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Secretary Rumsfeld Telephone Interview with Euripedes Alcantara, Veja Magazine

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
April 05, 2005
Secretary Rumsfeld Telephone Interview with Euripedes Alcantara, Veja Magazine

            QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, thank you for answering my questions.


            My first question is about your overall impression of Latin America and of Brazil particularly and if this trip has made you change your mind in any issue.


            RUMSFELD:  I don't know that it's had the effect of having me change my mind on any issue.  I had what I felt to be a very good trip.  I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet some of the leadership in Latin America and certainly in Brazil. 


            The purpose of the trip was to reflect the reality that Latin America is of course of great importance of the United States and to the people of the United States.  Our interest is in democracy and development as well [inaudible], and Brazil of course is one of the, I guess the fourth largest democracy in the world and one of the largest economies.  And it's important to visit there.


            I've been there previously over the years and was happy to be back.


            You asked about Latin America.  Of course our desire is to try to contribute to strengthening the inter-American system.  One thing I'd say about Latin America that struck me is the fact that in Central America we see most of the countries if not all of the countries leaning forward towards each other with respect to closer political and economic and security relationships which I find to be an important moment in history and I have a feeling they're going to end up moving still closer together to the benefit of the hemisphere.


            QUESTION:  You said that most of the countries are let's say developing in the right direction or in the direction we consider proper for those countries, but there are some which aren't, and it's inevitable for me to ask you about Venezuela and Chavez, and your remarks here that you see no use for him to buy 100 (100,000) AK-47s.  That -- Do you still consider him a danger for Latin America?  As Cuba once posed for the whole continent?


            RUMSFELD:  I was asked a question during my trip about the 100,000 AK-47s and I believe my response was to ask a question, or to pose a question as to I really couldn't imagine what he wanted to do with all of them.  It just seemed surprising to me that we've got a hemisphere that at this moment in history has been relatively peaceful and that that's a good thing.  I have had trouble quite understanding why, what the threat might be that he saw and why there would be that appetite, which I don't see as being particularly logical at the moment.


            QUESTION:  There is a sense here among the authorities and officials, even people of good will that the local leaders can't deal better with Chavez than in the politics of appeasement, in a diplomacy of appeasement, than the U.S. could do.  What do you think about it?


            RUMSFELD:  Well, I guess I don't have an opinion on that.  Certainly countries can have relationships and that's a good thing, and to the extent that countries can work effectively together, that's a positive thing to do.  I don't say that by way of comparison to anything.


            QUESTION:  Okay.  Mr. Secretary, here in Brazil people felt sorry that you're silent about Brazil's intention to get a permanent seat on the Security Council.  Why didn't you comment on that during your trip?


            RUMSFELD:  I'll tell you, it's a very simple answer.  I'm the Secretary of Defense of the United States, not the President of the United States and not the Secretary of State of the United States.  And the President and the Secretary of State are in the process of discussing the subject of the United Nations and various reforms that might be considered prospectively, and they discuss those things with other countries.


            It struck me that given the fact that those discussions are taking place around the world that it would be not a good place for me to intervene with my personal opinion since I don't have any statutory responsibility in that area whatsoever.  So I would say it would be a misunderstanding were people to feel disappointed because my silence didn't reflect anything other than a lack of jurisdiction.


            QUESTION:  I see.  Very wise.


            Mr. Secretary, security wise speaking, what kind of threats can you see from Latin America, let's say Colombia and the guerrillas and what else?  I mean the tripe front here that people say that once was a surge of financing for terrorists.  Do you have any appraisal of these two situations?


            RUMSFELD:  You say what kind of threats or problems exist in that part of the world.  It seems to me that the concerns that most people in the hemisphere would raise would be the concerns of crimes, of gangs, of narcotic trafficking, of weapon trafficking, of hostage taking, and various types of anti-social behavior of that type. Those things all represent a threat to democracies, they represent a threat to economic opportunity for the people of the hemisphere, and they clearly represent a threat to the security of those countries.


            When one thinks of the task that has confronted the government of Colombia and I would say the success that they're having in dealing with it, and the importance of other countries in the hemisphere cooperating to encourage that kind of success, if you're referring specifically to the tri-border area, we've had good cooperation from other countries and I know Brazil has from other countries, in addressing those issues and I think that's a useful thing.


            If you think about it, the kinds of antisocial behavior that I've described, no one of them can be dealt with by a single country by themselves.  Not the United States, not Brazil, not Argentina, not any country can deal with those because those people who are engaged in narcotics and gangs and crime and weapon trafficking and hostage taking, they look for a weakness.  They look for a haven.  They look for a scene.  And to the extent that it simply requires cooperation and exchange of information and a common desire on the part of many nations if we're going to have success in preventing that kind of antisocial behavior.


            QUESTION:  Just a little bit more specifically about the tri-border area.  It was once considered a hot spot and is no longer a hot spot, or you never really were very concerned about that from the beginning?


            RUMSFELD:  Well, I think the way to phrase it is that anywhere in the world that represents a haven for people to organize and train and equip, to engage in antisocial behavior is a problem for the world.  And it is -- various parts of the world come and go as problems.  Certainly extremists and fundraisers for various terrorist groups look for opportunities like that in the world and it's important that countries cooperate to see that it's reduced and minimized rather than allowed to flourish.


            QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary changing a little bit of continent [sic], I just heard your interview on NPR, and I saw you were so enthusiastic about a political solution in Iraq.  And you came close to say that maybe people in Iraq will defeat insurgency before the military, or the people in Iraq will defeat them and what the military can't do alone.  Is that correct?


            RUMSFELD:  You're reasonably correct as to what I said and I believe what I said is reasonably correct.  I don't believe that it is likely that military forces from our country or other countries are likely to be the magic that defeats an insurgency in Iraq.  I think the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people that lose tolerance for the extremists who are killing many many more Iraqis than they are coalition members.  And if one thinks of the insurgencies that have existed around the world, they can't exist over time if the people decide that they don't want them to exist.  If the people decide they're going to provide intelligence information; if the people decide they're going to sign up to serve in the, in this case the Iraqi security forces, if the people decide they're going to brave the warnings that if you vote you die and they're still going to go out, millions and millions and millions of them, and vote, you can't -- Another country can't go into a different country and make a nation and make a body politic and make a peaceful environment.  You can subject people to repression, but that isn't what the United States is interested in doing.  Our interest is in setting that country off, liberating 25 million people, having them then take responsibility for their country, for the political leadership of their country and for the security leadership of their country.  And that's exactly what's happening and it's going pretty well.


            QUESTION:  You can see in other Arab capitals in big cities, people on the streets protesting, and this time not against the U.S. or against the West but against terrorism, against the tyrants that ruled their lives.  How do you, what's your opinion about this Arab street upraisal [sic].


            RUMSFELD:  If you think back when the Iron Curtain was in place, you saw people in the Soviet Union and in the Warsaw Pact nations that were repressed.  They were lied to and lied to and lied to over decades.  And they knew they weren't free and they knew they were being lied to, but over a period of time if they never heard the truth they'd begin to believe the lies.  And they end up with fears and apprehensions that they otherwise wouldn't have.


            I've watched what some of these networks and state controlled media have said about why the United States does what it does and what we're doing.  Within the last week there was a terrorist attack and it was stopped, thanks to information being given by Iraqis to the Iraqi security forces.  And already there were some journalists that had been brought in there by the terrorists to be on the spot so they could film what was going on, a fake version of what was going on.  And I guess the answer is the Arab street, so to speak, has been told so many lies and so much miss-information that it ought not to be surprising that they have apprehensions and fears even though those fears and apprehensions are misplaced.


            QUESTION:  Do you think that in the long run you and Mr. Bush will be praised for first going military and giving confidence to these people that they won't be abandoned, and then they go to the streets and they themselves overthrow their tyrant.  Do you think it's a feasible scenario for the next let's say ten years?


            RUMSFELD:  I think all one can do is to recognize the power of freedom and that it's the God-given right of people.  And there's an old saying that there will be no peace in the world until every man is free, because to every man he is the world.  And I think that people basically do want to be free and I think that what we're seeing in countries, in various parts of the world, certainly with that amazing demonstration in Lebanon, and the way the people of Afghanistan went out and voted.  I think what we'll see in the world is more people who decide that they want to be free and that they want to take actions that will help make them free and we'll have a more peaceful world.  Democracies tend not to make war against other democracies.


            QUESTION:  They never do war against them.  That's correct.


            Mr. Secretary, I once read you said that you offered your resignation twice for President Bush.  I think it was related to the Abu Ghraib abuse and torture revelation.  How did that really affect you as a soldier and as an American, as a free man to see scenes like that in Abu Ghraib?  And having your people in uniform responsible for that, how do you felt like?


            RUMSFELD:  Well, as I have said, the overwhelming majority of the young men and women in uniform from the United States and the coalition countries are wonderful young people who are putting their lives at risk to help liberate the 25 million Iraqi people.  For some of them to engage in practices that are against policy and don't represent humane treatment as the President and I both required is a terribly sad thing for me.  And of course those people are being punished and have gone before courts martial, as they properly should.


            QUESTION:  There are a lot of people that have already been punished for those acts?


            RUMSFELD:  Oh, there have been a large number of people who have been punished.


            QUESTION:  Wonderful.


            Mr. Secretary, have you ever met the Pope?  Do you have any recollection of him? Or how do you evaluate his political and shepherd in the last century?


            RUMSFELD:  Well I have not met this Pope personally but I had met his predecessor.  I must say about this Pope, I don't think there's any person on earth who can look at the works and the spirituality and the strength and the kindness of this leader and Holy Father and not have just enormous respect for him as a person and for his works on earth.  I, like everyone else, have watched his visits around the world including to your country, and marveled at his ability to reach out and touch people.  It was impressive, and certainly we were all blessed that he was who he was and what he was in his important position.


            I want to thank you for your visit, and I hope that next time I'm in Brazil we'll have a chance to visit in person.


            QUESTION:  Yeah, that would be my pleasure.  I have been watching close your role in the United States and I must say that I admire you.  You are so firm since the beginning.  When they said they were going there for the oil and then they said you were going there for your own interests, and then, well, we see democracy spreading throughout the Arab world.  This is not a small thing, right?


            RUMSFELD:  Indeed.  It is a wonderful opportunity for the people of that region and we just hope and pray that it works out.  They have a big population that's intelligent and well educated, they have resources, they have oil, they have water, they have opportunity, there's no reason they can't build a wonderful country and we wish them the best.


            Thank you very much.  It's good to talk to you.


            QUESTION:  Okay, Mr. Secretary.  See you.

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