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DoD: Rumsfeld Television Interview

Rumsfeld Television Interview with Brian Williams

NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Thursday, March 28, 2002 at 8 p.m. EST

(Television Interview with Brian Williams, MSNBC TV)

Williams: If he stays in office a few more years, he'll be the first man to serve as both the youngest and oldest Secretary of Defense in U.S. history. Donald Rumsfeld is back on the job he first held 25 years ago. This time it's different. He's in charge of a war effort overseas. Today, in his Pentagon office, I spoke to Donald Rumsfeld about the challenges worldwide, the new threat domestically, and tonight's lead story, the Middle East. I asked Rumsfeld, who is a former Middle East envoy himself, after all, how tough a situation Israel is in right now.

Rumsfeld: Israel does not have a big margin for error. They've got a very small country. There are a lot of folks in the region who don't want them to live in peace there. The president has worked hard on it; Colin has worked hard on it. I know there are folks in the Middle East, King Abdullah has worked hard on it, and Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has recently made a proposal. And it's one of those things that if you're working hard on it, it may not get worse. If you're not attentive, it can get worse. And we don't want it to get worse.

Williams: I have to ask you the bin Laden question. I'll try to ask it in an inventive way. I had a general say to me on the air back in about October, Osama bin Laden will be dead by Christmas. Are you in your heart of hearts surprised, disappointed, that he's not dead? Or is he; is he a pile of bones in one of the many caves that American forces have reduced to rubble, and how to know that?

Rumsfeld: Well, we don't know whether he's alive or dead or where he is. We think he's probably alive, and he's probably in Afghanistan. But I'm not surprised in the slightest. When this began in early September, I, from the very outset, suggested that it would be unwise to personalize this into the single person, as for example the Gulf War was personalized into Saddam Hussein. It's wrong for a lot of reasons. And wrong because no one person is determinative in this and Saddam was, if Osama bin Laden died today, there probably are four, five, six, eight, ten people who could step in and manage that apparatus in a reasonably competent way. Certainly, we know of three or four who could. So, it's easy for the press, and it's easy for all of us as human beings to want to personalize something. But to think that the war on terrorism is appropriately personified in that man, I think is a mistake.

Williams: Is it the news media's fault that this has become, in part, about this elusive bin Laden character? Who gets the blame that he's become the Hussein-like bogeyman of this?

Rumsfeld: I don't know that anyone deserves blame for it. I've done the best I could to avoid it. But, it's such a natural human instinct to want to personalize something. And it just happens, I think, not to be valid, not to be a good idea, and so I try to avoid doing it.

Would it be nice to catch him? Sure. Do I think we will? Sure. But, do I get up every day and think that's the single most important thing in the world we're doing? Goodness, no. We've got thousands of Al-Qaeda that have been trained; they're all over the world. We have to go find them.

Williams: How much of an effort is underway to do DNA matching, to see if that pile of bones in the corner could be him? And it would be nice I'm presuming, to say, well, yes it is.

Rumsfeld: There's no question but that as we go into caves and do various things, and look for remains, why, that people are aware that there are DNA ways to do that.

Williams: So there teams, and it is their job to try to do a match based on remains?

Rumsfeld: It's not a Department of Defense responsibility, and I'm not very knowledgeable about it.

Williams: And it would be better to announce those remains were found than the contrary?

Rumsfeld: If they were found. And if they aren't, life will go on, we'll keep doing our job.

Williams: If we all knew what you knew, would we be more or less nervous about daily life in the United States?

Rumsfeld: Oh my goodness, I don't know that it serves any useful purpose to be nervous about things. It's a difficult world. It's a dangerous world. There are a lot of people that have been trained to kill, and to terrorize. They're located in 40 or 50 countries in cells today, as we talk. And they're willing to sacrifice their lives to kill other people. Can we deal with that? Sure. Is it likely there will be another terrorist attack? Sure, it is true.

Williams: That is just a portion of our conversation with the Defense Secretary, again, from earlier today in Washington. It will air in its entirety Sunday night on MSNBC at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific, as we take a look at the man, part of special broadcast called Rumsfeld At Defense.

(End of segment.)

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