Radio News Briefing with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on News Talk 870 KRLA with Larry Marino
MR. MARINO: Well, thank you so much for taking time to be with us at Radio Row here.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much, Larry. The pleasure is mine.
MR. MARINO: All right, let's get into some of the issues.
Everything, they say, is political in Washington. An election coming up. If the voters make a change here, will it be a direct reflection primarily on Iraq and the administration's handling of Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, first of all, the president's asked me to stay out of politics, and I'm not going to speculate on politics or outcomes of elections. It just doesn't serve any good purpose.
MR. MARINO: All right. Into Iraq, though, let's talk about that. Any misperceptions, anything you want to clean up, clear up of what you hear out there when you -- and I don't even know if you do watch the news.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't much. I'm awful busy. The one thing I find when I'm in Iraq or Afghanistan or out around the world with the men and women in uniform who do such a terrific job for our country is invariably they will ask me why the impression back in the United States is so notably different than the impression they have of what's taking place. They know what they're doing. They're proud of what they're doing. They believe that what they're doing is working and that they're making progress and that we're going to succeed, and yet the impression back in the United States from television and newspapers and the press and the like seems to be quite different, and they always wonder why that is.
And I was out at Bethesda Naval Hospital visiting some wounded Marines a week ago Saturday, and I was in one room and there was a Marine on the bed and he had a tube in his nose and he had multiple wounds from an IED. And he looked up at me and he said: "If the American people will only give us the time, we're winning. We can do this." And that's their feeling. So there is a contrast.
MR. MARINO: What about that timeline? Do you think the American people will give you the time, or are we different because we live in an era with the TV news that shows us the count every night and --
SEC. RUMSFELD: It is. It's the first war in the 21st century; the first war where we've had all these new media -- bloggers and talk radio and 24-hour news on television. It's a very different world from previous wars.
On the other hand, the American people have always heard criticisms. They've always heard people who said we shouldn't continue, we shouldn't persist. There was a lot of opposition to the Revolutionary War; there was a lot of opposition in the Civil War; there was opposition in World War I and II. Goodness knows there was in Korea and Vietnam. I think the American people have a pretty good center of gravity, and I do think they'll give the troops time to get this job done.
MR. MARINO: You know, the president has referred to this as a long war. In a long war, will and determination take triumph over a short war, where tanks and bombs maybe are important. Where there is a will, there's a way, but is there the will in the American people to stick it -- (off mike) -- the long term?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, think of the Cold War. The Cold War lasted 50 years, and throughout that there were people who said, "Oh, my goodness, it's not worth it; let's toss in the towel; let's bring the troops home from Europe. Eurocommunism's not that bad." And yet, through successive administrations of both political parties over 50 years, the leadership in the United States and Western Europe stuck it out and were determined and invested and persisted, and prevailed. Not bad.
MR. MARINO: Now that we are five years after 9/11, many believe that the nomenclature "war on terror" is completely misguided, that you don't fight a strategy, you fight an enemy. For a while we heard the term "war against Islamofascism"; that seems to not be used right now. What do you call it? How are you defining this war we're in, the most clear way you can?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I look at it in the following way: I see it as a struggle within the Muslim faith among a relatively small number, percentage-wise, of violent extremists who are trying to hijack that religion. And they're struggling against the overwhelming majority, hundreds of millions of Muslims who don't believe in violent extremism.
I think there's some truth to your question, if you think about it. Terrorism is -- the purpose of it is not to kill people. It's a technique of warfare, terrorism is. The purpose is to alter your behavior. And it is the weapon of choice of the violent extremists who would like to re-establish a caliphate in the world, who would like to destabilize the moderate Muslim regimes in the world and that they would like to have free people stop behaving as free people and do what they want, like the ayatollahs in Iran tell people what to do when they get up in the morning.
MR. MARINO: Take us into some of these conflicts more directly, in what you can tell us and what you understand. Recently there's been a discussion about the term "stay the course." I know it has only been used eight times by the president recently, but the media has picked up on the fact that the administration's not going to use the term "stay the course." But in a sense, they're going to stay the course. How do you sort through that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I listened to the president's comments the other day, and I agree with him. I mean, if that leaves the impression that the approach is to be unchanged, obviously that's not the case, because the enemy has a brain, the enemy keeps adjusting its tactics, and therefore we have to constantly adapt in the field. And our battlefield commanders are continuously adjusting and adapting to fit the changing situation. And therefore that phrase apparently gave some people the opportunity to say, "Well, the United States isn't willing to change or adjust." But we've been adjusting and changing continuously.
MR. MARINO: How are we doing? Your assessment. Once again, this mainstream media, if you watch it, the Sunday morning shows, they make it look like everyone knows except the administration that things aren't doing well in Iraq --
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
MR. MARINO: -- that the body count from our soldiers is higher than it has been, that it seems as if -- no one wants to call it this, but a civil war is breaking out. You get access to everything. They'd tell you it straight. What do they say?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The fact is it is a violent country. There is violence; there's sectarian violence; there are death squads. There are large numbers of Iraqis being killed, Muslims being killed by other Muslims. And that's unfortunate. On the other hand, the country went out and they have drafted a constitution; they've ratified a constitution; 12 million people went to vote and elected a government. The government has now been in office for less than a baseball season, and everyone's pointing at it and saying, "Well, why haven't they done everything?"
Well, first of all, it's hard. It's hard work, and it took us years in this country to develop our democracy. We still had slavery and women couldn't vote for decades and decades and decades after 1776. So I think there is a certain impatience on all of our part, and we'd all like to see things happen better, faster, and we'd like to see things better faster.
But they're making progress, and I think it's -- that they have a very good crack at succeeding in this effort, at their reconciliation effort and bringing more people together in that country.
MR. MARINO: And on North Korea, take us there quickly. North Korea and their nuclear test: How high do you rank that on the Donald Rumsfeld scale of "this is a pretty big deal"?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think it's -- if you have a country like North Korea that is the principal proliferator of missile technologies and counterfeits money and sells illicit drugs, it's pretty clear that their having a nuclear device is something that they then probably would be willing to sell. And they could sell it to a nation-state or they could sell it to a non-state entity, and that risk of proliferation I would characterize as the principal threat that North Korea poses to the world at the present time.
MR. MARINO: Now, lastly, about your own self and your career serving for this administration. Some out there will say, you know, Rumsfeld ought to go.
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
MR. MARINO: I know you don't watch it, but you probably have heard that. And in the business sector -- you've worked that as well; you've been a CEO and you've headed some companies -- when times are not going so well, the CEO is sometimes the first one to go. What is your assessment of the area of responsibility you have, and what's your reaction to those who say you ought to go?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, my reaction is that it's politics, and I'm not supposed to get involved in politics, so I just sit there and watch it go by.
MR. MARINO: Thank you so much. I appreciate your time with us.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.