Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Larry King, CNN
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2002
(Interview with Larry King, Larry King Live, CNN.)
Q: It's always good to spend time with the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. We go back a long way, and we're at the Pentagon, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the adjoining office right beside his actual office.
And the question everyone -- well, senior administration officials are saying, Mr. Secretary, that the president is poised to say that Iraq has failed to provide a complete and accurate accounting of weapons. Is that true?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think I'll let the president make the announcement that he may or may not make, Larry. But I think it is pretty clear from the people who have had a chance to take a look at the documents that they are still trying to find things in them that they expected to be there that weren't there, but --
Q: What are they saying in 12,000 pages?
Rumsfeld: Well, I have not seen it. I've been out of the country in the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf -- the Persian Gulf, and I just came back very recently. But there's an interagency team that's been looking at it, and Secretary of State Powell has made some comments about what he has heard from the people who've been seeing it through and trying to find out what, in fact, they've declared.
My guess is that the United States will take some time and will talk to some of our friends and allies around the world about the declaration and share ideas and thoughts about what's in it and what may not be in it.
Q: Will -- Mr. Secretary, will the public be told before action commences what exactly we know they have?
Rumsfeld: The -- first of all, the president has made no decision about --
Q: And we realize that.
Q: If --
Rumsfeld: But it's important to emphasize that, because I think there is so much talk about Iraq that one doesn't want to get ahead of the facts.
I think that there's a dilemma there, and it is this: That you have a variety of sources who gather intelligence. Some are from human beings, some are from other technical means. And to the extent you reveal something that you know through intelligence gathering, you run the risk of compromising the human beings who gave you that information, and people can get killed if it's traceable back to them.
And you also can compromise -- that is to say reduce the value of -- the technical methods you're using, because people can -- the Iraqis can say, well, if they know that, they must know it's through these means. And in which case, your access to that information is closed off or other types of information.
The second problem with it is that if there were to be a conflict, those -- you would need to use those means of intelligence gathering and to the --
Rumsfeld: -- further, and to the extent they were closed off. So, one has to exercise great care about what is said and what is not said.
Q: So, that requires on the part of the public total trust.
Rumsfeld: No, not at all. There's a great deal of information that's available, and I think that most people who've spent any time thinking about this and looking at what the Iraqis have done and revealing how they handled themselves in previous inspection situations, and read the UK's -- the United Kingdom's dossier which was released by Tony Blair, Prime Minister Tony Blair, knows pretty well that the Iraqis have had very active weapons of mass destruction programs.
Q: Honestly, Mr. Secretary, what do they have to do? What do they have to do to stop this?
Rumsfeld: The Iraqis?
Rumsfeld: Well, it's a wonderful question, and it's the right question. There's a certain way that things get skewed around, suggesting that somebody has to prove that they have these. The UN resolution says they have to prove they don't. That is what the resolution said. It said, look, we've got enough evidence to know that you've been developing nuclear and chemical and biological weapons. And the United Nations has passed these previous resolutions, and you've agreed not to do that, Iraq, but here you are continuing to do it.
Now, we're giving you a final opportunity to show us what you've got, admit what you've got, declare what you have, allow inspectors in so that they can see what you have, and give them freedom to roam throughout the country. But that only works if there's a cooperative country, if Iraq is cooperative and decides, yes, the game's up. We're going to let them come in, we're going to show them what we have and we want the world to know that. That's when you invite inspectors in. But if it's cat and mouse and hide and seek, it will never work.
Q: So, they have to turn over a new leaf.
Rumsfeld: Indeed. The other option they have is to leave the country. I mean, Saddam Hussein and his family could --
Rumsfeld: Why sure. I mean, if he doesn't care to give up his weapons of mass destruction, then he's got the choice of leaving.
Q: Is there an end game to this?
Rumsfeld: Well, the end game that the United Nations expressed in that unanimous Security Council resolution was that the Iraqi regime disarm, and that they prove that they have disarmed.
Q: And then, Saddam stays?
Rumsfeld: Well, that's a separate issue, I guess. The position of the Congress of the United States and the United States has been for four, five, six years -- four or five years, I guess, that the only way you can achieve disarmament, given his past record is if there is a regime change.
Q: Now, this is an if, but General Richard Myers yesterday -- I want to quote him correctly -- said that it's very difficult to know how Iraqi troops will behave this time, don't go on the Gulf War previously, and that we could be -- this will not be a cake walk. True?
Rumsfeld: He was asked in a press briefing with me that if he thought it was going to be a cake walk, and he properly said, look, war is not a cake walk. War is tough, people get killed, and it's dangerous and things happen. And we know he has weapons of mass destruction, we've known he's used those weapons on his own people and on the Iranians in previous periods.
And his answer was correct, this is not 1991 or '90, it's not the Gulf War. It's the year 2002. In some ways, the Iraqi regime is much weaker militarily and conventional capability. In weapons of mass destruction, one has to believe they are much stronger. So, it is a dangerous business, and he is engaged in a dangerous game.
Q: You going to take a smallpox vaccination?
Q: Is every major official going to?
Q: (inaudible) the president, but you are.
Rumsfeld: Well, I certainly intend to, simple because it's hard to ask people to do something that you're not willing to yourself. But, no, I mean, we've got people here who have no reason to be using up vaccination serum unless they prefer to.
Q: But the fear is logical to you, too.
Rumsfeld: I've spent a lot of time thinking this through, and a smallpox epidemic is so vicious and kills so many people so rapidly and spreads far and wide that after a great deal of thought, I concluded that the U.S. military people who have vulnerability -- potential vulnerability -- ought to take it. And unless a person has some weakened immune system, the statistics are such that I think that the balance is appropriate and that the men and women in uniform who might be deployed in areas of vulnerability will be doing it.
Q: If they had enough and spread it enough, could they change the course of a war with smallpox?
Rumsfeld: There was an unclassified exercise done by Johns Hopkins, I believe, and it had been a year or two or three, called I believe Dark Winter. And they postulated a smallpox attack in three cities in America, and within a relatively short period of months, the numbers of people to be killed were up in the hundreds of thousands.
Q: We'll be right back with the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on this edition of Larry King Live -- don't go away.
Q: We're back with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Front-page story, "The Washington Post" says the chiefs of two United States ground forces are challenging belief of some senior Pentagon civilians that Saddam would fall almost immediately upon being attacked. They're calling for more attention to worst-case scenarios. Where do you balance this?
Rumsfeld: I've not heard a senior Pentagon official -- civilian or military -- suggest that there would be that kind of initial collapse. Every conceivable option is looked at, and two service chiefs who were cited in the article, I've met with them, the president has met with them, the chairman and the vice chairman have met with, and they are fully aware without any question or ambiguity and have told the president precisely what they think and told me precisely what they think. And the implication in that story I think is simply not accurate.
Q: When a free country is preparing for what might be action, how many things do you read or hear or see that are wrong?
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness, you can't imagine the number of things you see and hear that are wrong. It is just breathtaking how much misinformation floats around. I guess it's part of our free society --
Q: Are you surprised by it?
Rumsfeld: Well --
Q: Is there more of it now?
Rumsfeld: Oh, sure. We've got 24-hour news. Back 25 years ago when I was in this Pentagon, we didn't have anything like this all-day, constant, the numbers of newspapers, the numbers of editions, the numbers of radio and television stations, the numbers of hours and the appetite for information. So, it's not surprising. It is. Think of the number of people that are talking and heard and writing and on television.
Rumsfeld: Daily, every day, every hour. And of course, their access to information is modest for the most part in terms of classified information.
I must say, it just amazes me when I look at the newspaper once in a while and think, my goodness, here are all of these wonderful people out there reading that, thinking that's true. It isn't so.
Q: Well, as a servant of the public, taxpayers pay you, what do you owe them?
Rumsfeld: You owe them -- the -- you owe them an investment of time, which I try to do. I'm here with you.
Rumsfeld: And I think it's important. There's no question that the people who serve the public have a responsibility to do the best they can to provide information to the American people and to the world. I need to communicate with the men and women in uniform. I need to communicate with the civilians in the Department of Defense, with the Congress, with the executive branch.
So, we have an obligation to do that, and we owe them the truth, and we owe them as much information that does not jeopardize military activities.
Q: And how much access -- they complain, many in the press complain that this -- under your administration of the Department of Defense, less access is provided than any other.
Rumsfeld: I think that's -- first of all, it's not clear to me that people -- that if you dropped a plumb line through the press that they would say that. I don't believe they would say that.
Q: They're talking about in zones of conflict.
Rumsfeld: OK, but, first of all, I don't agree with the premise. And second, I think that there may be an individual or two who feel that way, but I think that's not the consensus at all.
Q: It's as open as it can be?
Rumsfeld: First of all, if you think about it, a press person can go anywhere they want. They can go in any zone they want. They do, and they get killed sometimes. So, no one is stopping people from going around the world and doing and saying what they want in the media.
The one issue was, if you're in a World War II, where you've got an established line, you've landed in Normandy, you're moving across France, and you embed the press with you, they're there, and that's fine. There's no problem.
Q: Ernie Pyle.
Rumsfeld: Yes, Ernie Pyle, and everyone has got that in their head is, gee, that's the model. And of course, if you're in a World War II, that is the model. Afghanistan was not World War II. We didn't have but a handful of the people down on the ground for weeks. And they were going in, in very unusual ways and ways that the media -- the press people -- do not go in. And they were embedding themselves with Afghan forces that they didn't know and that they couldn't protect people against in the event there was a problem.
So, it was a very different thing. We put people -- press people and embedded them into as many activities as was possible. It's very difficult with Special Forces.
Q: Alright, let's discuss some other areas, the projection here of a missile defense system. It will cost a lot of money, and the odds are that it won't work, right? I mean, the odds -- based on tests.
Rumsfeld: No, Larry, not at all.
Q: OK, straighten me out.
Rumsfeld: Why would anyone be doing that if we thought it wouldn't work?
Q: Well, (inaudible) pre-testing, there were more failures than successes.
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, everyone didn't say that, Larry. Some people said that.
Q: Some did.
Rumsfeld: One or two or three people have said it, and ....
Q: You always correct me.
Rumsfeld: Well, why not?
Q: OK, OK --
Rumsfeld: Why not?
Rumsfeld: If you -- you say we owe them --
Rumsfeld: -- the public --
Q: Correct, alright.
Rumsfeld: I wouldn't want you to --
Q: It didn't fail.
Rumsfeld: -- something that wasn't -- yes. Now, second, if you go back and look at every major development program out of the Department of Defense, I'll bet you'd find that a high percentage had a consistent series of failures, just like we do in the pharmaceutical business when I used to be in that business. You invest money, you spend money, and it fails, it fails, it fails, it fails, 100 times. And something else works, and that's the product that helps save people's lives.
If you go back to the first spy satellite, one after another failed. If you go back to Polaris, failure after failure after failure, and it's very easy to throw up your hands and say, "Oh, my goodness, it doesn't work. Let's quit."
Q: The Wright brothers.
Rumsfeld: Exactly. I mean this is complicated business. Now, the why-do-it is because there are a lot of ballistic missiles in the world. There's a lot of people getting their hands on ballistic missiles in the world, and we have no ability to defend ourselves against ballistic missiles at all.
Q: Can you tell me ideally in its best sense what this would do? Someone, somewhere shoots off --
Q: -- what will it do?
Rumsfeld: Take our friends in North Korea.
Q: OK, let's say they --
Rumsfeld: They're just shipping missiles around the world. They just announced they're going to continue on their nuclear program. Their leadership is not a leadership that I would characterize as perfectly predictable. They have limited numbers of ballistic missiles, of nuclear weapons. But when we deploy this system, we will have the ability to intercept and kill a limited number of ballistic missiles.
Q: Something will go up and hit the missile.
Rumsfeld: Hit to kill.
Q: Will it affect anyone on the ground that hit?
Q: Ideally, then, this will -- you can't get them all, is that what you're saying?
Rumsfeld: Pretending that you're going to have a perfect shield I think is a stretch. I think you're going to have the -- in the early stages, you're going to have the ability to intercept and destroy a relatively small number of ballistic missiles.
Q: We'll be right back with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from the Pentagon -- don't go away.
Q: We're back with Secretary Rumsfeld.
You call this system limited but better than nothing. Limited because?
Rumsfeld: It's very early stages. It's just the beginning. We have to get something out there on the ground, in the sea, in the air, and then use it, exercise it, develop it --
Q: You think --
Rumsfeld: -- learn more about it.
Q: You think the threat of it is good.
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think its existence has a deterrence factor. It says to people who are debating, do I want to invest a whole lot of money in ballistic missiles as a way of threatening and terrorizing other nations, and the answer is, "Well, if they've got the ability to defeat those, maybe that's not the smartest thing to do." So, it does have a deterrence factor.
Q: Do you think North Korea would do something like that with the end result being their own obliteration?
Rumsfeld: You know, it's hard to put yourself in other people's shoes. I can't imagine a country that's starving its people the way they are, that is repressive to their people that they are, that is engaged in terrorist activities, that is engaged in peddling ballistic missiles all over the face of the globe. They're the world's largest proliferaters of ballistic missile technologies.
You think of what's happening there. In the south, you have this country that's an economic miracle. The same people -- North and South -- and in one case, the gross domestic product per capita is probably 20-30-40 times what it is in the north. I just can't imagine people living like that.
Q: Aren't they --
Rumsfeld: I can imagine -- if that regime in North Korea can do what they're doing, and large concentrations of people in prison camps, big prison camps, concentration camps, why do they do that? Why do they live that way?
Q: Are they, then, a greater threat than Iraq to the United States?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, the axis of evil, as the president put it, had three countries. Iraq, we've talked a bit about. One is North Korea, and it is a very different case than Iraq. What's going to happen in North Korea, I don't know. But the people are starving. There is unrest in that country. The dictatorship is so brutal and vicious. The president is working with China and with Russia and with Japan and South Korea on a diplomatic initiative to see what can be done to moderate their behavior. I don't know how it will turn out.
KAGAN: But are they a greater threat? I mean, just the existence -- the weaponry they have?
Rumsfeld: I think that both of the countries have weapons of mass destruction, Iraq -- all three, so does Iran.
Q: So, do we eventually have to move from one to the other?
Rumsfeld: I don't think that one size fits all. I think that there may be different ways of doing things. I mean, I look at Iran, the third country in the so-called axis of evil, and it's pretty clear that there's a very small group of clerics running that country in a way that is unpleasant and unacceptable to the bulk of the Iranian people. And the Iranian people are smart, well-educated, energetic, talented people. And they -- you can sense the unrest in that country, and I would -- I mean, think how fast they went from the Shah of Iran to the Ayatollah. It was within a matter of days. Suddenly, the old regime was gone, and the new regime was there.
I would be -- I wouldn't be surprised at all if in some period of months or years that happens again, and --
Q: So, it would be the least of the three at this point.
Rumsfeld: I'm not going to put them in rank order. That's not for me to do. Each of them has weapons of mass destruction. Each of them is on the terrorist list of states. Each of them has relationships with terrorist networks. Each is dangerous.
Q: Any news on bin Laden?
Rumsfeld: No. I still haven't developed a conviction myself as to whether or not that latest tape that is supposedly is his voice is actually his voice. I simply do not know if he's alive or dead, or alive but very ill. I have no idea. No one --
Q: Do you still fear him?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I ever feared him. I mean, he was certainly a head of the al Qaeda. We always believed that if he were gone, somebody else would take over the network and they have in many instances. The network is functioning on a relatively decentralized basis. You have to -- do you fear him personally? No, I don't --
Q: No, I mean fear him.
Rumsfeld: Is he a danger to the world? Sure. Is he a danger to the world if he's alive? Yes. If he's dead, the al Qaeda network is still a danger to the world. He -- I never personalized it really to one person.
Q: Is the war on terror logically ever going to be won? There's a terrorist probably born today somewhere.
Rumsfeld: Yes, yes. Well, that's a good question, Larry, I guess -- think of all of the money that the world spends on fire departments and police departments. And that we could say, well, is that ever going to be won? Are we ever going to be free of fires? Are we ever going to be free of crime?
Q: So, no.
Rumsfeld: And the answer is, human beings I guess are human beings, and they're not perfect. We simply aren't perfect, and there are always, I suppose, going to be people who want to - there's going to be things that cause fires that people could have avoided. There are going to be people who commit crime. And I suppose there are going to be people who believe that it's a good thing to get up in the morning and go kill innocent men, women and children, which is what terrorists do. They're just mass murderers.
Q: So, who's ever in your seat 10 years from now is going to be doing an interview talking about terror.
Rumsfeld: I think we can get ahead of the curve. I think that we can -- if we put a lot of pressure on it, as we're doing, and dry up their finances and use all elements of national policy -- think of what's happened. We have 90 nations that have joined the United States in the global war on terror. That's the largest coalition in the history of mankind. It's just amazing. And is there strength from that? I think there is. I think there's a lot of strength from that, and I think that we've got to stop people from giving money to these madrasas -- schools that are teaching people to kill people. And we've got to do a host of things to win the battle of ideas in the world, and we darn well have to continue to very aggressively pursue those terrorists and capture or kill them.
Q: Can you say you're optimistic?
Rumsfeld: Well, I'm an optimistic person. I am.
Q: I gather.
Rumsfeld: And I mean, I think that this is a terrible thing we've gone through, and the dangers we face are different than any time in the history of the world. With the power of those weapons and the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorist states and terrorist networks is just a volatile, dangerous combination.
But the United States of America can live in that world if we do it right; and if we do it well, we can live in that world.
Q: We'll be back with more of the secretary of defense -- don't go away.
Q: We're going to hopscotch a lot of areas, and not necessarily in continuous order. Four men were arrested in Dallas today by an FBI antiterrorist team. The arrests of the four brothers allegedly tied to an alleged terror financing scheme by the group, Hamas. Know anything about it?
Rumsfeld: Well, I've seen reports on it, and it happens almost every day. Somewhere across this globe a group of people (inaudible) is being arrested and being interrogated, and we're connecting the dots. You've read about this new commission that's just been appointed to figure out what happened on September 11. They're trying to connect the dots after it's over. We're trying to connect the dots before, and see if we can't find a road map as to what people are doing and how they're doing it, so that we can in fact help prevent these kinds of terrible terrorist acts.
Q: They've got the edge, because they know what they're going to do today.
Rumsfeld: And they can attack at any time in any place using any technique, and it's impossible to defend it every time in every place.
Q: Why did you go to Qatar?
Rumsfeld: We have a lot of troops there, and I had a wonderful opportunity to meet with, you know, hundreds of young men and women who have voluntarily said that they're going to serve their country. And that's an exciting thing to do that. And I was pleased to do that. The country of Qatar, I met with the foreign minister and we signed a letter of understanding, a letter of agreement, as to our relationship. And had a wonderful visit with the troops.
Q: How important is Qatar?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, they're all links in a chain, and it's important. All of these countries, these 90 nations across the world that are cooperating with us, are important. Each one is important, because each one brings a scrap of information.
Some person last year found in a house in Afghanistan, found a piece of information that stopped three terrorist acts from happening in Singapore, 10, 12, 15 days later. This is truly a global problem, so each country is important.
Q: How many stops don't we learn about?
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness, there are any number of things. Think of the number of people that aren't being recruited, because of the pressure that's being put on. Think of the number of dollars that aren't being fed into the network. Think of the number of bank accounts that were frozen. Think of the number of pieces of scraps of information from people who were arrested and interrogated. We get information every day from the detainees that we've arrested.
Q: Have we learned a lot -- yes, speaking of that, have we learned a lot about radicals, why someone puts a bomb on his chest and blows himself up? Why would they do that? Do we learn from talking to others that we capture?
Rumsfeld: Sure. We learn. What's going on in the world, there's a lot of money going into these so-called madrasas -- schools that are -- and they aren't training people in mathematics or languages or sciences or whatever, humanities -- they're training people to kill. They're training people to go out and kill innocent men, women and children. And we need to see that those schools are closed down, and we need to see that those schools provided (are) teaching the right things, so that people can live a constructive life in this world.
Q: Do you have any hope, any more optimism in the Middle East? We've had less lately of those bombings. They sporadically occur. They used to be more regular.
Rumsfeld: We do. Yes, I mean, there is no question that Saddam Hussein offers a $25,000 reward to any family whose child is a suicide bomber. There's a wonderful contribution to the world.
Q: That's a fact.
Rumsfeld: That's a fact. Think about it. It's just terrible.
Q: If a son of a family goes out and kills himself, the family --
Rumsfeld: If the family son or daughter goes out and blows up a shopping mall or a pizza parlor, they get $25,000 from Saddam Hussein. Now, but what do we do about that? Well, we simply have to work the problem just like we work the problem as firefighters. We work the -- problem is policemen, we have to go out and do everything we can to create a world where people aren't going to be doing that.
Q: How ready are we militarily for action? Hypothetic -- given the go.
Rumsfeld: Sure, given the go, we go.
Q: Ready to go?
Rumsfeld: No, we're flowing forces now. We've -- the only reason that Saddam Hussein's allowing inspectors back in Iraq is because of the pressure of a threat of military force being used against him. The congress's action was helpful. The action by the United Nations, and their recognition -- I mean, heck, they went for years with refusing the inspectors to be in there. Now they're allowing them in.
Q: But how ready are we -- if the man says go?
Rumsfeld: The reality is that in a perfect world, you'd say, well, there are things you'd still do. And we are still doing things, because it's important that the Iraqis understand that they need to respond to the UN resolution. Every day that goes by, obviously, our capability to move faster and somewhat better improves. But if the Iraqis did something untoward today, we're capable of beginning and doing what we need to do. If the president said do it.
Q: Morale is high?
Rumsfeld: Excellent, just excellent.
Q: Think we'll need a draft?
Rumsfeld: Absolutely not. Absolutely not, no. I mean, I was one of the sponsors of the volunteer army back in the 1960s when I was a congressman. And what we were doing in those days was using force, compulsion, conscription, to bring people into the military so we could pay them 50, 60 percent of the civilian manpower market wage, whatever was fair. And we would use compulsion to underpay people.
Q: But we clothed them, fed them.
Rumsfeld: We clothed them and fed them, we brought them in, spewed them out after 18 or 24 months, and that's the least efficient thing you can do.
Q: You're not a draft man.
Rumsfeld: I'm not. I think, by golly, we've got people serving because they want to serve, because they care about the country. And this is a calling -- understand the importance of this calling.
Q: Are you surprised at the cooperation you've gotten from nations? You mentioned 90.
Rumsfeld: Isn't it amazing, 90 countries have stepped up.
Q: What did that? Is that just international thought about Saddam? 9/11?
Rumsfeld: Certainly, September 11 was important. And I think that out there was a recognition that we were in the 21st century, it's a new security environment. A lot of other countries had experienced much more terrorism than we had. Think of the terrorism in Ireland. Think of the terrorism in Spain, in France. They've experienced that. Think of what the Middle East is seeing. There are any number of parts of the globe where people have seen terrorism and the effects of it. So when September 11 happened, and people looked at these asymmetric threats and the power of those weapons of mass destruction, the dangers that the world faced, and the leadership that President Bush provided -- God bless him, people run around saying, "Oh, the United States is unilateralist." What nonsense!
Here is a president who put together a coalition of over 90 countries. It's just amazing. And the cooperation that we're getting around the world is just superb.
Q: We'll be right back with more of the secretary of defense. Don't go away.
Q: We're back with Secretary Rumsfeld. The public reaction to Iraq seems in all the polls to be kind of mixed, should we go, don't we go -- everybody's worrying about the 58 percent, the 42 percent, the changes. Hollywood celebrities have come -- by the way, does that bother you, celebrities coming out against it?
Rumsfeld: I guess it doesn't. I think that people have a right in our country to say what they want to say and to think what they want to think.
Q: Do you think it's harmful for Sean Penn to go over to Baghdad and express feelings of support for them?
Rumsfeld: I was not -- I didn't have enough free time to follow what he said or how he behaved himself. I just don't know. But it, net -- net, I would say that the national dialogue on this subject has been a good one and an important one. And the debate in the Congress and the discussion in the United Nations, and the discussions on television, in the press, we needed that.
This is a new century, with a new set of threats, and a new set of powerful, lethal weapons that threaten us. And we can't just go from the old world into this new world and not think that it doesn't take some time. It takes some thinking about it. We need to get our heads wrapped around these new concepts and these new dangers and these ideas and these new problems, and new ways of dealing with problems.
So I think that the discussion has been generally pretty good, and I'm pleased that it's happened. Because I don't think you go from here to here in two minutes. You need to work yourself over there.
Q: It's also what a democracy is about.
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Q: I mean, you want -- it has been reported -- it has been reported --
Rumsfeld: There's the passive voice.
Q: -- that you were upset with Bob Woodward's book "Bush at War."
Q: The word was that he got interviews with -- certainly lengthy interviews with the president, two and a half hours, he got interviews with Powell, but that you didn't grant him that and therefore didn't come out as well. Anyway, your general comments on the book.
Rumsfeld: I've not read the book. I don't know what it said. I guess that wherever that came from -- I'm -- maybe I'm -- let's just put it this way. I'm a little uncomfortable with people having lengthy discussions that involve meetings that were private. I tend not to do that, and I think that there's possibly a reason, a good reason, why I don't do it. And what other people decide to do, they decide to do.
Q: But the president discussed it at length.
Rumsfeld: You bet. He's the president. He ran and got elected.
Q: In other words, you don't like to sit and tell me behind the scenes -- to tell anyone behind-the-scenes stories -- of who was at a meeting and who said what, who went where.
Rumsfeld: I don't. It's the president's meeting, so he has every right to do that. I don't feel that I have that right, to go to a meeting of the president and then say, well, the president said this, or the -- someone else said that. I'm just not that way. Those were private meetings.
Q: Do you ever think that when a book comes out like this that maybe -- do you ever say to yourself, "Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe I should have been in the mix here."
Rumsfeld: I have been told that there have been three or four book reviews that have said I made a mistake because I didn't --
Rumsfeld: -- cooperate, and that the book reflects that. I can live with that. I'd rather live with that and have the book not reflect accurately what took place in the meeting, which I'm told it doesn't --
Q: Doesn't accurately --
Rumsfeld: Does not. That's what I'm told. I don't know, I haven't read it.
Q: Why not read it?
Rumsfeld: Oh my goodness. You should see my days. I haven't got time to read that stuff. I was there, I don't need to read it.
Q: You know what happened.
Rumsfeld: I know what happened.
Q: And you don't mind -- the rough and tumble of it, you don't mind it?
Rumsfeld: Oh, gosh. You know, Larry, if every time someone said something that you didn't feel good about you curled up in a corner, why, you'd spend your life in the corner. No, I get up in the morning and decide that I'm going to go try to do the best I can for the men and women in uniform and for the country, and that's what I try to do.
Q: You've had -- you were a congressman, you ran a major drug company, served NATO, served a president, chief of staff. What's this job like?
Rumsfeld: This job is complex. It is multidimensional. It is important, because people's lives are at risk. It is challenging. You'd never use the word fun.
Q: You don't have a good time?
Rumsfeld: That's different. I enjoy being challenged. I enjoy working with wonderful people, and I do. If we were at this point in history, I'm trying to think if I were not involved in any way at all, I would feel that's a shame.
Q: You like being here.
Rumsfeld: I do.
Q: Now, what's the worst part about it?
Rumsfeld: There aren't enough hours per day. You just -- you know, there's so many pieces to this that you wish there were more hours and more days to do it. But ...
Q: What's the effect at home?
Rumsfeld: Well, our kids are gone.
Q: I know, but your wife is accustomed to it?
Rumsfeld: She has been married 48 years, I think. Yeah, 48 years, 47, 48. She's pretty used to this.
Q: She's a trooper, in other words. How do you get along with the generals, the admirals? There are again reports that that's brusque, sometimes.
Rumsfeld: Well, I'm brusque, I'm impatient.
Q: No kidding.
Rumsfeld: It's genetic, I can't help it. When I see so many things that need to be done and I see an institution that's still basically organized, trained, and equipped for the last century and not for the new century, I want to get it right and I want to fix it. I want to make it so that it serves our country well and so --
Q: Are they tough to move sometimes?
Rumsfeld: Yes, any big institution is. And we've got wonderful cooperation at the senior level in the military, the people I deal with on a daily basis, they're terrific people. We've got great support down at lower levels. I go out and talk to the troops and people say, "Good for you, go at it. Keep it up. Don't stop. Move this institution."
Q: Where do you have the -- middle management?
Rumsfeld: Well, you've got a group of people who have been conditioned over decades to think a certain way and to behave a certain way and have a stake in it being that way, and people then come in and say, "Look, the world's changed, we've got a new security environment. We're going to have to do things somewhat differently. We're going to -- we haven't got 15 years to swing our way around. We're going to get it going now."
Well, that's disturbing to people. Change is hard. So it doesn't bother me a bit.
Rumsfeld: ... a little concerned.
Q: I could tell. We'll be back with our remaining moments with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, right after these words.
Q: Going to touch some more bases before we let the secretary go on with --
Rumsfeld: Before you do, let me just say one thing that crossed my mind. You said my wife Joyce is a trooper. She is. She gets better the tougher things get.
Q: In other words, she says, "Go to Qatar. Yes, OK." You've got to look at it, though, twice. Somebody's reporting today -- a reporter is reporting that you want the language of the reaction to the arms declaration not to call the declaration a material breach at this point. Is that true?
Rumsfeld: I'm not going to discuss it. It's a subject that's being internally discussed inside the United States government, and people who are saying that are talking about private meetings with the president, and I don't think it's of particular service. I'll give my advice to the president.
Q: Washington Post reporting the United States is training 1000 Iraqi allies. True?
Rumsfeld: It says who is training them?
Q: The United States is training Iraqis.
Rumsfeld: I don't know what the number is, but we certainly are in the process of recruiting and vetting and beginning that process of Iraqi opposition training. Yes.
Q: What's the current situation in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: It is encouraging. They have elected a government through the Loya Jirga process. The Taliban are gone. The al Qaeda are gone. The country is not a perfectly stable place, and it needs a great deal of reconstruction funds from countries around the world. And more people have to help, but it is on a path that is so much better than it was a year ago, a year and a half ago. It's just amazing. The schools are open, hospitals are open, refugees are returning --
Q: Going to go back?
Rumsfeld: Pardon me.
Q: Are you going to go over?
Rumsfeld: Oh, certainly. I've been there several times, and I intend to. We spend a lot of time thinking about it. It's terribly important that they succeed. There are people who are throwing hand grenades and shooting off rockets and trying to kill people, but there are people who are trying to kill people in New York, or San Francisco. So it's not going to be a perfectly tidy place. It's a country that's gone through a terrible period of years.
But we've got to as a country recognize that it's -- we have to provide leadership in the international community so that they live up to their financial pressures and so that that government is able to create a sufficiently stable environment that they can then begin to provide for their own security. So I'm hopeful, I'm encouraged and I wish them well.
Q: Everybody's talking about it. We'd be remiss if I didn't ask you. Any thoughts on Trent Lott?
Rumsfeld: None. The president's spoken on that subject.
Q: Do you agree with what he said?
Rumsfeld: It is not for me to get involved in a legislative matter, and the president has indicated what he believes, and I'm a part of his administration.
Q: Were you surprised?
Rumsfeld: I have said what I have to say.
Q: You don't want to talk about it?
Rumsfeld: No, it's not for me to talk. I'm running the Department of Defense. This is a matter for the United States Senate.
Q: The biggest change ever proposed at this building was -- I guess McNamara once said we should combine the forces. The Navy fights with the Army too much, and the Army with the Air Force over things, and maybe we should have one force. What do you think about that? An idea that came and went.
Rumsfeld: Well, it comes from time to time. I don't even remember that he said that, but the reality is that there is a value to having services and tradition and specialization in their areas. And the problem is that no one fights with an Army, a Navy or an Air Force. They fight combined, they fight joint, they fight together.
The combatant commander right now, Tom Franks, as he worries about problems in his area of responsibility, he wants to have the ability to put power on a target. He wants to be able to do a certain specific military task, and he could not care less whether it was the Army, the Navy or the Marines. So how do you get from the services coming straight up, separate, not joint, to a war fighting situation where they have to be joint, they have to be interoperable. They have to function totally together. And that is what we're trying to do, and I think we're doing a better job of it today than ever before in history.
Q: Running out of time. What are you doing Christmas?
Rumsfeld: I haven't decided.
Q: Might go visit troops?
Rumsfeld: I haven't decided where I'm going to be.
Q: And are you going to be -- if the president runs and is reelected and asks you to stay, will you?
Rumsfeld: I have not been asked to stay, and I don't answer questions that aren't before me. I've got enough problems of my own.
Q: Thank you, Donald.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
Q: The secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Newsnight with Aaron Brown is next. Mariah Carey tomorrow night. Thanks for joining us. Good night.