Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Michael Smerconish, WPHT-AM Philadelphia, "The Michael Smerconish Show"
RUMSFELD: Don Rumsfeld here.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Philadelphia. I'm Michael Smerconish and it's a privilege to have you on my program again.
RUMSFELD: Thank you, Michael. I notice here you went to Lehigh. I remember wrestling there, of course, over the years. That's a tough bunch of guys.
SMERCONISH: And it still is.
SMERCONISH: We're just so grateful to have you back.
Mr. Secretary, what you may or may not remember about me is that I'm the guy who wrote the book, Flying Blind, How Political Correctness Compromises the War on Terror.
SMERCONISH: So, sir, when I saw the Time Magazine cover story last week about Detainee 063 and then saw that he was Mohamed Al-Khatani, that resonated with me and with my audience because we fully appreciate that this is a guy who arguably would have been on Flight 93 trying to cut somebody's throat with a box cutter, and that airplane perhaps would have crashed into the Capitol or the White House instead of a field in western Pennsylvania. He's the last kind of a guy that I or members of my audience have sympathy for.
It's got to be frustrating when you see the splash that they gave this thing.
RUMSFELD: Well, it really is interesting. I noticed the other day that the wonderful historical David McCulloch pointed out, he said basically that if the Revolutionary War had been covered the way we're covering this war and people had seen how difficult the conditions are and how badly things were run and the soup, the difficulty of the task, that people would have tossed it in.
You're right. The people down there at Guantanamo Bay, under the President's orders, have been treated humanely and they should be treated humanely. But these are terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, suicide bombers, UBL's bodyguards, the 20th hijacker as you point out, recruiters, facilitators. These are bad people. These are people who want to go out and kill innocent men, women and children.
We've been letting a number of them go back to their home countries in the custody of their countries, and already we've found 12 back on the battlefield trying to kill our people that were let go by mistake, probably because they used an alias and we weren't able to sort it out.
So this is a tough business. It's a difficult world. The struggle against extremists is not an easy thing. Those that are suggesting that the management or the handling by our military of what's going on in Guantanamo Bay is not the way it should be, are just flat wrong.
SMERCONISH: Sir, I had an interesting experience in that I read some of the reaction from Amnesty International before I was able to get my fingers around a copy of Time Magazine. Then I'm reading the magazine and it was like that old Peggy Lee song, "Is that all there is?" I'm reading that we played Christina Aguilera music, that we interrogated this guy in a room that had 9/11 victim photographs on the wall, and I'm saying to myself, pardon me, but where in the hell is the torture?
RUMSFELD: Yeah. There's no torture going on down there and there hasn't been.
SMERCONISH: Do the techniques that are used down there, do they provide results? Are you getting a net effect?
RUMSFELD: There's no question but that the United States is learning a great deal. We've learned the organizational structure of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. We've learned the extent of terrorist presence in Europe and the U.S. and the Middle East. We have information about al-Qaida's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, information on recruiting and recruitment centers, on terrorist skill sets, financing. This information has saved American lives, the information that's being gained down there. No one wants to hold these people. No one wants to spend time interrogating these people, but we simply have to do it.
We're in a long struggle against violent extremists that are anxious and financed to go out and kill innocent men, women and children in our country and other Western countries across the globe.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Secretary, I have on the back of my pickup truck, one of those yellow ribbons and it says in the middle of it, "Never forget" with regard to September 11. We're not even at the fourth anniversary. Are you worried as the Secretary of Defense that indeed a significant number of Americans have already forgotten?
RUMSFELD: You know, I'm not worried. I guess the reason I'm not worried is I've been around a long time. I'll be 73 next month. And I have so much confidence in the basic, good center of gravity of the American people. They seem to have a good inner gyroscope that centers them. And it can be blown off to the side for awhile in a rash of bad news, but it doesn't take long for them to get re-centered and to understand what's important and what isn't.
As a matter of fact I was with Congressman Gerlach the other day who was here for breakfast with us.
SMERCONISH: Good fellow, by the way.
RUMSFELD: He is, indeed. He understands the importance of what the United States is doing in the global war on terror.
I go visit the families of the wounded in Bethesda and Walter Reed, in hospitals. Those families, here their young ones are injured and in some cases with a leg off or an arm off or blinded in one eye, and the families are so strong and so supportive and understand from their soldiers, their sons and daughters who are soldiers, they understand from them what's actually happening, how well they're doing, the importance of what they're doing.
I'm absolutely convinced that in five, ten years people will look back and be so proud of what they've done in that conflict, the men and women in uniform. We're so fortunate to have them.
SMERCONISH: I was on Hardball last week with Chris Matthews trying to articulate the administration's point of view on these matters and someone debating me said, well, the net effect of what's going on at GTMO Bay is to create hostility toward us in certain segments of the Arab world.
My response, Mr. Secretary, was to say those folks already hate us. What are we supposed to do, give them a piece of quiche and a warm blanket?
SMERCONISH: What's the response to those who say we ought to close it because it's become a focal point of hostility in the Arab world?
RUMSFELD: Then the question is what's the alternative? He who would tear down what is has a responsibility of recommending something better, and I haven't heard anybody who's said anything like that who has any idea at all, unless you want to just let all these people go so they can go out and kill 3,000 or 10,000 more Americans.
SMERCONISH: So you're reaching today Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, and to those who are watching the newscasts, seeing the magazines like Time Magazine, the message that the United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wants them to appreciate is what with regard to Guantanamo Bay?
RUMSFELD: This facility is needed. It is housing people that have done great damage to our country, who are determined to go out and kill additional people if they have the chance. Bomb makers, terrorist financiers, suicide bombers, and they need to be kept off the street, and they are being kept off the street in Guantanamo at a facility that is being operated by young men and women from our armed services who are doing a fine job. They're treating them in a humane way but they're keeping them off the street and they're interrogating them to find out additional information so we can prevent future terrorist acts.
SMERCONISH: One final question, sir, and then I'll let you go. I read with interest the account of how we are treating Saddam Hussein. Humane is indeed the world that comes to mind. I mean not a hint of torture. This is a guy who's treated with the utmost of dignity and respect, if you've had a chance to see that most recent story.
RUMSFELD: No, you're quite right. We have an obligation. The President's said that from the beginning of the global war on terror, and after September 11th. He said as we detain people we're going to treat them humanely, but we're not going to let them loose, we're going to keep them off the street so they don't kill more of our American people.
SMERCONISH: I think somebody said at one of the events during the campaign that the choice is either to fight them over there or to fight them here. I'd rather fight them over there.
RUMSFELD: That's exactly right. I quite agree.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Secretary, Godspeed. We really appreciate having you doing the job you're doing.
RUMSFELD: Thank you so much. I sure appreciate having a chance to visit with you and I look forward to doing it again sometime.
SMERCONISH: Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Thank you, sir.