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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview on CBS Face the Nation

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 14, 2003 10:30 AM EDT
 Schieffer:  And good morning, again.  We begin this morning with the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who is in the studio with us.  We appreciate that.  I know you had to make a late night trip to back to be here, but thank you for coming.

 

Joining in the questioning this morning, Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times.

 

Mr. Secretary, I must say, there must have been mornings when you have awakened to better news, because here's the front page of the Washington Post, the town where you work.  On one side of the page a report on a new poll that says six Americans in 10 do not support the president's request to spend $87 billion in Iraq.  Then, on the other side of the page, there is this, Iraq takes a toll on Rumsfeld, and criticism mounts.  It goes on to say that many on Capitol Hill and in the military establishment are now blaming you for some of the mounting casualties and the costs of the war.

 

Well, let's start with this poll.  What happens, Mr. Secretary, if you don't get this money, because clearly the Congress is going to see this poll, it clearly suggests, at the least, that support for this effort seems to be waning or at least paying this much to get this done.  How are you going to get it done?

 

Rumsfeld:  I think if one casts it the way you cast it, and unfortunately I have not read the article, but I've seen the poll except the headline.  If you cast it that way, it's not surprising that the public would respond that way.  On the other hand, if you cast it directly, that the $87 billion is part of the global war on terror, and that it is a lot better to be fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan than it is in the United States, and that the effort is one that has not as its purpose, I think, as you phrased it, rebuilding Iraq.  Iraqis are going to have to rebuild Iraq.  What this proposal by the president really does is to say, look, we have a chance to put that country on a path to democracy, a path towards representative government, a path so that we'll have a country that's friendly with its neighbors instead of invading its neighbors, and that will be a very good thing for that region.  It will be a very good thing for the world.

 

Twenty-three million Iraqis have been liberated.  That is an impressive accomplishment.  I think the Congress will approve the funds, and I expect that you will find that that headline you were citing will be just something that will be part of the debate and discussion, which is healthy, but not be determinative.

 

Schieffer:  One other question, obviously it's not my poll and it's not my phrasing, I'm reading you and telling you what they asked people.  Another thing they asked was, did people feel that we were getting bogged down there; 85 percent said they felt that way.

 

Rumsfeld:  I guess that doesn't surprise me.  We do have 133,000 troops there.  And, a lot of critics have been consistently saying, it's a quagmire and we're bogged down.  The truth of the matter is that we're not, that we've been there four-and-a-half months since the end of major military combat.  Four-and-a-half months is not bogged down, in my view.  And there have been truly impressive accomplishments.  Some 600 individual reconstruction processes have been completed.  All the schools, hospitals, and universities are open.  We've gone from zero Iraqis providing for their own security up to 56,000 Iraqis, police, army, border guards, site protection, civilian defense.  And another 14 or 15 thousand recruited and in training currently, for a total of 70,000.

 

Now, the goal is to not spend a long time in Iraq.  The goal is to transition from a liberation activity to a situation where the Iraqi people take responsibility for their own security, and get on a path towards representative government.

 

Schieffer:  How long do you think we are from that?  Is there a way to even estimate that now?

 

Rumsfeld:  It's interesting.  You say it as though, well, how long, as though it's been a long time.  Four-and-a-half months is just four-and-a-half months.  Let me give you some comparison for context.  In Germany after World War II, it took three years to get an independent central bank.  In Iraq, it took two months.  To get police established in Germany, it took 14 months.  In Iraq, it's taken two months.  To get a new currency, it took three years in Germany.  In Iraq, it's taken two-and-a-half months.  To get a cabinet it took 14 months in Germany, it's taken four months in Iraq.  It is moving at a very rapid pace.  And that is a good thing.

 

Schieffer:  All right.

 

Doyle?

 

McManus:  Mr. Secretary, going back to the $87 billion, I think a concern a lot of members of Congress, a lot of citizens have, is that this is only a down payment, it's not the whole magnitude of the bill.  If you look at the amount of money that you are spending at the present rate, how long will it take to burn through that $87 billion?

 

Rumsfeld:  The president has characterized it, it is still in formation, that budget.  Consultations are taking place with the House and Senate at the present time.  Some time in the period immediately ahead, there will be some definition to it, and quantification of what it will go for, and for what period it would last.  And it's a process that's being handled by the President and the Office of Management and Budget, and I think that after those consultations with Congress we'll have the answers to your question.

 

McManus:  But, sir, it's not even clear to you whether this is for a full year or part of a year?

 

Rumsfeld:  I think it's important you let the people who are engaging in that process define it.

 

McManus:  Let me ask about troop levels.  You have talked about the aim here as not putting more American troops in, but getting some foreign troops in and growing that Iraqi army.

 

Rumsfeld:  Exactly.

 

McManus:  But, this week India basically went south and said it wasn't going to be providing a significant number of troops.  Your people at the Pentagon had hoped there would be Indian troops, had hoped there would be Pakistani troops, had hoped there would be Turkish troops.  Those prospects seem to be waning, where are the international troops going to be coming from, and at the end of that are we still looking at a picture of really a force that's 80 percent American anyway?

 

Rumsfeld:  What we have now is we have, for the sake of argument, 120,000-130,000 Americans, and 20,000 or 25,000 international forces, the British, the Polish division, and the like.  The Polish division has 17 countries involved in it.  And we have 56,000 Iraqis assisting with security.  The Iraqi number is the one that's going up.  If there is another U.N. resolution my guess is the most we could hope to get for, by way of additional international troops, would be something between 0 and 10,000 or 15,000, one division.

 

McManus:  So that's really a marginal issue?

 

Rumsfeld:  In terms of number of troops, well, it's 0 to 10,000 or 15,000, whatever it is.  I don't know what it would be.

 

McManus:  Out of the total of 150,000 or 160,000.

 

Rumsfeld:  Sure, exactly.  And the international forces would still be a smaller fraction than ours.  On the other hand, what's growing is the Iraqi contribution and that's terribly important.  Our military people are persuaded that we do not need more U.S. forces there, that the military activity that they're engaged in at the present time is a relatively small number of incidents per day, that last a relatively few minutes.  It's tragic, you keep seeing people wounded, people killed, our people, Iraqis, coalition countries, and needless to say that's a deep concern.  But, from a pure military standpoint they feel they're on top of it, and doing well, and they have a sufficient number of troops.  If they needed more, we'd certainly provide more.

 

Schieffer:  Let me shift to the old weapons of mass destruction.  I read in the paper when you came back from Baghdad, you said that when you were there you did not ask the man in charge of finding these weapons of mass destruction how much progress he was making.  Is that true?

 

Rumsfeld:  Well, it's not quite that way.  I did meet briefly for, I think less than a half hour with Mr. Kay, and General Dayton, the two people that are involved with the Iraqi Survey Group, which have the responsibility.  David Kay reports to the Central Intelligence Agency, and they have‑I've been following, I see daily reports of what they're doing.  And my interest, and the purpose of my meeting was not to try to get greater definition on what they're finding, it was to make sure that their process is a good one, and that we're doing everything we can to support them.  And that was the essence of my discussion with them.

 

Schieffer:  But, back in March you were one of those who said you knew where they were.  As far as we know nobody has found them yet.  Is it no longer important?

 

Rumsfeld:  Sure, it's important.  And, as I say, I see daily reports on how they're doing.  Let me tell you what I said, in March the war was just beginning.  The forces were moving from Kuwait up through Southern Iraq towards Baghdad, they had not reached Baghdad.  And all of the information that the intelligence community had suggested that the bulk of the suspect sites for weapons of mass destruction were in the area immediately south of Baghdad, and North up to Tikrit, and then on either side, that general area.  We were there on the ground, and folks like you were saying, well, you've been inside of Iraq for 15 minutes, why haven't you found anything.  And my comment was that the suspect areas, that we believed where they were, were in that area that we weren't there on the ground yet.

 

Schieffer:  To pick a little point, as Don Rumsfeld might do, it was not this reporter who said that, Mr. Secretary.

 

Rumsfeld:  No, no.

 

Schieffer:  Let me ask you one other thing, and that is this intense criticism that seems to be boiling up on Capitol Hill.  This story this morning is filled with it, and basically it comes down to that Don Rumsfeld, and I'll just put this straight to you, is stubborn, and that's the reason he won't admit that he made a mistake when he said we have plenty of troops there, and that that's one of the reasons you're having problems on the Hill and within the Pentagon.  I just want to give you a chance to respond to that.

 

Rumsfeld:  Sure, I'm glad to.  How do you respond to whether or not you're stubborn.  I guess you respond this way, we have General [John] Abizaid who is in charge of the Central Command, [Lieutenant] General [Ricardo] Sanchez, who is in charge of Iraq, and then a series of division commanders, good ones, [Major] General [David] Petraeus, [Major] General [Raymond] Odierno, and they meet regularly, and they ask that question, do we need more U.S. troops, and they say they don't.  They do not feel that we ought to bring in more additional troops, why?

 

Schieffer:  But, you don't feel‑

 

Rumsfeld:  Just let me respond.  Now, should I be stubborn and say, you're wrong?  What I do is I say, why do you or don't you need something, and I go and discuss it.  And they come back consistently and say they do not need more additional troops, you need more force protection, you need more combat support people if you're going to have more troops.  We're managing the skill mix of the troops, because they're not doing a lot of combat, they're doing a lot of presence and a lot of construction, and a lot of assistance, and a lot of forming city councils, 90 percent of the people in Iraq are now living in an area that's governed by a city council, or a village council.

 

Schieffer:  So you do not feel that you made a mistake‑

 

Rumsfeld:  If I felt I'd made a mistake I'd change it.

 

Schieffer:  Misestimated, or underestimated.

 

Rumsfeld:  My problem is the people who are saying we need more troops are not giving any good reasons.  There's no substance to their arguments, they're just saying we don't have enough.  Our military people say we do, and they then explain why they think they do, and why they want the effort on increasing the Iraqi capability.  So I listen to the two sides of the argument.  I would increase the number of troops in five minutes, if people would come to me and make a decent argument, but all I see is critics saying, you need more troops.  Something has to be wrong.

 

Schieffer:  I'm sorry, we don't have enough time.  We must end it there.  Thank you so much for coming by, Mr. Secretary.

 

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