World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With The Telegraph

NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2002

(Interview with Charles Moore, Editor of The Daily Telegraph; Sir John Keegan, Defence Editor; Toby Harnden, Washington Bureau Chief; and David Wastell, Sunday Telegraph Washington Correspondent.)

Moore: Thank you very much for having us, which is a great honor. I think we're the first British newspaper that you've seen since September 11th, so that's great. I just wanted to start by asking you what do you think you've won in Afghanistan?

Rumsfeld: I think what the coalition forces have accomplished thus far would be, number one, the fact that the Taliban no longer are the governing faction in that country. And in that sense, the people of Afghanistan have, in a significant way, been liberated from the policies and the repressive actions of the Taliban government.

Second, the al Qaeda are no longer using Afghanistan as an effective worldwide base for training terrorists and for organizing and conducting terrorist campaigns around the world. That is not to say that the Taliban are all gone, which they aren't. A lot of them are still there in the cities and in the mountains and in neighboring countries. Nor is it to say that the al Qaeda is not functioning. It just doesn't have Afghanistan as a haven to the extent it previously did. Al Qaeda are still in the country in pockets and they're still in neighboring countries in larger numbers than pockets. And they're still very dangerous.

Moore: I know the United States doesn't want to get bogged down there, but there's an ongoing problem about order there and dangerous people regrouping, and so on, isn't there? There's a demand from the interim government that Western presence spreads, which, if it did spread, would have to be guaranteed by the United States.

Where are you on that? Are you just wanting to get on and get out or are you --

Rumsfeld: We clearly have to consider that our first task is to continue to pursue the al Qaeda and other terrorist networks and work to see that nation states are not actively harboring and encouraging or permitting or even tolerating their activities. That has to be our first assignment.

When you say where am I on that issue of security in Afghanistan, I'm not an expert on Afghanistan, but my readings of history suggest that it's never been a particularly secure place in recent memory. It's had tribal conflicts, it's had criminals, and it's had significant drug trafficking in recent years. One would hope and want for the people of Afghanistan that it be a relatively secure environment. It's not.

What will ultimately help to make it a more secure environment, it seems to me, is a decision on the part of a lot of people in and out of the country, neighboring countries as well as your country and ours, that that's worth having and that they're willing to invest some time and money and effort to see if that can't be achieved.

Is it possible for outsiders to help to create an environment that's more hospitable to normal living than has been the case in the past? It probably is. Is that desirable on a permanent basis? Probably not. Foreign forces in that country tend to ultimately be opposed by the people for whatever reason, or at least by factions of the people. And so what is taking place at the present time within the United States government is a discussion about what's the best way to do it.

The United Kingdom, thank goodness, has stepped up and is leading the interim security assistance force and doing an excellent job. It is helpful in Kabul, where they are. There is a discussion taking place in the UN, and other places, about the possibility of expanding that to the other three, five or seven power centers in the country.

The alternative to that is -- there are several alternatives to that. One alternative is to get about the task of helping to create an Afghan army, a multi-regional force that would be able to do what an international security assistance force would be able to do -- reduce crime, provide some leverage for a central government as a counter-weight to the armies that exist in the various regions of the country currently.

The advantage of the latter is, clearly, that it is indigenous. Ultimately, if you went with the former, to greatly expand the international security assistance force, it would leave. I don't know how long -- a year, five, twenty? We've been in the Sinai now for 22 years, which is unnatural.

I think it's always better if people can contribute to their own security than having what becomes a dependency develop where the local people are frightened at the thought of taking out an international force, pulling it away, and allowing an instability to be reinjected into the area.

My personal view is that things need to sort out on the ground at some point and that while foreign forces can go in and be helpful for a period, they ought to have a strategy to be moved out, and for capabilities, indigenous capabilities developed to take their place in a fairly rapid period of time -- months and years, not decades.

In between those two possibilities there are four or five other variants of it. Kofi Annan at the UN has some ideas that are being circulated. Fahim Kahn has some ideas about the army there. What the United States will ultimately decide, I don't know. But our forces are really trained, equipped and organized for warfare, more than for peacekeeping. We do not have, for example, the kinds of capabilities that Spain, with the Guardia Seville; or the Italians with the Carbinieri, a national police capability.

Moore: Would you like us, the British, to stay on then? We'll cease being the lead after 90 days.

Rumsfeld: I can't speak for the President. He obviously talks to the Prime Minister about those things.

If you're asking me as a citizen what I think about having British forces in there, I am absolutely delighted. They are first rate, they're well trained and well equipped and well led. They do a superb job wherever they go. It just makes everything that much easier to have the leadership of the British forces. Not just in the peacekeeping but also in the other activities that they're engaged in with the war on terrorism.

Moore: I was just going to ask you about that. With our special forces there, what sort of contribution do you think is being made by the British that added to the American contribution?

Rumsfeld: Essentially the same contribution that American Special Forces do. Their training is similar, their capabilities are similar, they work very well together, have in many different locations around the world over the years, and it's been terrific having them there, doing what they're doing.

I tend to not talk a lot about what other countries are doing because each country likes to characterize what they're doing themselves, and they do it in a way that is comfortable for them politically. And some countries don't even want it known that they have Special Forces, which is fair enough. So I begin with really just a wonderful appreciation for what the coalition forces have done, and not just the U.K. but three or four dozen, five dozen, nations that have been participating in ways that are comfortable to them and that they have the capabilities to do. It's been terrific. We've got any number of countries --

I looked the other day and one category, that is to say ships, we had major activities going on in that part of the world, and the U.S. ships were less than a third of the total ships involved.

Harnden: Can you, on Afghanistan, could the Americans and British have used their Special Forces more? If more boots had been put on the ground, could more have been achieved in terms of destroying the al Qaeda leadership and the Taliban leadership?

Rumsfeld: We'll never know, will we?

Q: Is it something that --

Rumsfeld: Historians will go back and try to answer that question and probably do it imperfectly.

Clearly, I don't think so. At no time was the issue that you raised the determining factor, that is to say, risk. If you're talking about risk of lives. If you're going to put people's lives at risk, you'd better have a darn good reason, and in this instance we did and we do. And the risk of putting people's lives on the line was not anything that was inhibiting in terms of the number of people that should be put on the ground.

From the very outset, we had enormous pressure to put people on the ground. We did try to put them on the ground and we did successfully do so, although it didn't happen in 24 hours. It took 48, 72 hours, a week, two weeks, whatever -- depending on weather, depending on the leadership in some of these tribal groups, whether or not they would accept it immediately, how long it took to persuade them.

We were perfectly prepared to put large numbers of U.S. or coalition forces on the ground, and the fall of Kabul and then the fall of other cities prior to that being needed meant that we didn't have to, but we were perfectly ready to do that.

Harnden: Do you think that less use of tribal forces might have enabled you to get bin Laden or other al Qaeda leaders?

Rumsfeld: No, or we would have done it.

The country's borders are porous. We can't really effectively -- you folks live on an island. That's really quite nice. I suspect it's not perfect, however, in terms of stopping things that you prefer not to come across your borders. But we can't monitor the border with Canada if we had to. Fortunately, we don't have to, to any great extent. But you know, deer and moose and elk walk back and forth, people walk back and forth. There are a lot of places you don't even know where the border is. That's the way it is around Afghanistan. We had, in some cases, countries that were cooperating on the border and in some cases they weren't. And in some cases, countries that were cooperating that were capable of doing quite a bit, in some cases countries that were cooperative but were not capable of doing a great deal to stop the outflow. We, in most cases, were able to put special forces or coalition forces and troops in position so that they could serve as an anvil or a block if we were moving in from the ground with Afghan forces and special forces. But I don't know how one would have done it. There's a lot of caves, a lot of tunnels, hundreds and hundreds of them.

Look how long it takes for your country or our country to get the people off the Ten Most Wanted list. It is very hard to do.

Wastell: On that point, how confident are you that bin Laden will eventually be caught?

Rumsfeld: I don't know that it matters how confident I am. He either will or he won't. He'll either live or he'll die. He's either in Afghanistan or he's some place else. We intend to find him if he's findable, and we intend to see that he's brought to justice in one way or another. And I think that's the feeling of a lot of other countries.

He could walk in tomorrow and surrender and al Qaeda would still go on functioning. There's plenty of people who could take over and have knowledge of how that apparatus works and where the bank accounts are and who the trained cells are, and in what countries -- the 40, 50, 60 countries they're located in. It would be delightful if we could find him, but the problem would not end if we do. And I assume we will, but what is that based on? It's based on no more than your assumption or somebody else's assumption.

Harnden: After the President's State of the Union speech, you're clearly looking beyond Afghanistan. Could I ask you about Iraq and, in particular, how strong you feel Saddam is at the moment compared with a decade ago, and what it might take to oust him?

Rumsfeld: Let me set the context for Iraq. I have no interest in discussing Iraq particularly. What the President, or other countries, will decide with respect to Iraq is something that's above my pay grade.

I'll be happy to answer a few questions about it, but I wouldn't want it to be set in a context that suggested that I was flagging the possibility that Iraq is something that is of current interest to the United States, because I'm not in a position to talk about that. Iraq is a lot weaker than it was ten years ago, in answer to your question.

On the other hand, repression works, and Saddam Hussein's regime is a vicious, repressive regime that has been capable and very likely will be capable of maintaining control over the people of that country.

It is not a nation that one should sit back and hold your breath waiting for it to engage in a massive process of self-reform.

Moore: Does that mean that, can you imagine -- How can you imagine change coming out? Would it be from --

Rumsfeld: Well, it won't. Absent some external event. Unlike Iran, which has a different set of circumstances, a different set of pressures. In both cases the people are not as free as they are in your country or our country, needless to say. But in Iran at least one senses that there is pressure from the young people and pressure from external influences that are -- I have no idea what will happen in Iran, but one would think that Iran is distinctive from North Korea or Iraq in terms of at least the possibility that there could be changes internally over some period of time.

Moore: Are you attracted by a sort of rough comparison with what happened in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance and so on -- in Iraq that might be Iraqi National Congress or other movements, or Kurds, or a mixture of all of them that can overthrow Saddam?

Rumsfeld: Drawing a parallel with Afghanistan probably would be a mistake. I think that the parallel one can draw is that if you think of the feeling in Afghanistan when music was played and women took off their burkhas and kites were flown and that people were welcomed, that was a visible manifestation of the fact that people were being repressed and that they wanted the al Qaeda gone and they wanted the Taliban gone. Now people had mixed reasons for wanting that. If you're freer than you were, you're also freer to engage in the heroin trade as well as to fly a kite, or freer to be a criminal than you might be in a repressive regime. But there's no question but that the people of Afghanistan were relived to have that repressive regime gone and the so-called era of foreign al Qaeda invaders that had, in large measure, taken over that country and exerted a great deal of control over them.

That would be similar in Iraq. Whether it would be that way in terms of organized factions as it was in Afghanistan I think is a different question. But in terms of people, I mean, I don't know who it was that said it but there was some truth to it, that there will be no peace in the world until every man is free because to every man he is the world. When a person feels the absence of that and then sees the opportunity for freedom. Look at what happened at the end of the Cold War. All these countries that were repressed and controlled by dictatorial governments suddenly fell.

Q: But you're clearly saying there has to be something that happens, that brings that about in the case of Iraq, that --

Rumsfeld: Repression can go on for decades. It can go on from generation to generation. It can go on from politburo to politburo.

Q: So it has to be lifted by some pretty big help pretty soon from the United States. That implies that --

Rumsfeld: In our lifetime we've seen it -- well, not ours. My lifetime. (laughter) Our lifetime. We've seen it happen both ways. We've seen armies engage and one win and one lose and surrender on the battleship Missouri, if you will. We've also seen constant, steady pressure over decades by people who invested and created institutions like NATO and constrained an expansionist Soviet empire.

Q: Can you compare --

Rumsfeld: And finally it fell from within.

Keegan: Can you compare the war against terrorism with the Cold War? There isn't that clear target, is there? There isn't the great mass of the Red Army staring at you.

Rumsfeld: Right.

Q: You've got to look for it.

Rumsfeld: Quite so. Exactly right. It's a much more shadowy target and enemy.

There are things you can compare, and there are a lot of things you cannot compare, in a way you would say, "well, that's similar."

The big, visible Soviet Union and the pressure it was putting on continent after continent in Latin America and Africa and the pressures in Central Asia and elsewhere was, I suppose, easier for people to focus on and be attentive to. On the other hand it wasn't easy. It was hard. I used to have to fly back when I was Ambassador to NATO and testify in the United States Senate against the so-called Mansfield Amendment which was to cut U.S. forces in Europe and stop support of NATO to the extent we were supporting NATO. There were all these factions within your country and our country and other countries in Western Europe that wanted to toss in the towel and not try to constrain that pressure that was being asserted by the Soviet Union.

Keegan: When you were in Beirut in 1983, curiously, I was there at exactly the same time.

Rumsfeld: There was a lot of ordnance flying around.

Keegan: There certainly was.

You must have learned quite a lot about dealing with Arab/Islamic terrorism then. Does that give you some picture of how the war on terrorism has to be fought?

Rumsfeld: It does. If you remember Beirut, and --

Keegan: I remember it very vividly, but --

Rumsfeld: So do I. (laughter)

If you think about it, there were first trucks filled with explosives that went into the U.S. embassy. Then to the Marine barracks where 241 Marines were killed. The next thing you saw was cement barricades being built around all the buildings, the embassies around the Corniche. Yours was very near to ours. And they put the same barricades around barracks and military installations so trucks couldn't go in. The next thing that happened, they started lobbing rocket-propelled grenades over the barricades.

So I think your building, or our building, ended up draping some sort of a wire mesh over the building so that it would repel rocket-propelled grenades and bounce them off.

So they tried it first by truck, and we stopped that. Then they go in over the barricades and they bounce them off. What did the terrorists do next? They went after soft targets going to and from the office, and started killing individuals and groups of individuals.

The point being, the truth, and the truth is that terrorists have an enormous advantage. They can attack at any place, at any time, using any technique and it's physically not possible to defend at every place at every time against everything. If they want to give up their lives, they can do a heck of a lot of damage before their life is snuffed out.

Keegan: But there are soft points in a terrorist network.

Rumsfeld: You bet, but only if you go after the terrorist network. You can't defend except by offense --

Q: What I --

Rumsfeld: You must go after --

Keegan: I wondered was the lesson that you learned from Beirut - there's no good negotiating or talking to them. The only thing they really understand is you hitting them as hard as they are trying to hit you.

Rumsfeld: Absolutely. And finding them where they are and rooting them out. That's what the President has understood from day one it is about. That is what is happening. People are using the word presumption, but it is proactive. In a sense someone can say that, but the reality is the only way to defend yourself is by going after them where they are. Otherwise, you change your whole way of life. You're no longer a free person. You're living in a cave and hiding behind barricades and things over your buildings and not being able to go out in the morning.

Keegan: Do you think, would it be a judgment of yours that paradoxically the leadership, terrorist leadership, is more timorous than the terrorist foot soldier? That if you can threaten the terrorist leader, you may be able to strike a deadly blow at the network.

Rumsfeld: I think the answer is "probably." The terrorist leadership leads and they lead by having the foot soldiers go out and kill themselves and get killed. And they hold their coats and tell them they're going to go to heaven.

One would think that they'd have a certain respect for their own lives and their own importance and therefore they're protective of themselves, and that's why people like UBL [Usama bin Laden] and [Mullah] Omar seem to move every six, eight, ten, twelve hours. Not because they like to travel, I don't think, but they're survivalists. They want to live. So we just have to keep after them.

What were you doing in Beirut when --

Keegan: Curiously, I was writing an article for the Atlantic Monthly, which was then the highest paying magazine in the world. But I've been in other wars, but nothing has ever made me as frightened as Beirut.

Rumsfeld: The thing that finally got me out of there during the worst of it was Brigadier General Carl Steiner who was then head of our Special Forces and was traveling with me for a period. He is quite well known today, a terrific person. But we ended up, a helicopter was supposed to -- We'd been trapped in there for three or days while they were shelling the house we were in. And we got in a car and with all this crazy driving -- my wife took some Dramamine. She was in there with me that one time. We ended up in your embassy on those wooden pews that are in the front where all the people come in to get visas, and she had taken two or three Dramamine and fell completely asleep in a flak jacket. I can still picture her just out cold from the Dramamine waiting for a helicopter to come in and the only place we could go was your embassy before we got out of there.

Keegan: There was an American colonel I spent some time with then who was head of the mission to train the Lebanese National Army called Al Shaw. He was making very optimistic noises at the time, but he was a very fine officer. I liked him very much. But it all fell apart, and --

Rumsfeld: It did.

Keegan: Did that fill you with any sort of lack of opportunism about the ability to create effective armed forces in third world countries? Or do you think one shouldn't generalize from that?

Rumsfeld: I have that experience very much in my mind and recognize how difficult it is to do it. If war stops for a period there is at least a possibility that you can fashion some sort of a coherent central government and people have to have a stake in it and people at some point have to desire a relatively calm country so that they can go about their business and go to school or work or trade or whatever they want to do.

Q: Can I just ask you about --

Rumsfeld: The only way to get that is to have some sort of a security force. And they have to decide that's what they want. You cannot have a security force in a country that's multi-ethnic of one ethnic group.

Does that mean that this will work better than Lebanon? We'll not know for a period. But is there at least a possibility it might? I think so.

Harnden: Let me just ask you about Saddam again. What sort of threat does Saddam pose to us, to the West in general, and what's the time scale in this? How quickly does that threat need to be dealt with? And strong do you think the Iraqi National Congress is, and could you see the INC seizing power in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: The focus on Iraq is something that I've found not helpful from my standpoint. I'm not in a position to really discuss a lot of it, so I think I'll pass.

Moore: One thing that has come up with this, and it's not just Iraq, but because of the phrase axis of evil in the State of the Union speech, you've got much stronger European criticism now of the United States position than you had in the early days. And we've had Joschka Fischer and Hubert Vedrine, and Chris Patten, and they say, "You're unilateralist, you're simplistic. It isn't really a war against terrorism. This is other ideas." Some of them are saying that it's Rumsfeld's particular obsession or whatever.

Are you worried about European weakness or disagreement at this point? The tone has certainly changed.

Rumsfeld: Well, if one looks down from outer space on earth you find a couple of handfuls of countries that are generally like-thinking and they tend to be in Western Europe and North America, that have freer political systems and freer economic systems and tend not to covet the land or property or lives of other nations. So there's a natural affinity between our country and your country and our European allies.

That being the case, one always would prefer that when you're engaged in something difficult that the interest and goals and values would be shared by other like-thinking countries, and that tends to be the case. It is not always the case, and it may not always be the case because one country's wrong, and it may also not be the case because other countries are wrong. It may also be simply a matter of timing. And gosh, after living 70 years, I'm not surprised to find that there are people that differ on these questions. They differ among themselves as well as between continents. I no longer find it surprising.

I guess one other thing I've learned is that with leadership, if everyone waited until everyone agreed on everything before one did anything, there wouldn't be such a thing as leadership. If people decide that something is important and merits their effort and their thought and their treasure, allowing - you know, a simple way to say it is that the coalition ought really not to determine missions. Missions determine coalitions. And one ought not to expect that every country in the world's going to agree with everything --

Moore: But that has huge implications, doesn't it? Because the coalition, the main coalition for so long has been NATO and NATO, though it immediately invoked Article 5, fundamentally hasn't got a lot to do with what's going on now, has it? Do you think --

Rumsfeld: There are more coalition troops in Afghanistan than there are Americans. I cited a minute ago that there are, there were twice as many ships in the waters south of Afghanistan than there were American ships. So I would think that -- it's very easy to mischaracterize things and to say that countries in Europe don't agree, or are causing problems is, I think, only very partially true. I think there are individuals who are. There are elements of political parties that are.

What the people of Europe think you probably know a lot more than I do. I have the impression that there's just an awful lot of support for the coalition in Europe among the population, and it may very well by that the fact that newspapers and television and radio hype disagreement --

Q: That's right.

Rumsfeld: And elevate out some politician's words, and then the next day characterize it as European opinion as opposed to the whims or words of a single individual or a small faction, it seems to me, is a misunderstanding of the situation.

Moore: But there do seem to be quite unorthodox events as a whole, events as everybody in the European elite, who are saying things like, "you're unilateralists," "you're too assertive," that the State of the Union "axis of evil" speech was just for internal consumption.

Rumsfeld: Let me come back to that "axis of evil" speech.

When President Reagan said that the Soviet Union was an evil empire everyone got all aflutter, all of the elites in the world, and thought, "oh, my goodness gracious, isn't that something? This President of the United States really just doesn't get it. He doesn't realize how important it is to have good relationships with Brezhnev" or whoever happened to be the head at that time.

On the other hand, the people of Russia and the Russian republics I think probably had a very different view of that. The people who had been in the gulags, the people that weren't allowed to vote freely, and weren't allowed to practice their religion freely, and the people of neighboring countries that were being repressed, and the people on neighboring continents that felt the Soviet Union was trying to expand its empire in their direction, they had quite a different view of it. And that tended not to be carried in the press or carried in the televisions of the world.

Let's take North Korea. There are -- I've got to think of what's classified and what is not classified -- but let's just for the sake of argument say there are tens and tens and tens and tens and tens and tens and tens of thousands of Koreans in, political prisoners in prison camps. Camps, more than a handful of camps, that are the size of cities that are being starved. Why are Korean people trying to get out of North Korean into China? It is a regime that is vicious, it's developing weapons of mass destruction, and it is selling them all across the globe.

Now, if someone can come up with a better adjective than evil, fine. But to turn your head and pretend that's not going on is wrong. Not only is it wrong, it is unhelpful if one cares at all about all those human beings. If one cares at all about the risk that the world faces as we examine the nexus between countries like that and weapons of mass destruction and their relationship with other nations of the world that they're willing to sell to, or other terrorist networks that they're willing to sell to.

We're at a moment where we no longer have the margin for error we, as humanity, had decades ago, where our weapons were relatively short range and where the warheads were relatively modest. Today, we're dealing with weapons of mass destruction, with generally free and open societies, where the reach of those weapons is vastly greater than it was. The lethality of those weapons is vastly greater than it was. And to sit back and say "oh, my goodness, he called those countries an axis of evil. Isn't that terrible?"

Well, exactly what is terrible about it? I think putting the microscope, the headlight, on what is going on in those three countries is just enormously valuable for the world, and it is constructive, it is enlightened, it is potentially -- I don't doubt for a minute but that it's giving encouragement to those people. And I don't doubt for a minute, in fact I know with certain knowledge that it's giving pause to those governments.

Moore: And it's giving irritation to you that people who say they are allies won't --

Rumsfeld: I didn't say that, you did. (laughter) I'm not irritated at all. I'm in here on a Saturday morning -- Sometimes I get a little energy in my voice is all, but no, I'm not irritated.

Keegan: Mr. Secretary, would it help, do you think, to call them weakly -- I mean North Korea, call it "weakly evil." I always think one shove and that thing would fall over.

Rumsfeld: Why must we --

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: (laughter) We must not shove. Don't just write that as though I meant it.

I'm due for something else here, but --

Q: Let me just ask you, --

Rumsfeld: You're not wrong. It is a weak regime. It is a terrible regime. It is not so weak that it falls after decade after decade, it remains. It is not so weak and so starved and so absent of hard currency that it can't develop nuclear weapons and chemical and biological weapons. It's not so weak and starved and pitiful that it can't sell those weapons across the globe. And for you to suggest that because it's starving, the country is starving, and because the government is unsophisticated and a peanut compared to South Korea's vitality and energy and economic dynamism and military power, the fact is they are making those weapons and they are selling those weapons and if you stick a biological weapon in downtown London you will not say, "My goodness, aren't they weak?"

Keegan: I just like to soften up public opinion a bit there and say if you call them weakly evil you're preparing Western public opinion for the sort of shove that will knock the beastly thing over.

Wastell: Can I ask you one last thing about our prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, I say our because there are five British --

Rumsfeld: Right.

Wastell: What is the prospect for them?

Rumsfeld: Have you been down?

Wastell: I have not. My colleague went down.

Rumsfeld: What did you think of how they're being treated?

Harnden: Pretty well.

Rumsfeld: Pretty well. Would you do it better?

Harnden: Given that they're terrorist suspects who could possess information useful to the U.S. and its allies, no. I don't think so. I think they're being treated in the right way.

Rumsfeld: Good. It's good to hear someone say that.

Wastell: I'm curious as to how long they're likely to be held, or do we know when the military tribunals, if there are going to be such things, will be instituted?

Rumsfeld: A short answer is that the President has issued the military order allowing commissions to be held. He has retained the authority to assign to the commissions the individuals who might be tried by the commissions and he has assigned no one yet. We have fashioned sort of preliminary rules that we're now circulating for discussion as to how they might be conducted. When the President will decide to assign someone to be tried by a commission, I do not know.

Moore: They could have capital punishment, could they?

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Second, the detainees. My goal is to have as few of them as is humanly possible. We are taking only those that we believe there is a prospect of gathering intelligence from that can save people's lives, and we have been successful. We are gaining a good deal of intelligence information that is enabling us to weave a fabric as to how this al Qaeda functions, where it functions, who's involved, how it's financed, and along with the support of dozens of countries, arresting people and interrogating them and closing bank accounts, the totality of that body of knowledge is growing every day.

When we have gotten out of them the information that we feel is appropriate and possible, very likely we'll let as many countries as possible have any of their nationals they would like and they can handle the law enforcement prosecution. I have no desire to fill up our jails and spend time and money holding people. We have let a great many people loose who seemed either to not have been appropriately detained in the first place, or whom we have looked at that the Afghans and the Pakistanis particularly have held and decided we didn't need or want.

If we do transfer people back to the countries of their national origin, needless to say we'd be interested in finding out what additional intelligence those countries might find.

But conceivably, if connections are later developed, having a chance to go back and interrogate those same people, and we'd prefer to only give them back to countries that have an interest in prosecuting people that ought to be prosecuted rather than simply turning them loose, putting them back out on the street and having them go get in more airplanes and have them fly into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center again.

Q: Do we know whether --

Rumsfeld: We're really out of time. I'm afraid we really are out of time. Thank you.

Moore: This was tremendous.

Rumsfeld: Nice to see you.

Moore: Thank you.

Harnden: Good to see you, Mr. Secretary.

Abbie Trayler-Smith [photographer]: Mr. Secretary, could I just do a quick picture with you and the gentlemen together?

Rumsfeld: Oh, terrific, I'd be proud to. Let me put my papers down. Don't take my breeches because I've got my old cords on today. Of course, you are all from Europe, so you get to look fine.

Smith: I have to say you're one of the most exciting people I've photographed. I've got some great shots.

Rumsfeld: Thank you, thank you. Good.

Moore: You're quite enjoying this, aren't you?

Rumsfeld: I'm finding it very interesting and important to do. And I've always enjoyed life, no matter what I'm doing. I like people and I like ideas, and I've got a lot of energy, fortunately.

Moore: It's visible.

Harnden: How is world stardom treating you?

Rumsfeld: Oh, gosh. You know, I don't ever think about it. It's so funny. Guys walk up to me and say, "I've got to have a picture with you." And I say, "Why?" And they say, "Well, because my 98-year-old grandmother is in a nursing home in Louisville and she thinks you're wonderful."

We've got a thing called the AARP [American Association of Retired Persons], the association for older people. That's what they say is my audience.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Gordon Campbell: Zimbabwe - Meet The New Bosses

At 75, Mnangagwa is not exactly what you’d call a new broom. As many observers have pointed out, his track record has been one of unswerving dedication to Mugabe ever since the days of anti-colonial insurgency... To these guys, things had to change in Zimbabwe, so that things could remain the same. More>>


Gordon Campbell: Is This Guy The World’s Most Dangerous Thirtysomething?

Saudi Arabia has long been regarded as a pillar of stability in the Middle East, and is the essential caterer to the West’s fossil fuel needs. It is also the country that gave us Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda, and 15 of the 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks... More>>


Non-Binding Postal Vote: Australia Says Yes To Same Sex Marriage

Binoy Kampmark: Out of 150 federal seats, 133 registered affirmative totals in returning their response to the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”. More>>


Bonn Climate Change Conference: Protecting Health In Small Island States

The vision is that, by 2030, all Small Island Developing States will have health systems that are resilient to climate change and countries around the world will be reducing their carbon emissions both to protect the most vulnerable from climate risks and deliver large health benefits in carbon-emitting countries. More>>