Interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld



JUNE 22, 2005, 11:30 AM

TONY SNOW: Yesterday afternoon we pre-taped an interview. We don’t often do this, but because of his schedule we had to. We pre-taped an interview with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Well, we really covered the lot. This interview has already made a fair amount of news, and it’s about to make some more, so sit back, relax, take notes if you so desire, and listen to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, unplugged right here on the Tony Snow Show.

(Begin pre-recorded interview.)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, welcome.

SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: Thank you so much, Tony. It’s good to be with you.

MR. SNOW: Senator Chuck Hagel said we are losing the war in Iraq. Is he right?

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, we’re not losing the war in Iraq at all, and I don’t think that there’s any military commander or person who is involved over there who believes that’s the case. I’ve not heard that from anyone who is knowledgeable and engaged in it on a continuing basis.

It’s a tough business and people are being killed, and there are ups and downs, and good days and bad days. But if one thinks about it, the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the textbooks are there, the court system is functioning. The political process is moving forward, and the Iraqis went out and 8 million people went out and voted and elected a transitional government. They are now working hard to draft a constitution. They’re going to have elections under that constitution in December, and they’ll have a new, free Iraqi government.

MR. SNOW: So you expect them to go ahead and finish the constitution on time and have votes — because some people are now, as they were before, calling to push these things back.

SEC. RUMSFELD: There’s always going to be somebody. You know, if you’re in a football game, you’re on the 20-yard line heading for the goal, you wish the game were longer. (Laughter.) And you’ll hear the same thing between now and the time the constitution is drafted and the referendum is voted, and then you’ll hear it between then and December when they actually vote under the new constitution. And it’s going to be the people who think they could get more advantage if it went on longer.

MR. SNOW: But you think it’s all going to happen on schedule.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely. It has to. The more they delay, the greater the damage, and my view is that it must go forward on schedule. That’s the president’s view and I predict that’s what will happen.

MR. SNOW: So Senator Joe Biden, who is recommending that it be deferred — what you’re saying is if it’s deferred it makes the situation more dangerous in Iraq.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely. These things have to go together in tandem, Tony. You’ve got to have progress on the economic side, you’ve got to have progress on the political side, and you’ve got to have progress on the security side. And they’ve all got to move forward, and that’s what is happening. You have good political process with that election, good economic progress with the things that have happened that — they’ve got a stock market that is open, they’ve got an economy. The dinar is strong. And the security forces are now — Iraqi security forces are now up to something like 169,000, and they’re strengthening their ministries, and they are improving their linkages to intelligence. And they are increasingly taking on more and more of the security responsibilities in the country.

MR. SNOW: Quoting Senator Biden again, he says, “The insurgents are more dangerous than they were a year ago, and they are shaping the political landscape.” Your reaction?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t know what that means. Since the insurgents are shaping the political landscape.

MR. SNOW: (Chuckles.) I was hoping you’d be able to tell me because I’m not quite sure either.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Chuckles.) Yeah, I mean, it sounds like words to me, but I suppose you could say that there are lots of things shaping the political landscape, and the reality of an insurgency is one of them, but so too is the political process, and so too is the development of the Iraqi security forces. There are a great many things, factors entering into it, and I suppose anyone can reach into the middle of that long list and isolate one or two and claim they are factors and not be wrong.

MR. SNOW: We seem to be coming to the conclusion now that many of the insurgents are coming from Syria and they’re getting paid. Is that correct?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there’s no question that insurgents are being paid and so are criminals being paid. That’s a fact. And it’s also true that a lot of people are coming through the border of Syria, and that’s notably unhelpful.

MR. SNOW: Who is paying them?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there’s all kinds of money available, I suppose. The al Qaeda network, the Zarqawi network, the other places that funds come from. If you will recall, Saddam Hussein stole hundreds of millions of dollars out of the central bank of Iraq before the war ended, and I’m confident that a lot of that money is still around and Iraqi insurgents are using it.

MR. SNOW: Yes. So there’s a lot of passing around. What about the Iranians?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, Iran is clearly putting money into the country, and it has clearly tried to influence the elections and the constitution.

The Shi’a holy places are in Iraq; not in Iran, and they’ve got a very active interest. They’ve not been helpful either. They’ve harbored some al Qaeda as well.

MR. SNOW: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with us.
Senator Biden — I’m going to toss a couple more proposals Senator Biden has made and then we’re going to move on — he says that we need to take advantage of foreign offers to train Iraqi security forces outside of Iraq, mentioning the French have offered to train 1500 gendarmes, Jordanians and others. Do we in fact need to be training Iraqi police forces using other governments outside Iraq?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure. Some of it is done inside of Iraq, some of it is done outside of Iraq. We’ve been doing that for a couple of years. We have a training center in Jordan and there are other countries. We’ve got NATO that has — a number of countries in NATO have agreed to train and equip Iraq security forces of different types: border patrols, police. No, there’s nothing new to that. That has been going on for months and months.

MR. SNOW: So in other words, he’s ratifying the status quo.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Apparently.

MR. SNOW: (Chuckles.) Mr. Secretary, I want to get your — I continue to get calls every day, people saying, you know, the administration lied about weapons of mass destruction. The most common focal point of this is the secretary — I mean, the vice president.

I want you to walk people just very quickly through what we thought going into the war and whether we made a mistake or whether you still think there may be weapons of mass destruction that can be traceable to Saddam Hussein.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we know for a fact that — I know for a fact that no one in the administration lied about weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. intelligence community and the intelligence community of other countries believed, apparently inaccurately — but believed sincerely that they would find weapons of mass destruction. Now it was based on a lot of information that they had that may eventually prove to be wrong. We haven’t found weapons of mass destruction so one has to assume that.

Now how does that happen? Well, we know that Saddam Hussein, for example, used chemical weapons against his own people and against his neighbors. We had intelligence that talked about the reconstitution of various capabilities in that country — or the ability to reconstitute. And they made those conclusions. The other thing that was going on at the same time was that Saddam Hussein had refused to comply with 17 U.N. resolutions, and he was given a last chance to comply with those resolutions, and he filed fraudulent — what’s known to be fraudulent declarations with the United Nations.

Now what does all that mean? It certainly doesn’t mean that anyone misled the American people. It means that the world of intelligence is imperfect, as it is, and that the information was — at least thus far has not been proved to have been the case, and that’s the way it is in life.

MR. SNOW: Okay, quick break. When we return, Donald Rumsfeld takes on Dick Durbin. I mean, it’s white hot. You don’t want to miss it. That’s coming up next right here on the Tony Snow Show. And give us a call later in the hour — 866-408-SNOW. Stay with us.


MR. SNOW: And now the conclusion of yesterday’s interview with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as the conversation turns to Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Let’s now talk about Guantanamo. I think the facts are more ascertainable here. Senator Richard Durbin – you know what he said. Your reaction?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Anyone who says something like that is going to have to live with those words the rest of their lives.


MR. SNOW: I’m trying to get you to continue now.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I’m — that will not be a happy prospect for a person.

MR. SNOW: Senator Durbin also — well, I’m sorry — former President Clinton, speaking to the Financial Times the other day, said Guantanamo needs to be closed down or cleaned up. I want to ask you a question from a different angle.

Guantanamo Bay — people working at Guantanamo Bay have extensive regulations in everything from food preparation to how to handle a Koran to dealing with prisoners. Could one make the argument that, far from being a charnel house on the order of Auschwitz, that in fact, Guantanamo may be the most humane prisoner of war camp ever.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I can’t speak for POW camps throughout history, but I can tell you that the men and women who are operating Guantanamo were told by the president, they were told by me to conduct it in a humane manner. They have been doing that.

I saw someone on one of the television shows yesterday who said there had been a hundred people killed in Guantanamo — just totally untrue. It’s factually wrong! That place is, as you suggest, a model detention facility. Now why does it do that? Why is it there? And these people who say, well, we shouldn’t have it — what do they recommend? The people that are there are terrorist trainers, bomb makers, suicide bombers, UBL’s bodyguards, financiers, recruiters, facilitators. These are bad people. These are people who want to go out and kill innocent men, women and children. And the idea that people would let those people loose is just unthinkable.

What are we learning from them? Well, we’re learning a lot. One of them was the 20th hijacker everyone is convinced of. But we’ve learned a great deal about al Qaeda’s terrorist network and its presence in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East, and their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, their methods of recruitment, their terrorist skill sets. We’ve learned a great deal through the interrogation process, which has been humane.

MR. SNOW: Mr. Secretary, would you then maintain that we in fact have saved lives as a result of the intelligence gathered at Guantanamo?

SEC. RUMSFELD: There is no doubt at all but that lives — American lives and Western lives —have been saved because of those detentions.

Now, what’s going on? It’s transparent. We’ve had — the International Committee of the Red Cross has been down there from day one. They have full access to the place. They’ve had a permanent presence for months and months and months. The media — there have been 400 visits by over a thousand national and international journalists who have been there. Lawyers for the detainees have been there. Eleven senators and 77 congressmen have been down there, with 100 congressional staff members.

The idea that there is some mystery about this or that it needs to be cleaned up — it couldn’t be any — cleaned up any more than it has been cleaned up. It is operating in a manner that’s consistent with the correct principles of detention.

MR. SNOW: Mr. Secretary, are you aware of any human rights abuses that have taken place at Guantanamo Bay?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I think that I — there have been several investigations, and they have looked into things and found allegations where people have conducted themselves in a manner that was inconsistent with the policy and the rules that they were given. In those cases, they have been prosecuted and convicted where appropriate or acquitted where appropriate.

MR. SNOW: In other words, the American servicemen and women, seeing something gone amiss, have in fact turned in their own people.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely. They have absolutely turned in their own people, and those people have been prosecuted. There’s one ongoing investigation that is still underway, and we’ll learn more, and that’s the way it ought to work. But most of what has been coming out in the press recently is because of freedom of information requests, and the press plays it as if it’s something brand new and different when, in fact, it’s mostly repetition of things that have already been investigated and prosecuted.

The other thing you ought to remember is that these detainees — we captured a document called the Manchester Document, and these detainees are trained to lie, they’re trained to say they were tortured, and the minute we release them or the minute they get a lawyer, very frequently they’ll go out and they will announce that they’ve been tortured. And the press carries it and says, “Another Example of Torture,” when in fact they’ve been trained to do that and their training manual says so.

There’s one other thing. You know, these photographs from earlier. Apparently there’s going to be — some judge is now being required — is requiring that they be released, I think, later this month possibly.

MR. SNOW: Right.

SEC. RUMSFELD: And what are they going to be? They’re going to be the same things that were already investigated, that were already part of the investigations, that were already delivered to the Congress — the House and the Senate — and it’s going to come out and people are going to see them and say, oh, my goodness, it’s something new — more examples of this. And of course, what you had was a group of people on the midnight shift in Iraq who, as the Schlesinger report — behaved in a way that was inconsistent with how they should have behaved, but it wasn’t true of the shift before it, it wasn’t true of the shift after.

MR. SNOW: You know, what’s interesting is I haven’t seen people demanding Freedom of Information Act requests to see the photos of people who have been tortured by the bad guys.

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, that’s true. That’s exactly right.

MR. SNOW: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with us here on the Tony Snow Show.

Mr. Secretary, earlier you said of Richard Durbin and his comments that you wouldn’t want to be in his place. Why?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think that — you know, nobody is perfect. People always — some people always in their lives say something they wish they hadn’t said. We’ve just watched Jane Fonda run around trying to recover from the things she did and said during the Vietnam War. And I just think that that’s about all I have to say about him — is that he said some things and he’s going to have to live with them. And I’m — I think that that’s not a happy prospect for a person.

MR. SNOW: Mr. Secretary —

SEC. RUMSFELD: These troops —

MR. SNOW: Go ahead.

SEC. RUMSFELD: The men and women in uniform are doing a superb job, and their families are supporting them. And their performance and their skill, and their professionalism, and their courage, and their sacrifice is truly impressive. And to suggest that the American men and women in uniform in Guantanamo Bay are doing things that equate to the things that what’s his name — the senator, Durbin — suggested, I think is so far beyond anyone’s understanding of what’s going on. I don’t believe he has ever even visited there.

MR. SNOW: As far as we can tell, he hasn’t.

Mr. Secretary, in previous wars, especially World War II, people talked not about exit strategies, but victory, and the other thing you saw was a concerted effort of the American people to maintain solidarity.

Now at the Pentagon you guys are working on something called the “America Supports You” effort, and I think it’s one of those things that perhaps deserves more attention simply because it does once again draw that connection between the public and the people doing the fighting.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you’re exactly right. It’s a wonderful arrangement because spontaneously people around the country are doing wonderful things to help the troops and support the troops, and support their families. And someone devised the idea of having a website called where anybody can go on the website and find out examples of things that people are doing. Some people are doing them individually; others are doing it with their families or their classroom in school, or businesses, or organizations they belong to. And it has been just a terrific thing.

If you think about it, these folks are over there doing a superb job for our country, and they’re fighting terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them here at home. And they’re doing it in a highly professional and successful way. They’re making progress. They’re making progress politically and economically, and they’re going to make progress from the development of the Iraqi security forces.

And when they look back in five to ten years, they’re going to be so proud of the noble work they’ve done to help liberate 25 million Iraqi people and turn a country that was sponsoring terrorism into a country that’s respectful of women, respectful of the various minority groups and that is a peace with its neighbors. And I think all Americans would like to find that website so that they can find ways to be supportive of the people that are doing that and particularly their families that are so far away here at home.

MR. SNOW: Absolutely right — Mr. Secretary, as always, a pleasure. Thanks for joining us.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, Tony. It’s good to be with you.

(End of recorded interview.)

MR. SNOW: Now, as you know, since that interview was recorded yesterday, Senator Richard Durbin has taken to the floor of the Senate to issue his regrets for the way in which his comments — issued about a week ago — were taken. You heard Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld being highly critical of them.

Here’s the end of Senator Durbin, once again, sort of apologizing — well, the sort of modified, limited, hang-out apology:

(Begin audio segment.)

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: I offer my apologies to those who were offended by my words. I promise you that I will continue to speak out on the issues that I think are important to the people of Illinois and to the nation.

(End of audio segment.)

MR. SNOW: When asked if the Defense secretary still stood by the comments that he made on this program, which you have just heard, about the fact that Senator Durbin, quote, “is going to have to live with his comments and I think that’s not a happy prospect,” Defense Department spokesman Glenn Flood today has said that the Defense secretary stands by his statement even in light of the apology.

(End of segment.)