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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Bill O'Reilly for The O'Reilly Factor

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 02, 2004

Thursday, December 2, 2004

BILL O’REILLY:  What do you think is the biggest mistake the U.S.A has made in Iraq?

             DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well, I suppose you could, one looking at it today with 20/20 hindsight, would say it’s not anticipating, first of all, not finding WMD’s until, apparently it was wrong, or else they're buried or else we’ll find out something later. But at the moment it looks like they weren’t there. And I suppose the second thing would be, more current, would be the fact of, was it possible to better estimate the insurgency?


            BILL O’REILLY:  Did somebody say to you, look, once we depose Saddam, these guys are going to go and fight a guerrilla campaign? Did any general or human being that advises you tell you that?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Oh, my goodness, I,


            BILL O’REILLY:  (Brent) Scowcroft, he was saying that.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Course you, we’ve heard everything. We heard they were going to burn the bridges, light up the oil wells,


            BILL O’REILLY:  Right.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  There would be a humanitarian crisis, there would be a nasty refugee problem, that they were going to use weapons of mass destruction, so our people strapped on chemical suits every day. We, you can find intelligence that says almost anything.  If you're asking, was there any kind of understanding or agreement that there would likely be a long insurgency afterwards, I don't believe that anyone would say if you dropped a plumb line through all that intelligence,  that anyone would say that.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Colin Powell didn't  say it?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I’m not going to get into what people say in confidential meetings. I’ve seen all this stuff about,


BILL O’REILLY:  Woodward reports that he said it, in his book.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well, then let Woodward, I haven’t read the book. I don't know.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Okay. So you wouldn't say that it was a mistake that the United States made, not  putting more soldiers there to fight the insurgency in the beginning?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  No, I think not. I mean, there have been a lot of people who thought there should be more troops in Afghanistan, 


            BILL O’REILLY:  Right.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Not a question in Iraq. If you think about it, the Soviets had two (hundred thousand) or three hundred thousand in Afghanistan. And lost. Think about that. We had seventeen thousand and won.


            BILL O’REILLY:  But I don't know if we’re going to win the aftermath.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  In Afghanistan?


            BILL O’REILLY:  No, in Iraq.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Okay. I’m talking about Afghanistan.


            BILL O’REILLY:  All right.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  But in Iraq we had the number of troops that the battlefield commanders asked for.



            BILL O’REILLY:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] Then what could we have done differently?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  And one has to believe that they know something about the subject.


            BILL O’REILLY:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] Yeah but,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  More than maybe some armchair people speculating from the side.


            BILL O’REILLY:  True. But Marine General (Anthony) Zinni for example, said, you need more people in there. Senator McCain said, you need more people in there. So there were voices. But,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  But who are you going to go with?


            BILL O’REILLY: 


            I, listen, you're, you're,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] Are you going to go with a battlefield commander, 


            BILL O’REILLY:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] The buck stops with you.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Exactly.


            BILL O’REILLY:  The buck stops with you. You gotta make the call.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I mean, the senior military advisors, Dick Myers and Pete Pace, the battlefield commanders, Tom Franks, General Abizaid,  General Casey, General Metz, every instance they have had exactly the number of troops they’ve asked for.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Then what could you have done differently to stop this insurgency that is causing so much trouble?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well, you're suggesting that it’s stoppable easily, and I,


            BILL O’REILLY:  No, I’m not. No, I don't want to,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] The question, the question implies that.


            BILL O’REILLY:  But, but you said, we,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Let me answer, let me answer.


            BILL O’REILLY:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] All right, but, let me, let me outline [INAUDIBLE]. You said that the U.S.A. made a mistake in underestimating the insurgency.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  You said that. I, I said that--


            BILL O’REILLY:  Well, one of us said it.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Yeah.


            BILL O’REILLY:  What, could we have done anything differently to fight this insurgency before it got out of hand?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  We have been doing things differently ever since we got in there. In other words, what you have is a plan. And then you have a whole, a flexibility to, to deal with a whole set of excursions that might occur. You're dealing not with a static situation, you're dealing with an enemy with a brain. They get up every morning, go to school on what we’re doing, and change what they’re doing to advantage themselves. We get up every morning, see what they’re doing, and change what we’re doing to advantage ourselves against what they’re doing.


            BILL O’REILLY:  How do we beat them?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Oh, well, it’s a test of wills. I mean, they haven’t won a single battle the entire time since the end of, of major combat operations.


            BILL O’REILLY:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] Same thing happened in Vietnam, though, 


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] They never, never won,


            BILL O’REILLY:  They never beat us.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Oh, that's different. Vietnam. I, would set that aside, it’s somewhat different. But this is a test of wills, and that was, to be sure. We have a president who was determined to not yield to the extremists who are out chopping off people’s heads. Imagine if that country were turned over to those people. That's what they do.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Oh, absolutely, they would let that,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  It would be a terrible thing, just a ghastly thing.


            BILL O’REILLY:  We agree on that. Can’t get out.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] And what it takes is it takes some steadfastness and some purposefulness and having talented men and women out there in uniform doing an absolutely wonderful job. Think what’s happened. Twenty-five million people in Afghanistan have been liberated, they had an election. It’s a breathtaking accomplishment. Think of what’s happened in Iraq. Twenty-five million people have been liberated. The schools are open with new textbooks, the hospitals are open, the clinics are open, the stock market’s open, people are coming back into the country. Now, are there people being killed? Yes. Is it an ugly situation in parts of the country? Yes. Is it basically not ugly in most of the country? That's true. I mean,


            BILL O’REILLY:  Can you,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  If you take the provinces, three-quarters of them are relatively peaceful.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Within two years, can the United States beat these insurgents?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:   It is, the, the task is, using the word beat sounds like you're in a war.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Well, stabilize the country.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I think so. I think so. Well, I shouldn’t say that. The United States won’t do it, the Iraqi people will.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Do you really believe the Iraqi people will fight? The South Vietnamese did not fight. Do you think the Iraqi people will fight?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well look, we’ve lost -- and every one of them is a heartbreak --something like nine hundred and sixty-eight, (nine hundred) seventy men and women in uniform, killed in action. And two (hundred) or three (hundred) or four hundred others have been killed -- have died in accidents of various types. The Iraqis have lost more people than we have in their Iraqi security forces already. And they’ve only been organized in the last year or so. So, the Iraqi security forces are out there fighting. They're not sitting in their barracks hiding.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Can they win? Can they beat these terrorists?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well, of course they can. They're going to.


            BILL O’REILLY:  All right.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I believe it. 


            BILL O’REILLY:  I hope so.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I do.


            BILL O’REILLY:  I mean, we’re all praying that,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well I am, too.


            BILL O’REILLY:  And I, all loyal Americans want,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Yeah. I know that.


            BILL O’REILLY:  A stable Iraq. We all do.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  And I must say you have been terrific, your program has been terrific supporters of the troops.


            BILL O’REILLY:  We try to be fair.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  And, and uh,


            BILL O’REILLY:  We absolutely try to be fair.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  In fact I brought you this dog tag from America Supports You.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Well, thank you. That's very kind of you.


            BILL O’REILLY:  That's our pleasure, [OVERLAPPING VOICES] and our privilege to do it. Now let’s talk about Iran. What kind of a problem is Iran aiding these insurgents in Iraq?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  It’s a big problem. The border is porous, there's nothing you can do about it. These people go back and forth pretty freely, and where there is a checkpoint bribery works, in that part of the world, we know that. The Iraqi -- the Iranian government has been harboring, Al Qaeda. It has a desire to influence what happens in that country in a way that favors people that are friendly to them, and they’ve been unhelpful. They also have religious sites for the Shi’a religion, and they’re going to be coming in there continuously. So there's not much you can do about it except the Iraqi people have to do it.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Well that's right.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Yeah.


            BILL O’REILLY:  I mean, the killing will continue unless the Iraqi people start to say we want it to stop.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  And they are. I mean, the people in Fallujah starting giving assistance to the troops and to the Iraqi forces up there fighting. They're doing it now in Mosul. The Iraqi people are going to have a tolerance level that's going to be breached at some point, and they're going to say by golly, this is a country that we want to have. These people are killing Iraqis, they're killing many more innocent Iraqis, the extremists are, than they're killing the coalition forces.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Again, I hope you're right. Now, we find out today, that Iran is now, has a long-range missile development system to go along with their nuclear development. Are we going to have to confront Iran militarily, in your opinion?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  The President’s obviously decided thus far that it’s a diplomatic matter, and he’s been trying to work with European allies and with the United Nations to get the, I.A.W -- the IAEI  to put pressure on the Iranians to behave differently with respect to their nuclear programs, [OVERLAPPING VOICES] and they haven’t. And what one has to do at that stage is continue to put pressure on them, and it’s up to the countries of the United Nations to decide what kind of steps they may or may not want to take.


            BILL O’REILLY:  But the United Nations is corrupt, weak, and ineffective.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  It ultimately stepped up pretty much on the Iraqi matter.


            BILL O’REILLY:  The United Nations did?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well sure, they passed resolutions finally,


            BILL O’REILLY:  We had to do it all. We’re doing it all over there. It’s Britain and the United States. The U.N.’s not helping us over there. They pulled out as soon as the first bomb went off.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] No, in terms of resolutions, in terms of the resolutions.


            BILL O’REILLY:  But I mean, look, I think the American people are very worried about Iran, don’t you?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I do, I,


            BILL O’REILLY:  I think the American people are very worried about Iran. They’re harboring Al Qaeda, as you’ve pointed out. They’re developing nuclear as you pointed out. Now we find out they got long-range missiles. I mean, the Israelis can’t like that.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  That's true.


            BILL O’REILLY:  So, what are the odds of us having to confront these people militarily?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well, I guess that's, those are calls for the President to, or for the, or for other leaders of other countries to make, and, but, let me put it this way. If you think about Iran, it is a big country. It is a country with an interesting history. It’s a country with an educated population. It is a country with a large number of women and young people who are being managed by a small handful of clerics in a way that is basically unacceptable to them. That is not a stable situation.


            BILL O’REILLY:  No.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  My hope is that over time we will see a shift in that country, just as we saw a shift from the Shah to the Ayatollah. It happened almost overnight.


            BILL O’REILLY:  But we can’t let a North Korea develop in Iran, can we?  Where they got nuclear weapons, we can’t let that happen.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  The Iranians are making a lot of mistakes, let me just put it that way.


            BILL O’REILLY:  All right.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  And they're notably unhelpful in Afghanistan and they’re notably unhelpful in Iraq.


            BILL O’REILLY:  I’m going to take that as a, we can’t let another North Korea develop in Iran.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I generally say roughly what I think. And I said they are being unhelpful.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Okay. What did you think about the Pakistani army withdrawing from northwest Pakistan and saying hey, we’re not going to look for Osama up there any more. That was pretty bad; that just happened last week.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I don't think it happened.


            BILL O’REILLY:  They said it did.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I know they did. And I don't know who they is, but, I read it,


            BILL O’REILLY:  The Iraqi, the Pakistani army.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I read it, right, I read it, and I saw a brief interview that was kind of halting in English that sounded somewhat like you said. On the other hand, we’ve checked with the Iraqi government, 


            BILL O’REILLY:  The Pakistani government.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I mean, correction, the Pakistani government. President Musharraf is coming here on Saturday. And, and I do not believe that is their position, that what I have been advised is that they fully intend to continue putting pressure on the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They have been doing it. President Musharraf has done an outstanding job of managing a very difficult situation in that country, we are so fortunate to have a courageous leader in that nation which has a lot of pressures from extremists, on him, several assassination attempts against him. He has put (the) Pakistani army into the tribal areas where they’ve never gone before historically, and he has been putting pressure on the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, and it’s been very helpful to us because we’ve been working the other side of the border.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Right.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Now, will he continue it? We’re told yes, he will.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Let’s hope so. Where is Osama?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  You sound like my wife.


            BILL O’REILLY:  [LAUGHS] I hope that's a compliment.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  If I knew I wouldn't tell you.


            BILL O’REILLY:  No, do you have any general idea where he is?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well, everyone thinks he’s in Pakistan, but –


            BILL O’REILLY:  Is that still the,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  But if you don’t know where he is, you don’t know where he is. And so when people speculate about where they think he is, I say to them, myself, [INAUDIBLE] smart person who thinks they know where he is, go find him.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Shouldn’t we know where he is?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well, I mean, how long do people stay on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List in our country?


            BILL O’REILLY:  Most wanted man in the world, though.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Ten, fifteen, twenty years. We haven’t found Mullah Omar. On the other hand, we found Saddam Hussein and his two sons, and we’re plucking off the leadership of Al Qaeda and the leadership of the Taliban and the leadership of the extremists in Iraq. Day after day after day people are getting scooped up in Iraq.


            BILL O’REILLY:  What do you think of the International Red Cross condemning the way the U.S.A is treating prisoners in Guantanamo Bay?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I have not had a chance to read the latest missive from them.


            BILL O’REILLY:  They basically say we’re torturing them.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Right.


            BILL O’REILLY:  That's what they say.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  They say basically that holding people for the long term without indicating to them, is tantamount to mental torture. 


            BILL O’REILLY:  Do you agree with that?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well, I guess it’s not. I’m not a lawyer, and I,  my attitude is that if uh, that our President and our country and our government and I support it, made a decision that we lost three thousand people in this country, on September 11. And they were killed by extremists. And, the idea that we should go out and try to stop extremists from killing three thousand more, or thirty thousand more, for that matter, that we, we should go out and, and capture or kill them, and then release the ones that are alive, back into the terrorist movement so that they can kill more people, I just don’t understand that.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Well, they want them to have lawyers, is what the Human Rights Watch and all these people, they want them to have lawyers.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well the basic, I think the basic thing most recently from the I.C.R.C. is the concept that they’ve developed, which I don't think exists in the Geneva Convention,


            BILL O’REILLY:  It doesn’t,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  It doesn’t exist in international law.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Right.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  That they’ve decided on their own that it is tantamount to quote, torture, and of course that's a hot button word. It’s tantamount to torture to keep somebody without telling them what, how long they're going to stay in jail. Well, every war, prisoners of war were kept in, without charges, without lawyers, until the war was over.


            BILL O’REILLY:  They don’t see it as a war, the International Red Cross.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I understand.


            BILL O’REILLY:  So that's just, you're not taking that seriously.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  We just have a fundamental disagreement.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Right. Good. What about this poor Marine in Fallujah? I mean, I don't think this guy should be hung, I’m sorry, I, you know, I’m following this, and our audience is extremely concerned about this Marine,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Sure.


            BILL O’REILLY:  He’s back in Camp Pendleton now. Whereas his,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Well, let me say two things. First is, as  Secretary of Defense, I’m in the chain of command. And there's a thing called command influence, where if I said anything, that biased it one way or another, it would adversely affect the case. It could adversely affect him,


            BILL O’REILLY:  Is that right,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Absolutely.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Okay.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  And so I can’t,


            BILL O’REILLY:  All right.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  On the other hand, let me just say generically what’s going on out there. We’ve got a wonderful group of volunteer soldiers, sailors, and Marines and the Air Force. And those ground forces go out every day and they know there are bodies that are booby traps. They know that there are snipers, they know that they're vulnerable, they know that their colleagues get killed or wounded, from day to day. And they're asked to make -- kind of like a policeman is in an inner city -- you're asked to make a decision, a life or death decision in a split second. That is a tough job.


            BILL O’REILLY:  So why is this Marine, why don’t you just say hey, you know, he did what he had to do and let him go?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Oh, because we have a legal system here, the Uniform Code of Military Justice,


            BILL O’REILLY:  Tell them to speed it up, you can do that.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Speed it up, I told them to speed it up,


            BILL O’REILLY:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] Yeah. I mean, do you know what agony,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] It would adversely affect the case.


            BILL O’REILLY:  All right, maybe that's true. 


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  If I say anything about, maybe it’s true? It is true.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Put the guy on with me and I’ll tell him.




            BILL O’REILLY:  Because the family, no, but really, it’s not a laughing matter. The family of this Marine’s going through hell, he’s going through hell, it’s a morale buster for our troops, everybody knows it. Let’s get this thing done, and let this guy go back to his unit.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Look, there was a case in the past where a person in the chain of command was asked about a person who was charged with a felony. And he said, he made a comment about the person, favorable or negative, and that was sufficient to throw the case out, or, to,


            BILL O’REILLY:  Yeah, all I want is that they expedite it quickly. That's what I want. I think everybody wants that. Fast.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Listen, justice delayed is justice denied.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Right. Okay. Last question about policy, and then I want to ask one about you if you don’t mind. The ACLU is attacking the Boy Scouts,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Again, and again, and again.


            BILL O’REILLY:  And again. We all know this is a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  And they do it to raise money.


            BILL O’REILLY:  I, well,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I shouldn’t say that, I don't know that,


            BILL O’REILLY:  Are you a supporter of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy, number one.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  That's the policy of the department.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Do you support it as a Secretary of Defense?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Why certainly.


            BILL O’REILLY:  You do.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I support all the policies of this department, I have to.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Do you think it’s a fair policy?


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I do.


            BILL O’REILLY:  All right, so, so don’t ask, don’t tell, policy of this administration, you're okay with it. Because that's the genesis of all these attacks. With the ACLU filing a lawsuits against the D.O.D., has succeeded now in having the D.O.D. not sponsor Boy Scout troops all over the world. Now you know, I got thousands of letters from military people going, we want our kids in the Boy Scouts, in the base in Okinawa, and everywhere else.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Right.


            BILL O’REILLY:  What are you going to do about it.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Okay, here's the situation. I was a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout, an Eagle Scout, a distinguished Eagle Scout, and I’m for the Scouts. Let there be no doubt. the Department of Defense has had a long-standing excellent relationship with the Boy Scouts. It has been mutually beneficial. It has helped the Department of Defense and the soldiers and sailors,


            BILL O’REILLY:  Sure.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  And it helps the Boy Scouts. And that's a good thing. Apparently what happened was a macro lawsuit by the ACLU and at some moment the Department of Justice and the, some lawyers in the Department of Defense settled a sliver of that suit. When we found out about it, we heard that Senator Frist was sponsoring some concurrent resolutions and he supported that, and he now is working on some legislation which we are working with him on. The current situation is, we do not believe, and I, again, I am not a lawyer, but I am told by the lawyers, I do not believe that what took place in terms of that sliver of the larger case that was settled will alter in any way anything that the Boy Scouts and the Department of Defense have done together in the past.


            BILL O’REILLY:  So you’ll still sponsor Scout troops.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  The phraseology, I think, is,


            BILL O’REILLY:  You might change the phraseology.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I think that there's a, a marginal difference, I’m told, by the lawyers, between cooperating, allowing the Jamborees to occur,


            BILL O’REILLY:  Right.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  And all of these things, and a base commander officially becoming the sponsor of something,


            BILL O’REILLY:  All right, so, so you can dance around with,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Exactly. But, but this is a good relationship, it ought to continue, and as long as I am here I’ll do everything to see that it does.


            BILL O’REILLY:  Can’t you institute a draft for the ACLU, just them?




            BILL O’REILLY:  Can’t, can’t you do that and just,


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I’m against the draft. That's one of these myths that went around during the campaign. 


            BILL O’REILLY:  [OVERLAPPING VOICES] I know, I know, I just want to see if we could deploy them maybe to, some outpost somewhere, Saipan? All right. What about your future, are you quitting, are you going to retire, are you leaving? Tell me the truth.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  The truth is that this is an issue between the President and a cabinet officer. And it strikes me that it’s up to the President to make any decision –


            BILL O’REILLY:  You're not going to, you're not going to quit.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  I’m not going to discuss it. [LAUGHTER]


            BILL O’REILLY:  Your prerogative, you're an American and you don’t want to discuss it, I can’t force you. Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us today.


            DONALD RUMSFELD:  Thank you. I appreciate your coming in and it’s good to visit with you.


            BILL O’REILLY:  All right, that was great.

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