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Transcript: Donald Rumsfeld on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a transcribed excerpt from FOX News Sunday, Nov. 2, 2003.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: Now joining us to discuss the events this morning, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Secretary Rumsfeld, there is some question about the nature of the opposition in Iraq. President Bush has said recent attacks strike him as signs of desperation.

However, Wesley Clark, who used to be a general, now is a presidential candidate, had this to say the other day, when it came to the topic. He said, "Maybe it's desperation. Maybe it isn't. What if it isn't? What if it's an expression of strength and resolve and conviction?"

Doesn't today's strike strike you as an act of resolve, rather than desperation?

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I wouldn't put it that way, Tony. It seems to me — first of all, one has to say that this is a tragic day for those young men and women who are serving our country so wonderfully, and my prayers and sympathy go to the families and the loved ones of those that were killed and wounded.

What it was is a bad day, a bad day, a tragic day for those people. In a war, there are going to be days like that. And it is necessary that we recognize that.

It seems to me that trying to go to the motivation of this attack is relatively easy. We know why they're doing it. There are criminals in that country who will do things for money. There are foreign terrorists in that country, like the Ansar al-Islam, who have come back in from Iran and are trying to kill people. And there are the remnants of the Baathist regime. And they want to take that country back, and they're not going to. They're not going to come close to taking that country back.

And they are the ones who want to have the kind of a dictatorship that Saddam Hussein had, that is shown on the film clips on this station, of people cutting off fingers, cutting off hands, cutting off heads, throwing them off the tops of building, cutting off tongues. That is what those people want. I wouldn't call that "resolve."

SNOW: Secretary, that's understood, but there are also reports today the people are dancing. In fact, there was a report of one young man dancing around and laughing with an American soldier's helmet on his head.

It's not as if these people are working entirely in isolation. As a matter of fact, a place like Fallujah has a fair number of people who are resisting the United States.

A question many Americans have today is, how do you — and how do our forces — propose going after those insurgent forces? Is there a counterinsurgency strategy that will reduce or prevent future recurrences of this sort of attack?

RUMSFELD: Tony, citing a single young person dancing around, cheering, when something adverse happens, is a fact, I am sure, that there was somebody doing that. It's also a fact that there's 23 million people in that country who have been liberated, and the overwhelming majority are very much in support of the coalition.

SNOW: We understand...

RUMSFELD: They want Saddam Hussein gone.

SNOW: That's — nobody's quibbling with that. The problem is that there are pockets of resistance...

RUMSFELD: Of course. Of course.

SNOW: ... that are making things difficult for the United States, and in some places they're concentrated. Fallujah...

RUMSFELD: True.

SNOW: ... Tikrit, those are all hotbeds.

RUMSFELD: The area from Baghdad and north are hotbeds of opposition, and the area father north is not, and farther south is not. And the overwhelming majority is not.

SNOW: But we are talking on a day when more American servicemen have died than on any day since the end of combat in April.

SNOW: And a lot of Americans are concerned again about the tactics for going after — General Ricardo Sanchez, not long ago, said that he thought the enemy within Iraq was getting better organized and more sophisticated.

RUMSFELD: I think that's fair. SNOW: So it is getting better organized and more sophisticated. So the question is, what is the countertactic that the United States uses to break them up?

RUMSFELD: Sanchez also explained that. And what they are doing are several things. First of all, the coalition forces are out attacking these remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, and they're finding them, and they're capturing them, and they're killing them. There are additional people being killed and captured every single day in that country. And their numbers are going down.

Second, what's happening is, in the last analysis, the Iraqi people are going to defeat the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime. We now have over 100,000 Iraqis who are serving in the army, the police, the site protection, the civil defense, the border patrols. It's gone from zero up to 100,000. Our plan is to take it in excess of 200,000 by next year.

And it will be Iraqis that will be out killing and capturing the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, as they are today. There have been 85 of these Iraqis killed already, who are involved in these security forces.

SNOW: Help us out, though, with the situation right now. Is the security situation deteriorating?

RUMSFELD: Any time you have an attack on a — successful attack on a helicopter, you have to say it is a tragic day for those people who were killed and wounded. We know that.

But there are going to be days like that. There are going to be days where large numbers of people, as yesterday, are killed. That's what war is about.

Is it deteriorating in general? No, it's not. The...

SNOW: There are reports...

RUMSFELD: ... number of incidents have gone up in the last three or four weeks. That's for sure.

SNOW: There are reports that a number of business that have gone in are now thinking about getting out, because insurance and security is getting too expensive. Are they wrong to do so?

RUMSFELD: Look, first of all, we talk about Iraq as though it's uniform across the country. It isn't at all. The situation in the north and the south and the west is really relatively calm and peaceful. The security situation is not serious in those areas.

It is serious in Baghdad, and it is serious north of Baghdad. And it's — people have to make their own judgments about that.

But as the total number of Iraqi security forces increase, we're going to see the number of Iraqis who are criminals, who are terrorists, who are Ansar al-Islam or Baathists captured and killed. That number's going to go up. And this is going to be one.

SNOW: You wrote a memo on the 16th of October. One of the things you worried about was the recruiting. You asked whether they were able to recruit and train terrorists more rapidly than we were able to dispose of them. Where does that stand?

RUMSFELD: Worldwide, I was referring to, not "them" meaning Iraqis or anything.

It's a fair question. If you think about it, there's little places around the world where radical, extremist clerics are teaching young men and women to become suicide bombers and to go out and kill innocent men, women and children, and to do the kinds of things you saw Saddam Hussein's people doing, cutting off hands and fingers.

Our goal has to be to continue doing what we're doing on the global war on terror. And it's — that is going well. We are capturing and killing a lot of terrorists.

But we also have to think about the number of new ones that are being created, it seems to me. And the memo I wrote raised that question. How might we do that? How do we win that battle of ideas? And it's not going to be so much the United States as it is other people from other countries who see their religion hijacked and taken away from them.

SNOW: Within Iraq, what is the situation, in terms of terrorists? Are we taking out or imprisoning more of them than they're killing of our people?

RUMSFELD: Oh my goodness, yes. We're capturing or killing vastly more than are being killed of ours.

SNOW: It's an interesting thing, because I get e-mails all the time, and people say, "We hear about our death counts. We never hear about theirs. Why?"

RUMSFELD: Well, we don't do body counts on other people. And we have certain rules on people we capture, in terms of exposing them to the public, Geneva Conventions and the like.

But on any given day, dozens of terrorists or criminals or Baathist remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime are being captured or killed, all across that country.

SNOW: You have been accused by some people of having no plan, when it comes to Iraq. I want to get your response. I know this is one of your favorite questions.

RUMSFELD: Well, I've heard that. I think there was some fellow who was kind of a disappointed office-holder, who wanted the job of running Iraq and didn't get it.

We've had a plan, my goodness. The Wall Street Journal had a big expose, showing how we were working with the World Food Organization well before the war ever started to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

RUMSFELD: And they didn't want the world to know it, because they might look complicit in it.

How do you go from zero to 100,000 Iraqi security folks who have trained to be in the army, the police, the border patrol, the site protection, the civil defense, if you don't have a plan?

How do you — our plan has produced a central bank in a matter of months. It took years in other countries — in Germany or Japan or Bosnia or Kosovo.

We have a new currency in circulation. We have a Governing Council appointed. They've appointed ministers. All of these things have happened in two, three, four, five months.

Now, that doesn't just happen. We've got wonderful people, military and civilian, out there doing a terrific job of helping to restore the essential services in that country, helping to train the security force to take over security responsibilities. Because it's the Iraqi people who are going to have to win this...

SNOW: You keep saying that. Is it not also the case that the Iraqi people, like anybody under occupation, don't like being occupied, and they want us out sooner rather than later?

RUMSFELD: Who knows?

SNOW: Provided you've got security and all that...

RUMSFELD: Exactly. I mean, I've seen polls that suggest that they're worried we'd leave too soon, a large fraction.

But I agree with you, foreign troops in a country are unnatural. And the goal is not to keep them there. The goal is to keep them there only as long as they're needed and not one day longer. And that's why we're putting so much effort and why our plans have focused on training Iraqis to take over that security responsibility.

SNOW: The New York Times is reporting that there are a number of people within the Pentagon, in the military establishment, who now want to remobilize some members of Saddam Hussein's military, perhaps not even more military purposes but for police purposes.

RUMSFELD: Oh, we do, no question. In fact, they demobilized themselves, the Iraqi army. They fought pretty well coming up, as our forces came up from the south. But once we got to Baghdad, a lot of those forces just kind of disbanded and left.

We've been recruiting them for six months. We've been putting them in the police force. We've been putting them in the border patrol and the site protection and in the army. And that's been going on for months. There's nothing new with that.

SNOW: Do you not worry that some of the people who are going to come in will, in fact, be Saddam loyalists or Baathists?

RUMSFELD: We do.

SNOW: And how do you protect against that? Do you let the Iraqis take care of that as well?

RUMSFELD: Well, we vet them. We check them against database — a number of databases. And if they pass the first vetting, we go ahead and bring them in and train them.

What happens, however, is that there's a public vetting. Once people see people in the police and so forth, they come around and say, "Look, you've got the wrong fellow there. That person was one of the bad guys." In which case, we look into that and take action.

So there's a technical vetting, and then there's a public vetting that takes place. But it is something one has to worry about.

On the other hand, let's face it. All the people who served in Saddam Hussein's army, a lot of them were conscripts. They didn't want to be there. They had to be there, or they'd get killed for not being there. So they're not bad people.

SNOW: Is Saddam or are some of his lieutenants still actively engaged in coordinating resistance against the United States? And is it true that there are series of regional commands, at least that we believe, that are headed up by former officers in Saddam's military trying to coordinate the attacks on Americans throughout Iraq?

RUMSFELD: It's possible. It is difficult for them because we're putting so much pressure on them, and we keep plucking them up. We've got something like, killed or captured, 42 out of the top 55, which isn't bad.

SNOW: Yes, but the top one is the most important.

RUMSFELD: True, and we have not got Saddam Hussein yet. We will get him. And I suspect he's still in the country. And I suspect he's having a great deal of difficulty operating. And we'll eventually find him.

SNOW: Do you find that former Saddam loyalists are giving our forces intelligence about the whereabouts of key members of the Baathist Party? Are we getting that kind of intelligence even now?

RUMSFELD: How else would we have found, captured or killed 42 out of the top 55? It's not a treasure hunt. You just don't run around looking under every rock for these folks. Much of that information came from people who we captured or killed or others who are against the former regime and want to see them defeated.

SNOW: Do we have any idea how many foreign fighters are actually in Iraq?

RUMSFELD: We know we've collected up — we have prisoners of somewhere between 200 and 300. We know we've killed a lot. How many we haven't found is hard to know.

And I guess it's also the question, what do you mean by foreign fighters? A lot of these folks have three or four passports.

There's an organization called Ansar al-Islam, which was in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was there, it was functioning, and Saddam Hussein knew all about it. And they, then, went into Iran when we invaded the country. And they're now back in.

RUMSFELD: So they are foreign, in the sense that they just came back in from Iran. And we're now in the process of finding them and capturing or killing them.

SNOW: How active is Iran in trying to destabilize our efforts?

RUMSFELD: Oh, active.

SNOW: Muktada el-Sadr (ph), is he on the Iranian payroll?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I'm not going to discuss him.

SNOW: Why not?

RUMSFELD: Well, I don't have perfect intelligence or visibility. And trying to climb in and speculate about a person's motives is hard for me.

SNOW: OK. But just for by way of explanation, Muktada el-Sadr (ph) is a Shia cleric who claims he's setting up a parallel government and is opposed to the United States.

We're going to take a quick break. We will continue our interview with Secretary Rumsfeld in a couple of minutes. Stay right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SNOW: And we're back with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Also here, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.

Brit?

HUME: Mr. Secretary, General Wesley Clark suggested this week that, with regard to that memo that you wrote asking all the questions, that you had to leak it yourself, and that you did leak it. What do you say?

RUMSFELD: That's just nonsense. I didn't leak that memo. That's insulting.

HUME: He said that he heard about it through the gossip and on the Sunday talk shows. Shouldn't we believe that?

RUMSFELD: Listen, if people start getting their information from that, we're all in trouble.

(LAUGHTER)

HUME: Let me take you back, if I can, to today and...

RUMSFELD: That memo was a serious memo. I mean, I wrote it because I think those are good questions, they're important questions, they're fair questions, and they're the kinds of things that need to be discussed and explored. But I sent it just to four people. I certainly didn't expect that it would end up out in the press.

HUME: Well, from the memo, you said earlier on this program that the war on terror overall is going well.

RUMSFELD: It is.

HUME: You also suggested in that memo that our metrics for measuring how well the war on terror is going are lacking. What about that?

RUMSFELD: And probably will always be lacking. In other words, it's probably not knowable how many people are being recruited somewhere in a jail, in America, in a madrassa school that's taught by a radical cleric, somewhere in one of 20 other countries of the world. We can't know how many they are.

But what I do know, I think, is that we need to engage in that battle of ideas. We need to be out there encouraging people not to do that. Rather, they should be learning things like language or math or things that they can provide a living from.

HUME: Let me follow up on something Tony asked you about that earlier. To what extent might our presence in Iraq, military presence in Iraq, be helping in the recruitment of new terrorists? In other words, might we unwittingly be helping with the growth of the terrorist movement, if it can crudely be called that, while we're trying to defeat terrorism in that country?

RUMSFELD: I suppose -- that's like saying that, by fighting crime, you encourage crime.