Q: I know we have limited time, so I just want to get right in on the things that are really meaning a lot to the folks here in Hampton Roads.
Q: Twenty five miles away is Blackwater Security in Moyock, North Carolina. Folks very concerned about what happened to four members of the security team. What I want to know is why is the military – I know privatization has been a huge issue and we’re privatizing a lot of services. Why is the armed services privatizing armed security?
Rumsfeld: The armed services are not privatizing security. The…
Q: These men were providing security for…
Rumsfeld: … society…
Q: … a convoy.
Rumsfeld: … the society is privatizing security. And…
Q: However you want to say it.
Rumsfeld: Well, I mean, that’s the fact. Those tasks that are military tasks are being performed by military people. And there are a great many people who are involved in various types of enterprises or activities that don’t have military people and they need security. So there’s created a market for security forces. And it’s been a good thing that the security forces around this country and the world do a superb job. We end up hiring contracts for the security people sometimes, for example, when a foreign leader needs protection. And the…
Q: When you say, “we hire” you mean the military?
Rumsfeld: I mean, the United States government. It happens not to be the military, it happens to be the Department of State, is asked for assistance, for example, from time to time to assist some country that is just beginning to develop a capability and before they have it, the Department of State may recommend that they look at various security outside security firms and they do that. And so it’s a perfectly understandable thing. It isn’t that there’s a shortage of U.S. military for military tasks. We’ve got something like 2.4 million men and women and gone active in guard and reserve and individual ready reserve who were available to serve in military functions. But there are a number of instances where people want security forces so they use a private security firm and that’s a good thing.
Q: This morning, I read that there’s a possibility maybe contingency for more troops to be sent to Iraq. What do you think it would take to kind of activate that, to give the go-ahead to send more forces in?
Rumsfeld: It would just take the commander on the ground that are requesting it. And the commander currently is Rick Sanchez, who’s in charge of Iraq and John Abizaid who has the central command. And they make those judgments, as they go along and they’ve been told by me that if they at some point feel they need additional forces, that they’ll request it and they’ll have them.
Q: We have a reporter, a military reporter who, just within hours got back from Iraq. And in her travels inside Camp Anaconda in Kuwait and other places in Iraq, she spoke to a lot of troops who say, “we need more people.” So how do you, as the Secretary of Defense, how do you really take the pulse of the troops when you’ve got the average non-commissioned officer saying we really need more people and the leaders at this point saying, we’re fine?
Rumsfeld: First of all, the average non-commissioned officer is not saying what you’re saying they’re saying. That is one or two. There are hundreds of them. And you can get any view across the full spectrum of opinion. And it depends on where the person is, what their circumstance is, what their personal opinion is. And it’s the job of General Sanchez and his team to look at the totality of it, ask that question, every day, every week, every month and make a considered judgment about it and that’s what they do. And clearly, someone back in Washington, D.C., isn’t in a position to make that judgment. It’s judgments and recommendations that would have to come from the field. And it would – if you tried to follow the recommendations of 115,000 people who are in Iraq for the United States military, would have views all across the spectrum, you can’t do that. You have to have the senior people look at it on the ground in Iraq, General Sanchez and his team, or General Abizaid, and make a recommendation to us in which case, we’ll clearly be responsive and do what they recommend.
Q: So you’re saying those folks who are saying, we don’t have enough people, we don’t have the right equipment, they’re just unhappy?
Rumsfeld: No. No. You can have a person in one part of the country, for example, take the north, where there’s not been anything going on, to speak of – it’s been quite quiet, very few incidents – and they may say, well, we don’t have a problem here, we have too many people. You can have a situation in Baghdad where there have been a number of incidents and problems and at some moment, someone could say, we don’t have enough people. So it’s not a matter of the total number of people, it’s a matter of distribution of the people. And that’s – it’s is complicated. It’s not an easy thing to do. And it’s perfectly normal that people have opinions and express them. It’s a free country and we have a free press. But simply because someone says we have too many or we have too few, doesn’t mean we have too many or too few. That’s something that the senior people have to make a judgment on – the military people – and it’s not something that’s decided in Washington.
Q: How does the military overall have to change its strategy and is there any ongoing concern about changing, just in case there is a real Shiite uprising, which it looks like there could be?
Rumsfeld: Well, they’ve already made a change, for example. During this deployment and re-deployment process, there have been people coming in before people leave. And as a result, there has been an overlap. And instead of having the normal 115,000 troops in Iraq, today we have something like 135,000.
Rumsfeld: And that’s because the ones that have been replaced, haven’t left yet. And my guess is that General Abizaid will probably take advantage of that during this period.
Q: When you say “this period,” do you mean between now and June 30th?
Rumsfeld: No. I was just talking about this immediate period. June 30th is a date that doesn’t have anything to do with the security forces or our troops or military people. It has only to do with the transferring of governance to interim Iraqi government. And there have been a lot of confusion about that. People have said, well, if you’re going to transfer sovereignty on June 30th, does that mean the troops are coming home? But, of course, it does not. The president has said quite clearly that the troops are going to stay there until there are Iraqi capabilities, security capabilities that can take over those responsibilities and they’ll stay as long as necessary and not any longer than is necessary. We have no desire to have our forces there. But 25 million people have been liberated. It’s a good thing for the people of Iraq that they’ve been liberated. The killing fields are not being piled high with bodies. Saddam Hussein, on the average throughout his 33 decades, killed something like 15 (thousand) to 25,000 people a year.
Q: I think most people understand that and I think they understand that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein. Whether there are weapons of mass destruction or not, I think people understand that at least that’s something everybody can agree with. What’s our interest now in making sure that Iraq is a stable place, whether it means we’re in there for two more years or 10 more years?
Rumsfeld: Well, we do have an interest in that. It’s an important part of the world and it is, we believe, important. Look at Afghanistan. Afghanistan had a terribly difficult history – civil war, occupation by the Soviets. And today they’re moving along towards a more democratic system. And the 25 million people in Afghanistan today are free and women have rights to vote and to participate in the society, which they didn’t have. And the Taliban are not running around killing people and the al Qaeda are not using Afghanistan as a platform for killing Americans anywhere in the world today.
Now Iraq, the same situation. You got 25 million people. They’re free today. They’ve been liberated. And if they are able to make a transition to a free government -- a democratic government, a government that’s whole and one country at peace with its neighbors – it can change the economic circumstance in that part of the world enormously for to the benefit of all those people.
Q: Lots of people now are saying – making a huge issue of out of how many American servicemembers who died since the end of combat. Are you worried that the next thing will be how many American servicemembers have died since the transfer of power on June 30th, that that would be a new benchmark for people to say, “See, you know, it’s not working,” because I mean 40 percent of Americans now believe we should not be there. And I know you’re not one to subscribe to the latest polls. But there are people who feel like we shouldn’t be there. What if they use June 30th as the next benchmark to say, “and Americans are still dying beyond June 30th,” I hope not, but chances are, it’ll keep happening.
Rumsfeld: Well, if you do something in life, somebody’s not going to like it. So you’ve got a choice. You either do nothing, in which case, it’s irrelevant, or you do something and it’s always going to be 1 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent, 20 percent who aren’t going to like it.
Q: Forty percent.
Rumsfeld: Fine. That’s fair enough. And my heart breaks every time someone is killed. It isn’t the numbers, total numbers, it is – you cannot go visit the people in the hospitals and see the courage that they’ve demonstrated and the loss of limbs and the lives that aren’t lived and not feel deeply about the truly wonderful young men and women who are doing this. And they’re doing something that’s noble, it’s right, it’s important. And throughout the history of mankind, there have been times when there’s never been a conflict where there are a 100 percent of the people thinking it was the right thing or a good thing or a useful thing. And yet, our freedom has been preserved and we’ve been a force for good in the world. And the young men and women in uniform today are a force for good in the world.
Q: How much will we continue to rely on the reserve force and how long can this stop order stay in effect to keep people? And this will be my last question, I know you have to go.
Rumsfeld: The militaries use stop loss orders for – throughout history. The reason, obviously, is if you have a unit, and people are…
Q: Right. I understand that.
Rumsfeld: … due to get out at different times…
Rumsfeld: … you put a stop on it. And I would guess that would continue to be a normal part of the personnel policies of the armed forces. People understand that when they go in…
Q: Well, we have one that’s being used right now. Is there any…
Q: … limit to how long that you can keep people who are supposed to be getting out of the military rejoining their family there?
Rumsfeld: The way the stop loss is used in the most of the services today is essentially this – if a unit is going to go over and, say, a person is due to get out in six months or less, that person doesn’t go. If it’s six months or more, that person goes. And when they get towards the end of their period, they have a stop loss. And so, the number of months, if your service in Iraq, for the sake of argument, is up to one year in Iraq, therefore, the stop loss would very likely keep them into Iraq no more than six months and if--
Q: Um-hm. Or it could be indefinite.
Rumsfeld: What do you mean indefinite?
Q: Stop loss.
Rumsfeld: Stop loss are not indefinite.
Q: That’s what I’m asking.
Rumsfeld: No, they’re not.
Q: Okay. Because there are – again, we have somebody hours from in-country, who was talking to a reservists who said, “I thought I as going to be here for six months, now I’m here for 18.” It’s a moral issue. That person…
Rumsfeld: They’re not there for 18.
Q: ... as soon as they can re-enlist…
Rumsfeld: Sure. Okay.
Q: … they may not.
Rumsfeld: That’s true.
Q: And I know that.
Rumsfeld: And what you just said is inaccurate. I don’t believe there’s a person in that circumstance in Iraq for 18 months.
Q: I have no reason to believe that our military reporter is talking to people that ...
Rumsfeld: I think that--
Q: … that are lying to her.
Rumsfeld: It wasn’t a matter of lying. I think you just misspoke or someone misspoke to you. You can have a person who very likely could be in for 18 months because there’s a period of training, there’s a period of deployment, there’s a period of leave. They’d get 45 days leave out of that 18 months. But in Iraq, the pattern has been, except for volunteers, that they’ve been there up to a year. And I don’t know of anybody who’s been required to be there for 18 months, who did not volunteer to be there for 18 months, although, it’s entirely possible. But as a pattern, that’s not been the case.
Q: All right. I do appreciate your time.