Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld and Samir Nader, Radio Sawa from the Pentagon
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 11, 2006
NADER: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary. It's great to see you in person.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you. Well, welcome to the Pentagon. We're glad you're here.
NADER: Thanks. Today is the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. It's a sad memory.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It is.
NADER: We'd like to get your thoughts about today.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you think of this building and the attack that took place, and hundreds of people killed, and the attacks in New York, and on -- in Pennsylvania, and one of the things that comes to mind is how resilient the American people are. This was the most successful attack against our nation, single attack, in our history. And yet, five years later, there's not been another attack. We've been successful in putting pressure on the terrorists around the world. The American people have bounced back and gone about their business. They have refused to be terrorized. We've changed some things we do. We're more careful about checking baggage on airplanes, and that type of thing. But we actually have a country that is -- people that are compassionate, people that are proud of their freedom and intend to preserve their freedom. And, of course, the purpose of a terrorist is to terrorize, and our people refuse to be terrorized.
NADER: How do you think the U.S. as a country is moving to benefit from the lessons of that tragedy?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, we're learning in terms of how we manage our affairs. We're learning in terms of how the Department of Defense and the intelligence community conduct their business, what they do. We recognize that it's a world where we're going to be less likely to have to deal with a conventional threat from an army, navy or an air force, and more likely to have to deal with asymmetrical threats, irregular warfare, the kinds of things that we're seeing around the world.
And I think that the other thing we're doing is we recognize that much of what needs to be done cannot be done by one country alone, it requires the cooperation of many countries. And so President Bush has put together an 80- or 90-country coalition where they're sharing intelligence, and we're cooperating on movements across our borders, we're cooperating with information. And it has been a good thing that we have that cooperative arrangement in the world because, as I say, no one country can defeat this problem by themselves, it takes cooperation.
NADER: You said it's going to be a long war similar to the collapse of the Soviet Union. How -- are we progressing in that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We are. I mean, we've got a very good coalition put together. We have put a lot of pressure on terrorists. The fact that we haven't had an attack in the United States in five years is remarkable. I don't take it for granted; it didn't just happen. It's to our great good fortune.
And I think that the struggle that's taking place within the Muslim faith is a struggle by a very small percentage of people who are violent extremists, who want to behead people, who want to destabilize the moderate Muslim countries and reestablish a caliphate. And the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not violent, and they're not extremists, and they don't want to behead people, and they're going to prevail over time, and we need to work with them and help them, to the extent we can.
NADER: It seems that Iran is taking advantage of the after September 11th, and they've benefited from the defeat of the Taliban and Saddam. What is your vision on containing Iran? I mean, they are a big threat now with the ambition of being a leader in the region and to be nuclear. What is your vision on Iran? How are you going to contain Iran?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well --
NADER: Is it going to be a difficult solution or --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Obviously, you have a country there that the current leadership is bellicose in their pronouncements. They wish for a world without Israel, they wish for a world without the United States, they wish for a world without Western countries' influence. And they -- it's a big country. It's a proud people with an interesting history. And I'll never forget how surprised everyone was at how rapidly the shah of Iran fell and the ayatollahs came in. My guess is that in my lifetime, we'll see people surprised again that the small handful of clerics that are running that country will lose their grip on that country.
And I don't think the people of Iran want to be isolated from the world. And clearly their government is behaving in a way that's having the effect of isolating them from the rest of the world.
NADER: You think if they come along with these talks with Mr. Larijani, they could go along with the condition of 1696?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don't need to make predictions. Time will tell.
NADER: All right. On Syria, is Syria still helping the insurgences in Iraq?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yeah. Syria is not being helpful to the United States. It's not being helpful to the people of Iraq. It's being unhelpful, and it has been fairly consistently.
NADER: And what should be done with Syria?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I think they're making a mistake. I think they're very closely allied with Iran, and they're both countries that have sponsored terrorism and supported Hezbollah and Hamas. They've made a decision thus far that that's the direction they want to go. I know that some of their neighbors in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and other countries in that part of the world would prefer to see them aligned with them against terrorism, and I guess time will tell.
NADER: Last week, there was a military area of Iranian enforcement of the border inside Iraq. They kidnapped Iraqi soldiers. Are they provoking things there or --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It's been hard to sort out exactly what happened there. The borders are not perfectly marked. I think that the people on the Iraqi side are now aware that that can happen, and I think if the Iranians tried to do it again, they'd find there would be substantial resistance.
NADER: Last week, the coalition transferred the command for the Iraqi forces to the Iraqi government --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Some of the divisions. It's a big thing. It's historic.
NADER: Big steps.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You bet.
NADER: Are they capable now, the Iraqi forces, to take things on their own against the insurgency?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: They're starting to take over provinces, and they've taken one and they've got a schedule to take over additional provinces. They've started to take over some of the divisions, and they have a chain of command. And it will mature and get stronger as they go along.
So I'm encouraged. I think that we'll keep passing over more and more responsibility, and they'll keep assuming that responsibility. It won't be perfect; it won't be a straight path. There'll be some false starts, and we'll have to go in and help, but that's the nature of things.
NADER: The vice president from Iraq was here, and I read an article in the paper that they are concerned from the domestic politics or the debate in America. But he is saying that they are doing well. They don't need extra U.S. troops, they don't need anything else but time, that the government --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The Iraqis.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Right.
NADER: Need time.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: They do.
NADER: Do you feel that domestic politics sometimes hurt the national strategy of the U.S.?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you know, a democracy is the worst form of government except for any other that's ever been tried; meaning it's the best form. And one of the attributes of democracy is you have debates and discussions and people disagree. And when some people see that disagreement, they then say to themselves, "Gee, we can out wait them." Well, they're wrong. They're not going to be able to out wait the United States. We are going to persevere, and we're going to prevail.
NADER: Vice President Mahdi, it was reported from the press that he carried a message from Ayatollah Sistani to you and President Bush. And that kind of they were concerned that maybe the U.S. will not go along with its support for democracy at the expense of having some stability. You will continue to support your strategy to support democracy in Iraq, right?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You know, Iraq is going to end up with an Iraqi solution. Afghanistan is going to end up with an Afghanistan solution, just as the United States ended up with a U.S. solution. And there's no cookie mold that says this is exactly how things ought to be done. They're going to do what they do, and they're going to end up with a country that's not run by a dictator, that's not -- it's going to be at peace with their neighbors. And it'll look -- it won't look exactly like our country or Israel or Iran or any other country. It'll look like an Iraqi version of the 21st century, and that's a good thing.
NADER: I have one more question. There's reports that the U.S. is going to help the Lebanese army -- training and supporting the Lebanese army. Can you tell us something about it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No. I think for the most part it's going to be Europeans that are going to be doing that.
NADER: Yeah, but the U.S. is saying we're going to support, like, $10 million --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, with some money. I think we'll probably help with some money, but I'm -- that's not the Pentagon. That's the Department of State.
NADER: I see. But they're not going to train it or something -- some training?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No, I don't see the United States involved in training.
NADER: I see. Well, thank you so much.
SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet.
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