Q: All right. As we continue on, thank you for tuning in. Glad you’re with us -- The Sean Hannity Show. Now more than ever, three hours a day is all we ask. Joining us now is the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with us. Mr. Secretary, how are you?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I’m excellent. How are you, Sean?
Q: You know, I wish I could get you alone in a room and take these microphones away and just get your view on politics, but I know that’s not what you do and traditionally, secretaries of defense stay out of the political realm.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it’s interesting. Of course, I used to be in politics years back. But the president has asked that Colin Powell and I stay completely out of it, so we’ve had to do that.
Q: Well, I totally understand, but I think we have a pretty good grasp of what side you’re on and I fully understand that.
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughs]
Q: Well, I do have to ask you, it’s really a defense-related matter that has been politicized. And I want to get your thoughts on it. And Howard Dean mentioned it again over the weekend. Michael Moore is going to campuses all over the country, telling people that if George W. Bush is re-elected, that they’re going to bring back the draft. Is there any – I know Charlie Rangel, a Democrat proposed it. I know Ernest Hollings, a Democrat, has proposed it in the Senate, but is there any such plan?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely not. I can say there is certainly no one in the Bush administration who has any idea like that at all. I don’t even believe there’s any Republican that I’ve heard of in the Congress who has that idea. First of all, it’s a bad idea. We do not need a draft. We’ve got, you know, 295 million people in this country and we have an active force of about a 1.4 million and we are having no trouble at all attracting and retaining the people that we need to serve in the Armed Forces. The people are all volunteers. And if it happened that we didn’t have enough people to serve, all we have to do is what anyone else in the country would do and that’s increase the incentives and make it a more attractive thing for people to do. So the idea of using compulsion and going back to a draft in this day and age I think is just a terrible idea and I would fight it vigorously.
Q: Yeah. But it is amazing that – and I think it’s pretty much because we’re in a full political season here, it’s a tactic that is being used by the surrogates of one particular party to emotionalize people and these conspiracy theories are running rampant, so it’s good to get that on record that you don’t support it, the president hasn’t supported it, and the only people that have proposed it are Democrats.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Not only do we not support it, we oppose it, energetically. It’s mischievous to suggest anything to the contrary.
Q: Well, I’m glad we got the chance to get that on record. Let me ask you this – we are getting into politics -- and because theory is you’re engaged in a struggle against terrorism. We lost 3,000 of our friends and neighbors. Here, everybody including the President and John Kerry and John Edwards and the Vice President, all four guys on the top of both tickets recognize that Saddam was a threat potentially with nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons. For people to say that in 2002 and 2003, and then say after voting for a war, it’s a colossal misjudgment, does that impact on the soldiers at all?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, there’s a dilemma. Anything that is said by prominent people in the United States is heard by multiple audiences. It’s heard by the people in the United States. It’s heard by men and women in uniform, it’s heard by friends and enemies across the globe. So when one talks, one has to recognize the fact that there are those multiple audiences.
I think the other thing, though, the other side of the coin is that people know that in the United States we have a free system. We believe in a free system and free expression and that people are free to say what they wish and then be judged on what they say. And that’s a normal part of the national dialogue on important public issues that has happened my entire adult life and, frankly, to the great benefit of the country.
Q: To what extent have the problems gotten greater, more specifically, in Iraq? I mean, we had a pretty big insurgency problem even last week and the last two months, in particular. There has been a lot of discussion that that wasn’t anticipated enough. Is there truth to that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The insurgency and the incidents of violence have increased since about April. And they’ve leveled at a higher level than they were before April. It was predicted and anticipated that the closer we get towards elections in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, and also in the United States, that the terrorists, the extremists the – in the case of Iraq, the former regime elements, the Baathists, and in the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban and al Qaeda – would do everything in their power to try to prevent success. The worst thing that can happen to them is to have a moderate Muslim government in Afghanistan or Iraq. It is exactly the opposite of what they are determined to impose on the world. So it’s understandable and we all predicted that the level of violence, very likely, would go up during this period.
Q: Let’s talk about al-Sadr for just a minute. When we look back one day and think perhaps it was a mistake to not fully engage him and remove him from any power?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I guess, you know, who knows which way he’ll go. He’s now talking about joining the political process, but I just can’t predict what that might be. If he gets too far out of line, I think the Iraqi government will crack down.
Q: Yeah. This weekend, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice defended the characterization of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear capabilities in the months before the Iraqi invasion, even as those published reports said the government experts had cast doubt on it at the time. But it was pretty much common wisdom at the time that he was going to reconstitute this nuclear program. Correct?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The view – the Central Intelligence Agency’s view, the U.S. intelligence community and I should add, the intelligence communities of some other friendly European nations concluded roughly the following, that Saddam Hussein was giving $25,000 to the families of terrorists, was on the terrorist list, that they had used chemical weapons against their neighbors and their own people. And that as I say, they filed a fraudulent declaration to the United Nations.
The intelligence was that they had chemical weapons, that they had had an interest in biological weapons, as I recall, and that they had had an active nuclear program in prior years, that had been disassembled after the Gulf War and that they had an intent to reassemble it and had kept a number of the nuclear scientists that had been working on it together in an active effort. Now, no one believed they had a nuclear bomb, that I know of, and it was more that they had an intent to re-establish their program. And we’re in the process now, of course, of pouring over many of the pages of documents and interviewing and interrogating a whole lot of folks in Iraq to try to determine precisely what the facts were.
Q: Well, I know CNN’s news had a report out today that Iraqi intelligence documents confiscated by U.S. forces and that they have obtained, show numerous efforts by Saddam’s regime at work with some of the world’s most notorious terror organizations including al Qaeda, to target Americans. We know of Vladimir Putin’s admonition and warning via his intelligence service to the United States and, more specifically, to the president in this regard. What can you tell us about these new documents they are claiming in this article that demonstrates Saddam’s government possessed mustard gas, anthrax, et cetera? Can you expand on that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I can’t. Until I have a chance to see – until the people going over documents have a chance to pour through enough of them, to develop some conviction about what they think it means and then to try to corroborate them by interviews with people, it would be premature for me to get into it.
Q: Is it true, as the New York Post reported today, that violence is threatening a Saddam trial? Do we know anything about that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t. You have to assume that there are people that have very strong feelings about Saddam Hussein, people who would like to free him and put him back in office – a small number – and people who’s families were killed by him who would like to see that he was killed. So it’s important that the Iraqis and the coalition forces assure that they have proper protection for him, so that he is able to stand trial.
Q: Washington Post reported today -- quoting the U.S. envoy -- that “There’s no stopping the Afghan election.” How do you connect that to Al-Zawahiri’s, who’s the second in command of al Qaeda’s issue of the new audiotape, calling on young men of Islam to attack Americans, Jews, and western interests throughout the world? Do you interpret that to be an attempt to disrupt the coming election?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, no question, there’s going to be a major effort to try to disrupt the elections in Afghanistan and in Iraq. On the other hand, the Afghan government has a process in place -- it’s supported by the United Nations. The coalition forces are ready and the NATO nations have agreed defendants and forces to assist in protecting the election process in that country and I think we’ve got a wonderful chance at having a successful election in Afghanistan later this week.
Q: Do you worry – we’re what, 29 days out of an election and we saw what happened in Spain – do you worry if these people would try and upset the election process in Afghanistan, they certainly are trying with their insurgency in Iraq, we saw what they did in Spain, one has to conclude that if they could have an opportunity to try and disrupt our elections, they will? Do you feel strongly that that is a possibility?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there’s no question, but that these folks are determined to do everything they can to disrupt the free election process in countries of the world because their goal as extremists is to try to take over and to impose their will and to weaken anybody that is against what the extremists are doing. Now these are people who go around cutting off people’s heads. Their view of the world is a dark view. And the idea of a free election and free expression and women voting, all of these things, are things that they’re dead set against. So we have to assume that they’re going to do everything possible in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in the United States.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld – Don Rumsfeld’s with us. And is this – let me ask one last question and I’ll let you go. Over the course of the last week through the debate and everything, and Colin Powell has spoken out about this, John Kerry had charged that the Bush administration had bungled the chance to get Osama bin Laden, that we diverted resources. Tommy Franks in an interview that I had with him Thursday night said, absolutely, that is positively not true and has charged that the president had outsourced the mission to Afghan warlords was not true. Well, what do you make of this? Here you’re the secretary of defense, you’re engaged in battle and war and these false charges and the politicizing of war, you know, have become prominent in the campaign.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it’s a good thing that Tommy Franks is around to tell people what actually happened. He was there. He knows.
Q: All right. Mr. Secretary, it’s always good to talk to you. As you notice, I didn’t really try and drag you into it…
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughs] Thank you.
Q: God bless. Thank you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Bye.