Radio Interview with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Hot Talk WDAY AM 970 with Scott Hennen
MR. HENNEN: No trip to the nation's capital is complete without a conversation with our favorite member of the president's Cabinet, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, how are you, sir?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Scott, I'm terrific. It's good to be back with you.
MR. HENNEN: Good to see you, by golly. We're always enjoying catching up with you. And I mentioned to you off the air that we're awaiting the return of Joyce Rumsfeld at some point to Fargo so we can have the welcome home celebration. Let her know we'd love to have her back.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I will tell her that. In fact, the other day she talked about a driving trip sometime with the two of us where we go up to that part of the world.
MR. HENNEN: Is that right?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet.
MR. HENNEN: Put Fargo on your itinerary.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely. She wouldn't miss it.
MR. HENNEN: Now, do you long for that day where you get in the car with your wife and you go on a long trip rather than, you know, secure phones and, you know, situation rooms and everything else?
SEC. RUMSFELD: There's no separation today from the job. This job, you're in it all the time, seven days a week, days and nights. But I feel fortunate to be able to be working with these wonderful young men and women in uniform. God bless them for what they're doing for our country at such an important time in our country's history. This is a dangerous time.
MR. HENNEN: There's no question. And certainly the stakes in the election two weeks from today are very high.
I want to get your take a little bit on what happened this week with the airing of a video by CNN in which insurgents provided for a major network in this country a video of a sniper at work behind the scenes, firing at one of our soldiers on a Humvee up on a turret. It ultimately resulted in the death of that soldier. CNN received the video from the insurgent group, aired it. Was that wrong to do?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I have not seen the video. I heard about it. It certainly -- when one thinks about the way you characterize it, it is exactly what the terrorists want done. That is their goal. Their goal is to manipulate our media and to manipulate the American people. You know, the military has a phrase; the center of the gravity of the war is a certain place. Normally it's the battlefield. In this case it's back in Washington, D.C. and in the United States of America with the American people.
And so the terrorists and the insurgents have media committees. They plan these things. And then they find ways to make use of the media in our country, free media, to advance their cause and to dishearten the American people. And that's their goal, and that's what they try to do. They get up in the morning and they do it very well.
Sometimes they overstep by beheading people on television. And some people, instead of being terrorized or frightened by that, begin to see a glimpse of what the world would look like if these people won, if these people took over; the dire consequences for free people if, in fact, Iraq were to be turned over to the terrorists and the insurgents and the beheaders. It would be a terrible thing for the world.
MR. HENNEN: Do you believe that CNN erred by participating in that effort you've just described very well of these media committees and what they intend to do, by actually airing a piece of propaganda for them?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The -- you know what it reminded -- it recalled to my mind -- I don't have the facts precisely -- but I recall some years ago – not too many -- a senior CNN person, either at that time or previously had been with CNN, announced to the world that when he was in Baghdad, before the war, for CNN, that he purposely kept bad things about Saddam Hussein and Iraq off of CNN because he knew he wouldn't be able to stay there and report out of there. So he only reported the things that Saddam Hussein and his regime wanted reported.
It's of a kind, it strikes me.
MR. HENNEN: We received a call on the air yesterday from a father who had a son who was a soldier in Iraq. And as it turns out, he happened to operate a turret on top of a Humvee. So he sees this video and he thinks of his daughter and their grandchild, and he's absolutely repulsed. I mean, I've not talked to a listener that thought this was a good idea. I'm curious if the secretary of Defense thinks it's a bad idea for CNN to do it.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, it is obviously a deep concern to all of us. We see that type of thing and wish that it would not be.
MR. HENNEN: So is it up to the American people to reject it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I would think so. I have not seen it and I haven't had a chance to talk to the people in the department about it. But we have a great country, and we have the ability to turn the knob, turn the switch, change the channel, listen to different people, read different newspapers, support those things we want to support and oppose those things we want to oppose.
MR. HENNEN: I have a source in the Pentagon that has told me that recently there was a website of one of the terrorist groups, and I believe it might even be multiple websites, that are specifically in Arabic talking about influencing our elections in two weeks, about how the next two weeks is very crucial; the violence needs to be ramped up so as to influence the elections. Is that true?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I have seen those reports that there are terrorist websites that say that. It would be logical, obviously. It worked in Spain. And these people are smart. They're vicious. They're determined. And they watch very carefully what's taking place in the United States. They know there's this coming up. And I wouldn't doubt it for a second.
MR. HENNEN: So do you think there's enough discussion in this country that people comprehend to the degree they need to about how much the media is being utilized to participate in that? Here they are, getting up every day saying, "We've got an election in two weeks in America, gang, and we want to change horses over there because we don't like the folks we're having to deal with now; they're a little tough on us. So let's get out there and let's make some noise."
I mean, I don't get the sense the American people have a sense they're being played in that fashion.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Probably not. It's hard. No one likes to think they're being manipulated. They believe that they can make their own judgments and the like. But the terrorists are known to have media committees. They are known to plan and structure their attacks in a way that it will have the maximum advantage by disheartening the American people, discouraging them, making them think there's no hope, or it's somebody else's problem, and they shouldn't -- or that we're at fault; the idea that the reason there are terrorists is because of America.
Well, I just don't happen to believe that America is what’s wrong with the world. And I know that's a fact. And these terrorists have been determined to dishearten the American people, and we simply must not let that happen.
MR. HENNEN: What's at stake? What if there was a change in congressional control and the Joe Biden view of the world that -- and, by the way, he was quoted saying yesterday that he's betting on total chaos, number one, and number two, that it'll only be a matter of months and the United States armed forces will be in the middle of a shooting gallery. That's how he's talking about our troops, one of the supposed statesmen on the other side of the political equation.
You know, so what that leads me to believe is that if there was congressional control to the Democrats after this election, we're in real trouble as far as where we -- you know, maybe -- (Inaudible) to de-fund the war, or whatever. Do you worry about these things?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I've been asked by the president to not get involved in politics. He wants the Department of Defense to stay separate from politics. I've discussed it with him on several occasions, and he has specifically asked that I do my job and that he’ll go out and carry that message to the American people on that subject of politics.
And I think that our country has always had dissent of various types. I lived through World War II, and there were vicious comments made against our political leadership during that conflict. But the American people absorbed it. We persisted.
And there have always been people who want to toss in the towel in America. And if we tossed in the towel in the Revolutionary War, there wouldn't have been any United States of America. And if we'd tossed in the towel in the Civil War, there never would have been a single United States of America.
MR. HENNEN: So is this a Beltway thing? Is this -- you're a Heartlander.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I am. (Laughs.)
MR. HENNEN: You're a Midwesterner. We are, too, from Minnesota and the Dakotas. And my sense is that this is -- you know, if you get out and around and you talk to people you know and you're in a coffee shop somewhere or talking to relatives back home, do you sense they have the same view that the Beltway media does of the war in Iraq and the larger enemy we're facing in the war on terror?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think they have a better center of gravity and inner gyroscope than a lot of Washingtonian people. But the reality is that about 90 percent of the violence in Iraq occurs about 30 miles -- within 30 miles of Baghdad. And if the international community is there and the press is there and they're reporting on that, one would think that the country is aflame.
The country isn't aflame. You fly over Iraq and there's people out working in fields. There's cars driving around. There's people doing things. And so, too, in Baghdad, there's people waiting at a gas line, going to a restaurant.
Now, is it peaceful? Is it the same as Washington, D.C.? No, it's not. It's a tougher environment. It's a more violent environment. But, by golly, we can get this done. And the president is determined to see that it happens. He recognizes the dire consequences for the world if Iraq, with that oil and that water and that history and that geographic position, were turned over to the terrorists; the world would be a terribly unsafe place. And our task is to protect and provide for the safety of the American people. And, by golly, that's what the president is determined to do.
MR. HENNEN: Speaking of the Beltway, a fair amount of buzz here suggesting that the president, yourself and others are changing course, that it's no longer stay the course now, that you're changing the course.
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
MR. HENNEN: And I know it's kind of a Beltway buzz thing, but is there a change of course underway?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I'll tell you, you know, the enemy has a brain. And as they say, no war plan survives first contact with the enemy. So the minute you start something, the enemy adjusts and we adjust. Our battlefield commanders for several years now have been making all those adjustments on tactics, techniques and procedures, and we will continue to do so.
Furthermore, the situation in different parts of the country is different. It's not homogeneous. It's not the same problem in every part of the country. And so we have been making adjustments continuously; our battlefield commanders have. And I think they're doing a darn good job.
MR. HENNEN: Do you have confidence in Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqi government now?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, he's only been in office about the length of a baseball season, so it's a little early to know. But he seems to be a serious person. He seems to have courage. Just taking the job shows a certain amount of courage. And he was determined to pick ministers of interior and defense who were not political people, who would not be sectarian in their orientation. So I think he's off to a tough start, but he has a good chance of making it.
MR. HENNEN: Last question. I want you to send a message to our troops. We talk to them often -- active duty, Guard and Reserve from our part of the world. And I think they'd love nothing more than hearing from their secretary of Defense. What message would you send them?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I never cease to be impressed. If I want to be inspired, I go visit the troops. You don't go walk around Washington, D.C. (Laughs.) And they are doing just a superb job for the country. They're proud of what they're doing. They're professional. They are highly skilled at what they do. And God bless them.
I should also add that their families are terrific. I meet a lot of the families -- families of the wounded, families of those who have been killed, families of those who have their sons and daughters serving over there. And they have the same dedication and the same pride and the same determination. And I'm deeply grateful to them.
MR. HENNEN: Good to see you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good to see you. Thank you.
MR. HENNEN: Anxious for that trip for Don and Joyce Rumsfeld to Fargo, North Dakota. Come see us.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Will do it, Scott.
MR. HENNEN: Good to see you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Okay.
MR. HENNEN: Take care.