We are pleased and honored to have with us Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld joining us on WLS.
Welcome back to Chicago, Secretary Rumsfeld.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, thank you very much. It's my hometown. I was born there, and I love the city. It's a great city.
BYRNE: And I wish you a happy birthday in advance. Your birthday is coming up July 9th.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh my goodness, it sure does. At my age, you don't count them very fast, though. (Laughter.)
BYRNE: It's nice to have you on the air.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you.
BYRNE: All right. Secretary, let's first talk about the tin-cup rattling, as I like to call it, not saber rattling, but tin-cup rattling of Kim Jong il of North Korea. It started on the 4th of July with the missile testing. Americans have this feeling and are relieved that the missiles are duds, but is that a false sense of security? And how do we handle the threat of North Korea?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it seems to me, the missiles are not necessarily done. They still have Scud-Cs and some Nodong missiles that are in position and could be fired, and we don't have any reason to believe they will or won't, but they have additional missiles they could -- to do that.
You know, people ask why in the world are they doing what they're doing. I'm not a psychiatrist, and there's no way I can leap into the mind of Mr. Kim Jong il and figure it out. On the other hand, we do know that they are one of the major proliferators in the world of ballistic missile technology, and as such, they may very well be engaged in some testing programs to help their marketing program. They also may be doing it just to threaten people and try to scare people and get attention.
BYRNE: I'm wondering if they're acting up because we are in a position where we're negotiating with Iran, and this is a way for them to get what they want. They make us go back to the bargaining table with them solo, and that way they get these things that they demand.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That could conceivably be what they're doing. On the other hand, they're going to fail because there isn't a chance in the world that the United States is going to go back into a bilateral discussion with North Korea on these matters.
We've got the six-party talks. The president is on a diplomatic track with them. They have every opportunity to discuss these matters with the countries that are principally concerned -- obviously, the People's Republic of China and South Korea, Japan and the United States and Russia.
BYRNE: What do you make of former Secretary Perry going unilateral with a strike on North Korea, wrote about in The Washington Post? He says diplomacy has failed.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you know, in a sense, he is right that diplomacy has failed in the past. They had a -- in his administration -- the Clinton administration, they had an agreed framework that which the North Koreans violated and broke. In fact, they violated three or four agreements they had. They had a North-South Agreement as well.
On the other hand, you know, it seems to me at least -- and I think the president's exactly right in this case that the diplomatic path is the correct one - and that a pre-emptive strike against that missile launch, while it was still on the stand was not appropriate, and that was the decision the president made and I certainly agree with it.
BYRNE: Well, I hope that the U.N. has some teeth, as they can't even seem to come up with some kind of resolution against this. Is it going to be a non-binding letter? Are they actually going to take sanctions against a country that's already suffering so much as it is? Where do we go?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I know. You know, it's -- you just can't help but feel terrible for the people of North Korea -- the starvation that exists there, the fact that their government is a repressive dictatorship and -- you know, they have the same number of people in the south as the north and the same resources in the north and the south, and yet, South Korea is the 10th largest economy on the face of the Earth, and North Korea is basically a failed state. It's just a shame. Your heart has to go out for those people.
BYRNE: Let's talk a little bit about Iraq, Mr. Secretary. Conservatives and moderates that I talk to understand that the exit strategy in Iraq is our troops will stand down when the Iraqis step up. I'd like to ask you where we are with that, how that is progressing and where do you see real positives and where we need to improve.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, there are a number of positives, if you think about it. The -- sometimes, it's helpful to stick yourself in the shoes of the other fellow -- the terrorists.
And if you think about it, they tried to prevent the elections a year ago January. They tried to stop the drafting of a constitution and the referendum on the constitution last October. They tried to prevent the December 15th election late last year, and they've now tried to stop the formation of the new government. In each case, they failed. And the Iraqi people voted, went out in record numbers, increasingly high numbers each election.
They now have a government that's a sovereign government that's going to be in place for four years, and the government's proceeding with some very important decisions. They're engaging in a reconciliation process. They're attempting to improve security in Iraq. They now have over 265,000 Iraqi security forces that are assuming more and more responsibility for the situation in that country, and that's the plan, is to keep turning over more and more of the responsibility to them, and that's exactly what we're doing. In fact, last week they turned over one of the provinces to the Iraqi government.
BYRNE: It seems that we're -- they're mired in the past, and I'd like to ask you, a U.S. congressional panel has just ordered you to turn over documents for a probe on Abu Ghraib, and you have until July 14th to comply. According to the press, you haven't complied with past requests. Why -- my question is, why are we still back in 2004, when Abu Ghraib became a household name? And now Haditha has become a larger issue. Is this a way to turn Americans against the war?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I suppose people do have different motives, depending on who they are and where they stand. The fact of the matter is that of course some people on the midnight shift at Abu Ghraib did some things they clearly should not have done. And they've been punished by the Uniform Code of Military Justice for it, and they're serving terms in prison.
It's also true that we've got 126,000 troops over there, and 99.9 percent of them are just terrific people serving our country with great professionalism and distinction, and God bless them for it. And their families are sacrificing so that they can serve our country and defend our freedom.
I can't imagine, frankly, why the people want to go back over those things at this stage. The United States armed forces have been able to identify wrongdoing, investigate it and prosecute it successfully for many decades, and they're doing so today.
BYRNE: How does the rhetoric, mostly from the left, that our troops are killing, raping, torturing innocents -- how does that affect soldier morale? And I understand that you are working with AmericaSupportsYou.mil in assisting our troops.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, yes, it -- there's no question but that people that are professional and they read that in the paper and see that someone either did something wrong or at least was alleged to have done something wrong are terribly disappointed by it. And then to see people use that as a way to discredit the noble work they're doing -- and it is noble work -- is most unfortunate.
The wonderful thing about it -- you mentioned AmericaSupportsYou.mil, which is a website people can go to and find things that they can do to help the troops and support the troops and their families, and it shows what generous, compassionate people the American people are. The way they -- the outpouring of support for the troops is just wonderful.
BYRNE: Speaking of the media, we recently helped al Qaeda with The New York Times publication of banking and financial information, how other countries assist us in following the money trail for the terrorists. How does the release of this type of information affect the success rate of the war on terror?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, any time that we have the ability to gain information about people who are trying to kill Americans and to kill our troops and to engage in another September 11th-type event, any time we can get information on them, it's helpful. And to the extent people take it upon themselves to explain the way we get information on these terrorists, obviously it helps the terrorists, and enables them to avoid capture and to conduct their business successfully in a clandestine way. So we do everything humanly possible to see that that information is not available to them because it just makes their work much easier.
BYRNE: What do you see in the media -- the newspapers and network coverage -- that you would like to see change?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you know, you always would hope for balance. You would hope that you would see a -- the good as well as the bad, and the things that are positive as well as the things that are negative. It seems that an awful lot of people in that business tend to feel that the negative is more newsworthy, so it tends to get hyped. And the work that's being done over there -- the schools that are open, the hospitals that are open, the clinics that are functioning, and the good work that's being done by the coalition forces, and the good work that's being done by honorable Iraqi people and Afghan people -- tends to not be as noticeable as the violence.
BYRNE: Let's talk a little bit about the recent Supreme Court ruling, Hamdan versus Rumsfeld -- Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was a driver for Osama bin Laden. I'm not a legal expert, but I don't understand how a terrorist who wears no uniform, doesn't fly under any flag, respects no law, qualifies for Geneva protections, and how this ruling as well as possibly terrorists being tried in an open court -- how does that affect the war?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You know, we had a long discussion about that, and the government is -- the lawyers, the Department of Justice and everyone are trying to figure out exactly what should be done next. And I think you've elevated the issue well, that the fact of the matter is Geneva was designed to protect those people who behaved in a manner that was consistent with the laws of war. They wore uniforms. They carried their weapons openly, and they conducted themselves in a certain manner, and they were accorded certain rights as a result of that.
To treat people who are terrorists and kill innocent men, women and children and don't carry their weapons publicly and don't wear uniforms and behave in a totally different way that's inconsistent with the laws of war -- to treat them identically and to accord them all of those same opportunities, it strikes me as unusual. And I don't know where it will all come out. And the people who are experts at the law are now working on it. And my guess is we'll end up working with the Congress in fashioning some legislation that very likely will solve the problem.
BYRNE: I do hope so.
Secretary, it's so wonderful to speak with you. Thank you, and God bless you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, thank you so much. I've enjoyed it and hope we can talk again sometime.
BYRNE: Sure. Happy birthday.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much, Eileen.
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