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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with NPR Morning Edition

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 18, 2003

(Interview with Steve Inskeep, Morning Edition, NPR.)

 

     Inskeep:  Anyway, thanks for taking the time, I know your time is brief so I’ll get right to subject here.

 

     Do you want to -- I don’t know, are you happy with your volume levels and so forth?  Let’s get right into it here.

 

     Thanks for taking time, really appreciate it.

 

     Let me begin by asking about you about this.  I know there have been more attacks in Iraq over the weekend on pipelines and so forth.  I’d like to ask about your understanding of whose is behind these attacks and what is motivating them?  U.S. officials have described people resisting Iraqi dead-enders, the last supporters of Saddam Hussein, do you believe that is the case solely or do you believe that there is a broader group of insurgents with broader grievance against the U.S. and the U.S. occupation?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I think that the truth is that it is a mixture of different elements.  It is in some cases, it is the remnants of the Fedayeen Saddam and the SSO special people and the intelligence service and Saddam Hussein supporters.  There also were -- we’re guessing somewhere between 80 and 100,000 criminals that were let loose out of the prisons in the country during the war by the Iraqi people and they’re out there and we know that some of the damage that’s being done are by those types of people -- criminals, looters and alike.  We also know that there are Jihadists who came in from Syria for the most part but also from some other countries, that are in the country and are attacking the Coalition and the Iraqi infrastructure.  So you have a mixture of these different things, it makes it difficult to define them and to be precise about it. 

 

     It’s a good question, I asked this morning my folks over there to please -- we’re arresting I’m going to guess a couple hundred people a week in various parts of that country, and I’ve asked them to get the interrogations and see if they can’t find out precisely who the people are and what kinds of things these different categories of people are.  But the truth is a person who wants to can attack at any time at any place using any technique and it’s not possible to defend every place so as long as you’ve got Iraqis and others in the country who want to damage pipelines and that type of thing, well they’re going to be able to do it.  And the damage of course is done to the Iraqi people because it’s the Iraqi people’s pipelines, it’s the energy that would go to the Iraqi cities and ultimately the Iraqi people are going to have to continue to do what they are now doing more and more and that’s come in and turn these people in.

 

     Q:  Is there now something about the nature of the U.S. occupation that is inspiring recruits to the insurgency or whatever you want to call it?

 

     Rumsfeld:  No, I think there are people who were in favor of Saddam Hussein from the beginning and they still are and I think they were jihadists who were anti-U.S. from the beginning.  There’s nothing peculiar, unusual that’s happening that I’ve been able to determine.

 

     Q:  Okay, and one other question about Iraq.

 

     Several current and former U.S. officials have said on NPR in the last few days that they believe that there should have been more planning sooner for the post-war situation in Iraq.  Retired General Garner who was the head of the occupation, retired Lt. General Bates whose the second in command and Richard Luger the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have all suggested that there were efforts within the government to plan for the future of Iraq that were rebuffed to use Luger’s word.

 

     Rumsfeld:  That is not what General Garner or General Bates said.  I am positive they did not say they rebuffed anything because I’ve talked to them within the last 7 days on this subject.

 

     Q:  Luger’s words were --

 

     Rumsfeld:  Luger, Luger -- I understand that.  Luger --

 

     Q:  Lt. General Bates said there was a lot of planning agency by agency but if we could have started the process instead of the 3rd week of February if we’d started the process in October than we could have put those plans forward.  Bates suggesting that it’s too bad that people were not thinking about --

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well there was a good deal of interagency work that was done before General Bates got involved.  And General Garner I’ve forgotten when I asked him to begin this process but they’d been a good deal of work done interagency over a period of weeks and weeks before that.

 

     A lot of the planning that was done interestingly was for things that eventually, fortunately didn’t happen.  There were plans for the burning of the oil fields and what we would do there - we were prepared for that.   There was planning for a major humanitarian crisis which didn’t exist, there was planning for a major refugees and internally displaced people by the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands which didn’t occur.  There was planning as to what would be done in the event that the dams were broken and flooding came in.  So there was a good deal of planning.  It is never possible to plan perfectly or to plan for everything as anyone whose ever done a budget in any organization knows, you’re looking forward and you do your best and I think that the work that General Garner and his team did was excellent and he deserves the thanks of the country.   And I think what Jerry Bremer is doing - he’s doing a darn good job.

 

     Q:  General Garner suggested also that some very simple -- seemingly simple measures although they may not have been that simple to execute could have made a difference.  Installing a cell phone network immediately, bringing large generators to Baghdad immediately, that the entire situation in Iraq might be different had you taken those small steps?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well General Garner was in charge of that process -- the ORHA and he did a great many things that were enormously helpful.  I don’t think anyone anticipated the futility of the Baghdad power system.  The people who are experts in electrical energy, we knew we did not destroy that system in the bombing campaign.   What became pretty clear is that for years the system had been decrypted, it had been under-invested in for three decades by the Saddam Hussein regime.  And it apparently, regularly imported energy from the North and when one or two pieces were hit it created an instability and the people who’d been working on it hard, the Core of Engineers and others simply had been not able to restore it to what one would call 100%.  It’s three hours on, three hours off and that’s a heck of an inconvenience and it’s a shame but I don’t know anyone who had any idea how fragile the system was and how under-invested it had been.

 

     Q:  Okay.

 

     Moving on now.  Does the United States military right now have sufficient forces to fight two regional conflicts should they come up while also continuing to occupy Iraq for the indefinite future?

 

     Rumsfeld:  The Joint Staff does tabletop exercises and studies continuously and General Pace advised me the other day that they had completed two or three recently.  And if you consider what we’re doing in Iraq as one, the answer to your question is yes.

 

     Q:  You could take on a second conflict somewhere in the world?

 

     Rumsfeld:  That is what I’ve been told is the information that General Pace has concluded from the studies that have been undertaken.

 

     Q:   Different people count the number of brigades committed in different ways but it is easy to find someone who’ll say that there are only two or three combat ready brigades that are not committed in the entire U.S. Army?

 

     Rumsfeld:  We’ve got -- I think its something like 130,000 forces in Iraq at the present time and we have as you know well in excess of a million people in the armed services in the United States and we have an excellent active Reserve and Guard.   There are different ways as you point out to count things but if General Pace and the Joint Staff and the Chairman conclude what I’ve just said they’ve concluded then I think that possibly they are counting in a way that is probably has insights that others may not.

 

     Q:  You indicated some skepticism toward the idea of expanding the U.S. military a few days ago.  Can you give me an idea of whether your thinking is involved on that point at all?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh it has indeed.  I’ve been spending a good deal of time on the question of distress on force and the question of end strength.  We have -- I’ve prepared a memorandum -- oh goodness I suppose it was a week or two ago now, and then we had a senior level meeting of all the Chiefs and the Vice Chiefs and the Under Secretaries and we had a good discussion on it.  It’s now in the process of being edited and worked on.  But I think I listed something like 26 things that we are capable of doing that could relieve stress on the force and that can make it less -- make the argument for increasing end strength more -- it would put it in a better context is the way to put it.

 

     For example we’ve been told that there are studies that say that there are something in the neighborhood of 300,000 military people who are currently in positions that may not require a military person.  Now [for] some of them it’s a desirable but let’s say that just 10 or 20 or 30,000 of those could be freed up, that’s a large increase in quote end strength if you will.

 

     There are also a great number of things we’re doing that we could differently in terms of our deployment and our redeployment process in terms of the way we manage our Reserves and Guard to use volunteers.  We’re assigning each of these 20 or 25 items to various people in the department to work on.  In the event we need to have end strength increases obviously we wouldn’t propose it to the President or to Congress, it’s expensive and it means the opportunity cost for those dollars would be going to end strength as opposed to something else but this country can afford to do whatever it needs to do by way of end strength levels and we will do that.  We ought not to do it because we’re inefficient we ought not to do it because we’re unwilling to manage effectively the forces we have so we ought to do that first.

 

     Q:  You’re not ready at this time to ask for a force increase?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh I haven’t -- no indeed -- I haven’t heard anyone in the department recommending a force increase as a matter of fact.

 

     Q:  Would a dramatic expansion of the size of the Armed Forces at this time make it harder for you to reform the Armed Forces in a way that you’d want to do?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh, I don’t think so.  No, I wouldn’t think so.  It’s (Inaudible.) we can make it easier but you’ll have new people coming in but -- you (Inaudible.) any benefit from an increase to end strength takes time.  You’ve got to recruit, you’ve got to train, you’ve got to organize, you’ve got to equip, you’ve got to develop the people and so any value that would improve the department by having an additional people would seem to me would be some distance off.  I can’t imagine why it would adversely affect transformation; indeed, it might help.

 

     Q:  How successful do you think you’ve been in transforming?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh I guess I don’t know.  We’ve worked hard at it, we’ve got a lot of wonderful people working on it. Time will tell. It’s a difficult thing to do with a great big institution like this.  But we have -- we’ve got a lot of things that have been accomplished in the past 2 ½ years and we’ve got a number of initiatives that are underway at the present time and if they -- if we précised with them and if they’re as successful as the team here and department believe they will be, I think there will be some success.

 

     Q:  Is it possible to transform the military while still paying for a number of highly expensive weapons programs from past years?  Just to pick an example two of the fighter planes, the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh sure.  It depends on what you mean by transformation.  You don’t -- in my view and I suppose it’s a matter of semantics --  but you don’t go from an untransformed state to a transformed state, transformation is more transforming, it’s a process over time and it seems to me as much as anything it’s people, it’s attitude, it’s a culture that needs to be embedded into the department and --

 

     Q:  That culture has resisted you to some degree wouldn’t you say?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh it always does, my goodness change is hard for people.  It’s the most natural thing in the world for people to not want to change but quite the contrary I’d say that we’ve got in place a civilian and military leadership in this department at the present time who will understand the importance to our country that we organize, train and equip ourselves for the 21st century and not be stuck back in the 20th century. 

 

     I think we have just (Inaudible.) dramatically vivid lessons from Operation Iraqi Freedom and the war in Afghanistan, the global war on terrorism, that this department say it’s not good enough to be capable of fighting big Armies and big Navies and big Air Forces on a slow ponderous basis, we have to be able to move quickly and have to be agile and have to have a smaller footprint and we have to be able to deal with the so called asymmetrical threats, the kind of threats that we’re facing with terrorist and terrorist networks.  So I think the people in this department understand it and that they’re making good progress on it.

 

     Q:  I know I just have minute left so I’ll just ask one more question if I can?

 

     Can I just ask for you for your best judgment of the scale of the nuclear threat posed by first Iran and North Korea?  We hear an awful lot of things I’m just wondering based on the information that passes your desk how serious that threat is?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well I’ll answer generally and leave the intelligence community to give precise answers.  But I don’t know anybody in the department who believes that Iran currently has a nuclear weapon.  We know they have the ability to deliver ballistic missiles and conceivably if they had a nuclear weapon could deliver it but at the moment no one that I know of in our intelligence community or elsewhere assesses that they currently have that.  It has been assessed that they engaged in a process where they may wish to acquire or develop or produce nuclear weapons but at the moment it’s my best information that they don’t have them.

 

     North Korea is a different situation they’ve announced that they have them.  That is to say they’ve informed people.

 

     Q:  Do you believe them?

 

     Rumsfeld:  The United States intelligence community has publicly assessed, it’s a judgment, it’s not a conviction, it is an assessment if you will, that they very likely have one or two or three weapons at the present time and that they have had programs to develop nuclear weapons and the materials to produce them.  They have said a number of other things recently about that, that they would consider selling those materials to other countries for example and because it’s a closed society, it’s not possible to have really good visibility into what they’re doing; precisely because it’s a big country; they don’t allow people in there; they’re secretive; they kill people who talk and therefore one has to take them -- if they’re saying what they’re saying -- one has to assume they have some reason for saying it even it’s true or that they want others to believe it’s true.

 

     Q:  Does it matter from the U.S. point of view?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Sure it would be wonderful if we had perfect knowledge of what’s going on in all the countries in the world, it would be a big help it would save a lot of money and time and effort because you wouldn’t have to try and find out, but certainly it matters.

 

     Q:  Or do you have to assume they’re telling the truth?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well it’s a country that has sold almost everything by way of ballistic missile technologies to many, many other countries in the world.  Someone has to assume that (Inaudible.) U.S. assessment and the intelligence community’s assessment is correct that they may have a small number of weapons.  And if they’re publicly saying they would be happy to proliferate those technologies and if they know they proliferated ballistic missile technologies that reasonable people have to assume that that’s at least a strong possibility.

 

     Q:  I can ask one more?  I can?  Okay that’s fine.

 

     Can I do a formal thank you?

 

     Secretary Rumsfeld thanks very much.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Thank you.  Glad to do it.

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