Q: Mr. Rumsfeld, as you’re aware, a number of families in this area have lost their relatives (inaudible). What can you say to these families? Why did their kids die?
RUMSFELD: Well, I was with some of the troops at Fort Carson in Colorado just yesterday visiting troops, and they had families there, troops that had been killed and wounded. And we talked about it and indeed they talked to me about it. One woman, Mrs. Latham, looked me in the eye and said, “We were so proud of what he was doing and so convinced that what he was doing was important, not just for the Iraqi people, that to be sure, but also for the region and for the world, and he was proud of what he was doing.” I think it’s important for people to recognize that throughout the history of our country, people have been willing to step forward voluntarily. These people weren’t drafted or conscripted, they stepped forward and said, “I want to do this for the country.” And that is that the freedom we all enjoy is built on generations of young people who have been willing to do that, who’ve said, “I am willing to put my life at risk.” God bless them for it.
Q: Two dead today, two more American soldiers killed today in Baghdad (inaudible). What’s your response to that, sir? What’s your reaction?
RUMSFELD: Well, it is a low-intensity conflict that’s taking place. It is fairly constant and steady. As you point out, every week some people are killed, and not just Americans, but also coalition partners and Iraqis. You know, there are some 60,000 Iraqis with weapons and arms, helping us provide security in that country, and they’ve lost 58 just since May 1st and another 100, 150, 120 wounded, the Iraqis. And it is something that we believe that, over time, we will be able to suppress. The Iraqi people have to step forward to take the responsibility for these. Since May 1st, we’ve lost from zero Iraqis providing security in the country up to 60,000. We’ve got another 10 or 15,000 in training right now, and we’re going to be able to pass off the security responsibility to Iraq. It’s their country. They’re going to have to secure it themselves eventually.
Q: There’s a rally on the other side of town, people saying, “Don Rumsfeld should resign.” Are you ready to resign?
RUMSFELD: No, but I’m ready to do -- serve the pleasure of the President, and I believe in what the President is doing. I think he’s doing a good job. I think the policies are right, and I don’t guess there’s ever been a time in the history of this country where we’ve had conflict that there haven’t been some people who’ve protested it and disagreed with it, and I think that’s fair. In a free country that’s what people do.
Q: A newspaper today quoting sources saying that well, if there’s a second Bush term, Don Rumsfeld won’t be in that Secretary of Defense’s chair.
RUMSFELD: Is that right?
Q: What’s your reaction?
RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, chitchat. Who knows? President -- we all serve for the pleasure of the President.
Q: You’re not ready to step down?
RUMSFELD: Of course not.
Q: The two dead today makes almost 100 killed since hostilities since the (inaudible).
Q: It doesn’t look as if -- you know, the Soviet Union’s president was quoted as saying, “It looks as if what’s happening there to the Americans is what happened to us in Afghanistan,” and we know what happened there. He seems to think we’re going down that road. And would it be best to pull out now before we end up doing what they did?
RUMSFELD: No, and he’s wrong, in my view. They’ve had some unfortunate experiences. They put 300,000 Soviet troops into Afghanistan and lost, and they had another 160,000 in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the neighboring nations to the north. They were an occupying power. The idea that what’s happening in Iraq is what’s happened to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan is so fallacious on its face from a factual standpoint. They went in to occupy that country. We’re not going to occupy that country. There isn’t an American person who wants us to stay in Iraq or Afghanistan. We liberated those people, and our goal is to pass over political sovereignty to get them an economic jumpstart, and to pass over security responsibilities, and be gone.
Q: I notice Tony Snow did ask you about the riff (inaudible) and I’d just like to ask you about -- well, is Don Rumsfeld still in the loop?
RUMSFELD: Sure. (Inaudible).
Q: Are you still in the loop?
RUMSFELD: Of course.
Q: You’ve read the articles. There are stories coming out saying that now, Condoleezza Rice is in charge.
RUMSFELD: The National Security Council does not get into operations. They are a coordinating mechanism, and they historically have not gotten into operations. When they have, it has been trouble. A few instances in our history where they’ve tried to do that, but there’s no intention of doing that. What’ll happen is that as the task in Iraq evolves and becomes less a security issue, a military issue, and more of a political and economic set of issues, the responsibility will migrate to the Department of State. That is the department that handles these things in other countries at the right moment. So the idea that it’s going from the Department of Defense to the NSC is just a misunderstanding on the part of people. It will go from the Defense Department to the State Department in an orderly way over some period of time in the period ahead.
Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Rumsfeld.
RUMSFELD: Thank you.