Friday, November 16, 2001
(Interview with John Cody, WBBM Radio, Chicago.)
Q: How much of our problems vanish if bin Laden is neutralized, captured or killed?
Rumsfeld: Well, the goal that the president has set is to deal with the al Qaeda network across the globe. One of the problems obviously is Osama bin Laden. On the other hand, he has a lot of key lieutenants and that network could go right on, so it's important that he be stopped. It's also important that all the senior leadership of that network be stopped and that the network be pulled up and the finances dried up, and the people they've located around the world be stopped before they engage in any more mass murders.
Q: There's a lot of them in a lot of different places. Is what you're setting out conceivable, actually? Practicable?
Rumsfeld: The task is to do a whole host of things. Dry up their bank accounts, arrest a lot of people, gather intelligence, and they're being arrested all across the globe as we stand here today. There have been hundreds of people arrested who have been connected with terrorist networks and I would guess over the coming months there will be hundreds more.
Q: What's best for us if Mr. bin Laden is captured or if he is just gone from the face of the earth? A trial?
Rumsfeld: The goal, obviously, is to stop the al Qaeda and in this case the Taliban in Afghanistan who have been harboring these terrorists. The president has said it probably the way it ought to be said. We either bring him to justice or we bring justice to him.
Q: Do you want him on trial?
Rumsfeld: It's not for me to say. Life will turn out as it turns out. He'll either be killed in some cave or tunnel where he's hiding or he'll be shot down if he tries to leave by air or we'll find him in some other country.
Q: If the situation degenerates into a civil war in Afghanistan, would you be willing to bring in a large number of American troops, actual ground forces?
Rumsfeld: That country has had conflict for at least 22 years continuously. They have had, the Soviet Union engaged in battles there, various factions and elements and tribes have competed against each other. But probably among the most repressive has been the Taliban. People are relieved to have them gone.
I don't see that there's going to be a civil war there. I think that there certainly are differences, different tribes, trial elements, but my impression is that once the Taliban are gone and once the foreigners are gone, the al Qaeda, that people are pretty exhausted and tired. They've had three years of drought and they need a respite.
Q: The Northern Alliance don't seem like a real prize either. They seem like pretty nasty people from early reports, the way they've been able, when they followed the Taliban back. A, is that a fair assessment of them? B, do we owe it to the Afghan people to basically give them a peaceful country?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that your characterization is correct. My impression is that the Northern Alliance has occupied a number of towns. There have been some fierce battles. In fact there still is a fierce battle going on in Kunduz up north, but generally, from everything I've heard from the U.S. special forces on the ground and from the press reports, those that have gone into the cities have gone in, for all practical purposes, to stop the looting that was going on by the Taliban who were departing, they were the ones who were breaking into everything that could be broken into, and my impression is that the handling on the part of the Northern Alliance thus far has been measured.
Q: What makes you think we can be a success in Afghanistan by our likes when the Soviets clearly could not? They're as smart and as tough as we are.
Rumsfeld: First of all, it's fundamentally different. It's different in the sense that the United States wants nobody's real estate, we covet no one else's land, the Soviet Union was an expansionist empire that was determined to take over that country. The Afghan people know we have no interest in Afghanistan other than in stopping the terrorists and to provide humanitarian assistance to the extent we can.
Second, when the Soviet Union was trying to take over Afghanistan they had a super power called the United States of America that was opposing them. We have no super power opposing what we're trying to do because we're not trying to do anything other than stop terrorists from killing people.
Q: It seems like there's a lot more where bin Laden came from. Are we in for a protracted terrorist conflict? Are we looking at another incident year after year for the next umpteen years?
Rumsfeld: The United States has been very fortunate. We've had two big oceans and friends to the north and friends to the south. We've now recently experienced a couple of terrible terrorizing attacks.
I think the president was right when he said we have to be on a state of heightened awareness. There are a number of networks around the world, they do have money, they do have people trained, they've been training them in these Afghan training camps, and I think that it's reasonable to expect that some other things, terrorist acts will happen in various places in the world.
On the other hand, you can't defend against everything at every place at every time against every technique. What you have to do is go after them and that's what we're doing.
Q: Why do you think they dislike us so much?
Rumsfeld: I think that's nonsense that they dislike us. What they want to do is impose their will, and I read that nonsense in the press about why do they not like us. Baloney. These people are trying to take over a number of the countries, the Muslim countries in the Middle East and in other parts of the world and to achieve power. That's what they are doing. They have hijacked a religion. This isn't a religious matter. It isn't a matter that involves the United States directly except insofar as the United States and the West represent success and it's a target that they're able to focus on and focus some of their recruits on successfully to try to terrorize and frighten us from being involved in the world and it's simply not going to work. It isn't a matter of like or dislike.
Q: John Cody of WBBM Radio. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, sir.
Rumsfeld: Thank you. It's nice to see you.