Todd Wallace, KXAS-NBC, Dallas
Rumsfeld: Thank you, I’m glad to do it.
Q: Glad to have you. We both know the headlines: 16 dead, 20 injured from that helicopter attack yesterday. What can we do to secure American troops over there or is this just a sign of things to come in the future?
Rumsfeld: Well, of course, you’re right - it was a tough day on Saturday, and I’m afraid the truth is, there’ll be tough days in the future. A low intensity war like we’re engaged in is difficult and dangerous. On the other hand, our forces are successfully capturing and killing a good many terrorists and remnants of the Ba’athist regime. And the reality is that the only way to deal with terrorism is take the battle to terrorists.
You simply can’t hunker down and hide and hope that things will get better. You have to go after them and that’s what our forces are doing.
Q: But with that in mind, Mr. Secretary, not hunkering down, not getting away from the terrorists. This attack was used by shoulder-fired heat seeking missiles. Is this an idea or an indication that the attacks and the attackers are actually becoming more sophisticated in their approach against US forces, and if so, how do we combat that?
Rumsfeld: Well, these man-portable-surface to air missiles are spread all across the globe, regrettably, and they’ve shot down planes in a number of countries over the years. As a matter of fact, in recent weeks there’ve been 10 or 15 attempts but they were all unsuccessful - this was the first one that was successful. And it is a problem, it’s a serious problem and it requires an adjustment in some of the flight paths and tactics that are used and I’m sure our forces will make those adjustments.
Q: Today, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware who, of course, is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also criticized the Bush Administrations war ethic for lack in quota of sense of urgency in securing the peace and also said more troops are needed for job. Are more troops needed, sir?
Rumsfeld: Well, more troops are being added every day - they’re Iraqi troops that are being added. We’ve gone from about zero in June 1st to about 100,000 Iraqi security forces that are now involved with the Coalition. They’re approaching the size of the US force, which is now at about 130,000. It seems to me that our forces - the young men and women - are doing a superb job. They’re courageous. I was out today at Walter Reed hospital visiting with some of wounded from the Iraq war and they’re spirits are good, they’re wonderful young men and women and we’re so fortunate to have them doing what they’re doing and helping to defend freedom in this country.
Q: The Bush Administration has also been claiming that not enough good has been reported in the war with Iraq and that the media has been focusing too much on the bad. But that said, the bottom line is, we still have some 400 troops almost who have been killed, over 2,000 who’d been injured, there’s a $87 billion grant request that is also underway from the Bush Administration. Before starting any war, the question always is asked, “Is it worth the cost?” Has it so far been worth the cost?
Rumsfeld: First, let me say it’s not an $87 billion dollar grant request - it’s $20 billion dollar grant request for the Iraqi reconstruction and for building up their security forces. It’s money that will go to improve electricity and security in that country and it is needed and it’s passed overwhelming by both houses of the Congress.
Q: Okay, but also, is it worth the cost with the number of troops who are dying, the number of troops who are getting injured, with no end in sight and still having some trouble getting a broad international support? Has it still been worth the cost in your opinion?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all let’s talk about broad international support. There are over 32 countries that have forces on the ground and a number of countries at the Donors Conference in Madrid last week offered up billions of dollars of additional international assistance, so the idea that this country is going it alone in Iraq is just nonsense, it’s just not the case. With 32 countries with troops on the ground, I can’t imagine how you or anyone else can even say that.
Is it worth the price? Well, think back what 9-11 cost us. September 11th cost us 3,000 lives and hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. That’s what it cost the American people and it seems to me that free people have to be free; they can’t be terrorized, they can’t live in hiding, they can’t simply change the way the live their lives. And a terrorist can attack at any time at any place using any technique. And the only way to deal with terrorists is to take the battle to them, so I do think it’s worth it and I think the American people understand that.
Q: I want to ask you one more question, though I am getting the wrap from the producer. And that is that memo that you had. You were talking about this being a long hard slog, this campaign against Afghanistan and Iraq. You’re confident we can win but you’re not sure how long it will take. What do you mean by that, real quickly?
Rumsfeld: Well, real quickly, what I mean is exactly what I said. This is a tough business, terrorists are difficult to deal with, the United States is generally organized to deal with armies, navies and air forces, and this is a new set of problems for us and we’re adapting to it and it is going to take time and the President has said that from the very outset.
Q: Okay. Mr. Secretary, I do appreciate you joining us this afternoon. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Q: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Russ Spencer, WAGA-FOX, Atlanta
Q: Joining us now with some perspective on the recent violence in Iraq and what comes next in the war on terror there and around the world, the top man at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for being with us. We appreciate it.
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Q: I'd like to begin by asking you your reaction to Congress just within the last few minutes having passed the $87 billion aid package that the President asked for. What kind of a difference do you think it makes to the Iraqis that the U.S. is going to be putting up this money and not using Iraqi oil to pay for the reconstruction?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think it's an important decision by the United States government. The fact that the House and the Senate have overwhelmingly agreed to the President's $20 billion grant program for Iraq. The basic purpose of those funds is to provide security for the Iraqi people, to build up their army, their border guards, civil defense, site protection people and police, and also to improve electrical and medical facilities of various types -- water, sanitation and the like. So, it's a good thing, and the Iraqi people, I'm sure, recognize that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, just in the last couple of days, 200 soldiers have come home to the Atlanta area as part of the regularly scheduled R&R. Given what happened with the helicopter yesterday in Iraq, will there be any changes to the home leave program?
Rumsfeld: Well, the home leave program is, of course, important and it's well thought of and what my guess will be is that the commanders involved in making those programs will worry through those issues in the coming days to make sure they can do it in the safest possible way.
Q: In a recent memo that's been widely publicized to your stop staffers, you wrote, "It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another but it will be a long, hard slog."
How long are we talking about? If the guerrillas continue to attack in the Suni Triangle region there, near Falujah and Baghdad for the next year or two or three or four years, can you expect a significant number of American troops to stay there on the ground in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: Well, they will certainly need security forces in Iraq, just like any country needs security forces. That's why we're spending money and time and effort to train up their police and their security forces.
Ultimately, the security for that country has to be taken over by the Iraqi people. That's why these investments are important.
I expect that foreign forces, which are really unnatural in a country, they ought not to be there forever, over some period of time will come down. What will grow up and take their place will be the Iraqi forces.
Q: If I can refer again to that memo, you said, "We're putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost/benefit ratio is against us. Our cost is billions against the terrorists' cost of millions."
Is our current situation such that the header we work, the behinder we get? Of course, you know that a couple of weekends ago they attacked a hotel. This weekend, 16 soldiers killed in that helicopter. What did your staffers respond to you with that question, and what do you think the answer is given recent history?
Rumsfeld: If you think about it, a couple of handfuls of people, terrorists, stole three airplanes, four airplanes, and crashed one into the Pentagon, two into the trade towers, and one in Pennsylvania, and they cost the United States of America hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars as well as 3,000 lives of innocent men, women and children. What they spent on that was a fraction of the toll they took on our country. My point was just that, that a terrorist has an advantage because they can attack anywhere at any time using any technique. And you can't defend everywhere at any time. The only way you can deal with terrorists is to go after them where they are.
The country that I consider America, that I understand anyway, is a country that isn't prone to hunkering down and hiding and pretending the problem will go away. We know the only way to deal with this problem is to go after those terrorists where they are. And thank goodness for the wonderful young men and women in uniform who are doing such a superb job over there.
Q: Mr. Secretary, quickly, when the President was at Fort Stewart here in Georgia back in September, he said we're winning the war on terror, but in your memo you seem to suggest that we really don't have the measure to be able to tell whether we're winning or losing. In your estimation, is the President perhaps being too optimistic?
Rumsfeld: No. We're clearly winning the battles in Iraq and the battle in Afghanistan and we've done well in other parts of the world. For example, we've scooped up, I think, 42 out of the top 55 leaders of Saddam Hussein's country and we've captured or killed a large number of al Qaeda. The point in my memo was a different one.
The point in my memo was, it's not knowable how many terrorists are being produced out of these radical schools that are teaching people to go out and kill innocent men, women and children. Therefore you can't know how many additional terrorists are being created. We know how many we're capturing, killing, arresting, interrogating, and it's a lot. It's hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. We have thousands in detention now. But what we don't know is how many more are being created and that's the issue that I posed.
Q: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, thank you so much for your time and your perspective.
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Q: We appreciate it.
Greg Hirst, KHOU-CBS, Houston
Q: Mr. Secretary, the President said today the mission in Iraq is vital. Why is it vital to the American interest?
Rumsfeld: The reason it seems to me, one only has to go back and think about September 11th where we lost 3,000 innocent men, women and children and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.
Now, the problem is that terrorists can attack anywhere at any time, as we found out, and you can't defend everywhere at every moment. Therefore, the only way to do this is to go after the terrorists where they are.
Americans are free people and they want to be able to go where they wish and say what they wish and they're not the kind of people who want to hunker down and hide and hope that the problem will go away because it won't go away. It's something we have to do.
Q: We're also losing people in Iraq. I know while I was in Iraq, I met many military men and women from Houston and from other parts of Texas. We have many soldiers serving and dying there now. In fact, in yesterday's attack at least one soldier was from Houston.
What do you say to families here who are making that supreme sacrifice?
Rumsfeld: Well, our hearts and prayers have to go out to those families and loved ones of those people. An hour ago I just came back from Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital where the troops from Iraq are arriving with bad wounds, serious wounds, and I met a number of the families that were there visiting their loved ones. I look them in the eye and tell them how important what their sons and daughters are doing, how much the American people appreciate it, and they're proud of what they're doing and they understand the importance of it.
Q: As I said, I spent several weeks in Iraq and visited numerous parts of Baghdad and there are people there who are clearly appreciative of the American presence, but just as frequently, even I as a journalist was threatened and told to leave, to get out of the country. Our troops, of course, are feeling the threats of organized hatred there. So how do you balance that need to stay in Iraq with the American people's desire to have the troops come home?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think the American people have a very good center of gravity. They know what's being done there is important and it needs to be done and they support it.
You mentioned Baghdad, and it's true, Baghdad is the worst situation we have there. In the north, up in the Kurdish area it's been quite calm. In the south, it's been quite calm. In the west it's been quite calm. It's just that triangle north of Baghdad where the difficulties have been and the central area around Baghdad.
So, a large portion of that country is very pro-coalition and anti-Ba'athist.
Q: And in fairness, some things are returning to normal in some parts of Iraq, but it is not just Baghdad because these attacks, though not widespread, are certainly occurring in other parts of the country like Kirkuk and Karbala and Falujah itself. So, what more can be done to get these insurgents under control?
Rumsfeld: One thing that is being done as rapidly as possible, we've been building up the Iraqi security forces. We've gone from no Iraqi security forces in the new government to something like 100,000 police and army and border patrol and civil defense people, site protection people. And they are able to provide security for their own country and they're on the front line. They've had 86 people killed themselves since they stood up those forces around June 1st as the beginning of them. And they're growing every day.
We expect to have over 200,000 Iraqi security forces next year. So the forces providing security in that country are increasing every day.
Q: And with their partnership, I'm sure there are other things going on behind the scenes that we're completely unaware of, but with that said there has been some speculation that Saddam or his followers are behind these attacks. If he is still alive, and you've said before that you believe that he is, why aren't we seeing more of a concerted effort to find and target him?
Rumsfeld: We are seeing a concerted effort. It's just a very hard thing to do. I mean, the idea that we're not trying to find him misses the mark by a mile. We've got a large number of people working that problem.
It's a very hard thing to do, to find a single individual. Armies, navies and air forces were organized, trained and equipped to fight armies, navies and air forces. They weren't organized and trained and equipped to go out and find single individuals. It's a very difficult task.
Look at the number of people that stay on the FBI list for five, ten, 15, 20 years sometimes.
Q: Well, warfare does seem to be changing these days, so the big criticism in Vietnam was that we didn't give our troops the resources they actually needed to win the war. Are we in danger of that happening here in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: Well no, that was just one of the problems with Vietnam. But no, that's not the situation here at all. Our forces do have what they need to do this job. They're well equipped and they're well trained and they're doing an outstanding job. It's just a very difficult job to do.
Q: All right, Mr. Secretary. It's an unenviable job that you have and I know you're very busy. Thanks so much for taking time to speak with us today.
Rumsfeld: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Guy Gordon, WXYZ-ABC, Detroit
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us.
We should note by way of introduction that we have been offered this exclusive with you if we also agree to interview some of your colleagues in the Defense Department and we will do that later this week.
Why are you reaching out this way to local affiliates? Is it out of concern that support perhaps is eroding? Or is it to answer attacks from the Democratic presidential contenders that have come through cities like Detroit?
Rumsfeld: Well, it's because we feel an obligation to communicate with the American people and talk to them about the important issues of the day, and certainly what's taking place in the global war on terrorism is important to the American people and we feel we need to meet with them and talk to them like this.
Q: Well, we do it the day after a tragic weekend, losing 16 American soldiers after a missile brought down their Chinook helicopter.
There are some suggesting that this shows that the insurgents are gaining in sophistication. Have we reached a new higher level of danger in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: I wouldn't say that. Manned portable surface-to-air missiles have been around the world for a long time and they've taken out any number of airplanes in a lot of different countries over time.
We've been fortunate in Iraq that we've had any number of firings - 15, maybe 20 in recent months - but this is the first one that actually caused casualties. Of course our hearts go out and our prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those that were killed.
Q: Does it show that they are getting more sophisticated in the use of these weapons or that they perhaps were just lucky this time?
Rumsfeld: Well I guess the coming weeks and months will tell, but we agreed not -- A manned portable surface-to-air missile is not a new level of sophistication, I wouldn't say.
Q: No, but their use of it may have improved and their ability to coordinate and strategically execute this attack. Has that changed?
Rumsfeld: Well, I guess we'll know that --
Q: Are they becoming more well organized?
Rumsfeld: We'll know that in the weeks ahead. A single point of information isn't really a trend and we'll just have to see.
Q: Next year is an election year and already we have seen some quite partisan attacks against the Bush Administration policy. At what point within the Administration does it become a political issue and perhaps less of a national security issue?
Rumsfeld: Oh, goodness, I don't know that I'm going to get into that. I make it a practice to stay out of politics, and our country has always had free debates, open debates and discussions, and we've always been able to survive and succeed as a nation. So I think as Secretary --
Q: Mr. Secretary do you think that this debate maybe is a bit more hostile, a bit more partisan than in the past? You've been in the Beltway a long time.
Rumsfeld: [Laughter] I have. I came to Washington in 1957 for the first time when Eisenhower was President, and I'm not going to discuss the politics or the presidential candidates or the presidential campaign other than to say what I said. We've always had campaigns and we've always had debates and we've always survived them.
Q: There is a perception, and perhaps a misguided one, that we are going it alone in Iraq. But in terms of actual battlefield casualties, other than the Brits and perhaps the Aussies, have any of our three dozen or so coalition partners sustained the kind of casualties that we have?
Rumsfeld: First of all, we're not going it alone. That's a talking point that people are promoting and I keep hearing it repeated and I don't quite understand how people can keep saying it.
We have 32 nations with forces on the ground in Iraq. We have 90 nations engaged in the global war on terrorism. And by no stretch of the imagination can anyone say that is going it alone.
With respect to the other part of your question, the answer is yes. The Iraqis have lost 86 of their security forces in the last several months. They are now the second largest Coalition partner that we have. We have about 130,000 forces; the Iraqis have 100,000 security forces; and the other members of the Coalition have about 30,000.
Q: All right, Mr. Secretary, we're getting the wrap. We wish we could spend more time with you, but we do thank you for your time.
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.
Don Porter, KING-NBC, Seattle
Q: Were you surprised that the Chinook helicopter was shot down by shoulder-mounted missiles? Doesn't this represent a major escalation in tactics?
Rumsfeld: Well, manned portable surface-to-air missiles have been around many many years and there are many thousands of them all over the globe. They've shot down airplanes previously. We've been fortunate in Iraq that there have been 14, 15, 16 firings on our aircraft in recent weeks and months and none have hit. There's no question this weekend was a bad one, a tough one, and we lost some wonderful young men. My heart and prayer goes out to their families and their loved ones.
Q: Sunday, you were asked whether you might have underestimated the intensity of the resistance in Iraq and I saw you sort of sigh and admit, “I don't know.” Have you had any chance to further reflect on that?
Rumsfeld: Well, clearly what we're seeing is, in the country of Iraq, the cooperation in the north and the west and the south is very good. The difficult situation is basically in Baghdad and in the central area just north of Baghdad up towards Tikrit and Mosul and Falujah. So, a portion of the country is a problem. It's going to be a tough situation and it's dangerous. We've lost some wonderful people.
But what's being done is important. It needs to be done. We've got to simply take this battle to the terrorists where they are and we're going to prevail over time.
Q: There seems to be a battle of a different sort developing here at home. A new Washington Post poll shows 51 percent of Americans now disapprove of President Bush's handling of the Iraq situation.
Could it be that people see what's happening in this problem area, in the Sunni Triangle, and think that we may be losing the initiative in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: I'm told that any time you're losing wonderful young men and women in battle, it causes people to reflect and to be concerned. What we have to do is recognize that that was a tough day when that helicopter was shot down. I'm afraid there will be other tough days. It's a dangerous business. But what's taking place there is on balance - the commanders feel that they have the advantage, that they can deal with those problems. We're increasing the number of Iraqi security forces every day. They're taking on more and more responsibility. And the Coalition Provisional Authority is working to transfer governance to the Iraqi people.
That's the task. It's a tough one. We hope we can complete it successfully and I believe we can.
Q: Last night at SEATAC Airport, a local soldier's mom told us she was waiting for her son to come home for Iraq on a 15-day leave. She told us that she has to trust that they know what they are doing. With all due respect, Mr. Secretary, do you feel personally that you are worthy of a mother's trust?
Rumsfeld: Well, there's no way to answer that but to pray that it's true and that I am and that the wonderful people that are helping us here -- Jerry Bremer, Ambassador Bremer; General Abizaid; General Sanchez. We have some truly outstanding people here at the Department of Defense and in the government of the United States who are doing everything humanly possible to succeed and to do it with minimal loss of life and to see that we look out for the wonderful young men and women in uniform. I thank that woman for her confidence and I pray we'll all live up to it.
Q: I noticed, and other reporters couldn't help but notice, that President Bush failed to make any direct public reference to the 16 soldiers who died when that helicopter went down yesterday. Doesn't that seem to be unusual? He usually is so quick to pay tribute to the fallen, but not now, not this time.
Rumsfeld: I'm not sure that's correct. I just don't know. I don't now what you saw him say or when.
I know I spent time today out at Walter Reed Hospital visiting the wounded from Iraq and visiting with their families, their wives and mothers and talking to them, the folks who had just come back. And I can tell you they're very proud of what they're doing, they believe in what they've done and they have confidence that they can be successful there.
Q: Finally, these attacks seem to go on and on, at least in this one problem area of Iraq. Why not more American troops, more American boots on the ground to try to stop them?
Rumsfeld: Well, we have 130,000 American soldiers in the country. That's a lot. We have 100,000 Iraqis. We have 30,000 Coalition forces. Most of the country is in good shape. It's, as you point out, it's Baghdad and the area to the north there.
What I can say is that the more troops you have, U.S. troops, the more targets you have, the more combat support you have to have for them. And to the extent we can put our effort behind having Iraqi police and Iraqi army and Iraqi security forces, people who know the situation there better, know the language, are much more likely to get better intelligence than we can get, I think we're probably better off. And this is the judgment of our military commanders and I agree with them.
Q: I'm afraid we're out of time. We'll have to leave it there. Thank you very much for your time, sir.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
Keith Cate, WLFA-NBC, Tampa
Q: In tonight's Iraq Watch, the U.S. Senate just approved spending $87.5 billion on Iraq and Afghanistan. The money is for American military operations and for rebuilding Iraq. The approval for more money comes on another violent day in Iraq. A deadly explosion rocked Karbala, killing three people and wounding 12 others. This morning, at least 16 wounded American soldiers arrived at the U.S. Army Hospital in Germany. Yesterday someone shot down their helicopter west of Baghdad, killing 16 of the Americans on board and wounding a total of 21.
President Bush announced the end of major combat on May 1st. Since then, Saddam loyalists have killed 135 U.S. soldiers.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is now joining us live from the Pentagon. Mr. Rumsfeld, thanks for joining us.
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
Q: Sir, it hurts to look at the pictures of that downed Chinook helicopter and hear about the loss of more combat soldiers, but in the wake of this most recent tragedy, questions are being raised about our ability to stop the insurgents. Would you agree that these most recent attacks are bolder and more organized? And if so, are we changing our strategy to deal with the rebel's infrastructure and their suppliers?
Rumsfeld: Well, the military commanders on the ground are constantly looking at the security situation and making the adjustments that are appropriate. Certainly, our hearts and prayers have to go out to the loved ones of the young men and young women who were killed in that helicopter shootdown.
I must say about that, that this is the first one we've had where a manned portable surface-to-air missile has successfully hit one of our aircraft. There have been about 15 or 20 such firings over the past month, none of which were successful. As you know, these surface-to-air missiles exist all over the world. There are thousands of them. When they hit it's a tragic thing. So it was a tragic weekend for us.
Q: The President says our enemies want us to run but that won't happen. That said, what are you hearing from your ground commanders as you mentioned there in Iraq about your efforts to complete this mission so that they can actually walk out Iraq victorious? Are we behind or ahead of schedule? Where do we stand?
Rumsfeld: We're clearly in a low intensity warfare situation, conflict. And our forces feel that they can deal with the problem. Every day they're out on patrols and they're capturing and killing Saddam Hussein's remnants of the Ba'athist regime. And they feel that they're having success.
There are continuously, every day there may be 20 or 30 incidents where people are killed. Mostly Iraqis are being killed by these people. As you know, they killed one of the members of the Governing Council. They've killed a number of Iraqis at a police academy graduation ceremony. And they're attacking in a way to try to discourage Iraqis from cooperating with the United States and with the Coalition countries.
Interestingly, the Iraqis are continuing to cooperate. We now have over 100,000 Iraqis in the security forces that have volunteered to serve.
Q: You've mentioned yourself that we're not going to abandon the Iraqi people, but today if I can segue just a bit, we spoke with the loved ones of some National Guardsmen in Iraq. Can you respond to their concerns by answering the question about why we're sending troops into conflict without a set tour of duty as in past wars?
Rumsfeld: They do have a set tour of duty. We've said that the forces that go over there will serve in country for up to one year, and they know that when they go. There may be individuals who, for whatever reason, don't seem to understand that, but that's been announced by the Army and, therefore, everyone should be aware of that.
Q: So up to one year.
Q: Sir, we also conducted a poll in --
Rumsfeld: In country.
Q: In Iraq.
Rumsfeld: In Iraq, yes.
Q: We conducted a poll today in Tampa asking about the number of troops assigned in Iraq. Thirty-six percent of the people that we spoke with said we should decrease the number of troops. How do you respond to that? Do you believe we have the proper number of troops assigned to this mission?
Rumsfeld: Well, we had at the maximum about 150,000 U.S. forces in Iraq. We have reduced that down to about 130,000. During the same period of time, we've increased the Iraqi forces -- police, army, site protection people, civil defense, border patrol and the like -- from zero up to 100,000 and we expect to have a total of 200,000-plus next year of Iraqis.
That means that the total number of forces, if you add in the Coalition forces of another 30,000, have been going up almost every week since May 1st when the President announced that the major combat operations had ended. And now we're in this low intensity conflict and it does take additional forces, but the additional forces are Iraqi forces that we're putting in.
Q: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Thank you for your time. We appreciate it, sir.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.