Secretary Rumsfeld Radio Interview with the Neal Boortz Show
BOORTZ: Welcome back to the Neal Boortz Radio Show. No phone calls for a moment, if you please, because actually this portion of the show is pre-taped. We have with us right now the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for spending some time with us.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, Neal. I'm delighted to do it.
BOORTZ: I'm glad to make your acquaintance.
I just got off a book tour about six weeks ago, and in my travels around the country, I probably ran into maybe 50 or 60 young men and women who had just returned from service in Iraq. I would ask them a question. What are we not giving you, what is your biggest complaint about what's going on over there? Mr. Secretary, the answer was unilaterally, always the same, these young men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are upset they do not believe the American people are getting the true story of what they are accomplishing over there.
SEC. RUMSFELD: They're right. They're exactly right. It's a shame that that's so. It's one of the most disappointing things. I get asked that question every single time I meet with the troops overseas and I meet with the groups in the hospitals here in Washington, D.C. at Bethesda and Walter Reed. They ask that exact same -- they cannot understand why the American people are not being told what they see every day as the truth.
BOORTZ: Is there a template at work in the media here or something? Is there a concerted effort to make sure not to report anything that might put our actions over there in a positive light?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know what it is. All I know is that there are just an enormous number of very good things happening over there and yet what we tend to see are the other side of the coin, namely that there are a few things going on over there that are not positive and that are worrisome.
BOORTZ: As it is in any military conflict.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely. I mean it's been true in every war in my lifetime, World War II, and Korea, and Vietnam.
BOORTZ: Have you ever, in your study of armed conflict, in your experience serving in the military, have you ever heard of a successful conclusion to any military conflict where the good guys had a date certain for withdrawal?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, only if you quit. If a country decides to quit they've got a date certain for withdrawal. And of course quitting is no exit strategy. Victory is the exit strategy you want, and we're winning this thing and we're going to win it and we're going to be able to transfer responsibility to the Iraqi people, and most important of all, think of what the world would be like if we pulled out precipitously. The dangers to the American men and women -- think of all the people who gathered around the table over Thanksgiving.
BOORTZ: How would the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan be different right now if the politicians in this country had unified in the war on terror and then just gone ahead and continued with their differences on domestic policies? But they've so politicized this war. What if it had not been so? Could you see greater progress at this point than we've seen in Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well there's no way that the American military are going to lose a battle in Iraq. They're not going to lose a skirmish in Iraq. The only way we can lose this is if we lack political will to see it through. The terrorists, the violent terrorists, the enemies of the Iraqi people and the legitimate Iraqi government and the new Iraqi constitution, they know that. They know precisely that their battle is not in Iraq. Their battle is here in the United States. They have media committees, they calculate how they can have the greatest impact on the media in the world, and they are very skillful at it and we're not.
BOORTZ: In fact can it be said that their true military goal right now is not to defeat American forces, but to defeat the will of the American people?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely. There's no question about it.
The amazing thing to me is, I go out to the Bethesda Hospital in Walter Reed, or I go over to Iraq an Afghanistan, and consistently I find that the morale of the troops are high. They know what's going on, they know what they're doing is noble work, they see that they're making progress, they know they're going to look back in five or ten years on what's been accomplished with great pride, and they know what's happening, and their morale therefore is high. Despite all of the hand wringing and concerns that are being expressed here.
BOORTZ: Do they know they have the support of the American people?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think --
BOORTZ: Or do they sometimes begin to doubt that with the negative coverage we get in the media?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think they worry about losing the support of the American people.
Imagine, picture the risk to the American people if we were to precipitously pull out of that country and the Iraqis turned it over, allowed it to be turned over to the terrorists and the people who behead people and the people who kill innocent men, women and children when the troops are passing out toys and candies and things. It would -- The Middle East is an important part of the world for our safety, for the safety of the American people. The idea that we would turn it over to the Zarqawis of the world and back to the Saddamists of the world, it's just unthinkable.
BOORTZ: Of course one of the keys here is the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces. Is there any way that we can ratchet up the pressure on them and move them along in quicker fashion to obtain those abilities?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we've gone back and reassessed that every six months for two-plus years. Each time we have tried to find ways to increase the capabilities of those forces. There are still people running around the United States denigrating the Iraqi security forces. They were flat wrong two years ago, they were flat wrong a year ago, and they're flat wrong today. Those forces are doing a darn good job, they are increasingly gaining experience. We now have people embedded in all the Iraqi military units. They're able to see where the weaknesses are in leadership, the weaknesses in terms of connections with the police or connections with intelligence, equipment shortages, and they're able to get it fixed fast. And the Iraqi security forces provided the security for the referendum that took place on October 15th. They're going to provide security for the election that's going to take place in two weeks in Iraq to elect a new government, a four-year government for the first time. They are making fabulous progress. They're now up to 212,000 of them.
BOORTZ: Wow. I'd like to ask you before we run out of time, and we're nearing the end, the America Supports You program. You have mentioned this in the past. I wonder if you could fill us in on the details.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I'd be glad to. What we've done here is to create a web site where we have asked all the people who are doing things to support the troops and to support the families of the troops and the loved ones, to come on the web site and tell everyone who's interested, what they're doing. So we have school groups and corporations and families and individuals and non-governmental organizations. What they've done is they've put on our web site -- AmericaSupportsYou.mil is the web site. They've put on this web site all the different things that they're doing, and it really just is so wonderful to see. We have a wonderful country and the American men and women in uniform are doing such a great job, and the American people are behind them and they're supporting them and they're doing things to let the troops and their families know that.
BOORTZ: Do the troops have access to this web site?
SEC. RUMSFELD: They do. But more importantly, people that want to be helpful to the troops and their family have access to the web site. They can go on there by the tens of thousands and see the things that others are doing and then decide the things they want to do and then put that on the web site.
BOORTZ: Any surprise visits planned for the theater during the holidays?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh --
BOORTZ: Of course if you told me it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's right. I think you've got it. [Laughter].
BOORTZ: Do you need a hitchhiker?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness. There's an idea.
BOORTZ: No, I've tried to get over there but --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Have you really?
BOORTZ: Yeah, our security people here at the radio station say oh, no. Some day. Sooner or later I'll get over there and see for myself what's going on.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I hope so. One of the wonderful things today of course is email. We have these Soldiers and Sailors and Airmen and Marines sending back emails to their families in real time, so their families know what's going on, and that's encouraging.
BOORTZ: So much has changed since the 1940s. Wow.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Isn't that the truth? I remember V-mail back in those days, when my dad was in the Navy and your father was in.
BOORTZ: Yeah. Victory mail.
Well, Secretary Rumsfeld, it's been a long day already for you and I know it's not even half -- What time do you get up in the morning?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I get up about 5:00 o'clock and get in here about 6:30, 6:35.
BOORTZ: Yeah, get the work done before the other people show up and start interfering.
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughter]. Listen, this place is humming at 6:30.
BOORTZ: Thanks a lot, my friend. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Appreciate your time on the Neal Boortz Show, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, Neal, I enjoyed it. Good luck to you.
BOORTZ: You take care.