Q: The Bush Administration decided last week to speed up the transfer of power to the Iraqis. Why was the decision made at this point in Iraq? What’s the assessment of the current situation in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: The assessment is that there are two things happening: one is, we’re making a lot of progress. The schools are open. The hospitals are open. The electricity is on. The governing council exists. The ministries have been appointed by the governing council. There are city councils throughout the country. We’ve been able to increase the Iraqi security forces from zero up to 131,000. So, a lot of good things are happening. At the same time, there are a lot of explosive devices going off. There are people being killed. A lot of Iraqis are being killed by Iraqis. Some of the coalition forces are being killed and wounded. So, you have this contradiction where a large portion of the country is quite peaceful. But, in Baghdad and the area north there are, in fact, any number of incidents that occur, now, in a given week. So, that’s roughly the assessment of the situation in Iraq. It’s going to be a task of transferring governing authority to the Iraqi people and transferring the responsibility of providing security to the Iraqi people. The decision was made that the governing council would like to have a somewhat faster pass-over of responsibility. Ambassador Bremer recommended that to the President and the National Security Council. We agreed, and he went back and communicated that.
Q: Then, could you explain the main reason why the U.S. has come to request the Korean troops to be dispatched?
Rumsfeld: Sure. The United States, oh goodness, it’s been eight, nine, ten months ago, went to the world. We went out to probably over 80, 90 countries and indicated that we would value the support of those countries. As you know, we’ve been quite successful. We have 33 countries that currently have forces on the ground in Iraq. We have any number of additional countries -- 14 -- that are currently considering putting forces in Iraq. We also have a large number of countries, including the Republic of Korea, that have been generous in offering financial assistance and humanitarian assistance. The reason we did that is that we think Iraq is an important country. Twenty-three million people have just been liberated, and we like to have countries committed to the success of the Iraqi people. So, it’s a help to Iraq; it’s a help to the region and it’s a good thing to think that 23 million people today are free of a vicious dictatorship.
Q: Frankly speaking, you have still not found any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Many people are questioning the justice of the Iraq War. What’s your opinion?
Rumsfeld: The United Nations had inspectors in Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction, and they concluded that the declaration filed by the Iraqis was fraudulent and they were not telling the truth. They also were convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction because they had used chemical weapons on their own people, as well as on their neighbors. The issue in the United Nations was, "Should we wait another year or two, or has time run out?" The decision was to go ahead and go into Iraq. There are about 1,200 people currently engaged in the process of talking to people about the weapons of mass destruction programs and how they operated and where they were and finding evidence. An interim report has been filed. The final report has not been filed. That will be happening some months ahead, but it’s a country that’s big; it’s the size of California. Here’s a country that buried 12 jet aircraft that no one knew where they were. A room this size could contain biological weapons that could kill tens of thousands of people. What we need to do is not try to discover where these capabilities are, but to find people who know, who will then tell us. That’s the interrogation process that’s going on now.
Q: What is the role that you hope that Korean troops will play in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: My response to that is: whatever the Korean people and the government of Korea decide. It’s up to Korea to decide how they want to participate and we’re grateful that they are currently participating with forces, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have been a good partner in the global war on terror. We were pleased that the government announced that they intended to have some additional capability go to Iraq. At the point that the government decides exactly what that is, and how they want to handle that, they’ll make an announcement. That’s the way it works.
Q: Let’s assume we decide to send troops to Iraq, what’s in it for the Koreans? What benefits do we get?
Rumsfeld: That’s an interesting question. I suppose you could twist that and say to the Americans, fifty years ago, if the Americans send troops to the Korean peninsula, what benefit do we get? Have you thought of it that way? That’s a little different way to look at it, isn’t it? I suppose the answer’s pretty simple. The answer is, 23 million people are free in Iraq today, because countries like Korea and other countries have been willing to invest and take steps to try to create a better world. And that’s a good thing. And people all over the world benefit from that.
Q: Some in Korea worry that the U.S. might withdraw the U.S. forces from Korea if Seoul rejects the request for a troop dispatch. Is there any likelihood that this might happen?
Rumsfeld: No. People who suggest that don’t know what they’re talking about. The United States has an alliance with Korea. We have it because we think it’s in the interest of the Korean people, the interest of peace and stability in this region, and in the interest of the world. It’s been a fifty-year alliance and it’s been a very successful alliance. This country has been able to prosper, and the people of Korea have benefited enormously from the prosperity that is only possible if there is peace. The United States recognizes that and recognizes that value.