Friday, Sept. 27, 2002
(Interview with Bill Nigut, ABC Affiliate - WSB Channel 2, Atlanta, Ga.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, this is a somewhat unusual visit, a Defense Secretary coming in to talk to people with Atlanta, with the local media as well as a group of business leaders about your efforts right now. Does this visit suggest that the White House will be -- that you still need to build support for the President's plans in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: I would say probably not. I don't know that the White House was involved in my visit.
I've been here before many times, it's a wonderful state, and Atlanta is an important city and it's a state that's been very hospitable to the men and women in uniform over a long period of time. As a matter of fact I think the last time I was Secretary of Defense I spoke to the Atlanta Journal.
Q: Let me rephrase the question. Do you believe that you need to be out talking to the American people to build support for this effort? Do you think that there needs to be additional work done there to convince people to support the effort?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think I'd put it two ways. I think the debate and discussion that's taking place in the world is a very valuable thing. It's taking place in our Congress, in the United Nations, in other countries. These are tough issues, they're complicated issues. They're not easy. We're in a new security environment and it takes people, parliaments, congresses, countries -- some time to think these issues through.
I've been focused on them now for more than a year and indeed I started dealing with terrorism seriously back in the early '80s when I was the Middle East Envoy after the 241 Marines were killed in Beirut, Lebanon. I think it's a helpful thing that people are asking questions and that people are discussing these issues.
I would also say that it's helpful to me from time to time, I almost never get out of Washington except to go to Central Asia or NATO or some defense-related activity and it's helpful to me to meet with people who are not people that I normally meet with. I haven't been able to do much of it. I've been in California visiting some bases and doing some meetings out there a month or two ago, but I haven't had much of a chance and we just decided to do it.
Q: The resolution that Congress is working on right now, the latest language has a two-month timeframe essentially for compliance by Saddam with all of the requirements that you have. Does that give us a glimpse of the sort of timetable that you see for potential military action against him starting two months down the road, perhaps, getting the process that --?
Rumsfeld: No, I've not seen the new resolution. They're in the process of negotiating it; the White House is doing that. Simultaneously Colin Powell is negotiating up at the United Nations with people on the UN Resolution. I think those resolutions in each case are going to end up being the product of different views and different interests or feelings and that's fine.
I think my job is not to make that decision. My job is to see that the Department of Defense is equipped and ready to deal with any eventuality that may come our way.
Q: That leads exactly to my next question which is there is indeed a debate now as to whether the United States has the troops, has the military forces that could stage a war against terrorists, al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and an extended war perhaps in Iraq. So how do you react to the critics who say you may not have the forces for that?
Rumsfeld: I respond very simply - we do have the force. They're not all on active duty at the present time. Clearly there would have to be, depending on what took place in the world, we have Reserve and Guard for that very reason - to augment under the total force concept whatever our active forces are engaged in.
We have a strategy in our Department of Defense that the President's approved which is that we will be capable of winning decisively and dealing completely in one major theater conflict, and simultaneously or near simultaneously, be capable of swiftly defeating in another major theater conflict, in addition to a variety of lesser contingencies such as Kosovo, Bosnia or what have you - or the kinds of activities that are taking place in the Ivory Coast.
We have the force structure today that can fulfill that strategy.
Q: You used the word swift. That was a key. We don't have - we may be looking at potential long-term effort in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rumsfeld: Well certainly you do have an obligation as a country to look to the rest of the world, to the international community, for example in Afghanistan, to see that we in fact do everything that others can do for a country like Afghanistan and their newly-elected government. There's an awful lot they have to do, but we have, I believe, an obligation to assist them and that is why we are working as we are both on the security side, on the humanitarian assistance and civil works very aggressively.
Q: Two other quick questions. Number one, you've been on the Hill testifying. You know the flak that's arisen this week between Republicans and Democrats. Do you believe the Democrats in the way they've handled the debate on the Hill are in any way showing a lack of unity for eventual military action against Iraq? Do you think their efforts are destructive to what you're trying to accomplish?
Rumsfeld: Number one, I was out of the country, I just arrived back and was not here for all of that by-play and I've not gone back and tried to retrace the articles, let alone the actual words that might have been spoken. It's not for me to make those judgments.
My feeling is that our department has gotten good support from the Congress and from the country. The efforts we've been making --
Q: Democrats as well as Republicans.
Rumsfeld: Sure. These issues are issues that concern all the people in the country. Someone told me that the remarks that were made related not to the Department of Defense but to homeland security and a debate over some labor provision in the bill. But I have not --
Q: You really haven't been able to follow it as close --
Rumsfeld: I haven't. I've been working day and night in Warsaw, Poland, and with 19 other ministers of defense.
Q: Thank you very much.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.