MR. TONY SNOW: President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
this week announced that major combat operations have ended in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Both also caution that plenty of hard work lies ahead.
Joining us to discuss the next steps, following a seven-day whirlwind
tour of the Persian Gulf region that included meetings with kings,
presidents, prime ministers, defense ministers, and troops, is
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Also here, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.
Secretary Rumsfeld, one of the things President Bush has been saying is
that a number of key people in American jurisdiction and who have been
apprehended by coalition forces are lying about weapons of mass
destruction. You've got Tariq Aziz. You have the former head of the
weapons development program in Iraq. You have the former spokesman for
the weapons development program. They all say that there are no
weapons of mass destruction. Why are you confident that they're lying?
RUMSFELD: Well, we have had over the period of time, the intelligence
community has, the Central Intelligence Agency, a good deal of
intelligence information which, when you put it all together, it makes
a very persuasive case. And I'm -- we never believed that we'd just
tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country. Saddam
Hussein was, and entire his regime, learned to live with U.N.
inspections. They fashioned their arrangements and their -- how they
did things and where they did things so that they could nonetheless
persuade inspectors that they didn't have them. And the intelligence
shows that they were systematically trying to prevent the inspectors
from finding them. We're going to find what we find as a result of
talking to people, I believe, not simply by going to some site and
hoping to discover it.
SNOW: The people in leadership positions are saying no. Are you
getting any cooperation from people lower down in the food chain?
RUMSFELD: That is where it has to come from. We're going to have to
find people -- not at the very senior level who are vulnerable,
obviously, if they're in custody -- but it will be people down below
who have been involved in one way or another and --
SNOW: Are any of them speaking now?
RUMSFELD: There's so many people that are talking. I wouldn't want to
say they are or aren't. I don't -- you meant by that are they telling
us substantive. We don't have any substantive to announce at the
SNOW: All right. You mentioned before that people -- the senior leaders are vulnerable. Vulnerable to what?
RUMSFELD: Well, they obviously, to the extent that there are crimes
that have been committed, they would be vulnerable to charges.
SNOW: Should they be brought up on charges before the World Court or a
military commission headed by the United States?
RUMSFELD: That's an interesting question. You left out a few other
options. For example, the Iraqi people could have some sort of a
tribunal if they wished. I don't know how it will be handled. The
lawyers are -- in the government, are discussing those things at the
present time. And I don't even know that one size will fit all. There
may be different approaches for different individuals.
What about Tariq Aziz? What happens to a man like Tariq Aziz? He lets
himself be taken. He's, according to the president, still lying. What
are you going to do with him, and others like him?
RUMSFELD: I don't know. I don't know. We have him in custody. I've
known him over the years. He has obviously been very close in to
Saddam Hussein. What will the lawyers end up deciding to do I think is
yet to be seen. It's awfully early.
HUME: Now people who are saying, Mr. Secretary, in the aftermath of
the success in Iraq, military success in Iraq and after Afghanistan,
and after the warnings that have been made to Syria, that the stage is
being set here for some sort of perpetual conflict in which one
government after another will be taken on and maybe -- and that the
whole "axis of evil" may now be the focus of military undertakings.
What about that?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know that that's the way to look at it. It
seems to me that the way to look at it is that the United States and
the United Kingdom and Australia and 65 nations in a coalition made a
decision to change the regime in Iraq. The effect of that was a
demonstration to the world that an awful lot of countries don't think
it's a good idea for countries to have weapons of mass destruction, or
to be on the terrorist list, or to have relationships with terrorist
networks. And that's -- that message is a good message for the world.
It isn't a good thing for countries to be on the terrorist list, or to
be cooperating with terrorist networks, or to be developing weapons of
mass destruction. So, I think that the message that's going out is a
solid one. It's a healthy one. It's good for the world. And, we may
see some behavior modification.
HUME: What about North Korea?
RUMSFELD: We -- I don't know what will happen there. The president
obviously is on the track of -- and Secretary Powell, of moving it
towards the United Nations. China has been helpful recently. We'll
have to see what path they decide to take.
HUME: The conventional wisdom about North Korea is that there's really
no good military option there, that the costs that North Korea could
impose even in losing the war on South Korea are so high, so
devastating particularly to Seoul, that it would be unacceptable and
you could never go military. Do you believe that?
RUMSFELD: I don't think it's helpful for me to say what I believe from a military standpoint on that subject.
HUME: Well then you're not -- you -- (inaudible) -- are not ruling that out, are you?
RUMSFELD: The United States government, in successive administrations
of both political parties, over my adult lifetime, which is pretty
long, has never tended -- never really leapt up and ruled things out.
It's not a helpful thing to do.
SNOW: It has been reported that Bill Clinton had a military option ready to go on North Korea in 1994.
RUMSFELD: It's true. I was called in along with other former
secretaries of defense and briefed by Secretary of Defense Bill Perry
about the possibility that they might need to use military force.
SNOW: North Korea now is saying -- the latest bit of bluster of
Pyongyang is that they've got a hundred nuclear weapons or a hundred
weapons that are ready to strike American targets. Now, one presumes
that if they are making threats, whether they're credible or not --
RUMSFELD: (Inaudible) -- report said they have a hundred nuclear
weapons. They certainly have lots of weapons that could strike U.S.
forces near the demilitarized zone, but they most certainly do not have
hundreds of nuclear weapons.
SNOW: Nevertheless, if they are making threats of that sort, one would
presume that there at least is on the shelf some sort of military
response should they act first.
RUMSFELD: On the shelf of the United States?
RUMSFELD: Oh, that's the business of the Pentagon. We make plans. We
prepare ourselves. That's why -- that's what the Constitution charges
the president -- to provide for the national defense, and that's been
true for decades.
SNOW: So, of course, there is at least some contingency plan with regard to North Korea?
RUMSFELD: I'm not going to get into what our contingency plans are,
but certainly the responsibility of the president, and certainly the
secretary of defense and the department, is to see that we are prepared
to best serve the American people.
SNOW: You mentioned a moment ago --
RUMSFELD: And our friends and allies.
SNOW: You mentioned a moment ago that military action had produced
perhaps some changes in behavior. And Secretary Powell was in Damascus
yesterday meeting with Bashar al-Assad, and one of the things
apparently he got was a concession that the Syrians are prepared to
kick terrorist groups, as defined by the State Department, out of
Damascus -- shut down the headquarters. You've spoken with Secretary
Powell. What is your readout on that meeting and the promises made by
the Syrian president?
RUMSFELD: I talked to Colin this morning, but we did not touch on that
particular subject. But, Syria has, of course, had -- is on the
terrorist list -- and of course has had very close relationships with
Hezbollah and with other terrorist groups. But I don't have anything
to report on that. I'll leave it to Colin.
HUME: In response to warnings issued by you and others, are you
satisfied that Syria took the actions that you wanted taken with regard
to infiltration across its border, with regard to helping you to snare
people you wanted trying to get out of Iraq and so on?
RUMSFELD: I think that I'd -- since Colin was just there, secretary of
state of the United States was just there, I think it's probably best
to not comment on -- my -- I was gone for a week, as you mentioned in
the opening, and I may very well not be fully knowledgeable about
everything that took place at his meetings.
HUME: Since you mentioned him, let me ask you about the speech that
was made, speaker -- former Speaker Gingrich opens fire on Secretary of
State Powell to some extent, and the State Department particularly.
Because he serves on the Pentagon advisory board and is thought to be
someone who speaks with you, it was questioned whether you endorsed his
views, knew about the speech --
RUMSFELD: I've read articles saying --
HUME: -- agreed with it. What about it?
RUMSFELD: -- I had to know about it.
RUMSFELD: That's nonsense. I didn't know about it. And he and other
members of the Defense Policy Board are people who -- of accomplishment
-- former Speaker Foley, Secretary -- former Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger, and Secretary of Defense Jim Schlesinger -- all these people
speak, and talk, and have views, and they express them. The Defense
Policy Board is not something that these people are supposed to put
away all their opinions and stop dealing with the world. They are
there because they are helpful to the people in the department on a
variety of subjects. They are knowledgeable. And the implication that
anyone from the policy board, or the science board for that matter, who
says something -- we've got Republicans and Democrats, and liberals and
conservatives, and young and old -- it would be -- you couldn't agree
with everything everyone on that board said.
HUME: You haven't yet said that you disagreed with what he said.
RUMSFELD: I -- the truth is I have not read the document that
apparently he presented to some organization. And the -- and what is
flat untrue is the implication in some articles that I had to know that
he was going to do it and what he said, and that I was complicit in
some way. That's just baloney.
HUME: Well, what he said, as you may know just from the highlights of
it, is he talked about a kind of a catalog of diplomatic failures --
RUMSFELD: I haven't read it --
RUMSFELD: -- and I'm old fashioned -- I really like to read things before I start opining on them.
SNOW: I've got it right here. I can read portions for you. There's a
couple of things. For instance, when it came to --
RUMSFELD: You're going down a dead end. If you think I'm going to let
you read a sentence or two and then say how I feel about the total
SNOW: No, I'm not going to ask you --
RUMSFELD: I'll take it and read it if you want --
SNOW: Okay, good, I'll be happy to do that. But I think I can make
specific points without taking them out of context because they're
numbered. And one of the things Mr. Gingrich said was that Secretary
of State Colin Powell was wrong to agree to go to Damascus -- that's
the meeting he completed yesterday.
RUMSFELD: Look, it -- Colin Powell went to Damascus not because Colin
Powell got up some day and decided he wanted to go to Damascus. He
went to Damascus because the president of the United States decided it
made sense for the secretary of state to go to Damascus. Now, if you
don't like the decision, don't blame the secretary, blame the
president. He's the one who made the decision. I happen to agree with
it -- the decision. And I think clearly he -- that it was a proper
thing to do, and it was also the proper time to do it, in that close
proximity to the Iraq war.
SNOW: Okay. Now the secretary has said, and I think you've --
Secretary Powell has said today that Speaker Gingrich's shot hit the
president. In this particular case, I gather you'd be inclined to
agree that the fact he's taking a shot not at the State Department but
at the man who issues orders to Colin Powell.
RUMSFELD: I'm not going to characterize the thing, I really am not.
SNOW: Fair enough. That's fine.
RUMSFELD: But the truth is that when a cabinet officer does something
of a policy nature, the tendency is to want to comment on his correct
or incorrect decision. And the truth is that this president is the
president of the United States -- we meet with him, you know, three,
four, five times a week. He knows the direction he wants this country
to go, and he's providing leadership for the country -- and in my view,
it's darn good leadership.
SNOW: You have said that you don't want to comment on Syria because
Colin Powell was there. You had been in the region, though, and you
visited a number of the countries. Let me ask you about your
perception, or what you've been able to glean from that trip, which is
how they view the United States? Do you think perceptions have
changed? Do you think the United States is enjoying perhaps more
respect from some of our Arab allies than before Operation Iraqi
RUMSFELD: Well, I was in eight countries, and visited with the
leadership, and there is no question that we were well received, that
they recognized that the vicious dictatorial -- indeed Stalinist-type
regime in Iraq -- is good riddance, and it's best that it's gone. They
live there in the neighborhood. They knew him for what he was and for
what that regime was, and they're pleased he's gone. They also have
been wonderful about our troops. Our troops did a superb job, and they
-- they were courageous, they're dedicated, and they were received
hospitably in the region.
HUME: Have the revelations about the depravity of Saddam's regime
diminished, in your view, the need for the United States to find
weapons of mass destruction as a justification for the war?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know. I suppose every person is going to make
up their own mind on that. I don't -- I went into Iraq, and you drive
around -- you go from Kuwait, or the UAE, or Qatar, and then you go
into Iraq, and they're all companies -- countries -- that have oil,
they are countries that have intelligent people, and educated people,
and industrious people. And in the case of the Gulf States, they're
prosperous. The cities are -- there's energy and you feel it. You go
into Iraq, and it's just heartbreaking to see what a vicious,
Stalinist-type regime can do to people. It is -- they've been denied
all the kinds of opportunities. The infrastructure is destroyed. They
have brown-outs on electricity. The hospitals weren't well supplied.
They were using hospitals and schools for Ba'ath --
HUME: Even before the war?
RUMSFELD: Clearly before the war -- for Ba'ath Party headquarters so
they could deceive people. They were running around in their Red Cross
or Red Crescent trunks -- trucks -- with military equipment in them.
It is -- the single most impression -- the biggest impression of being
in Iraq is how devastating a regime like that can be to human beings.
HUME: There is going to be a furious debate, and in some respects it's
already begun, about what the meaning of this war is for future force
structure and American strategy. What, in your view, is the lesson of
this war in terms of how our forces need to be structured, what we need
to have, and what we need more of and what we need less of?
RUMSFELD: We're involved right now in a lessons learned, and, of
course, when you finish a conflict like that you then go through the
process of reconstitution. And the question is, do you want to go back
and fill up all the old bins that you emptied in this conflict, or,
conversely, do you want to look at what the future might look like and
learn some lessons from this and from Afghanistan. And instead of just
filling up all the old bins, fill up the ones you really know you want
to fill up and start doing some additional things that will transform
us for the future.
SNOW: Such as?
HUME: Can you be specific?
RUMSFELD: Well, there's no question but we simply have got to be able
to move in hours and days and weeks rather than months and years. We
need to be swift. We need to have deployment capabilities that enable
us to move in places.
HUME: You certainly would have needed -- you did need that heavy armor
division going up the spine of Iraq, didn't you?
RUMSFELD: Oh, you bet.
HUME: They're not easy to move, are they?
RUMSFELD: No. But you can preposition them. There's lots of things
you can do that will enable us as a country to be better able to defend
and deter conflicts in the future.
SNOW: So, the rumors that one hears out of the Pentagon -- I've heard
some -- (inaudible) -- there aren't going to be any more tanks.
RUMSFELD: Oh, nonsense.
SNOW: All right. Just -- you're talking about prepositioning. Are we
going to be creating bases in new places and taking bases out of old
places, for instance, Saudi Arabia. Prince Sultan air base, basically
RUMSFELD: We met -- I met with the Saudi leadership, and given the
fact that the -- Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, the circumstance in
the region is vastly different. And we had Operation Southern Watch
positioned in Saudi Arabia. We don't need it now. We had to use
various capabilities in that part of the world to remove Saddam
Hussein, and that threat is gone, so now we're able to do that work --
SNOW: Now --
RUMSFELD: -- we had very good meetings and we mutually agreed that it
would be a good thing to draw down those forces.
SNOW: A lot of nations feel comfortable having American troops on
their soil. Are we going to move some bases, for instance, out of
Germany and into Poland?
RUMSFELD: I would think that -- I don't know about moving into Poland,
Poland's a very good ally and friend. But we could not move our heavy
equipment, for example, from Germany across Austria by rail. Now,
that's a problem. It made a lots of sense to have a number of
capabilities in Germany when you were worried about the Soviet Union
coming across the North German Plain. It does not make a lot of sense
to have capabilities that you can't use or you have to go through
circuitous routes. So my guess is that General Jones, the Supreme
Allied Commander and the European commander for the United States, is
in the process of looking at that and will be making recommendations to
me. We're doing the same thing in Asia. We're doing the same thing in
the Middle East. And it's -- it's time. It's the 21st century. We
ought to get ourselves organized and arranged for the future, not the
HUME: One last thing, Mr. Secretary. There was a report this week
that Paul Bremer, a man well-know -- Ambassador Paul Bremer --
RUMSFELD: A good man.
HUME: -- would be nominated to be the overall director of things in
the rehabilitation there in Iraq. You demurred on that point, and it's
left an impression in some quarters that the nomination may be in some
difficulty, and indeed perhaps even that you're resisting it. What
RUMSFELD: Resisting it? He's a -- he's a friend and an enormously
talented person. And Jay Garner is just doing a wonderful job there.
Now, I'm old fashioned. If the president decides he wants to make
nominations, I've always thought that it's the job of the cabinet
secretary to let the president make the nomination. And the fact that
people are all speculating about this or speculating about that doesn't
mean that it makes sense for me to run around confirming, denying or
doing anything else with respect to --
SNOW: Well, let's close on one other -- one final note of
speculation. Saddam Hussein -- another tape came out yesterday
alleging to show a haggard dictator speaking on the day that his
statute came down in downtown Baghdad. There you see part of it.
Alive or dead?
RUMSFELD: I wish I knew, and I don't. If you had to -- if I had to
guess, I would suspect that he may very well be alive.
SNOW: Can Iraq be fully secure as long as he is unaccounted for?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I think so, yeah. He's not running Iraq. Let there be
no doubt, he and his crowd are gone. They're either in a tunnel some
place, or in a basement hiding. We'll find him, if he's alive.
SNOW: All right. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, thanks for joining us.
RUMSFELD: Thank you.
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