(Interview with Todd Schnitt, The Schnitt Show, 970 WFLA, Tampa Bay, Fla.)
Q: We are go. We've got a green light into our hot line. It is the Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, welcome to the Schmitt Show.
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much. I'm delighted to be with you.
Q: I understand you're right down the road from me. We're about a mile and a half from the front gate at MacDill and you're on base right now.
Rumsfeld: I am indeed. I've been here meeting with the folks here from Special Operations Command.
Q: Are you guys trying to figure out where Osama is? Is that what we're doing today?
Rumsfeld: (Laughter.) They do that every day.
Q: There's so much to discuss. We don't have a lot of time.
A couple of things quickly. Speaking of Osama. Initially we had some reports that came out that Musharraf possibly was going to cooperate with possible special forces that might be on the ground or be allowed to go on the ground in Pakistan to hunt for Osama on the border territory. Then he came out with a definitive no, it's not going to happen.
What's the real story?
Rumsfeld: The real story is that almost from September 11th on President Musharraf and his folks have been enormously cooperative and helpful. We've benefitted greatly by the cooperation they've given us. They have done a number of things that are unusual. They've actually sent their own forces into the tribal areas that border Afghanistan and have cooperated in picking up a number of al Qaeda. So we feel that it's a good partnership, it's a good relationship, and we value it.
Q: What do we do if we have absolute, conclusive intel that we know where he is and we must act quickly? Are we going to go in ourselves? Or are we going to try to seek quick permission? How is that going to work?
Rumsfeld: Well I don't know that I'd care to discuss it.
Rumsfeld: It seems to me that what one has to say is, first of all it's very hard to get absolutely perfect intel in life. These are people who have done a very good job of evading capture but we do feel we've got an excellent relationship with the Pakistan government and to the extent good intelligence comes up that they have been able to assist in capturing any number of people and we appreciate that.
Q: On the line of the question of Pakistan, how severely do you think the damage was done by A.Q. Khan and the proliferation?
Q: What's the answer? Is there any way to really take an inventory of what went where and in what quantity and what information?
Rumsfeld: I think probably it will take time. We know a good deal already, and a good deal has been published, as a matter of fact.
It's pretty clear that there was a network, a private network if you will, that existed, and it involved a number of countries and it involved the movement of both nuclear technologies, information relating to nuclear technologies, as well as specific things. All of which, of course, contributed to the proliferation of nuclear technologies, in many cases to countries that most of the people on the face of the earth would prefer not have that information.
Q: The fact that General Musharraf pardoned A.Q. Khan, is that a bad message that was sent to the rest of the Islamic world, or other countries that might have a tendency to proliferate? That here he did maybe irreparable damage by spreading information technology to other countries that we really don't feel comfortable with having nuclear technology and then he's pardoned. Is it a bad message that's been sent?
Rumsfeld: I think you have to take the world like you find it. What you have here is a case where this fellow, A.Q. Khan, was an important national hero.
Q: The father of the Islamic bomb. But to get really a pass, a get out of jail free card, when in many cultures, many governments, it would be considered treason what he did.
Rumsfeld: Well I don't know that he got a pass. It seems to me that he was -- First of all, he was caught. Second, he was required to go on television and confess. And third, I would think that his ability to function today is restricted rather substantially.
Q: I don't understand to what extent his, what his functionability and what the restriction would be. It seems from what I've read and I understand that is considered such a national hero that maybe the people of Pakistan don't understand the damage that he did by giving secrets to countries that frankly we just don't want to have that technology.
Rumsfeld: I think time will tell, but what you found is a distinctly Pakistani solution to a problem that had the end result that is what most of the world would favor. That is to say A.Q. Khan and his network is no longer functioning and it is no longer doing things it had been doing and that's a good thing for the world.
Q: I think that's a positive, however I fear what has been released and the information that has been handed out or sold, it appears that he acted primarily out of greed, personal greed and wealth with what he did.
Let's move on to Guantanamo. Let's see if you can guess where I'm headed.
There was a story about something from Guantanamo, where the detainees are. There was a story that actually put a smile on my face last week. Do you have any idea what story I'm talking about?
Rumsfeld: I don't.
Q: I'm talking about the detainee, a 14 or 15-year-old boy that was a detainee at Guantanamo, and then released, and then he said he loved his captivity, his captors treated him very well, and they even taught him English.
Rumsfeld: I have heard that story and there were some detainees that were quite young and they were treated well. They were given excellent medical care, good food, shelter. And in addition, they were given an opportunity to learn something other than how to go out and kill people which is a good thing for them.
Q: He was illiterate going in and he leaves literate, and almost a tear in his eye, not wanting to say goodbye to his captors. I thought it's quite a contrast to how some are painting Guantanamo.
On the other side of the ticket we do have some really nasty individuals that wouldn't hesitate to slice my throat, my wife's throat, my child's throat, that would rejoin al Qaeda and blow up innocent human beings in a moment's notice. I think I even characterized some of these individuals, some of these really nasty detainees at Guantanamo, if they even had just the split second with a shank or some kind of a weapon to kill their guards, they would.
Rumsfeld: Some of those folks in fact did do that. Some of the people down there were the folks that were on the bus that was coming out of Afghanistan and they attacked their captors, the U.S. forces, and tried to kill some of them. So there are some very bad people down there who have killed a good many people.
Q: And something else that got attention, and this is also within the last week. I understand, and I fully support the war on terrorism, I don't, Mr. Secretary, understand the mentality of some individuals, some Americans, that don't understand that our world, our planet changed on September 11th. It's a whole new game, there's a whole new play book, there's a whole new way by which we must operate. And here we've got some international organizations crying foul, are they treated okay. And even some of the detainees that we have released, aside from the boy, but some of the detainees that have been released, there were reports that they've already rejoined al Qaeda cells around the world.
Rumsfeld: That's true. There has been at least one instance that I know of where one of the individuals that was thought to be relatively harmless was released and has in fact, we believe, rejoined the al Qaeda and is out to kill additional people.
You're quite right. It's a situation that's unusual. Once September 11th occurred and the global war on terror began, people who had in their mind that when you arrested somebody like a car theft or a bank robber, what you do is you put him in jail, then you give him a lawyer, then you have a trial, and then you punish them. Of course in this instance the people in Guantanamo Bay, these are people that were picked up on the battlefield for killing innocent men, women and children in Afghanistan, and the purpose is not, they're not car thieves. The purpose is to keep them off the battlefield so they don't kill more innocent men, women and children, and to try to interrogate them and find out what they know so we can stop other terrorists from killing still additional Americans and friends of ours.
It isn't a law enforcement task. It's a war on terrorism task.
Q: One quick thing, I know you have to run. I want to talk quickly about Iran and intel that we're apparently getting, we're getting it from news sources, that Iranian spies might be being sent into Iraq to cause some of the disruption with insurgents because Iran, the clerical government, the fanatics that run the Iranian government, they can't afford for democracy to flourish next door because that could lead to the downfall of the Iranian government.
Rumsfeld: There's no question but that the borders of both Syria and Iran are relatively porous and that people from those countries have come in and that their goal is not the same as our goal. Our goal is to have a peaceful democratic Iraq that's at peace with its neighbors and is respectful of all of the various religious and minority elements in the country. The neighboring countries I suppose are looking more for a regime in Iraq that is a mirror image of theirs. So in the case of Iran they'd want a small handful of clerics to have an extreme regime in that country which of course is not something that we're going to allow to happen.
Q: and Iran with its budding nuclear program, it's safe to say that they do not, at least the clerics in Iran, they don't want to see democracy in Iraq.
Rumsfeld: I guess that's the understatement of the afternoon.
Q: There you go. Mr. Secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, thank you so much for the time and joining us. Welcome to Tampa Bay, and look us up sometime. We'll take you over to Burns Steakhouse like the President was on Sunday night.
Rumsfeld: Okay. Thanks very much, Todd. It's good to be with you.
Q: Have a great day.