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Rumsfeld Interview with Rush Limbaugh

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
May 16, 2002

(Interview with Rush Limbaugh)

Limbaugh: We rarely have guests on the program, as you know, but we make exceptions now and then when warranted, and certainly such a circumstance is warranted today. The Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld joins us. Mr. Secretary, this is a real pleasure for me to be able to finally say hello and to meet you even if it is by phone. Welcome to the program.

(Pause)

Oh, is Secretary Rumsfeld with us? Will somebody inform me what's going on?

We lost the connection to Secretary Rumsfeld. What, is he on a cell phone or something? Anyway, we're getting the connection back.

What happened was this morning we received a phone call from the Pentagon asking us if the Secretary would be welcome on the program today and we said certainly and we set up the time, and there's a specific reason, of course, that he wishes to speak to us. About a number of other things. One of them is the Crusader artillery system which is an area of quite controversy or some controversy now. It's a defense system that the Pentagon doesn't want. This is unique. They don't want it. It's outdated and irrelevant they say, but there are a lot of other people who do want it in Congress as well. Some people of course behind the construction of it are eager for it, and there are some people who represent those manufacturers who are also pushing for the authorization for spending on the system itself. That's one of the things we're going to talk about plus some other things when we get him if we have time.

Can somebody tell me what's going on? Okay, we're getting him back right now which we've been trying to do here for minutes. The Pentagon. If we can't get in touch with the Pentagon, they can't get in touch with us, you want to talk about early warning systems. We had him locked and loaded.

We do have now Secretary Rumsfeld, is that right? Mr. Secretary, are you there finally?

Rumsfeld: I am indeed. I've been here on the line holding but apparently we were cut off. I apologize.

Limbaugh: No problem. It's great to finally have you.

I was saying before we got you that we seldom have guests here but this a rare exception I'm honored to have. It's a pleasure to finally be able to say hello to you sir, so welcome to the program.

Rumsfeld: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure for me to have a chance to say hello to you.

Limbaugh: You've got a limited amount of time. Let me just get into a couple of things real quick.

Could you first give us your take on the controversy that erupted last night with this leak to CBS over the lack of information, or the information that came in, the supposedly lack of action following it concerning the terrorist attack September 11th?

Rumsfeld: Well I guess I'd begin by saying it's really much ado about nothing. To my knowledge there was no warning, no alert as to suicide attackers in airplanes. There's always been concerns about hijacking. That's been true for months and years as a possibility.

Apparently the intelligence community, our intelligence community, the country's, did not have sufficient granularity to issue any specific warning. But I should say that through the spring and summer there was a great deal of threat reporting indicating on a variety of different things all over the world, but without any specificity as to what might happen.

In my view all appropriate actions were taken according to the threat situation as far as it was known. There were times when the Department of State would send out cautions and warnings to their embassies. The Department of Defense had different threat levels for our various areas of responsibility around the world and took a whole series of steps at different times as we always do, but I think it's just grossly inaccurate to suggest that the President had any kind of a warning about September 11th.

Limbaugh: My question is this. We have a bunch of senators and members of Congress and members of the press who are acting as though the President did have that information when it turns out they did too. They knew as much as he did. Maybe not at the same time but they certainly knew it long before today when it's come out. They themselves didn't act upon it to inform the public of anything. How can they now act ignorant and surprised when they in fact knew it all along?

Rumsfeld: Yes, I just don't know what they did know. All I know is what I knew and what the Executive Branch knew was not actionable in the sense that you could have taken any steps to have dealt with September 11th.

Limbaugh: Okay, war on terror. I know that it's ongoing. A lot of people, though, think that it's taken, oh, not a day or two off, but has sort of receded in intensity and I think a large part of that is because of the intense focus on the situation in the Middle East. Is that Middle East focus causing the war on terrorism say in Afghanistan and elsewhere to be any less intense than it was at the outset?

Rumsfeld: Certainly not anywhere in the world outside of the Middle East. It has not changed what we're doing in Afghanistan one bit, nor is it affecting our other efforts all across the globe. Of course it is a worldwide effort, as you know, you properly characterized it as a global war on terrorism. And that is going on apace.

I don't doubt for a minute that with the periodic flare-ups in the Middle East which we've seen most of my adult life, that that can have a muting effect on the degree of cooperation that we might get from some of the countries in that part of the world, although I must say I couldn't tell you in what ways it had disadvantaged us in terms of the war on terrorism.

Limbaugh: How about Iraq? Are we in any way prevented from taking action in Iraq that we wish to take because of this circumstance?

Rumsfeld: No, I wouldn't say that. I think Iraq is what it is. It's a dictatorship that we're working to develop and has some types of weapons of mass destruction. It's a threat to its neighbors and is properly on the terrorist list and is so active that it is giving $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers.

Limbaugh: So if circumstance warranted, let's say you came across, the Administration came across information that made invading Iraq paramount the situation currently in the Middle East would not prevent us from doing so?

Rumsfeld: I don't think that's the kind of a question the Secretary of Defense should answer. Those are the decisions that are taken above my pay grade.

What I can say is that certainly the United States, anything we decide to get into we would have the capability to do. What that might mean in one part of the world or another at any given time I think is up to others, and it's not for me to say.

Limbaugh: Let me try this because there are reports that the military as currently constituted would not be able to carry on two major fronts at the same time. Are those assertions accurate?

Rumsfeld: Our force sizing construct and our defense strategy is that we will in fact have the capability of conducting two major regional conflicts simultaneously or near simultaneously. In one case we would be able to swiftly defeat any effort and in a second case we would be able to win decisively and carry the effort all the way to capital and occupy the country.

So it would be inaccurate to say that we could not do two conflicts simultaneously. It would be accurate to say that a country would have to make a choice as to which of those two conflicts you decided you wanted to actually go in and occupy the entire country as opposed to simply defeating them where they were.

Limbaugh: This may be a question that you as Secretary of Defense might not feel is your purview to answer, but terrorism is terrorism and terrorism in the Middle East is that which we have decided to try to negotiate away rather than defeat as opposed to al Qaeda which we're trying to defeat. Does that frustrate you at all?

Rumsfeld: Well, you're right. When we talk about our concern about terrorism what we're talking about really is not the idea that we could end all terrorism in the world, but rather that global networks, networks that cross country lines and that have had their purpose killing innocent men, women and children for the purpose of accomplishing some goal, that is something that we are determined to root out and to deal with and to find the countries that are providing haven for those terrorist networks and deal with them.

The situation in the Middle East is, obviously if you've in the shopping mall or the pizza parlor when a suicide bomber comes in with explosives wrapped around them and blows up 30, 40, 50 people, that's terrorism. There's no question about it. And there's also no question but that Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and others are involved in that.

It is the decision of the Israelis, really, to try to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority as they have over time and clearly it's been a difficult thing for them to do. They were so close to an arrangement in the last Administration and Mr. Arafat walked away from it. He clearly is not a very effective interlocutor for them.

Limbaugh: Will it succeed, do you think?

Rumsfeld: Well, one has to be hopeful. Certainly if you're not attentive and not trying to help the situation it's likely it could get worse. If you are attentive and trying to help it it is not necessarily clear that you'll be able to solve it.

I think anyone who looks at what's going on in that part of the world has to say at the present time the conditions for peace aren't very ripe and that means I think it's going to take some patience, it's going to take some effort, but they've been going around and around in that part of the world since the 1940s and I think to expect it to get solved in the next week, month or period immediately ahead is expecting a lot.

I do think that it's a tragedy. There are so many people being killed. The circumstances of the people in that region is just devastated. The GDP per capita of people in Israel and the Palestinians and in the neighboring countries are all suffering as a result of the conflict. So it's something that does need the attention of the world, but I think one has to approach it as President Bush and Colin Powell are, with realistic expectations that they're going to pursue it and see if they can find ways to be constructive and contribute to, in the first instance, improving the security situation. Then seeing if there isn't some process that can put people to talking in a way that would reduce the violence.

Limbaugh: We're talking with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The Crusader weapons system. It's rare, Mr. Secretary that the Defense Department doesn't want a new weapon system. Why do you not want the Crusader?

Rumsfeld: Well, my goodness, you're quite right. Everybody wants everything. It would be wonderful if we could all have everything but I think the American people are pretty realistic. They know when they get up in the morning that they have to make choices and the American people make choices. They make them in business, they make them in their families, they make them every day, and government has to learn to do that. We have to simply say that resources are finite and we have to pick and choose between things that we would like, we would want and that would be nice and that would be desirable, and select the ones and balance the risks in a way that our country is going to be able to transform and be capable of providing and contributing to peace and stability in the decades ahead. And hanging on to every single thing we've got is going to create the most enormous bow wave of spending that's going to be required that there isn't any way in the world we could continue to fund every single thing that anyone ever dreamt of starting. What we have to do is pick and choose.

Limbaugh: Is this system ineffective now?

Rumsfeld: No, it doesn't exist. It is many years from reaching deployment. We're in '02 now, it's probably out into the '08 period before it would exist.

Limbaugh: It's going to be obsolete then if it does come on-line in six years?

Rumsfeld: No, it wouldn't be. It would be a very nice piece of equipment. It would be a perfectly good piece of artillery. The problem with it is that what I think we need and what I think the country needs is more precision munitions and not simply a larger artillery piece.

The weight of this thing is 49 tons, plus the trailer that goes with it, the other piece of equipment that goes with it which brings the total to 97 tons.

If you're going to move that into an area and then try to deploy it, you can imagine the difficulty of doing that. It takes something like 64 C-17s just to get 18 artillery tubes into the battle. The question is where do you land them, how do you move them, will they go across a bridge with those kinds of weights?

What we have to do is look at other ways to do things. We've got a good artillery piece in the Palladin, we've got airplanes that can attack fixed targets, we've got cruise missiles that can, we have rockets that can, and we simply, I don't think, would sufficiently advantage ourselves even with a good piece of equipment by going ahead with it.

Limbaugh: Mr. Secretary, I know time is short. We got started a little bit late because of the phone connection problem. Can you hang on through a brief commercial break just for a couple more minutes after that, we'll wrap up.

Rumsfeld: I'd be delighted to.

Limbaugh: Thank you. Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense is with us and we will continue in a moment.

[Break]

Limbaugh: We're back talking with the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the Crusader artillery system.

Do we have anything currently that is being used that could be upgraded that would cost less, that could go on-line sooner, be as effective as this system?

Rumsfeld: Yes. I wouldn't say sooner. What we have is the existing Palladin system and it can be upgraded and it is already there.

Second, we have the Future Combat System which is coming somewhere between two and six years behind the Crusader, so it would come in not in 2008 like Crusader might, but say 2010 or 2012.

In addition we have a variety of other ways to bring fire against a target. For example, you've got Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine aircraft; you've got cruise missiles; you've got rockets; and so there are many other ways of addressing, hitting specific targets the way artillery does.

Limbaugh: The opposition to you here is made up of, I know that Frank Carlucci who is a former Secretary of Defense himself heads up the Carlisle Group, is working very hard on Capital Hill and has I guess got the sympathetic ear of some congressmen in whose districts this system would be built. What are the odds that you're going to succeed here? I think this is unique. You've been offered a pricey new system and you don't want it for financial reasons. What are the odds that you will prevail on this?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I think we will. You know, Frank Carlucci and I were on the wrestling team in college together. He's been a friend for years. The people on the other side of this difference are good folks.

In my view the position we've taken looks not at what's the best artillery piece only but what's the best way for our forces to be arranged over the coming period. How can we transform these forces? I think our case is so persuasive that we'll end up prevailing in the Congress.

Limbaugh: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for your time. As I say, it's really a thrill. I've been watching your briefings on TV. I note you've had a lot of fun here as a sex symbol now --

Rumsfeld: Come on. [Laughter]

Limbaugh: -- of the administration. It's got to be a lot of fun and we enjoy your briefings and you are in our estimation doing a terrific job. We're very flattered that you joined us and we're honored that you're serving as Secretary of Defense. Thanks very much for your time.

Rumsfeld: Thank you so much. I appreciate it a great deal.