Q: Well, let’s start with Hispanic soldiers. How important is our continued recruitment and participation as U.S. armed force in United States.
Rumsfeld: Oh, it's just enormously important. I don’t go anywhere in the world and meet with the troops that I don’t see so many Hispanic men, women, younger, older right from General Sanchez is leading our forces in Iraq down to a Private. They're just doing a wonderful, wonderful job. We value their willingness to volunteer and their dedication and their service.
Q: Is there any special program in the works that would allow Hispanic soldiers who are currently U.S. residents to become citizens at a faster rate?
Rumsfeld: There is a program. I don't know what you mean by faster than what, but there is a program for non-American citizen soldiers that people who are serving in the armed forces can participate in and my recollection is its uniform across all nationalities.
Q: What about undocumented soldiers? Do they have a chance to get their situation resolved and to become citizens eventually?
Rumsfeld: First of all, I would have thought that on entry into the service their status would have been understood.
Q: Yes, but recently we have a case – this [Inaudible] case when he lied and got into the U.S. forces, and then when they find out he almost was expelled. Finally, apparently he was a great soldier so they decide to let him become a citizen. Is that something that we can see happening more? Or was that an exception?
Rumsfeld: I simply do not know. Those are things that are handled by that particular service. They're handled on an individual case basis, and when they review this type of thing and make a judgment and that's the way it is being handled and should be handled.
Q: A Washington state soldier, his name is Ryan Anderson, was arrested yesterday for illegally trying to provide information to al Qaida. How can this possibly happen if we know that you guys are being really careful – to avoid people getting information that is important for the country?
Rumsfeld: Well, that’s a fair question. Throughout the history of mankind as there have been armies and services, there have been people who, from time to time aren’t loyal to their country. I can't comment on this case because it's a legal matter that is under the jurisdiction of the service involved, but I can say that there's never been a decade in our country's history that I know of, and other major countries' history where there hasn't been some individual found betraying the secrets of that country. I think that they do a good job, our people do. They work hard to screen people, to encourage them to understand the importance of protecting security and classified information. But from time to time, completely separating the case you raise, which I have no personal knowledge of. From time to time individuals are charged with breaking those rules and it’s most unfortunate.
Q: According to a new Washington Post, ABC poll most Americans believe that President Bush or the Bush Administration, I'm quoting here, either lie or deliberately exaggerate evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the war. The question is why haven't we been able to find those weapons, first of all and did we really have a legitimate reason to invade Iraq?
Rumsfeld: There's no question that in my view the President made the right decision. He made it based on the intelligence that was available. The intelligence is the same intelligence that was available to the previous Administration, and they had the same conclusion that the Saddam Hussein regime had weapons of mass destruction.
It’s the same evidence that was presented United Nations. It’s the same evidence that the Congress reviewed through their intelligence committees prior to making their overwhelming vote. My personal belief is that we'll find that the intelligence was not perfect, but roughly right. That's the way it always is with intelligence. It's always never completely true because it's so hard to do that. On the other hand, over the decades that I have been reviewing intelligence reports they have had a pretty good record.
If you think about it, in your mind's eye picture the hole that Saddam Hussein was hiding in. It was not big, it was small. He was in there for months. Our forces drove back and forth by that farm and never knew he was there. That hole he was in, as small as it was, was big enough to hold biological weapons sufficient to kill thousands and thousands and thousands of people. Here's a country the size of California. Think of that. It is an enormous country. They buried jet airplanes that we didn’t know were there.
Now, what will we ultimately find? We’ll know when we know. We’ve got twelve or thirteen hundred terrific people out there working under very difficult circumstances. The Iraqi Survey Group led first by David Kay and now by Charles Delfer, who's just arrived, and they're going to proceed with their work, and we’ll know in good time what the ground truth was. But already they have found that information that shows that Saddam Hussein's declaration to the United Nations was fraudulent. We found evidence of missile programs that exceeded considerably the range length that was permitted by the United Nations resolutions. We have found mass graves where thousands of bodies of women and children and men were buried. Killed in killing fields by the Saddam Hussein regime.
Q: Do you feel that we’re going to find more?
Rumsfeld: I am absolutely convinced that the President made the right decision and that the Iraqi people and the world are vastly better off with Saddam Hussein out of power and in a jail cell.
Q: We have more places with problems, dictatorships. People ask why Iraq as opposed to China or Cuba?
Rumsfeld: Well, every situation is somewhat different. In the case of Iraq, he was shooting at our aircraft every week in the Northern No Fly Zone and in the Southern No Fly Zone where the United States and the United Kingdom’s aircraft and their air crews were enforcing U.N. Resolutions and they were being shot at by Saddam Hussein with impunity. There 17 -- not one, not five, not ten, but 17 UN resolutions. There was a fraudulent declaration. The diplomatic effort had run its course. He chose war, not the United States. Not Great Britain. Not the Coalition. We now have 34 countries in there not because they want to be in there, but because Saddam Hussein defied the United Nations through 17 resolutions and he had a chance to leave at the very end, a final opportunity. Instead he chose war. Think of Libya. Libya chose just the opposite. Libya said we’re going to call in the United States and the United Kingdom. There were meetings that took place. Mr. Kadaffi announced that he wanted to open up his country and to not have chemical, biological, and nuclear weapon programs. The international community is now working with that regime. He chose very differently. In the case of North Korea, South Korea, Japan, the United States, China, Russia, all of us are working together to on a diplomatic track.
Q: What about Cuba?
Rumsfeld: Cuba, you know the policies with respect to Cuba as well or better than I. That’s something that’s been handled diplomatically and I know the United States government through successive administrations has fashioned policies that indicate our country’s position. I think things are different in different situations.
Q: The independent commission investigating the September 11th attacks said that it will seek public testimony from you and other senior Bush and Clinton Administration officials about intelligence agency warnings. Are you willing to cooperate with this process?
Rumsfeld: Of course. We have been cooperating for months. Absolutely. My goodness, yes. It’s a statutory commission passed by the Congress. We are as anxious as anyone else to have the commission look at the intelligence community and see what they can determine. It will be helpful.
Q: Do you foresee an end to the violent attacks on the coalition troops and Iraqi authorities? When can America reasonably expect a reduction in such attacks?
Rumsfeld: Well, there’s been somewhat of a reduction. And what's happening now is we're training up Iraqis to take over security responsibilities. We've trained something in the neighborhood of 200,000 Iraqis and they are serving now in the army and in the police, the site protection corps and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, border police, and they are working take over responsibility and security for their own country.
In the last analysis, that's the answer. The answer is not to have foreign forces in a country. The answer is to have the foreign forces go in for a period, assist the people of that country to train up their forces and take over that responsibility.
Q: Is the War on Drugs still a priority with this administration?
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness yes.
Q: Using U.S. forces?
Rumsfeld: Drug interdiction has been done by U.S. Border Patrol and by the Coast Guard, and to some extent the United States Military has been involved. It’s done different places in different ways. We’re trying to assist in other countries as well, as well as immediately in this hemisphere. But it is a very serious problem for the world and something that we all have to be attentive to.