ZOLLER: Joining me right now is Secretary Don Rumsfeld who visited Atlanta today with a speech on what the state of the Defense Department is today, and I thank you for being with me today.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much, Martha. It’s good to be with you.
ZOLLER: Thank you. And I think what a lot of people don’t know about you is that you were a Navy pilot for many years.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I was indeed. As a matter of fact my father was in the Navy during World War II on an aircraft carrier, and I was a Navy pilot and flight instructor for a number of years, and stayed in the Reserves and enjoyed it.
ZOLLER: And they sort of threw you out in 1989. [Laughter].
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, not in ’89 I don’t think. I think when I became Secretary of Defense 30 years ago I decided I couldn’t call myself up so I probably ought to… [Laughter].
ZOLLER: Probably a good idea. I met a young man today that was active duty Marines and Reserves and has been out for several years and has just joined back up because he feels like I’m 35, I’m not married, and they need me. So he’s getting ready to go back into active duty in the Marine Corps.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: If you see him, tell him we appreciate his service to the country.
ZOLLER: I told him that. That’s for sure.
It’s a scary place out there right now, Secretary Rumsfeld. We’ve got the blessing and curse, as I call it, of the 24 hour news cycle.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter].
ZOLLER: So while it has helped us in many ways, it also creates this situation where you think the sky is falling all the time. Sometimes you just have to unplug.
Where do you see our alliances going from a military standpoint?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We’ve needed as a country to have relationships with a number of nations that for whatever reason we’d severed relations with and discontinued military-to-military relations. For example, we had no real connections to Pakistan six years ago. Indonesia, another major Muslim nation, we had separated military-to-military relationships with Indonesia. India had been in the non-aligned world during the Cold War. Today we have very good relationships with all three of those countries and they’re very important nations.
ZOLLER: Don’t you think too, though, we have to have these alliances but we’ve got to be strong at home, too. And I know that’s a little bit out of your area of responsibility, but we’ve got to realize we have to be strong at home, too.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Indeed we do. We as a people, we need to have a strong economy. We need to have a healthy political system and we have to recognize the importance of homeland security, given the reality of violent extremists who are threatening our nation and have demonstrated their viciousness and willingness to kill hundreds and hundreds of innocent men, women and children.
ZOLLER: What is the status of the war on terror today?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Basically you would say that we have put together a coalition of about 80 countries in the world, where we’re sharing intelligence; we’re cooperating in any number of ways in trying to counter the proliferation of dangerous weapons. We are working with each other to put pressure on terrorists and terrorist networks across the globe. And, the effect of it has been not to stop any terrorist acts, because we know there have been acts in Bali, there have been acts in Russia, there have been terrorist attacks in Spain and London - all since September 11th. On the other hand, there have been an enormous number of terrorists that have been captured or killed. Everything they do today is more difficult because of the fact that this pressure is on them. It’s harder for them to recruit, it’s harder for them to raise money, it’s harder for them to move between countries, it’s harder for them to move weapons around and communicate with each other.
So the pressure is working but it has not ended violent extremisms. It still exists as a threat in this world and we need to maintain the pressure on them to avoid having a great many more innocent people killed.
ZOLLER: This past weekend we had a lieutenant colonel who is getting ready to retire, an intelligence guy, come and speak to our Sunday School class about an orphanage that he’s gotten involved in in Iraq, a Christian orphanage that he does on the side. He’s a very busy full time military man but he’s got a heart too, and he’s worked with this orphanage.
But one thing he said to us was that you have to fight on a lot of fronts, like what you were talking about. He said that you guys, meaning the old guys that are too old to be in the military that were in my Sunday School class, you guys have to be the economic warriors. You have to look for the opportunities to invest in these countries, to have opportunities to help lift up the economies of the world with our great wealth that we have in America.
Was he right about that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well he is. If you think about it, we do have a very international investment community, and investment from the United States has been an enormous advantage and benefit to a great many countries in the world.
In addition, I saw a report the other day that said Americans are giving something like $71 billion, not through government, but through private charities, religious and non-religious, to the countries of the world outside the United States. It’s an enormous amount of money to help people in other parts of the globe.
But he is right also in this sense. Today we have a war going on and the enemies frequently are in countries that we’re not at war with. That means we’ve got to strengthen the economies and the political systems of the countries where these terrorists hang out so that they can do a better job of putting pressure on those terrorists so that they’re less of a threat.
ZOLLER: We welcomed home Charlie Company from the 48th Brigade last week. We had about 2,000 people on the streets, about 2,000 people in our arena welcoming them home on a Thursday afternoon. These are citizen soldiers. Talk to us a little bit on how important people like the 48th Brigade are to waging the war on terror.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Today I went out to the airport and greeted a whole group of soldiers who were getting ready to go back into Iraq. They were leaving right as we were talking to them. The units are professional, they’re well trained, they’re well equipped, they’re well led, they’re proud of what they’re doing, and they’re all volunteers. Every single one of them stepped up and raised their hand and said send me. I want to serve my country. I want to defend freedom. And it’s better to be fighting the terrorists overseas than it is in our own country. They are doing an absolutely superb job.
We have a Total Force concept where the Active Duty people, the regular service people, plus the Guard, plus the Reserves work together in a seamless manner, and they’re doing a wonderful job.
ZOLLER: The guys I told you about when I saw you in September from Gulfport, Mississippi, they’re home now and getting ready to have their welcome home in June, which I’m going to go down for that because they’ve become very special to me and I feel pretty lucky to have gotten to know them.
I know we only have a couple more minutes with you and as you know the media, one of those other double-edged things, keep trying to push you out of your job. Just today John McCain, some AP story said John McCain does not rule out…you know…if he’s asked to serve as Secretary of Defense or something like that.
Don’t you find it interesting that they just keep hoping, I think, that you’re one day going to say this is enough?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter]. You know, it’s a very small minority of people and they have various reasons for doing what they do, I suppose.
I read a lot of history and I guess the reality is there’s never been a time of war or conflict where there haven’t been critics, people on the outside, challenging this and criticizing that and saying this thing and another thing, and that’s their right. But I have a different perspective on it. I don’t expect to go through life without criticism. The only unfortunate thing is the press seems to love the criticism and focuses on it much more than they do the positive things that are going on.
ZOLLER: That is very true, and I saw that when I went to Iraq. Anyway, sir, thank you so much for being with me today. I appreciate it very much.