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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with WCCO-TV

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 06, 2003

(Interview with WCCO-TV, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.)

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, thank you so much for being here. Of course we all watched very intently as Colin Powell made his presentation to the U.N. Security Council. He is now putting the full-court press on the Senate Relations Committee (sic). Just how critical are the next 24 hours in securing more support for military action in Iraq, not only here at home, but with our potential international allies who aren't convinced that Saddam Hussein is an immediate global threat?

Rumsfeld: Well, the Congress of the United States has already voted overwhelmingly in support of the president's concern and interest in seeing that Iraq is disarmed. The United Nations has already voted unanimously to pass a Resolution 1441. So I wouldn't think that I would characterize it quite that way. It seems to me if a decision is made that force has to be used, there are already a large number of countries that have agreed to participate in a coalition of the willing to see that Saddam Hussein is in fact disarmed. So the support is already there.

Q: The support may be there, but I can tell you that there certainly is only a narrow majority of support here in the Twin Cities. You can hardly drive down the block without seeing a road sign or a yard sign, "No War With Iraq." What would you tell people here -- how would you justify this to them?

Rumsfeld: Well, I would say the truth, and the truth is that war is always the last choice. It is -- it has to be. And that what one has to do is to say, think about the amount of time that has been given to Iraq. It's been 12 years. This is the 17th U.N. Security Council resolution that has been passed. The country has systematically refused and violated each of the first 16. And with respect to the current resolution, which was described as the final chance after years of diplomacy, after years of economic sanctions, after years of limited military activity in the northern and southern no-fly zones, the U.N. resolution said this is Iraq's final opportunity. And the test was whether or not they would cooperate. They then proceeded to file a fraudulent declaration. They were required by the resolution to be honest about what they had. They did not. They then systematically tried to deny and deceive the inspectors and kibbitz and prevent them from being successful in their efforts. That is still a further breach, as Secretary Colin Powell said.

I think each person simply has to ask themselves the question: How much evidence, how much information, how much time -- 12 years -- how many opportunities? Should there be a final, final opportunity? Or a final-final-final opportunity? The danger in that is real, and it is that they have active biological, chemical and nuclear programs. They have weapons that are biological and chemical. They have relationships, as Secretary Powell said, with terrorist networks. And we just suffered 3,000 dead in the September 11th. If a -- the United States were to experience a September 11th with a biological attack and not a conventional attack, we would see not just 3,000 people potentially but 30,000 or 300,000 people. And that's the test. That it seems to me is that we, each person, has to answer that question: Are we willing to put that at risk?

Q: And so you are asking the American public essentially to trust the government, that the Pentagon knows much more than we know certainly, and that after even watching Colin Powell's presentation, where he showed audiotape and videotape and satellite photos that there is classified information that we'll never know, but that there are good reasons for this, and that we are in immediate danger?

Rumsfeld: I think what people saw in the world after Colin Powell's presentation yesterday is that the evidence is persuasive, it's compelling, it's overpowering. If one looked at all of that information yesterday and does not come to the conclusion that Iraq represents a serious threat, then it seems to me they simply don't want to believe. And that's fair. Each person has to make their own judgment.

But it isn't a matter of trusting the government or trusting the Pentagon. This isn't the Pentagon's decision. This is the United Nations and the Congress of the United States, which voted overwhelmingly -- the United Nations which voted unanimously. And it's the president of the United States, not Secretary Powell, not Secretary Rumsfeld. And people do in fact have a chance to look at the information themselves. It isn't a matter of trust; it's a matter of reasonable judgment.

Q: We just have two minutes. I want to raise two more issues, Secretary Rumsfeld. First of all, with North Korea, they announced during Powell's speech that they did reactivate. Are we moving more troops into position in South Korea and Guam, and how likely is an invasion of North Korea?

Rumsfeld: The president has been very clear about that. He has indicated that he is on a diplomatic path, as is the rest of the world. There's no question but that if they do in fact restart the reprocessing plant, that they can produce nuclear material for six or eight nuclear weapons in a relatively short period of time. That's a danger. It's a danger much less to the United States than it is to the rest of the world, but it is a danger. They could use them or they could sell them to another terrorist state, which they sell ballistic missile technology to any number of countries today. It would be relatively easy for them to sell nuclear material to a terrorist state, if in fact they restart that processing plant.

Now, what the president said, let's put it into the United Nations -- that's what he wants to do. It's on a diplomatic path.

Q: Last question, Secretary Rumsfeld. With regard to the unlawful combatants that we are detaining in Camp X-Ray, will the Pentagon continue to refuse them legal rights, refuse them the ability to testify in a court of law for the likes of, say, Zacarias Moussaoui, or will that be changing?

Rumsfeld: You seem to have a thing about the Pentagon. The Pentagon is not refusing them anything. The president of the United States has declared them unlawful combatants in a war. It is perfectly normal for unlawful combatants to be detained so they do not go back into the battlefield and try to kill innocent men, women and children, or American men and women in uniform. That should be very clear to you and to everyone in the country. The Pentagon is simply detaining those people at the request of the United States government.

Q: Okay. Secretary Rumsfeld, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it, and wish you a good day.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

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