OTR Interviews

Rumsfeld Warns Against 'Rush to Judgment' on Pakistan

Former defense secretary explains why it was possible for Usama bin Laden to 'hide in plain sight' and the delicate U.S.-Pakistan relationship


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is here. We asked should the United States cut off aid to Pakistan? Many have been fired up since bin Laden was found hiding out in Pakistan. Is Pakistan playing fair or dirty with us? Former defense secretary, author of "Known and Unknown," Donald Rumsfeld tell us that may not be the case that they are dirty.


VAN SUSTEREN: Pakistan -- everybody is dismayed in this country about Pakistan. The American people, a lot of them think we should cut off aid. What should we do?

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: We ought to take a deep breath and recognize it would make us feel good for about five minutes if we cut off aid to Pakistan. And recognize the relationship with that country is complex, it is important. And it is imperfect. We ought to be willing to ask the tough questions, to do it in a measured tone of voice, and not react and say cut off all the money. They're bad, they are double dealing.

The reality is it is a Muslim country with nuclear weapons. The last thing we want is that to be a failed state. It would be a terrible situation if radical Islamists took over that country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Obviously, we are stunned when we hear information that we they are tipping off the Haqqani network. We hear horrible stories with bin Laden found living there. Secretary Gates said he found no indication that the top leadership knew about it, but that doesn't mean the middle leadership doesn't. They get angry when we give them aid and we want to know what they are going to do with it. They think that's bad.

RUMSFELD: I've heard no evidence that anyone in any level of the Pakistan government, the military or the intelligence had information as to where Usama bin Laden was located.

VAN SUSTEREN: How does he live there like that?

RUMSFELD: You can go across the Potomac drive up the road, look at those gated estates, we don't know what is going on there it is a mile or two from the Pentagon. It is perfectly possible to hide in plain sight. It is a judge to judgment to say they must have known.

If I were bin Laden I would not want anyone in or out of the Pakistan government to know where I was. If one other person knows, somebody else is going to know, and then somebody else. My guess is he had a very tight support network of a very limited number of people, one or two maybe outside, who managed the support for him. And he was successful in staying hidden for a very long time.

But if you start telling people in the Pakistani government where you are -- he didn't need their help, he has money, supporters. The judgment they must have known because it is close to a military base, is just not right.

Second, I look at that country and I remember we did cut off all of our military to military relation in the 80s, 90s. They exploded a nuclear weapon we said that is terrible and let's not talk to them. That doesn't get us far. We ended up with a generation of military people that didn't have generations with U.S. military and Pakistani military. It seems we have to be mature, measured and recognize we live in a world where other countries aren't like us, they are not. And we weren't even like us 50, 100 years ago. We are different. They are different.

And they have been enormously helpful in some respects and not helpful in others. We ought to keep working that relationship and try to improve it. The question isn't, are they good or bad? It is mixed. The question is what is the trajectory? Which way are they going? Are we improving our relationship in a way that it is more beneficial to the United States?

We have political, economic and security interests and we need to balance them and recognize we have to deal with countries that are different than we are. They are not 100 percent helping us. But nonetheless, on balance, it is a useful relationship.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you trust them?

RUMSFELD: There again, what countries do you trust? I trust most of the countries to act in their self-interests, as we do. It is our self- interests to act in our interest.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except they are partners with us in the war on terrorism, which they said they are. We find out it is reported they tip off terrorists when we want to send our drones in to get them. That doesn't seem like they are partners. Maybe in their personal self-interest but doesn't seem like they are partners.

RUMSFELD: I don't think there is a "they." I think you have a government, military, autograph an intelligence service. Is -- you have an intelligence service if down the line someone is pro Al Qaeda? You bet. Is it possible when the signal goes out they will make a raid in the tribal area that someone would tell the people up there? Sure, that's possible. In fact it is likely. It happens when the Pakistani military guess up to make a raid. They've had hundreds of their own people kill trying to be helpful in the war on terror. It is not a one sided thing.

I think Musharraf when he made the decision to cooperate with us took a bold step. They tried to kill him several times. Did he have perfect control over his government? No.

VAN SUSTEREN: They have the president who replaces him. We read things we are giving tons of money in aid. They have these horrible floods and he jets off on vacation that's hard for the American people to understand as we are spending that money he's helicoptering off to an estate someplace else.

RUMSFELD: I'm not impressed with their government either. I preferred the Musharraf government. This is a weaker government, in my view. People say there's corruption there. I'm sure there is. There is corruption in most of the governments of the world.

But I think this action, reaction, let's cut off their money, let's do this. The same you hear from politicians in Pakistan. Let's not give them back their helicopter. Let's throw them out. That's people talking. That's static in the system.

I think that Senator Kerry is approaching it about right. He's going to have hearings. He's going to ask tough questions. And I think he's causing people to calm down and take a look at this in a measured, more mature way. And look at our interests and then make some judgments. Not rush to judgment.