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Exclusive! Sean Hannity Joins Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on His Final Visit with Troops in Iraq

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 11, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Over the weekend, I had the privilege of traveling to Iraq along with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Now, it was his final visit to go see the troops before he leaves office, and that's at the end of this week. Now, the trip was so secret that I didn't even tell the staff of this television program that I was going.

Now, we began by applying into the Al-Asad Air Force Base , some 180 kilometers west of Baghdad. Secretary Rumsfeld conducted a town hall meeting with the soldiers, and some Marines, and even a few sailors. He then visited with a Marine fighter attack squadron.

Now, we had the chance to visit with some of the troops along the way, and you see that video, if you're a FOX Fan, by the way, by logging onto Balad Air Force Base. That's northeast of Baghdad. There, the secretary met with airmen, and MedEvac crews, and visited a hospital with wounded soldiers. And after we left Balad, we flew to Baghdad International Airport , where we boarded helicopters and flew over Baghdad and headed right into the Red Zone.

We met with embedded soldiers who are working along with Iraqi troops in one of the hottest zones in all of Iraq. They told us about the sectarian violence and how the Iraqis are working with our troops in joint efforts to control the area.

Then we choppered back to the Green Zone in Camp Victory , where I got a chance for a behind-the-scenes tour of one of Saddam Hussein's palaces.

And then on Sunday morning, we boarded our C-17. We flew north to the town of Mosul , where Secretary Rumsfeld held another town hall meeting with soldiers and took some of their questions.

I have the chance for my own town hall meeting in the back of the room after the secretary was finished speaking. We got some unbelievably candid moments with the troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... [We have a] more intellectual, smarter force today. These are soldiers who think on their feet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: We're going to have more of that impromptu town hall meeting a little bit later in the show. First, before we spent the night in Baghdad, I had the chance to speak exclusively with Secretary Rumsfeld.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: Why did you come back one more time?

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I had been scheduled to come this weekend, and I decided that I wouldn't, about, oh, shortly after we announced my departure. And the more I talked to people, the more people said, "You simply can't do that. You really should go, that those troops are people you've sent over there and that are risking their lives, and it is important for you to go and say thank you to them."

And I began thinking about it hard. And, you know, it's a tough question when your successor is named and confirmed and you have the flow of business. And you say to yourself, "Well, what should I do or what should I defer doing?" Because you don't want to intervene in things that he ought to be doing.

But the other day, a former retired general named Gus Pagonis came in to see me. He's been chairman of our business board, and Gus said, "I've got a son over there, and they want you to come over there, and you should go over there." And I said, "By golly, I'll do it."

HANNITY: What happened? You had offered your resignation how many times, before?

RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness, three times, I guess, total and...

HANNITY: What happened this time, though?

RUMSFELD: I think that this time the outcome of the election, just to put it right up on the table, created a situation where I personally believe, and the president agrees, it is better for someone else to be leading this department with that new Congress. And it's better for the military; it's better for the department; and it's better for the administration. And I feel comfortable with that.

HANNITY: And you both — this was a consensus between the two of you?

RUMSFELD: Well, during the period before the election, it was very clear to me that I felt that way. And I let others know that I felt that way.

HANNITY: The president?

RUMSFELD: And he, well, he put it — "You've been sending signals." But, no, I feel good about it. I hate to not be doing what I've been doing because I care so much about what we've doing, and I'm convinced what we're doing is right, and that it will ultimately succeed, and that the country needs to better understand it. It has to become more familiar to the people.

This is the first war of the 21st century. It's new. It's strange. It doesn't have the benefit of major armies, and navies, and air forces clashing one with another, and an outcome that's clear.

There's only so much the military can do. The military can do the military tasks, but ultimately it will take a political solution.

But the danger to our country is real, it's present, it's lethal, and it's growing. That is a hard thing for people to understand, because we've been so successful in not having an attack in this country for five years.

And this president is almost a victim of the success he has had in preventing another attack in our country, because people have allowed the nature of the threat to diminish in their minds. And I think that we ought not to.

We ought to understand — what was it that Winston Churchill said — "the gathering storm." It wasn't clear. It was ambiguous, and there were various signals. But, by golly, we're in a period where there is a gathering storm. And the threats of chemical and biological and radiation and nuclear weapons are real. The seriousness of these people is unambiguous, and we need to be vigilant.

HANNITY: Have you had an opportunity to read the ISG report ?

RUMSFELD: No.

HANNITY: Will you read it?

RUMSFELD: I've skimmed it.

HANNITY: You skimmed it?

RUMSFELD: Yes.

HANNITY: But part of their solution — for example, they offer two ideas: One of them is one that I watched you have a very interesting conversation about, embeds and expediting the training of the Iraqi troops along with the American forces, guiding them. And you had a great conversation earlier.

But they talk about, OK, as part of the political solution, negotiate, talk with, discuss issues with Iran and Syria.

How do you have a discussion with a man who denies the Holocaust happened, and wants to annihilate another country, and is seeking nuclear weapons? Do you think that's possible?

RUMSFELD: I think that your question is an important one. I don't want to be critical of a report that I've not had a chance to read in detail, but the — I would say that it — you'd have to ask yourself: Why is it that they would want to help us?

HANNITY: Haven't they both been fomenting the terror?

RUMSFELD: They've been contributing to the violence in Iraq. They have been unhelpful. They clearly have agents operating, and they are using funding in this country to not allow it to be successful.

And so were one to decide they wanted to talk to somebody, you would have to first understand, well, why is it you would want to talk to them? Have you decided that there's some reason they would want to have some sort of similarity of interest or commonality of interest?

And it's hard, in the case, as you point out, when you have leadership in Iran that says what they say, believes what they believe, and behaves the way they're behaving.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: Secretary-designate Gates said during his hearing, "We're not winning the war; we're not losing the war."

RUMSFELD: Yes.

HANNITY: Your thoughts on him, those comments, and do you have any advice for him?

RUMSFELD: No, I don't have any advice for him. I wish him well. It's a tough job, and I have every confidence he'll do a good job at it.

I said it differently a couple of weeks ago in a memorandum I sent to the president and ended up in the press. And I said something to the effect that we can't — the metrics for winning or losing are very difficult. Today, the president's being measured on the amount of violence in Iraq, and basically in Baghdad. It's three or four provinces out of 18 in one country.

That is not the measure; that is the wrong measure. If that were to be the only metric or measure of success or failure, my goodness, then you've given the game to the enemy. All they have to do is keep violence up in Baghdad, and the media that's there will say, "Oh, my goodness, the terrorists are winning and everyone else is losing." That's not it.

But, regrettably, there are not good metrics to determine how it's actually going on, what's happening. The kinds of things one would want to know, if you really wanted to have your finger on the pulse of who's winning and who's losing in this global struggle against violent extremism, you would want to know how the terrorists and the extremists are doing in raising money.

How are they doing in recruiting? Are the things that are happening in the world advantaging them so that the cadre of people that support their position is increasing or is it decreasing?

We know we are killing — the president has done a fascinatic job of getting some 80 countries into a global coalition against extremists. And we know we're putting pressure on them around the globe. We know it's harder for them to do things; it's harder to raise money; it's harder to transfer money; it's harder to move between countries; it's harder to recruit; it's harder to move weapons, but they still do it.

And the question is, is the pressure that's being put on them greater than they are able to apply, in terms of raising money and recruiting? And because it is — you know, this is — it would be easier if you had big armies, big navies, and big air forces contesting each other. We don't.

These people are determined. They are not going to sign a surrender on the USS Missouri in the Pacific Ocean someday. They're not going to surrender. They're going to have to be put down over time in a long struggle, much more like the Cold War than World War II or World War I.

HANNITY: All right. So these are your final nine days. How do you feel? I don't know if you're a guy that would say I feel — do you feel sad? Do you feel...

RUMSFELD: No, no, not at all. Not at all.

HANNITY: ... like you have achieved a lot?

RUMSFELD: I do.

HANNITY: Are you proud of everything you've done?

RUMSFELD: I feel very...

HANNITY: Are you misunderstood by the media and maybe some of your political opponents?

RUMSFELD: Well, no. My guess is my political opponents are probably — have reason to disagree. We've done a lot. We've moved a great deal in that department, and people don't like that. The contractors don't like it; congressmen don't like it; pieces of the bureaucracy don't like it.

When you make those kinds of changes, somebody's not going to like it. Now, you can go ahead and be secretary of defense and have nobody be unhappy about it. All you have to do is not do anything. Who wants to live that kind of a life?

HANNITY: The media, you know, they want to say this civil war has broken out in Iraq. They've taken a position. We've got politicians out there publicly saying, "We can't win the war," et cetera. They've undermined the president, I would argue, in a lot of ways.

How has that impacted the whole ability to fight a war?

RUMSFELD: It makes it more difficult. That's one of the natures of a democracy. People can say what they want. They can be right. They can be wrong. They can be harmful. They can be helpful.

But we've survived that kind of partisan political debate. We saw it during the Revolutionary War. We saw it during the Civil War. We saw it during World War I and II. We certainly saw it during the Vietnam War, Korean War. My goodness, yes.

No, if you're secretary of defense during a war, no war is popular, except in retrospect. They aren't popular at the time. They're ugly things. They're terrible things. And people die, and people are wounded, and people are heartbroken. And there's inevitably going to be criticism, and that goes with the territory, and I accept that.

HANNITY: You know what you said earlier today? You actually were addressing the troops, and you said, "Some of you guys weren't even born 30 years ago when I left my first stint as secretary of defense."

RUMSFELD: That's right. A lot of them weren't.

HANNITY: And you said, "What will history show in 30 years" is your measure.

RUMSFELD: Sure.

HANNITY: So what will history show in 30 years from now?

RUMSFELD: I'll leave it to the historians, but I think that history has to look at this period as a period that is new, where there is no roadmap, where there is no guidebook that said, "Here's how you do this," and that an awful lot of right decisions were made.

The recognition that a terrorist can attack at any place in any location using any technique in any time of the day or night, there's no way to defend in every location at every minute of the day or night against every conceivable technique. It can't be done.

You have no choice but to go after the terrorists, the extremists, where they are. You cannot wait to be hit. And that concept was central to the president's position, and it's the right one.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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