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Rumsfeld with Abu Dhabi Television

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
April 27, 2003

Q: I would like first of all to thank you again for granting this interview to Abu Dhabi TV.  I would like to start with what happened yesterday - the explosion that took place in Baghdad.  Some people say that that is an example of how the American troops did not pay enough attention to issues of security and human aid as much as the military campaign went ahead.  How do you look at that?

 

Rumsfeld: Well, anyone who would say that obviously is wrong.  They don't understand what actually happened, and they don't understand the great care that the United States and the United Kingdom and the other coalition countries have taken in this conflict.

 

  I don't believe there's ever been a military campaign in the history of mankind where there has been this kind of care and attention to innocent lives, and second, I would say that it is very likely that that explosion was caused by not anyone connected with coalition forces.  There are still people shooting; there are still people attempting to blow up things who are left-overs from the fedayin Saddam crowd, from the paramilitaries, and from the regime of Saddam Hussein.  That - they do things, and they do things like that and they do it to blame it on the United States and to blame it on the coalition.  And it's important for people in television and in the press to understand that. 

 

We recently had a picture of a Red Crescent vehicle, and it had the big red crescent on it like a red cross in the United States and other countries, and we found it;  we opened it up.  There was no medicine, there were no stretchers; there was no assistance for people in need.  What was in it?  It was a military vehicle.  It was a military vehicle pure and simple that had been redesigned and then they fraudulently put on it that it was a Red Crescent vehicle.  And that's been a pattern of that regime.  It's a pattern of people today, trying to do things that kill innocent Iraqis, and then try to blame it on other people, and it's important for people in the media business to tell the truth about things like that.

 

Q:  Is it going to be part of the duties of the armed forces, of the United States armed forces which exist now in Iraq, to empty those warehouses, to declare them at least as safe as they can be to the public?

 

Rumsfeld: Well, let me put it this way.  In the last analysis, Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people, and the Iraqi people are going to have to make Iraq a safe place and a hospitable place.  We've gone in there with coalition forces and we found a country that had served for decades under a despot, under a vicious dictator.  The water wasn't being provided to the people - clean water.  Food was not being provided to the people in appropriate quantities.  Medicines weren't being provided to the people in appropriate quantities, and the infrastructure of that country had decayed because he was so busy building an army, and building an air force, and attempting to build palaces - the oil for food program was not oil for food.  It was oil for weapons, and oil for palaces.  Look at the pictures of those palaces.  That's where the money was going.  He was denying the Iraqi people. 

 

Now what is our responsibility?  Our responsibility is to work with the coalition countries, work with this country, the United Arab Emirates - and I must say, this country has been just enormously generous from the standpoint of humanitarian assistance: what they have done by hospitals that are being built, by providing water for the people, doing a host of things that are going to improve the lives of the Iraqi people.  And the United States, and the President of the United States, and the coalition forces are all very grateful to the UAE and to the leadership here and to the people for what they're doing. 

 

But the task we have to do is see that we meet those basic needs - that there is water, that there are medicines available, the kinds of medicines that are needed, that there is food, and then that there is a government, an Iraqi government, an interim authority in the first instance that can then figure out what kind of final government they should have.  That's what our obligation is, and we'll do that.  Now, can we guard every site every minute in that country?  Of course not!  It's going to take the Iraqi people coming forward and saying, "Look, we have a stake in this country.  We can make it a better country." And that's starting to happen.  All across the country people are coming up to us and saying, "Look, right down the street there's a cache of weapons."  Generally, they're in hospitals. Can you believe that?  Hospital after hospital, school after school was used as a headquarters for the Ba'th party, and we find caches of weapons.  They were purposely putting innocent men, women, and children - Iraqi men, women, and children - at risk by the way they conducted themselves.  It was outrageous. 

 

Q: Wasn't this supposed to direct some of the efforts that was exerted by American forces over there, special forces or the armed forces, to capture Saddam?  I mean, in Afghanistan, Taliban was defeated.  Bin Laden and Mohammed Omar are still free.  The same scenario was again happening in Iraq.  The regime was defeated, yet Saddam and some of his sons and some of his close friends are still free.  How do you look at this?

 

Rumsfeld: Well, the armed forces of the United States and the United Kingdom, were designed to deal with armies, navies, and air forces, and they do that.  They do it very well.  They weren't designed to do manhunts.  Now you just made the statement that they're still at large - they're still free.  I don't know that that's true.  I don't know where Bin Laden is.  He may be dead.  He may be alive.  He may be injured.  He certainly is not out in the open, making video tapes and leading the Al-Qaida at all.

 

 Where is Saddam Hussein?  Is he alive?  I don't know.  Is he dead?  I don't know.  Is he injured?  Possibly.  Is he hiding someplace, in a tunnel, or underground bunker or cave?  But is he running Iraq?  No.  He is not running Iraq.  Is the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein running Iraq?  Not on your life, they're not running Iraq.  Every day that goes by, additional members of the top leadership of that country are being scooped up, and you know how it's happening?  It's happening because Iraqis are coming up and saying to us, "Look, down the street is an intelligence officer who was in charge of X, Y, or Z.  If you go down there you'll find him and you can capture him."  We go down there and we find him.  It's happening because Iraqis are coming forward and saying: "Here's what you need to do to get rid of the Ba'th party.  Here's what you need to do get rid of the vicious Intelligence Service and the fedayin Saddam people, and here's where you can find these people."

 

Q: Speaking of Saddam Hussein and the video tapes: On the ninth, three or four days ago, we have aired some footage of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad on the ninth of April, the same day Baghdad was fallen in the hands of the American Army, and we have aired as well his speech.  Now the American intelligence, the FBI, was supposed to examine that tape and they were supposed to put their remarks forward.  Have you received any information in that regard?

 

Rumsfeld:  I haven't.  But that was the same day as I recall, that Saddam Hussein's Minister of Information was on television explaining that there were no American troops at the Baghdad Airport…

 

Q:  Exactly.

 

Rumsfeld:  …when it was fully occupied by American troops.

 

Q:  Two days later.  That statement was made on the seventh of April, and the footage that we have aired was taken on the ninth of April, the same day the American tanks have arrived in front of the Palestine Hotel.

 

Rumsfeld:  Is that right?

 

Q:  So, you have no information on that whatsoever?

 

Rumsfeld:  I didn't say that.  What I don't have is conviction.  I don't have enough information that I can put it all together and say to the world: "This is what happened."  I just don't.  I see scraps of information.  People come in and say this or that, but we'll know.  Time will tell.  He's not running Iraq.  He's gone.

 

Q:  Speaking of running Iraq:  I overheard you talking to the press over here, and telling them that to some extent - well to a great extent - Iraqis will decide the future of their country.

 

Rumsfeld:  Well, they will.

 

Q:  Yet, Mr. Secretary, there was a statement made by you, that you wouldn't like to see a government in Iraq that was ruled by religious people, or...

 

Rumsfeld:  By Iran.  By that kind of a government.  That's true.

 

Q:  Even if that was the choice of Iraqi people?

 

Rumsfeld:  Let me put it this way.   I believe that people naturally want to be free.  I believe that the Iraqi people do not,  they didn't fight a long war with Iran because they'd like Iran to come in and run their country.  When President Bush decided to go to the United Nations and say that there needed to be a change, he said he saw an Iraq that was whole, one country, not in pieces, an Iraq that would be free, the people would be free, an Iraq that would not threaten its neighbors, an Iraq that would not have weapons of mass destruction, and an Iraq that would put itself on a path towards representative government, where the rights of the minorities, the rights of different religious groups in that country, would be respected.

 

 In Iran what you have is a small group of clerics that are running that country in a way that is not democratic, that is repressive of the people, and I sense that there's stirrings in that country, that the young people, and the women, and the people who would prefer to be free and not have to follow such a rigid line, would like to see a change in that country.  Now that's their problem.  But the idea of having that kind of government imposed by a small clique of people in Iraq, would in fact be inconsistent with what we hope we'll see happen.

 

            Q:  My last question.  Newt Gingrich.  A few days ago, he said America cannot lead the world with a broken instrument of diplomacy.  This is an argument that transformation has worked in defense, transformation is under way in homeland security, and it is now time to bring the same model to the implementing of diplomacy, communication, and helping other countries economically.  Is he expressing himself, or is he expressing the Defense Policy Board view with regard to this?

 

            Rumsfeld:  My goodness, no.  He's a person who has lots of ideas, and he expresses them all the time.  The Defense Policy Board has a lot of members.  Henry Kissinger is a member.  James Schlessinger is a member.  Newt Gingrich is a member.  Tom Foley, the former Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, is a member.  Hale Brown, a former Democrat Secretary of Defense, is a member.  They all have different views, and they all go out and write articles and make speeches and say what they think.  That's certainly not the view of the Department of Defense.  That's not the view of the Defense Policy Board.  It's the view of the person who said the words.  And that's true whether it's Newt Gingrich, or Dr. Schlessinger, or Dr. Brown, or Dr. Kissinger, or any one of the members, Speaker Foley, whoever.

 

            Q:  And what about the Secretary of Defense?

 

            Rumsfeld:  It's really not my view.  I work closely with Colin Powell.  We're friends, and we have a very good cooperative relationship.  People who write that nonsense are just wrong.

 

            Q:  How far are we from declaring the end of the war officially?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, that's a matter for the President of the United States, and it's hard to say because there's still combat activity going on in Iraq, and there's still pockets of resistance.  The overwhelming portion of the country is reasonably permissive.  Non-governmental organizations are able to go in.  Humanitarian workers are going in.  The circumstances of the Iraqi people are better today, certainly, then they were under Saddam Hussein.  And they are going to get better every day. 

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.  Again, I thank you for granting us this interview.