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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with WFLD-TV

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

(Interview with WFLD-TV, Chicago, Ill.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, in retrospect, was it a mistake to go to the United Nations with the Iraq issue?

Rumsfeld: No, I don't think so. President Bush and his national security team gave a great deal of thought to that before going to the United Nations. Obviously there are pluses and minuses. It takes a good deal of time. And in this instance it also resulted in the issues being miscast in a certain way. Much of the world came away thinking it was the job of the inspectors to go in and discover things and find things, which of course it never was. The role of the inspector was to go in, and with a cooperative country, simply inspect what the country was disclosing. But in the case of Iraq they haven't been cooperative. They filed a false declaration. And we knew that was as possibility. On the other hand, the advantages of going to the United Nations are quite clear. It's given the world a chance to think about this important issue, to discuss it, to debate it, to internalize the difficult situation we face in the new security environment of the 21st Century with the availability of weapons of mass destruction and the nexus between states with those weapons and terrorist networks. So I think on balance it was a wise thing to go to the United Nations.

Q: Why are we encountering such recalcitrance from the French?

Rumsfeld: Well, they are frequently recalcitrant about a lot of things. Any given day or week their role in NATO -- they seem to be the country that disagrees with a lot of other countries. The fact of the matter is that France does disagree. Germany disagrees. But there were I believe eight countries that came out with a letter supporting the president's concern about Iraq. And then yesterday another 10 European countries came out with a letter of support for the president's position on Iraq. So it's not as though the countries of Europe are opposed. The fact of the matter is one or two countries seem to be opposed in Europe.

Q: Are you prepared to go to war without a second U.N. resolution?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's not up to me, as you well know. It's the president's call. And my impression is that some nation is very likely to introduce a second resolution in the United Nations. And my guess is that it will receive very strong support. I mean, the facts are the facts, and the facts are that Iraq began in material breach. It had a further material breach when they filed a fraudulent declaration. And, as Secretary Powell indicated, their denial and deceiving of the inspectors and trying to hide things represents still a further material breach. And my guess is that you could have two types of resolutions. One could simply cite the facts, as I just did. A second might be to go the next step and say therefore it's appropriate to use all necessary force. Either way, even without a second resolution, there's a large number of countries that have agreed to support the United States in a coalition of the willing. With a second resolution the group would be somewhat larger.

Q: Can we move to North Korea quickly?

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Q: They seem to be warning that preemptive attacks would not be the sole province of the United States, and they reacted very poorly to your comments yesterday referring to them as a -

Rumsfeld: A terrorist state?

Q: -- rogue regime. Yes, terrorist regime.

Rumsfeld: Yeah. Yeah. They've been on the list of terrorist states along with --

Q: --- you referred to North Korea as a terrorist regime, and that seemed to spark an increase in rhetoric from their side. They are talking about preemptive strikes. It sounds very dangerous.

Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, North Korea has been on the terrorist state list for a good many years along with four, five or six other countries, including Iraq, so that there's nothing new in what I said. I was just stating a fact.

The situation in North Korea is dangerous. They have violated some four international agreements, and announced that they were continuing with their nuclear weapons program. The United States assesses that they may have one or two nuclear weapons already, and in the event they do start up their reprocessing they could end up in a relatively short period of time with sufficient nuclear material for an additional six to eight weapons. Now, that's dangerous for the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. But it's also dangerous because North Korea is the world's greater proliferator of ballistic missile technology, and a particular risk is that they would sell to another country -- a rogue state, a terrorist state or to a terrorist network -- the nuclear material that they plan, apparently plan, and seem to have announced they plan to produce. That is a dangerous thing for the world. It's not a U.S. problem as much as it is a world problem. It suggests that the world agreements and understandings with respect to non-proliferation are not working very well, and that's something that the international community is going to have to address.

Q: Mr. Secretary, would a preemptive strike ever be possible in North Korea in your mind?

Rumsfeld: I am not going to talk about that subject. It's not something that I've discussed, it's not something I need to discuss. I think the president has made a decision with respect to North Korea that he wants to get his friends and allies in Japan and South Korea working closely with the United States, and the three of them engage North Korea's neighbors, in Russia and the People's Republic of China. We are anxious to get the issue brought into the United Nations so that the international community can address it. It is, as I say, it's a matter for the world community, not -- it's not a matter between the United States and North Korea as such.

Q: Should the United States be sharing intelligence with the U.N. inspectors, Mr. Secretary? Is that dangerous?

Rumsfeld: It is a fact that the United States has been sharing intelligence with the U.N. inspectors. We have provided them a great deal of information in terms of intelligence information. We have also offered them reconnaissance aircraft assistance and other technical support. We have received indications from the inspectors that they appreciate and have valued what we have provided. There are a few people around who seem to want to go to the press and say that we haven't given much assistance to the inspectors, and that's just simply not true.

Should we be doing it? I think the answer is yes, we should. Your question suggests an important point, and that is that the reality is that the Iraqis own Iraq, and they have without question ways that they can penetrate what the inspectors are doing and talking about. That being the case, they seem to end up knowing pretty much about what the inspectors are doing and plan to do. They end up having more minders, more guards around the inspectors than there are inspectors. They don't allow people that are willing to talk to us to talk to us without some of their Iraqi intelligence people physically present.

To the extent we gave inspectors some types of information, it would run the risk of compromising sources and methods of intelligence gathering, which could be dangerous.

Q: Is it time to set a deadline for Saddam Hussein?

Rumsfeld: Well, that's a call for the United Nations and for the president. I think that if one looks at the sequencing -- the sequencing is we're dealing -- we are not dealing with a country like South Africa or Ukraine or one of the -- Kazakstan -- one of the countries that decided to disarm after the -- for whatever reason -- and they invited inspectors in, and they were very open and cooperative. We are dealing with a country that has thrown inspectors out, that is denying and deceiving things, and is hiding, actively hiding, as Secretary Powell pointed out yesterday. And the question is: To what extent is time going to make them more cooperative? The argument for time tends to be on those who think that the reason the inspectors are in there are to find things, to discover things. They argue, well, if they have a little longer they might discover something. Well, they are not going to discover something that Saddam Hussein doesn't want them to discover. So the only real question is, for more time, is, Would more time give us a better understanding of whether or not Saddam Hussein and his regime intend to cooperate? And the short answer to that is, you know, it's been 12 years. They have exhausted the diplomatic efforts, they've exhausted the economic sanctions, they've exhausted the use of limited military activity in the northern and southern no-fly zones, and this one final opportunity, as the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 says, a final opportunity -- I guess the question is do we want a final-final opportunity. And that's a call for the United Nations.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

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