically not done things in a cooperative way. Now, the inspectors have every right in the world to be concerned about that.

Stephanopoulos: But as a practical matter, if there is no "smoking gun," can you get the coalition you need to fight this war?

Rumsfeld: Oh, it's already there. There are a large number of countries that have already said they're willing to participate in a coalition of the willing. And there will be more at that point in the event that cooperation is not there from Iraq.

I mean, the hope is that -- the last thing anyone wants is to use force. War is your last choice, not the first choice. The hope is that Iraq will be cooperative. If they're not, the hope is that Saddam Hussein will leave the country. And there are countries in that region that is hoping that's the case. If not, the hope is that the people of the country will take back their country and their government from this vicious regime.

Stephanopoulos: How about the argument that with the inspectors there right now, U.S. forces in the region, Saddam Hussein is effectively contained, so you don't need to take quick military action?

Rumsfeld: Well, what we know is that containment hasn't worked. If you think of what the international community has done for a decade -- they have tried economic sanctions, we've tried diplomacy, they've tried the use of limited military force in the northern and southern no-fly zones, they have now gone to the U.N. to get a resolution, and the only reason there are inspectors in there at all is because of the threat of the use of force. I mean, that is what's supporting the diplomacy that exists.

Stephanopoulos: In the last few days, the inspectors have come across some finds. A dozen empty chemical warhead shells. A cache of nuclear documents. What do you make of these findings?

Rumsfeld: Well, if you think of the fact that there have been no inspectors there for four years, I guess it's been, three or four years, that you've got a country and a regime that is very skillful at denial and deception -- they are actively trying to deceive the inspectors and the world. One has to almost think that anything that's found, quote, "discovered," has to be something that Saddam Hussein was not uncomfortable having be found. I mean, how else would it be found? The country's enormous.

Stephanopoulos: You don't think it could have just been by mistake? That's what they say.

Rumsfeld: It's serendipity. You could make a mistake. Sure, that's possible. But I can't believe that -- if you think back to inspections, the way people have learned things that the regime did not want was almost always from a defector, someone who got outside the country, like his two sons-in-law did, and then meet with the inspectors, told them what's going on. Now, of course, Saddam Hussein killed his two sons-in-law. So that's the threat against any inspector -- correction, any scientist that an inspector might talk to.

Stephanopoulos: You know, you say that keeping the inspections going might not do any good. But I guess my question is, is there any military disadvantage to taking this extra time? Is there a time when the window for military action closes? Say by late March-April?

Rumsfeld: Well, you know, not really, if you think about it. The flow of forces by the United States and the preparations by other countries -- there's a good deal of planning going on by other countries with the United States, and the United Kingdom has made some alert decisions and mobilization decisions -- that process costs money. And it is not something one wants to do unless there's a value in doing it. And so we've been trying to be careful and measured in how we did it, and the numbers people, and the flow, the pattern that we've done it. But the United States Armed Forces are prepared to do what the president asks them to do.

Stephanopoulos: At any time?

Rumsfeld: There's obviously better times than others.

Stephanopoulos: What's the best time?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't think I want to get into it.

Stephanopoulos: Okay. Let's turn to diplomacy. The Saudis and other Arab nations have moved this week with a plan. They're floating a plan that would offer Saddam Hussein exile or, alternatively, isolate him by providing amnesty to up to several hundred senior Iraqi officials. Do you think that's a good idea?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I think war is your last choice. I would be delighted if Saddam Hussein threw in the towel, said "the game's up, the international community has caught me, and I'll just leave."

Stephanopoulos: And if he did that, would the United States be willing to give him immunity, say, from war crimes prosecutions?

Rumsfeld: Well, I'm not in the Justice Department or in the White House and those are questions for them. But if -- to avoid a war, I would be, personally, would recommend that some provision be made so that the senior leadership in that country and their families could be provided haven in some other country. And I think that that would be a fair trade to avoid a war.

Stephanopoulos: Do you have much hope that a plan like that can work?

Rumsfeld: I'm always hopeful. I think that the people in his country know what a vicious regime he runs. And they may decide to throw him out. He and his family may decide that they've run their string and that they'll leave. I just don't know. Certainly, either of those courses would be preferable to the use of force.

Stephanopoulos: Meanwhile, you have to prepare for war. I want to show up on the screen some guidelines you wrote for yourself that you think you have to think about before you commit forces to combat. They were printed in "The New York Times." Let me show it for our viewers right now.

It says: "If there is a risk of casualties, that fact should be acknowledged at the outset, rather than allowing the public to believe an engagement can be executed antiseptically, on-the-cheap, with few casualties." What should the public know right now about what a war with Iraq would look like and what the costs would be?

Rumsfeld: Cost in dollars or cost in lives?

Stephanopoulos: Dollars and human costs.

Rumsfeld: Well, the lesser important is the cost in dollars. Human life is a treasure. The Office of Management and Budget estimated it would be something under 50 billion dollars.

Stephanopoulos: Outside estimates say up to 300 billion.

Rumsfeld: Baloney. How much of that would be paid by the United States, how much by other countries is an open question. But if you think about it, September 11th, besides the 3,000 lives, cost this country hundreds of billions of dollars. So, yes, measure the risk of acting, but also the risk of not acting. And if we suffered a biological September 11th, the cost would just be many, many, many multiples of any conflict.

Stephanopoulos: But do you think the risk of an attack like that, another attack on the United States is increased by taking military action against Iraq?

Rumsfeld: It is clearly decreased, because every day that Iraq continues with its chemical, biological, and nuclear programs, they get that much more mature and that much closer to -- in the case of nuclear -- to his having a nuclear weapon.

Stephanopoulos: But might not an attack inspire other terrorists to try to attack the homeland?

Rumsfeld: I don't think the other terrorists need inspiration to attack us. They already have. They're trying to do it now. We're frustrating it all across the globe by arresting people and putting pressure on them.

In terms of human life, the other part of your question -- first of all, war is always unpredictable. It never plays out. We know he has chemical and biological weapons. Might he use them? Yes, he might.

Stephanopoulos: And we're prepared for that?

Rumsfeld: Our forces are prepared.

Stephanopoulos: How -- he's also said, he had a speech the other day, I'm going to show a segment from that, Saddam Hussein did, and in that speech he said, "Baghdad, its people and leadership is determined to force the Mongols of our age to commit suicide at its gates." I guess that means he's saying if you want to come here, you're going to have to fight in the streets of Baghdad. What kind of challenges does that pose to the military?

Rumsfeld: Well, first, Saddam Hussein is a liar. He lies every single day. He's putting weapons systems right next to mosques, next to schools, next to hospitals, next to orphanages. He's talking about "human shields." He is still claiming that he won the war. His people are being told every day that they won. It was a great victory in 1991 when he was thrown out of Kuwait and chased back to Baghdad.

Now, it seems to me that almost every time you quote something from him, you should preface it by saying "here's a man who has lied all the time and consistently."

Stephanopoulos: So you think he might not fight in Baghdad?

Rumsfeld: I have no idea what he'll do, but he is only one man. He may very well want to use weapons of mass destruction. But his people are going to have to carry that out, his military. And we have let his military know that anyone who is anyway connected with weapons of mass destruction, and if they are used in a conflict, if force is used, that they will be held personally accountable. And they will be.

Stephanopoulos: But even without weapons of mass destruction, urban warfare itself is a dirty business.

Rumsfeld: All warfare is a dirty business. I don't know what the people of Baghdad would do. There's a large population of Shi'ia that are no fans of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. They could revolt. There have been indications that he's -- he's used chemicals on his own people before, as well as on his neighbors. It's entirely possible he could do something like that.

So, I think to try to predict what kind of a, this "Fortress Baghdad" concept, to predict how that might play out, I think, is probably not possible.

Stephanopoulos: There seems to be some increasing restlessness about the possibility of war here at home. Demonstrations across the country yesterday, including here in Washington, estimates anywhere from fifty to five hundred thousand people. I know that's a wide range of estimates.

Rumsfeld: Come now!

Stephanopoulos: How many do you think were there?

Rumsfeld: I have no idea.

Stephanopoulos: Well, we're showing them now. But what I want to do is also play an ad that a group who are opposed to the war ran this week. It was reminiscent of the "Daisy" ad in 1964 and they spell out -- they spell out there some of the arguments against going to war and I want to show that ad in just a second, if we can replace the screen.

Voice From TV Ad [Child counting]: One, two, three . . .

Announcer From Ad: War with Iraq. Maybe it'll end quickly. Maybe not. Maybe extremists can take over countries with nuclear weapons.

Voice: Five, four, three, two, . . .

Announcer From Ad: Maybe the unthinkable.

[Sound of Nuclear Explosion]

Stephanopoulos: What do you make of that ad and that argument?

Rumsfeld: You know, I was a congressman in the 1960's when Lyndon Baines Johnson's campaign ran that ad, similar to that. I watched it. It was --

Stephanopoulos: It only aired once.

Rumsfeld: It was taken off -- it aired thousands of times because people replayed it in the media. But they only paid once.

Stephanopoulos: Uh-huh.

Rumsfeld: And they got -- but it was taken off because it was considered so irresponsible. And properly so.

Stephanopoulos: And you think that's irresponsible?

Rumsfeld: I haven't seen the full ad. Of what I saw, I would equate it to the ad that played in the 1960s.

Stephanopoulos: But how about the argument --

Rumsfeld: And let me say, when I say "irresponsible," I think unhelpful to their cause. In other words, I don't think that that is the kind of thing that persuades people. Persuasion is reason, as well as emotion. And that is so unreasonable that -- people have free speech. They can run ads or say whatever they want. That's fine. And I don't mean to suggest they can't. I just don't think that that's persuasive.

Stephanopoulos: Let's turn to North Korea. A Russian envoy is in North Korea today, offering what seems to be -- is reported as a new deal. If North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons production facilities, they will get in return some sort of a security guarantee, plus aid. Does a deal like that make sense to you?

Rumsfeld: Well, the president was prepared, Colin Powell has pointed out that the United States was prepared to offer a bold approach when they went there, Assistant Secretary Kelly went there and was told by the North Koreans that they were violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the agreed framework, the North-South Agreement, and the International Safeguards on Atomic Energy.

The principles the president has articulated are that we want to take a diplomatic path, that we will not pay blackmail money, that the central requirement is that they end their nuclear capabilities and their programs. They have two, at least two, that we know of, nuclear programs going on. This is the world's biggest proliferator of ballistic missiles. And their danger to the world is not just that they might use these capabilities, but that they would proliferate nuclear weapons and nuclear materials to other countries.

Stephanopoulos: They've started up the reactor again at Yongbyan. If they reprocess that spent fuel and move it out of the reactor so that at any time they could then build the weapons, what would the United States do? Back in 1994, the Clinton administration readied plans to attack if that happened. Is that the policy of the United States government now?

Rumsfeld: The current policy is, as I've stated, that we're on a diplomatic track. The president, when he was in Korea, said we have no plans to invade North Korea, and the latest speculation about talks that came out of some government official were not correct.

Stephanopoulos: That was a report of the incoming president saying Americans had talked about military action.

Rumsfeld: Yes. And I think he's retracted that in some way.

Stephanopoulos: So that's no true?

Rumsfeld: And the -- in the Clinton administration, Bill Perry was Secretary of Defense, and he called in the former Secretaries of Defense and we had a meeting. And he talked about how close they were to might having to use military force --

Stephanopoulos: Are we that close now?

Rumsfeld: -- and he asked our views. And he asked whether we would be supportive of that. And there was broad support for Bill Perry's discussion on that occasion.

At the current time, we're at an early stage of the diplomacy, it seems to me.

Stephanopoulos: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.

Rumsfeld: Thank you. Good to see you.

Stephanopoulos: Good to see you. We'll be right back.

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