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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with CBS Face the Nation

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
March 14, 2004
Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with CBS Face the Nation

(Interview with Bob Schieffer and Tom Friedman, Face the Nation, CBS-TV.)


     Schieffer:  This week on “Face The Nation,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the anniversary of the war in Iraq and our war on terror.  Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for last week's deadly bombing in Spain that killed 200 people and injured nearly 1500.  Is this the new front in the war with the terrorists?  What do these attacks mean for the United States, and what about Iraq?  Six more U.S. soldiers were killed there over the weekend.  How much longer will it take to get the job done?  These are the questions for Secretary Rumsfeld.  Tom Friedman of the New York Times joins in the questioning, and we'll have another 50th anniversary flashback about another presidential campaign where the question was, could a candidate from one part of the country win in another region.  Then, I'll have a final word on the wisdom of the next generation.  But first, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on “Face The Nation.”


     Announcer:  “Face The Nation” with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer.  And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.


     Schieffer:  And good morning, again, the Secretary is in the studio with us this morning.


     Welcome, Mr. Secretary.


     Tom Friedman is also at the “Face The Nation” table.


     Mr. Secretary, this is your 13th appearance on “Face The Nation.”  Thirteen is a big number for you.


     Rumsfeld:  It is indeed.  It's amazing, but I represented the 13th Congressional District of Illinois in the Congress of the United States back in the 1960s.  And then, by happenstance, I was the 13th Secretary of Defense 25 years ago.


     Schieffer:  And you say Friday the 13th is your lucky day.


     Rumsfeld:  It is.


     Schieffer:  You made your first appearance on “Face The Nation” in 1969 when you were part of the Nixon Administration, but then in the midst of another presidential campaign, 30 years ago, you appeared on Face The Nation.  You were the White House Chief of Staff.  The big question was, President Ford was traveling so much that people were wondering, could he be president, is he devoting enough time to the office of president.  You came on to answer those charges, and because these charges were out there, this is what a young reporter asked you?


[Video clip.]


     Friedman:  They're young.


     Rumsfeld:  I don't even recognize us.


     Schieffer:  Well, I think my hair is a little greyer than yours since that day.


     Mr. Secretary, that brings me to a point of, secretaries of Defense over the years have taken a different view towards campaigns.  Melvin Laird, who was the Secretary of Defense when you were on “Face The Nation” that day sat out that campaign, later other Secretaries, including Harold Brown, who worked for Jimmy Carter, thought it was necessary for the Secretary of Defense to actually defend the president's programs.  Harold Brown took part in the campaign.  What will be your role in this campaign, or will there be one?


     Rumsfeld:  There won't be a role.  The president has specifically asked Colin Powell and me not to be involved in the campaign.  He thinks that it's best if his Secretary of State and his Secretary of Defense tend to their responsibilities and not allow their Departments to become enmeshed in the campaigned.  It's obviously difficult if those issues become prominent, and we have to discuss those issues that we will be doing it in a manner that is not campaign-style at all.


     Schieffer:  All right.  Tom?


     Friedman:  Mr. Secretary, do you have any independent information, or have you heard from the Spanish government that would lead to any kind of confirmation that al Qaeda or al Qaeda sympathizers were behind the attacks in Madrid?


     Rumsfeld:  Well, first, Tom, let me just say, how tragic that attack was in Spain.  The 200 people that were killed, that are known to have been killed, my condolences to their families and their loved ones, it's a tragic event.  We've seen terrorism strike in not just Spain or the United States, but obviously in Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, and Turkey, and so many other countries across the globe, and it's always a sad thing when it happens.


     No, I don't have any intelligence that would give clarity.  It's so recent.  The one thing I would say is, there seem to be growing connections between terrorist organizations, and Spain has been fighting terrorists for many, many, many years, and they have demonstrated leadership in the global war on terror.  And terrorists attack leaders.  And it takes courage to be a leader.  And God bless the Spanish people and the Spanish Government for the strength and the courage they've shown, and we all wish them well as they sort through the terrible carnage.


     Friedman:  But are you worried about opposition voices, which we've seen a lot of there in the last 24 hours, basically saying, this is what you get for siding with the Bush Administration?


     Rumsfeld:  Oh, well, Tom, you know throughout history there have been people who have argued that, don't get involved.  In the neighborhood we see it, you see someone beating on the neighborhood children, and you have a choice, you can either help the neighborhood children against the bully or not.  And, there have always been people and countries in the world that have said, gee, don't do that.  It's kind of like feeding an alligator hoping it eats you last.  And it's not a terribly proud posture, in my view.  So, I think that we don't know if this is the ETA, or some other terrorist activity, but we'll certainly wish them well, and hope that they sort it out.


     Schieffer:  Mr. Secretary, this is the Weekender, this week marks a year since we went into Iraq.  Four American soldiers were killed, I think, this weekend, or six in all this weekend, four earlier in the week.  We're due to turn over responsibility to the Iraqi Interim Government on June 30th.  As these deaths keep happening, as we see these terrorist attacks there, it raises the question, is it safe enough to do that?  Is it still feasible to do that?


     Rumsfeld:  Bob, the theory all along has been that it's unlikely that you can succeed in Iraq if one activity is not closely coordinated with the other activities, and by activities, I mean the progress towards self-government, the progress towards security, and the economic progress with respect to essential services.  They all need to kind of move apace, and to the extent they do, that's a good thing.  We're making very good progress with respect to the Iraqi security forces.  We're up to over 200,000 Iraqis that have been trained and equipped, and are deployed and out providing security.  In fact, there are more Iraqi security forces being killed than coalition security forces.  Of course, there are a lot more of them.  The essential service work is going forward, and so, too, the governance.


     Now, the argument that it's too fast, or too soon, I guess we'll only know in retrospect, because it's a difficult thing to judge.  But my personal view is, the Iraqis are going to be better able to provide for their own security, more likely to make progress with respect to their economic and essential service side of the equation if, in fact, there's an Iraqi face on the government, and they have a voice and some important role in governing their country.


     Schieffer:  But you still plan to do this?


     Rumsfeld:  That's the plan.  The plan is that some time this summer, or June 30th, the responsibilities for sovereignty would be passed over to Iraqis.


     Friedman:  Mr. Secretary, we're just about three months away from that deadline, and it's still not clear to me, I think, or to Iraqis who are you actually going to hand the keys to?  Is it just going to be the governing council, is it going to be expanded governing council?  We're only three weeks away from that ‑‑ three months away from that.


     Rumsfeld:  Three months, right, and they're working on that.  Ambassador Bremer and the Department of State and the White House are working with the governing council.  The United Nations are involved.


     Friedman:  Do you have a preference?


     Rumsfeld:  I don't.  My attitude is, we're going to get an Iraqi solution to this, and that's better than any other solution.  It won't be a Saddam Hussein dictatorship.  We'll have 25 million people who have been liberated.  Schools are open.  Hospitals are functioning.  There's 1200 clinics working.  They have a new currency.  They have a central bank.  They've just done this remarkable transitional administrative law, the so-called TAL, or interim constitution, which is a very good start towards self-government, and I think we're just going to have to continue to work with them.  I was struck, not just by the document, the interim constitution, but by the process.  They actually compromised.  And that part of the world is not known for that type of compromise.


     Schieffer:  The president ordered this invasion, as the world knows, because he said there were weapons of mass destruction, and he said they posed a threat to this country.  Knowing what we now know, Mr. Secretary, do you think it was still wise to take this invasion?  Did Iraq pose an immediate threat to this country?


     Rumsfeld:  Bob, the answer is, I do believe it was the right thing to do, and I'm glad it's done.  The 25 million Iraqi people, a regime, a vicious regime is gone after decades of repression and death squads, and mass graves, and mass killings.  A country that used chemical weapons on its neighbors and on its own people, that fired ballistic missiles into several of its neighboring countries.  It's a good thing they're gone.


     Schieffer:  Let me just ask you this, if they did not have these weapons of mass destruction, though, granted all of that is true, why then did they pose an immediate threat to us, to this country?


     Rumsfeld:  You and a few other critics are the only people I've heard use the phrase immediate threat.  I didn't, the president didn't.  And it's become kind of folklore that that's what's happened.


     Schieffer:  You're saying that nobody in the administration said that?


     Rumsfeld:  I can't speak for everybody in the administration and say nobody said that.


     Schieffer:  The president didn't say that?


     Rumsfeld:  If you have any citations, I'd like to see them.


     Friedman:  Right here it says, some have argued ‑‑ this is you speaking, some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraqi is not imminent, that Saddam is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons, I would not be so certain.


     Rumsfeld:  And ‑‑ 


     Friedman:  That's close to imminent.


     Rumsfeld:  Well, I've tried to be precise, and I've tried to be accurate.


     Friedman:  No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people, and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.


     Rumsfeld:  My view of the situation was that he had ‑‑ we believed, the best intelligence that we had, and other countries had, and that we believed, and we still do not know, we will know.  David Kay said we're about 85 percent there, I don't know if that's the right percentage.  But the Iraqi survey group, we've got 1,200 people out there looking.  It's a country the size of California.  You could have hidden enough biological weapons in the hole that we found Saddam Hussein in to kill tens of thousands of people.  So it's not as though we have certainty today.


     But, think what happened.  There were 17 U.N. resolutions.  There was unanimous agreement that he had filed a fraudulent declaration.  The final opportunity was given with the last resolution, and he didn't take it.  He chose war.  He didn't do what Kazakhstan did, he didn't do what South Africa did, he didn't do what Ukraine did.  He didn't say, come in and look, and see what we have.  He was engaged in active deception.  We'll ultimately know a great deal about what took place.


     Schieffer:  You know, David Kay, you mentioned David Kay, he said last week that the president should simply come clean with the American people.  He said, he told the Guardian Newspaper in England, the president should say we were simply mistaken, and we're determined to find out why.  And he said, until we say that, it's going to hurt American credibility, and delay reforms in intelligence, which simply need to be done.


     Rumsfeld:  Well, I didn't see the full statement that he made, but I would say this about that.  First of all, there are lessons being learned about intelligence, and the Central Intelligence Agency, and the intelligence community have engaged in a lessons learned process.  And there isn't any delay, as that statement suggests, in addressing those issues, to the extent they're known at this point.


     Second, David Kay by his own testimony indicated that he thought we knew about 85 percent of what we'd know.  That's an estimate.  By his own testimony it's an estimate.  And we have very talented people out there working very hard to learn whatever else there is to know.  And I think it's perfectly proper to reserve final judgment until we've been able to go through that process, run down those leads, and see what actually took place.


     The president has said, essentially, what David Kay said, that thus far we know what's been delivered, and what's been discussed publicly, and we suspect there's more to be learned.  And that's why we're spending so much time and effort interrogating people.  There are millions of documents yet to be reviewed, literally millions of documents.


     Schieffer:  Let me ask you about a criticism that's been leveled by the Military Officer's Association of America, that's 300,000 retired and active duty officers, who say that your plan to increase the size of the Army by the policy they call stop loss is simply a back door way to reinstitute the draft.  They say that when you decided to increase the force levels up to, I think, 30,000, I may not be exactly right on that figure, instead of doing that by recruiting more people, what you're doing is telling people who are already in the service that they're going to have to stay an extra amount of time, maybe as much as 16 months.  And what they say, this is their criticism, is this is the most unfair kind of draft, because what you're doing is drafting people who have already served the country.  What is your response to that?


     Rumsfeld:  Well, obviously they're not well informed.  First of all, the ‑‑ 


     Schieffer:  They've listed it as one of their top legislative priorities is to get this changed this year.


     Rumsfeld:  The fact is, they're not well informed.  The plan for the Army is not my plan for the Army, it's the Army's plan for the Army.  General Schoomaker and Les Brownlee have put it forward, they've testified on it.  And we have been increasing the size of the Army for close to two years.  We have emergency power to do that, we've been doing that.  The suggestions that the Army should b increased in size are basically coming from people who haven't been watching what's been taking place.  It's been growing, and it is still growing, and it will grow more in the period ahead, under General Schoomaker's plan.


     Schieffer:  You're not saying, sir, are you, that this is not what they're doing?


     Rumsfeld:  I am saying that that's not what they're doing.  I'm saying ‑‑ I don't know the full statement that you're referring to, but let me just tell you what's happening.  Rather than commenting on that, because I haven't read it, or I'm not familiar with it, I'd rather say what is, in fact, happening.  And what is happening is, the Army is going from something like 33 brigades up to 43 or 48 brigades over the next four years.  We are rebalancing the Guard and Reserve with the active force, because we inherited a badly imbalanced, unbalanced Army, as between the skill sets in the active force and the Guard and Reserve.  And the progress that General Schoomaker has been making is impressive.


     Second, the suggestion that ‑‑ stop loss has always been used.  And it is not used excessively today.  Everyone bends over backwards to not have to use it.


     Schieffer:  But, you are using it now?


     Rumsfeld:  Just a minute.  Everyone in the service who is there is a volunteer.  And the idea of equating that to conscription, or a draft is inaccurate, and misses the point entirely.  Everyone there is there as a volunteer.


     Schieffer:  Yes, sir, but they volunteer for a certain period of time, and then when they're told as they're about to get out that they're going to have to stay longer ‑‑ 


     Rumsfeld:  Bob, you're wrong. They volunteer ‑‑ 


     Schieffer:  This is not my thing, this is what the Military Officer's Association of America is saying.


     Rumsfeld:  I am telling you that the fact is that everyone serving on active duty is a volunteer, and they volunteered knowing precisely what the rules were.  And they've known that stop loss has been a part of that policy or rule throughout a very long period of time.  It's nothing new.


     Schieffer:  Do you know how many people have been affected by stop loss, say, in the last couple of years?


     Rumsfeld:  We do.  I don't have it on the tip of my tongue, but that number ‑‑ 


     Schieffer:  Would it be about 30,000?


     Rumsfeld:  Over time, over some period, like a day, or a week, or a month, that someone may have served somewhat longer, that number might be right.  I don't know.  When they join they know that that could be the case.  And they volunteer for that, and they understand that.  And the overwhelming majority of the people serving today are proud of their service, and they're anxious to be serving.


     Friedman:  Mr. Secretary, the Pentagon has asked the Justice Department to join the inquiry into allegations that Halliburton has been ripping off the American taxpayer in Iraq, overcharging for fuel.  Do you regret bringing Halliburton in, given the former ties the vice president has had with this company, the controversy now that's been swirling around this?


     Rumsfeld:  Well, first of all, you say do you regret bringing in Halliburton?  What happens is that you have a government, and you have contracts, and you then let the contracts under the existing rules.  And the rules are that if there is an existing contract occasionally they can be expanded to cover an emergency situation.  In other instances, the contracts are competitively bid.  So it isn't a matter of do you regret letting someone in.  If there was an existing contract, and it's expanded, that's why it was written in a way it could be expanded.  And if it's competitively bid, and some company wins it, they win it.


     Now, what we've seen is that almost anything involving that company, because of the vice president's former relationship with it, is big news.  So everyone looks at it, and examines it under the microscope, and that's fine.  In fact, there are so many auditors, and inspector generals out in Iraq examining every single contract, that my impression is that there will be nothing that went wrong that will not be very well known.  And when something goes wrong, believe me, we will land all over them, regardless of which company it is.


     Schieffer:  All right.  At that point, we have to stop.


     Mr. Secretary, you're always a good advocate for your cause.  Thank you so much for being with us.


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