This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 18, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: And now for the "Top Story," tonight, as we said, some U.S. Marines serving in Iraq may have murdered up to 24 civilians, including women and children. There's an ongoing investigation and we begin the interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on that topic.
O'REILLY: Got to ask you a very tough question off the top. Congressman Murtha goes on national television and accuses U.S. marines of slaughtering women and children, innocent civilians in Iraq. We know that there's an investigation to that. We know that the investigation is complete. I know that you can't comment because it's a criminal proceeding.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Right.
O'REILLY: Should I take this story ultra-seriously?
RUMSFELD: Well, I really can't say anything on that. What I can say is that the Department of Defense takes it seriously.
O'REILLY: All right. So you're taking this story.
RUMSFELD: No, no, I'm not taking the story seriously. The Department of Defense, the command out there in Iraq, came across the information, is investigating the information, and is proceeding under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Needless to say, we have to take seriously allegations of that type. And they're under investigation, and they will then be handled in the normal order of things.
O'REILLY: All right, I need you to do me a favor. Right after this interview tonight we're going to run a story on this investigation. A separate story apart from you and I conversing. If there's nothing to this I don't want to do that story, I don't want to besmirch the U.S. Marine Corps if this is bull.
RUMSFELD: The answer is that the only people that know that answer are the people in that process. And ultimately it will be adjudicated. And you and I will not know actually what took place until that's been concluded.
O'REILLY: We hear that next week it's going to pop.
RUMSFELD: Well, no, it won't. What will happen is that it'll go through various stages and it may become more public at some point if the process decides that's what should happen.
O'REILLY: All right.
RUMSFELD: But it could at any stage it could go farther or less far.
O'REILLY: This is so upsetting to me as an American, and I'm sure — because we respect the military on "The Factor" and most Americans do.
RUMSFELD: You can imagine how the people in the military feel when there's charges like this.
O'REILLY: If you've got Marines — you have another My Lai on your hands and that's going to be not only for the marines and the people involved.
RUMSFELD: I think it would be premature to characterize it that way.
O'REILLY: I just said if. It's a huge if. But that will impact on the whole war effort.
RUMSFELD: Time will tell.
O'REILLY: All right. On the border you have 6,000 guards going down there. OK? Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska says, guard can't do it. Guard shouldn't be there. And Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California — Guard can't do it, the Guard shouldn't be there. How do you respond?
RUMSFELD: It would be nice if people asked questions and learned a little bit before they say things like that. These are people of — 6,000 people that would be out of 445,000 guard.
O'REILLY: Four-forty-five, that's what you have in the USA right now?
RUMSFELD: Yes, in the Guard. And what they're going to do, is that they're going to go down there, not on the border, not in the law enforcement role, not to arrest people or do anything like that, they going to go down there and add technical capability to what the Border Patrol has.
O'REILLY: Are they going to have guns?
RUMSFELD: In support of the Border Patrol and in support of the Department of Homeland Security.
RUMSFELD: Well, you don't have an arm if you're flying an unmanned aerial.
O'REILLY: How about a sidearm? Are they going to carry — Will some be armed?
RUMSFELD: That's up to the governors. They're going to be under control of the governors.
O'REILLY: Is that right? The governors are going to call the shots?
RUMSFELD: They will have rules of engagement and the governors in each of those four states the governors will be if charge of the guard, the federal government will be paying. They'll perform duties that the Border Patrol needs to have performed that are something other than the law enforcement functions along the border.
O'REILLY: OK. So you have got 200 Guardsmen in Laredo, Texas, you know the problems in Laredo, Texas, with the drug gangs right across in Nuevo Laredo, and say those guys are backing up the Border Patrol.
RUMSFELD: They won't be backing them up physically. They will be providing technical competence.
O'REILLY: Say the guard is there and they come upon drug smugglers or they come upon 50 illegal aliens running across the border. They're going to detain those people. They would have to. They can't just let them run by.
RUMSFELD: They'll have rules of engagement, but they're not going down there for that. They're going to be doing construction projects, they are going to be doing linguistics. They will be doing technical...
O'REILLY: You're not going to tell them let law breaking go.
RUMSFELD: I won't be telling them anything. They'll go down there. They're the National Guard and they'll be activated under governor's authority and managed by the governors.
O'REILLY: All right. I just can't imagine the U.S. forces
RUMSFELD: They have been doing these types of things for years under counter narcotics and various things. This is not new. And anyone that looks at it and understands it is want going to make the kinds of comments that people are making who have not yet asked the right questions.
O'REILLY: See, with all due respect, I think that you guys are too defensive. I think Americans in the polls show that they want the National Guard down there.
RUMSFELD: I'm not being defensive at all.
O'REILLY: I think they want the National Guard down there under the president's control and your control, arm to the teeth and saying, we're not going to have any drug smuggling and illegal aliens coming across. That's it. And if we see you, we'll stop and you call the border patrol and they'll take care of you.
RUMSFELD: There are going to be Border Patrol doing that and there will be many more of them doing it because of the support we'll be providing.
O'REILLY: Why not put 30,000? If you have 445,000 guards, put 30,000 down. Why not there?
RUMSFELD: The Border Patrol has that responsibility.
O'REILLY: Not enough of them.
RUMSFELD: Well, then the task is to go to Congress, get the money and train up more of them and they're now going to double their output of Border Patrol people.
O'REILLY: In the next segment we will talk about the issue that will make or break the Bush administration in the history books. Iraq. Right back with it.
O'REILLY: Continuing now "The Factor" exclusive. A conversation with Donald Rumsfeld. Of course, Iraq remains the elephant in the room.
O'REILLY: Let's shift to Iraq. Foreign minister, the new one of Italy, said it was a terrible mistake to go there today. The authorities in Iraq say that about 1,000 a month civilians or bodies are being found because of the militia warfare between the Sunnis and the Shias. And the American polls say most Americans have lost confident that we can win the Iraq conflict.
What can you say to the people to the people watching right now and listening now who feel we're not going to win this? What can you say?
RUMSFELD: Well, I can say that I can understand how some people could feel that way, given what they hear on the television and what they see in the press. And on the other hand, if you put yourself in the position of Zarqawi and the terrorists and the insurgents, they tried to stop the election last year in January, and they failed. They tried to stop the drafting of a constitution and they failed. They tried to stop the referendum on the constitution and they failed. They tried to stop the election December 15 and they failed.
They're now trying to stop the formation of a new government and they're going to fail in the next few days. It's going to be completed and announced.
Now it's always good to put yourself in the other fella's position. They know they can't win that war over there. The only place they can win it is in Washington, DC. It's a test of wills, as most wars are. And my impression is that if people stopped and thought a little bit about the fact that we can't lose a battle over there, the only place we can lose it is at the test of wills here at home, and the circumstance of those people, we see their intelligence and they're saying to each other. They're not happy. The major portion of their senior leadership has been captured or killed. They are having troubles. Now are they on the ropes? No. Are they still killing a lot of innocent men, women and children? Yes. Does it take a genius to do that? No. Anyone can kill innocent people who are just standing around with a suicide bomb.
O'REILLY: How can the U.S. and Britain stop the Shia from killing the Sunni and vice versa? In that civil war there, how can we stop it?
RUMSFELD: First of all there isn't a civil war by anyone that I talk to's assessment. There's sectarian violence, you're right. Now, how do you stop that? You don't stop it militarily. The only way this is going to stop is if the government engages in a unity government that represents all the people in that country, which they're very close to having, and they then engage in a reconciliation process where they reach out to the elements that are still dissidents and have a process where people can legitimately reengage and they intend to do it, the prime minister designate has announced he was going to do it. The Sunnis and the Shias and the Kurds agreed to it.
And now, what else did they do? They said that one of the problems, the militias are a problem.
O'REILLY: Sadr's militia. This is a vicious guy.
RUMSFELD: The first thing that he did, the new prime minister designate, Prime Minister Maliki, he went down and saw Sistani, the senior cleric in the country, and said I'm worried about these militias and Sistani said he's worried about them. And they both announced that one of the new tasks of the new government would be to deal with the militias. And they're making progress.
O'REILLY: I hope so.
RUMSFELD: And there've always been people who have looked at the problems and they're real problems, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying it's a pretty picture. It isn't a pretty picture. It's a tough business, and our guys over there are doing an absolutely superb job and they're proud of what they're doing and they know that they're making progress and they know they can't lose over there.
O'REILLY: No, they can't lose militarily, but it's cost the United States taxpayer about $400 billion up this point.
RUMSFELD: Think of what 9/11 cost us. Wouldn't you rather fight those people over there instead of fighting them here?
RUMSFELD: Think of what happened to our economy, think what happened to the stock market.
RUMSFELD: Think of what happened to the airlines here after 9/11.
O'REILLY: If the stability of Iraq, if it happens, means that Al Qaeda is weakened, I think it's worth it.
RUMSFELD: Well, there's no question of that.
O'REILLY: But there is a question. You're challenged all the time on that.
RUMSFELD: By people who don't know what they're talking about. The reality is that anyone that you talk to will tell you that — Zarqawi says that the central front on the war on terror is in Iraq.
O'REILLY: All right.
RUMSFELD: It isn't debatable.
O'REILLY: Come on you know if there's a Democratic president elected in 2008, he's going to very likely change your policies or President Bush's policies. But, look, I support the Iraq war because I believe that if we pulled out of there.
O'REILLY: Iran would move in and then Iran would be the dominant player in the gulf, allying with Syria and it's just going to be a nightmare.
RUMSFELD: That's right. The moderate regimes in that part of the world would be gone.
RUMSFELD: If people are worried about Iran and they ought to be given the statements that we are hearing from the leadership there, the best thing in the world that could happen to Iran would be for us to fail in Iraq.
O'REILLY: Then they would move in.
O'REILLY: Friday night, we will continue our talk with Secretary Rumsfeld, concentrating on the growing threat from Iran and whether that nation is bribing Russia and China. Bribing them.
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