Q: I’m going to interrupt the news right now because I want to get to this. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, is here in Norfolk today and there’s going to be a presentation, there’s going to be a press conference at 10: 30 at headquarters SACT (sp) in Norfolk, Virginia, featuring the NATO Secretary General and the U.S. Secretary of Defense. So let’s welcome to WNIS Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Good morning, sir.
Rumsfeld: Good morning. How are you?
Q: Outstanding. Good to have you on. Now I was looking at your bio. And you were a active Navy aviator for quite some time and then in the reserves. So I guess you’ve been in Norfolk before, huh?
Rumsfeld: Well, I have. I came through Norfolk, first time, when my father was in the Navy back in World War II and then I was stationed in Norfolk in 1956 when I was training for the Olympic wrestling team and had a daughter born in Portsmouth Naval Hospital.
Q: Wow. (Laughs.)
Rumsfeld: Forty eight years ago.
Q: Okay, so a lot of memories when you’re back here. Well, that’s good, sir. That’s good. Of course, here we’re all focused on the continued fighting in Iraq and we’re looking at this. And one of things I wanted to ask you about, when we look at it – and if you can tell us who are we fighting? Is it organized, is it disparate forces, a number of different groups operating under different banners? What can you tell us about that, sir?
Rumsfeld: There are several different groups. The – clearly, there are foreign terrorists that have come across the borders from Syria and Iran into the country and are a part of the problem. Then there are elements of the former regime that would like to take back the government and the control of the country – the Baathists. And that was basically the problem in Fallujah, their Fedayeen Saddam people that go around in black masks. You’ve seen pictures of them, I’m sure.
Q: Um-hm. Yes.
Rumsfeld: And most recently, the elements within the Shia population, this fellow named Sadr…
Rumsfeld: … young cleric who is opposed to the coalition and he has been causing trouble and he has what’s called a Mehdi army, which is several thousand people who are in opposition.
Q: Sir, this Sadr, there have been published accounts indicating that he is the tool of the Iranians. Do you buy that?
Rumsfeld: Well, his father was a very distinguished person who had a good name in the country many, many years ago. And he’s been gone – long gone. He was killed by Saddam Hussein. And this young person really has a very limited following and is reputed to have connections with Iran, but it’s – I don’t think that I’m in a position to…
Rumsfeld: … really characterize his…
Q: Fair enough.
Rumsfeld: … particular bent is, other than he’s a violent person.
Q: Now as you know, sir, and you know better than I, when looking at these situations, you always have to plan for the worst-case scenario and war does make strange bedfellows. The U.S. and the Soviet Union in World War II. Are there any indications, sir, that the Sunni and Shiite are, in any way, joining forces against us?
Rumsfeld: They’re not. They’re each vying for control and power in the country.
Q: Now you know, everybody’s got an opinion. And we see Senator Dick Lugar saying we may need more troops in Iraq. What does Secretary Rumsfeld have to say about that?
Rumsfeld: Well, if we do, we’ll put them in. The commander, John Abizaid, has to be reviewing that question periodically. And I talked to him yesterday morning and he indicated at that time they had no plans to request additional troops, but it’s certainly possible.
Q: We see June 30th and the president reaffirmed yesterday that that is a day we will plan to turn things over to Iraq. Are we still on target? Are you on board with that?
Rumsfeld: Well, you said “turn things over.”
Rumsfeld: I think there’s a bit of confusion about that.
Rumsfeld: There never was any intention to turn over the security responsibilities in the country because it’s clear that the Iraqi security forces are not prepared to do that. They’ve come a long way from zero up to 200,000 of them, but they’re still in the process of being trained and equipped and that will take some time.
The June 30th date was a scheduled date to turn over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government…
Rumsfeld: … and that is still on schedule.
Q: All right. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is with us this morning. And one final question for you. Nowhere probably in the country has more military families than here in the Tidewater of Virginia, as you know, having lived here yourself. What would you like to say to them today, sir?
Rumsfeld: Well, the young men and women in the service today are doing – all volunteers, each one of them -- are doing such a superb job in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the horn of Africa and elsewhere around the globe, in Korea. And I visit them, I talk to them and they are talented, they’re trained, they’re well-lead, they’re well-equipped and they know they’re doing something that’s important. And the pride they feel in that is an exciting thing to see and we recognize that the families of these folks also sacrifice and serve and their long separations from their sons and daughters and loved ones and this country is certainly grateful to all of them for it.
Q: Well, Secretary Rumsfeld, I want to thank you very much for coming on today. It was a pleasure and I thank you very much. And I hope you enjoy your stay in Norfolk, sir.
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much, Tony.
Q: All right. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld right there on AM 790 WNIS.