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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With ABC TV Prague

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 21, 2002

(Interview with ABC TV Prague)

Q: There has been another shooting incident of American troops in Kuwait. In that county, of all countries, given what the U.S. military did for Kuwait, why can't we keep our troops safe?

Rumsfeld: There are mixed reports about that shooting and I do not know precisely what took place and I don't know that anyone does except that two American servicemen have been shot and badly wounded the last I heard. Forget that situation because we don't know what caused the shooting. I don't.

Q: You don't think it's terrorism?

Rumsfeld: I did not say what I thought. I said I don't know. And I'm one of those people who like to talk about what I know instead of speculation. But assuming there is a terrorist act. The advantages of a terrorist are great. They can attack at anytime, any place, using any technique. It is not possible to defend it every time, in every place, against every technique. We are engaged in the world in a fairly classic battle. It is a battle between the rule of law and a large number of very well trained fanatics and extremists and terrorists. That means that if a person is determined, they can in fact engage in a terrorist act. Will they prevail over the long term? No. But is it possible for people to kill other people? Yes.

Q: But isn't this series of attacks in Kuwait evidence that U.S. military is going to have a special problem? There in particular.

Rumfeld: First of all, we don't know if there is a series of terrorist attacks in Kuwait because we don't know happened in this case.

Q: But the previous case...

Rumsfeld: There was a previous case and that's correct, so one previous case does not make a pattern. Does it mean there is going to be a problem? Force protection is always a problem when there's tension, and there has been tension in the Gulf, and our folks have to do everything possible to provide for protection of the forces. And they will do so.

Q: What do you say to people who say that going to war against Iraq is going to enrage Arab populations and put U.S. troops and U.S. interests and Americans throughout the region (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: Well first, we don't know that there will be a war with Iraq. The president has properly said that war is a last choice, not a first. And the Iraqi regime has an opportunity to disarm, which is the what the 16 U.N. resolutions - now 17 - have suggested that they do and which they have agreed to do and which they have failed to do, because they do have weapons of mass destruction, despite their denials to the contrary. What do I say to people who say that? I say to them - my goodness, we weren't at war in Iraq on September 11. We weren't at war with Iraq over any deaths of two people who were shot at in Kuwait. The idea that you should acquiesce and change your way of living and change your values and change your beliefs on the argument that if you don't, someone might do something to you, is an argument that's been made throughout history. And all I can say is that if history has taught anything, it is that weakness is provocative, is that it entices people into doing things they otherwise would not do.

But if you have a choice of whether or not to go to war, don't you have to wonder whether or not going to war is going to make you a lot more vulnerable. I just mention that an Iraq free of Saddam Hussein, whether he decides to leave the country with his family and allow the country to be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction or not, or whether he decides to stay and disarm himself, or whether he decides not to do either and is disarmed one way or another, would create a Middle East and a world that would be vastly safer than the one today. The nexus between terrorist states and weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century is something that is qualitatively and quantitatively different than anything we experienced previously. And the course of action that says, well don't make Saddam Hussein unhappy or mad, or he might do something, is kind of like feeding an alligator, hoping it eats you last. Weapons of mass destruction can kill not the 3,000 we experienced on September 11, but 30,000 or 300,000. And it is a different security environment that we're living in the 21st century, and we need to get our heads wrapped around that new circumstance and appreciate it, and appreciate that we follow those weapons and the danger that it imposes on our way of life. One more, and that's it. The causes of terrorism, the roots of terrorism, they say, are the exercise of U.S. power in some ways around the world, and that's what is resulting in the hatred of the United States. Although the wonderful thing about the United States and the western democracies that are gathered here in Prague is that they don't attack other people to take their land. They don't engage in terrorist acts to kill innocent men, women, and children. They don't impose their values on other nations. We have values, and they're important to us, but we don't go across the globe trying to make other people think like we do or engage in terrorist acts if we don't like something they're doing. The argument that is in your question isn't the fact that the United States exists and is large and isn't the fact that it, for whatever set of reasons historically, happens to be in this year of 2002 in an usual position historically, doesn't that make you a target? And I guess the answer is that it probably does, simply by existing. When you get up in the morning, that country which has the greatest economy, for example, has a culture that other countries seem to want and they take our movies and they buy our products (inaudible), does that make you a target? I suppose it does make you a target. It's attractive for some people to go after the big guy in the neighborhood. But I don't think that that means we should suddenly say, well, we shouldn't be what we are. We are what we are. And how fortunate is that we are what we are, and not some country that has values that it tends to impose its will on other nations.

Q: About the U.N. resolution. Iraq has said it has no weapons of mass destruction. December 8 is the date that it has to declare further. Is the United States prepared to prove on its own that Iraq has these weapons, or is that a job exclusively for the weapons inspectors and the Security Council?

Rumsfeld: Well, the way to think about it is that inspectors trying to inspect a country that is not ready to disarm can't be successful. The only way you would have inspectors are to inspect something, not to force anything. The reason that people inspect a country is that the country has decided, on its own, that it wants to show the world that it's innocent, that in fact it doesn't have these weapons, so it invites inspectors in for the purpose of seeing that they don't have them. It isn't a matter of force. It is simply a matter of - the only way to know of certain knowledge is from the ground. You can't know that from the air. You have to physically be there and pointed to persuade anybody that, look, there it is. You have to do that on the ground.

Q: So if Iraq denies that it has any weapons of mass destruction...

Rumsfeld: It's doing that every day.

Q: and if it files that declaration on December 8, that's if the inspectors, there's no way that they can work?

Rumfeld: I don't know how. If a country is determined to fool the inspectors, they can do that. They can use all kinds of techniques. I'm told we have to (inaudible).

Q: Just one more.

Rumfeld: You didn't hear me. You didn't hear that the third time. You must have heard that. I can't believe you didn't hear that for the third time. And you realize what you're doing to your colleagues? How'd I do for you? (laughter). Okay, nice to see you. I'm a little disappointed you didn't ask about Prague and the invitations to seven new nations, because today is a thrilling today and you missed a hell of an opportunity.

Q: We're going to get to that right now. (laugher).