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Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld and Dave Elswick, KARN, Little Rock, AR

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 27, 2006 12:00 PM EDT

            ELSWICK:  Mr. Secretary, how are you today?

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Excellent, thank you.

            ELSWICK:  It's good to have you with us.  Just a few quick questions and then I want to talk about AmericaSupportsYou in detail with you, if that would be all right.

             SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Just fine.

             ELSWICK:  Let's talk a little bit about what's happening over in the Middle East.  The Iraqi prime minister was in the United States recently and some of the Democrats kind of acted out a little bit, didn't want to show up to hear what he had to say.  But he talked specifically to the American people to hang in there with them.  Do you think the American people are hearing that, or are they just being overwhelmed by a lot of the negative, you know, press coverage?

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, I think you're certainly right that there is an enormous amount of negative press coverage about Iraq.  On the other hand, the prime minister of Iraq was elected by -- 12 million people voted in that election, based on a constitution that the Iraqi people risked their lives to draft and then to have a referendum passing it.  He came here and told the American people how much the Iraqi people and he appreciate what the American people have done, what the troops have done, the support that the coalition has provided and the opportunities that it's provided the Iraqi people.

            He's a serious person; he's a thoughtful person; he's a courageous person.  He's appointed some excellent people to his cabinet.  And I think we have every reason to believe that, given some time and the opportunity, that he'll be successful in doing what's seeking to do.

            ELSWICK:  Mr. Secretary, with what is happening with Israel and Hezbollah, is that going to make things more difficult for us over in the Middle East?

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, I think it does, in this sense:  We've seen indication that people are giving additional money to Hezbollah and that they're gaining some recruits, which ought not to be surprising, since they're being traumatized on the press -- in the press -- as being a fighter for their beliefs.  Actually, they went in and kidnapped people and are firing rockets and killing innocent people in Israel.  It's not terribly admirable, but the effect of the publicity is that they do gain some benefit.

            I think the real question is, what's the net of it all, and are they -- are they losing more by their actions in terms of world support, or gaining more?  Are they losing more by virtue of the conflict they're in, or are they making progress?  And I think it's probably too soon to say on that, but it certainly complicates the situation there.

            There's no question but that Iran and Syria are strong sponsors of Hezbollah and Hezbollah has pretty much assumed a role within Lebanon that is not something the Lebanese government favors, but is a fact.  That is unfortunate, and they have a view which is that Israel should be shoved into the sea, and they try to do it periodically, and they fail periodically.

            ELSWICK:  Let's talk a little bit about our National Guard units that are here in the United States.  Here in Arkansas, our National Guard men and women have been doing their duty over in Iraq, over in Afghanistan, doing the things they've been asked to do. The president now is asking them to go along the southern border.  Is there a possibility that we could -- we could literally be diluting our National Guard too much?  That we're asking too much of these citizen soldiers?

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, I think not.  Let me explain what the border task is.  The president and the country made a decision that we needed some additional strength along our borders to manage the illegal immigration difficulties.  And so they said what could the National Guard do?  And the Department of Defense undertook a study and said look, what we could do is we could take Guardspeople from around the entire country and give them an opportunity to work on the border during their two weeks or three weeks of active duty for training a year.  I used to be a Naval reservist, and we would work one weekend a month and then we'd have a two-week, two- or three-week active duty for training.  And instead of going out in a training field and training building a bridge or building a fence or doing some construction work of whatever they may do, this is an opportunity for them to do something that the country needs done.

            And so they're down there - not dealing with illegal immigrants.  What they're doing is relieving Border Patrol people so the Border Patrol people can go do that.  And they're only doing it for a couple of weeks, where they would have been on active duty for training anyway.  And the training is undoubtedly much more beneficial to them because it’s real-world training, rather than practice training.

            ELSWICK:  Well, let's talk about the American people.  Even though there are some people who do not agree with this being over in Iraq and Afghanistan, et cetera -- I'm not one of those, by the way.  I think we're doing the right thing while we're over there.

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Mm-hmm.  (Acknowledgement.)

            ELSWICK:  There's been, I think, a -- it's been much better this time around in the support Americans have given to our military.  I know that you all have AmericaSupportsYou, and how can people get involved with that, and how can we help our military men and women more?

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, thank you for pointing that out.  The American people are really truly amazing.  They're so compassionate and caring and supportive of the troops and the troops' families that are back here.  And the troops' families sacrifice as well, as you know.  And what we've done, simply, is to create a web site called AmericaSupportsYou.mil where people can go on the web site and find all the things that we know about, that groups around the country are doing to support the troops or to support their families.  And it may be a corporation or a school or a private organization or a club or an individual.  I had some people in here recently -- yesterday or the day before -- who are training dogs who assist wounded people. And there are so many things that are being done, and it's really heartwarming to see the heart of the American people and the compassion of the American people.

            ELSWICK:  So, Mr. Secretary, if there's an organization out there who'd like to get onto your web site, what do they need to do?

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, just any individual can just go on the web site.  It's AmericaSupportsYou.mil, m-i-l, and they will see dozens and dozens and dozens of things that people are doing and undoubtedly, they'll find something there that they'd like to do to be supportive.

            ELSWICK:  Last question for you.  September 11th is coming up in just a few weeks.  It'll be the fifth anniversary of the terrible attack there in New York, there in Washington, D.C., out in that field in Pennsylvania.  We intend to be there at the Pentagon.

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Good!  Well, I'm delighted.

            ELSWICK:  What things do we have to look forward to when we're there at the Pentagon that day?

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, we will -- we will gather people and remember September 11th and make available the senior people, civilian and military, in the department, who will be accessible to you and to your colleagues in a way that will enable you to communicate with your people.  There'll be a freedom walk that is, I believe, the day before.  There will be a variety of events and, undoubtedly, a tour of the Pentagon.  But mostly a chance for people to remember and a chance for people to visit with all of the people here who care so much and who are so critically important to our national security.

            ELSWICK:  Well, Mr. Secretary, I told them I would hold you only 10 minutes.  We're at that time now.  I want to thank you for the 10 minutes of time that you've given us here in Little Rock.

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, thank you so much, Dave.  I look forward to seeing you on September 11th.

            ELSWICK:  All right, Mr. Secretary.  Have a great afternoon.

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Thank you.

            ELSWICK:  Bye bye.

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