(Interview with Tony Snow, Fox News Sunday)
Snow: Good morning from Fox News headquarters in Washington.
U.N. chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohammad El-Baradei, are in Baghdad today for what they describe as a last ditch effort to avoid war. In a week, they will deliver to the Security Council a summary of the first 60 days of weapons inspections in Iraq.
Anti-war demonstrators took the streets this weekend in Washington and elsewhere. Tens of thousands of protestors urged the president not to wage war on Iraq. That is not a majority view, however. A new Fox News Opinion Dynamics poll shows President Bush has widespread support to disarm Iraq.
For more, we welcome Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, at a press conference the other day, reporters were pounding you for information about smoking guns and so on, and as you closed the press conference, you made the following comment. I want to play it, and then I want to discuss the comment.
Begin Video Clip
Rumsfeld: I honestly believe that the way information is gained is through defectors and through people that are taken out of the country, with their families, and given a chance to tell the truth. And in the event that information like something approximating a smokey gun -- smoking gun -- is to be found, it will, I suspect, be via that route.
End of Video Clip
Snow: Does this mean that as of now, the United States has no physical or documentary evidence that Saddam is producing weapons of mass destruction?
Rumsfeld: No. What it means is that the inspections are designed to allow a cooperative country to show what they have. And the idea that inspectors can go in there and discover things, and find things, if they were be that, they would have been named "finders" or "discoverers" instead of "inspectors." We know what a proper inspection regime looks like. Kazakhstan opened up. South Africa opened up. Other countries -- Ukraine opened up, and inspectors went in and said, "Yes, that's what's there." The Iraqis clearly -- they filed a false declaration. They have not allowed -- submitted the names of the scientists that they have been asked to submit. They have not made -- they have not figured out how to explain the difference between what was discovered in the last time, what was shown, and in fact what they had. There's no explanation for that.
Snow: Okay. So, we understand that in 1998 there were a number of things that they had that they still cannot account for --
Snow: -- and they have not been cooperative. But the question is, do we know exactly what they are producing now, in terms of weapons of mass destruction, and where?
Rumsfeld: Oh, exactly? Goodness no. It's an enormous country.
Snow: Okay. The reason I ask --
Rumsfeld: What -- what we have is -- is a lot of intelligence from our country, from other countries, that leads the United States intelligence community to say that they have a biological weapons program, a chemical weapons program, and weapons, and that they have a -- they assess they do not have nuclear weapons but that they do have an active nuclear weapon program.
Snow: Around the country, we're increasingly hearing -- and I'm hearing it from conservatives, I'm even hearing it from some military people -- some concern that when it comes to presenting a case to the American people, the president does not now have the goods, in the sense of saying "He's building this kind of weapon here." Do we have the kind of evidence -- for instance, when John Kennedy was talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis, we had the satellite photos -- do we have hard evidence of that sort that will be sufficiently persuasive that Americans will say, "All right, let's go"?
Rumsfeld: What we have is a great deal of information about what they have bought and what they have, a good deal of information about their systematic efforts to try to deceive and deny us the ability to know precisely where things are. They have been dispersing things throughout the country, hiding them under ground. They've been taking documentation and distributing it in private homes and the like. People don't do that if -- unless they're trying to hide what they're doing.
Snow: So, the case we have right now is a connect-the-dots case. It is not one where they have this cache of weapons here. It is not that clear cut.
Rumsfeld: If you had that information, and you said you had it, and you said where it was, it would not be there the next day.
Snow: One understands that, but also one assumes that if the president were making a speech of that sort, either hostilities would have commenced or would be ready to commence, and this would be sufficient to justify the use of force?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, the -- it's interesting how the thing gets turned. The burden is not on the United Nations to demonstrate that he has given up his programs. The burden is on Iraq. The vote was 15 to nothing in the U.N. Security Council.
Snow: Sir, I understand the vagaries of the Security Council, but I'm more interested in what's going in the United States, because there are a lot of people who are supportive of you and supportive of this administration who are worried at this point that the United States will go in, not find enough to justify it, and all of a sudden the United States will be seen as an aggressor rather than a liberator. Are you confident that the information we have will be of the sort that if a war were to commence that the American people could be proud of it?
Rumsfeld: I -- there is no doubt in my mind but that the intelligence community's information is as I have stated it, and that it is a case that the American people would be comfortable with. There's always a degree of uncertainty, and -- and let me explain that. If you think of all the effort after September 11th in the Congress, and now with the new commission, to try to find out what happened, what was there that was going on before September 11th that we might have been able to do something. Now, what we're trying to do here is to connect the dots before the fact, not after the fact. It's easier after the fact, and it's very difficult after the fact, but we're trying to do it before the fact. And I think we've done a darn good job.
Snow: But do you think the full picture would emerge only after there's a regime change in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: Oh, until you get into the -- into the country and on the ground and are able to talk to everybody and literally go out and find things that he's been hiding, you'll -- the full picture would -- that's the only time the full picture would be clear.
Snow: The United Nations -- you mentioned a moment ago that you think things are being stood on their head -- the United Nations said to Saddam Hussein, "You need to take all your weapons, you need to put them in a big pile and let the inspectors inspects, and not be finders" as you pointed out. But we see Hans Blix saying, "Well, we need to do more inspections." In other words, more attempts to find. Given the way these inspections are organized right now, is there any chance, in your mind, that they can succeed?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think the -- it depends on what you mean by succeed. I think that --
Snow: Uncover weapons or weapons development programs.
Rumsfeld: That he's trying to hide?
Rumsfeld: No. No. I think the test is not that. The test is, is Saddam Hussein cooperating or is he not cooperating? That is what ought to be being measured. That's what the U.N. asked for. That's what the U.N. said -- file a correct declaration, open things up, show the world what you have. He's not doing that. I mean, you could spend years and years roaming around a country that size trying to find underground tunnels and see where he's located things.
Snow: So, what they're doing right now, in your view, is not to produce much in the way of results. Is Hans Blix doing this backward?
Rumsfeld: I think the -- what's going on now is useful in that it is testing whether or not the Iraqi regime is going to be cooperative. And we've now gotten several indications that they're not. That is useful to know.
Snow: There was a December --
Rumsfeld: And time is running out.
Snow: That's what I want to get at next. On December 8th, there was a deadline. He had to turn over the declarations. He did it. In the view of the United States and everybody else, it seems, including Hans Blix --
Snow: -- he didn't really do it. There is a January 27th deadline. That is a 60-day report from the U.N. weapons inspections teams to the Security Council. Does the United States want there to be a deadline on these reports, a deadline that Saddam has to meet, to have full and complete disclosure, or else?
Rumsfeld: Yeah. That's, of course, a call for the president to make, and he will make the call when he --
Snow: Well, he says he's running out of patience --
Rumsfeld: He did say it. The president said time is running out. And if the test is are the Iraqis going to cooperate, that's something you're going to know in a matter of weeks, not in months or years. You're going to -- you're going to be able to tell whether or not they are cooperating, and that judgment call will just have to be made.
Snow: There's been a suggestion that the United States or the U.N. simply say "Okay, no more inspections. We're not going to run around the country. You pile up the stuff right now and that's it." Would that be an effective way to call Saddam's bluff?
Rumsfeld: That's what the U.N. Security Council --
Snow: No, no --
Rumsfeld: -- resolution was. That's exactly what it was. It said, "All right, this is your last final chance. You stand in material breach. A false declaration would be a further material breach. A lack of cooperation would be still another material breach." And that is what -- that is where we've been for the past weeks.
Snow: And yet we find a situation now where the Germans, including somebody with whom you've met, the German defense minister, said "there's no way we are going to support any kind of an act of war against Saddam Hussein, even if it comes to a second resolution in the U.N." You've got the French expressing skepticism. You have the Russians expressing skepticism. Do you think the United States is going to have to go with a coalition of the willing as opposed to the United Nations?
Rumsfeld: Only time will tell, but there is a sizable coalition of the willing that's already on board, with or without a second resolution from the United Nations. I think that what one has to understand is this: the president has not made a final decision. He's made a decision that Saddam Hussein should be disarmed. His hope is that it can be done through peaceful means. His hope, if it can't, is that Saddam Hussein will leave the country. He has said, however, that he will be disarmed, and if he -- if necessary, he will use a coalition of the willing, and there are a lot of countries lined up.
Snow: You've met Saddam Hussein.
Snow: Do you seriously think this is a guy who will pack up and go someplace else and live in a luxurious exile?
Rumsfeld: I hope so. I would certainly prefer it.
Snow: You have your hopes. What is your gut telling you, based on your face-to-face experience with him?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm not someone who meets a person and can then turn around and say "Gee, that's the kind of person who is going to cut and run."
Snow: Yeah, you've met him a couple of times. You've got --
Rumsfeld: That's true.
Snow: -- some instincts on him.
Rumsfeld: But I -- I think that there is at least a possibility. His neighboring states are in a process now of trying to avoid a conflict there by having him leave the country. It would be a good thing for the world if he left.
Snow: Okay. Now Iraq is continuing to fire away at our jets. Is that an act of war?
Rumsfeld: It -- it certainly is not an act of peace or an act of cooperation. The coalition forces our -- U.K. planes and our aircrews are constantly subjected to being fired at by the Iraqis. It's been going on for some years now. It's the only place in the world where we're being fired at, as a matter of fact, on a regular basis, except for Afghanistan.
Snow: So, we're already at war?
Rumsfeld: Well, technically, the state of war that began in --
Snow: Was never --
Rumsfeld: -- 1980 -- 91 -- has never ended. I mean, the -- that has still -- there is currently a state of war with Iraq that has not ended.
Snow: Okay. Let's talk about some of the things that people have discussed. First, you mentioned before you'd like him to go away. There is also a rumor that the Saudis are trying to put together some sort of military action. The United States has put together some psychological operations. We have, it's been reported, contacted people in the Saudi military saying "You know what, you ought to come to our side, you know, to fight this guy." Are we having any success there? Are we hearing back?
Rumsfeld: There are a great many things going on -- in the country, outside the country, by neighboring countries. And since war is your last choice not your first choice, it clearly is the right thing to be doing, to encourage those types of things so that there's a possibility that the regime will collapse and be gone.
Snow: Is the Revolutionary Guard outside of Baghdad loyal to Saddam?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, there will be a test of that if he -- if he doesn't start cooperating, and we'll see. There's no question but that there are Iraqi -- well, if you go back to 1991, there was something like 70- or 80,000 soldiers surrendered in a matter of a few days. A number of them surrendered to a journalist who didn't even have a gun. This is a repressive, vicious dictator. The people there are in a major sense hostages to that vicious regime.
Snow: So, you think he'll fall if there's action?
Rumsfeld: I think that it -- war is always unpredictable.
Snow: So you can't predict the outcome before you can get involved?
Rumsfeld: I can predict that we will win, and I can predict that the regime will go if force has to be used. How that will happen, how that will play out is not knowable.
Snow: One of the -- I ought a show a picture, actually a Department of Defense picture. It shows a mosque in the middle of an ammunition dump. You're not going to be able to see that much at home, but there is a mosque in there, sort of in the -- there you go, there's the mosque. It gives you a sense --
Rumsfeld: This is just a -- part of a pattern. The Iraqi regime puts military capabilities -- airplanes, tanks, ammunition -- in direct proximity to schools, and hospitals, and orphanages, and mosques. And now he's calling for human shields which, of course, is also a violation of international law.
Snow: Does this mean that if there were military action, the fact there could be considerable civilian casualties despite our best technology and efforts?
Rumsfeld: It means that that is his hope. His hope is that there will be. And we will do everything humanly possible to avoid it.
Snow: Is this one of the reasons that there will be embedded reporters -- reporters embedded, is that the American people, if it does come to war, will be able to get a pretty good idea of what's happening, and therefore, if nothing else, it provides a counter to Iraqi propaganda?
Rumsfeld: We have decided that in the event of a conflict, we will have media people from the United States and elsewhere embedded in the forces that are engaged. You're right, it would have that effect.
The amazing thing to me is if you live in a small town and Joe is a liar, and he lies day after day after day after day, and then someone comes up to you and says, "Gee, Joe just told me this." He wouldn't say that. He'd say, "Joe the liar just told me this; therefore, don't believe it." But Saddam Hussein lies every single day for years, and it's never said that way. It's carried off the waves of -- all over the world, Saddam Hussein this and the Iraqis that, even though they are consistent, professional, successful liars.
Snow: Do you think the threat of military force has been effective both in coalescing international opposition to Saddam Hussein and changing the dynamic within --
Rumsfeld: Oh my goodness, yes. I mean, we went on for years without inspectors in there. We went on with year's people not paying any attention to Iraq. And until the president said, "Look, this is a very serious problem, this is a danger to the world," and indeed it is, then the U.N. acted. Now the inspectors are in there. The flow of forces we've seen is supporting the diplomacy, without question. We would not be getting any -- any of the things that have happened absent the real threat of military force.
Snow: That being the case, why did we take the threat or the possibility of military force off the table in dealing with North Korea? Could that not also have the same kind of --
Rumsfeld: All options are still on the table with North Korea.
Snow: -- (inaudible) -- effect? So military -- so we have not taken the military option off?
Rumsfeld: The president said when he was there, correctly, that the United States has no intention of invading North Korea. This is just a fact. And the implication that the United States has, you know, done something along the lines that you have described I think probably misses the point. He did say that.
Snow: But, military force --
Rumsfeld: Well, my goodness, we've had robust military capabilities there for 50 years. We have a strong alliance with South Korea. We have troops. We have planes. We have ships. We have -- it's been an effective deterrent for 50 years, and it is a deterrent today, and it will be prospectively.
Snow: And it is an option?
Rumsfeld: Look, I'm not going to say that. I'll -- I quote the president. The president said exactly what he said. He said we have no plans to invade North Korea. We -- the idea of doing that is -- he correctly stated that. But does that mean that -- that the United States or South Korea would take an attack from North Korea and not respond? Of course not.
Snow: All right. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, thanks for joining us.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
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