Secretary Rumsfeld Interview on ABC This Week
United States Department of Defense
On the web: http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2003/tr20031102-secdef0836.html
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Sunday, November 2, 2003 11:30 a.m
Secretary Rumsfeld Interview on ABC This Week
Stephanopoulos: Good morning, everyone. We have major, breaking news from Iraq this morning. At least 13 U.S. servicemen dead after a Chinook helicopter was shot down on its way to Baghdad Airport. That is one of at least three attacks on U.S. servicemen this morning. And it caps the bloodiest week in Iraq since the president declared an end to major combat on May 1st.
We'll have the latest from Baghdad, plus the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, coming right up.
Announcer: From ABC News - "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." Now, reporting from the ABC News studios in Washington, George Stephanopoulos.
Stephanopoulos: As we said, it's been just a horrible day for U.S. soldiers in Iraq. At least 13 dead and 20 wounded when a Chinook helicopter was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad today. It's the bloodiest incident since March 23rd. ABC's David Wright is in the capital. David?
David Wright [ABC News Correspondent in Baghdad]: Good morning, George. These two Chinook helicopters were traveling over the town of Fallujah, which has been a stronghold of anti-American resistance. Witnesses say two missiles were fired. One of them connected with its target and one of the helicopters went down in a cornfield about 9:00 this morning.
As you said, about 20 people wounded, at least 13 killed. The injured were taken to an Army trauma center in Bilad. Now, apparently, these helicopters were ferrying these men, about 50 of them, to Baghdad Airport, where they were to enjoy a bit of R&R. The Pentagon, just Friday, expanded the two-week furlough program and these men apparently were going to take part in that. This is, as you say, the bloodiest attack since Saddam Hussein fell from power.
Stephanopoulos: Do we know where these soldiers were from, which division they were from?
Wright: At this point, it's not yet clear. Details are very sketchy. But this is, we should also add, one of several attacks that have taken place on U.S. forces overnight. At least four or five others apparently have been killed overnight in a separate series of attacks in and around Baghdad. And these have been tense days in and around the Iraqi capital for about a week now, a stepped-up resistance directed earlier this week at civilians and Iraqis who are cooperating with U.S. officials. Today, they appear to have targeted U.S. forces.
Stephanopoulos: Okay. David Wright in Baghdad. We'll have more on where things stand in our "Briefing" later in the broadcast and all week long across the ABC News network. But first, our headliner - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
And Secretary Rumsfeld joins us now. Good morning, Mr. Secretary.
Rumsfeld: Good morning.
Stephanopoulos: You heard David Wright's report there. Can you add anything about the Chinook incident?
Rumsfeld: Well, I've received reports since early this morning and the reports keep changing. Early reports, of course, are just that, they tend to not have the benefit of all the information available. And as the morning goes on, the additional details are brought forward. It's clearly a tragic day for America and for these young men and young women. I must say our prayers have to be with them and with their families and their loved ones.
In a long, hard war, we're going to have tragic days, as this is. But they are necessary. They are part of a war that's difficult and complicated. And in the last analysis, the people who are firing off these surface-to-air missiles are the same people who are killing Iraqis. They are the people who we saw in film recently torturing and cutting off fingers and hands and heads and tongues of people. And they're going to be beaten eventually. And we're just very fortunate that there are so many wonderful young men and women who are willing to voluntarily engage in this global war on terror and I'm grateful to them.
Stephanopoulos: And we've been worried about this threat of surface-to-air missiles in Iraq for quite some time. Do you have any idea how many of these missiles might be in Iraq right now and what kind of success we've had --
Rumsfeld: Oh, enormous numbers. Enormous numbers.
Rumsfeld: Oh, have to be more than hundreds. There are weapons caches all over that country. They were using schools, hospitals, mosques to hide weapons. Think of it, in Bosnia, in the last six months, they have found 40 tons of weapons in a country that we've occupied for six years. So Saddam Hussein spent his money on palaces and on torturing people and on weapons. And that's -- and he's got a lot of them.
Stephanopoulos: There is some concern expressed on Capitol Hill that the military hasn't done a good enough job in securing these ammo dumps.
Stephanopoulos: How do you respond to that?
Rumsfeld: Well, Dick Myers went over that up on the Hill the other day and pointed out that there were thousands of them and that all but a very small handful have been in fact inspected. And all of the ones that have weapons that are mobile and can be moved away easily are, in fact, guarded, that we know about. We keep finding additional ones every week, every month, because there are so many in the country. Think about it. They buried 12 jet airplanes under the sand. So how do you find those? You don't just discover them. You have to find people who tell you where they are. But the armed forces, coalition forces are doing a very good job of guarding -- finding and guarding them, although we find new ones every day and we also find some that have not been completed protected.
Stephanopoulos: This caps off an amazingly bloody week. We saw the attack on the al Rashid hotel just last Sunday. We saw the coordinated attacks on the Red Cross and the police stations in Baghdad. Now, General Sanchez is saying we're seeing about two to three dozen attacks a day against U.S. forces. If there are indeed enough U.S. forces on the ground right now, then why are we seeing this increase in attacks and the sophistication of the attacks?
Rumsfeld: I don't think he said -- General Sanchez said there were that number of attacks against U.S. forces. I think he said there were that number of attacks against the population. Because a great many of these attacks are not against U.S. forces. They're against international humanitarian organizations like the U.N. They're against the Iraqi people, the Iraqi police academy. One attack was against a woman who served on the Governing Council and she was murdered. There have been some 85 Iraqis who serve in the security forces who have been killed already. So these attacks are against -- more recently, they have tended to be against other Iraqis, interestingly. They are targeting things, people that are cooperating with the coalition. So in that sense, they're against the goal of the coalition.
The numbers of forces is an interesting question. We originally had 150,000 U.S. forces there. We're down to about 130,000 today. The coalition has been steady at about 30,000. What's changed is the Iraqi forces. The Iraqi forces have gone from zero on May 1st up to over 100,000 today. And our plan calls for them to go to something in excess of 200,000. So the total number of security forces in the country has been going up steadily. Notwithstanding the fact that U.S. forces have declined modestly.
Stephanopoulos: So you still see no need for an increase in U.S. forces?
Rumsfeld: In U.S. forces?
Rumsfeld: I think the way you ought to want to make a judgment about that is what's happening on the ground? And to the extent -- and what's happening with respect to Iraqi forces and coalition forces. It's the totality of those three that needs to go up and it is going up steadily. And there has not been a need for additional U.S. forces.
Will: You say it's still going up steadily. So that attacks are failing in what must be one of their objectives, which is to deter Iraqis from participating in the security forces. It's not working?
Rumsfeld: Clearly. We've got lots of recruits, lots of people standing in line, ready to serve in the border patrol and the site protection group and the civil defense group, and the police, as well as the army.
Will: Of the 55 Iraqis who are on our list of the "most wanted," all but eleven have been captured. The big one, of course, is Saddam Hussein. Is there evidence, and if so, what is it, of coordination of these attacks and is there evidence that he's involved in actually coordinating this? Or is this spontaneous eruption?
Rumsfeld: We do not have hard evidence that he is coordinating this. I think it's -- the fact that he has not been captured or killed is important. His regime was so vicious and did so many horrible things to people that people are frightened. They're frightened that he could come back. He's not coming back. But until he's dead or captured, there is that concern.
Will: How would the world be different over there, on the ground, if he were killed tomorrow?
Rumsfeld: Probably not terribly different, except for the fear element, the fear that he might come back would disappear. To what extent he's coordinating, I don't know. No one knows. There's several categories of people. There's 100,000 criminals. There are foreign fighters who come across the borders, a lot of them from Syria and Lebanon. And then there are the left-overs of the Ba'athist regime. And these people are vicious. They want the Saddam Hussein regime to come back and they're fighting to get it back.
Will: What price can Iran, and I guess especially Syria, be made to pay, what deterrence is there for them to get them to interfere with the influx of foreign terrorists? What do we say to them?
Rumsfeld: Well, we've let them know that we're notably unhappy about the fact that terrorists come across their borders into Iraq and further complicate the problem.
Stephanopoulos: Do we think they're condoning it?
Rumsfeld: Well, we know in some instances they have condoned it. Whether in every instance, I can't say, because the borders are long, the borders are porous. But clearly, take the terrorist organization Ansar al-Islam. It was in Iraq. Saddam Hussein knew it was in Iraq. It was functioning. It left when we invaded Iraq, went to Iran, found a hospitable environment, apparently, and now has returned to Iraq. And we are capturing and killing these terrorists. It would have been better if they had not found a hospitable environment in Iran.
Will: You've stressed that in Iraq we've made much faster progress than we made in post-war Germany in establishing police, army, currency, central bank. That's all true. One difference is that in 1945, in May, when Hitler died, fascism died. It was no longer a fighting faith. If Saddam dies, there will still be the fighting faith of militant Islam. So might it make zero difference at all?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I wouldn't say a zero difference. First of all, the Nazi faith did linger. And there were people in Germany who kept trying to kill the allies, as we were called then, as opposed to the coalition.
Will: Did they have casualties -- inflict casualties comparable to this?
Rumsfeld: Not comparable, but there were casualties, to be sure. There were mayors who were cooperating with the allies that were killed. There were Nazis who escaped and went to South America and other countries. It took years to track them down. Hitler, fortunately, killed himself.
Will: The president has been criticized, even ridiculed for saying that some of the attacks on us indicate that we're making progress and this is desperation on the part of the Ba'athist remnant. Is it a good thing to bring the terrorists in, as they're coming in, to a killing ground that might be favorable to us? It's not New York. We do have a lot of troops there. It's not a jungle. It's easier to find and fight there. Should we -- I mean, this is grim to say, but should we welcome this?
Rumsfeld: Well, of course, you never welcome war or conflict. You wish that there were ways to avoid it. It is -- the president's point was important. He said that the terrorists are targeting success and so what he meant was when they kill the woman on the Governing Council, they're trying to not have there be an Iraqi Governing Council working with the coalition. When they attack the police academy graduating Iraqis who are going to help provide for Iraqi security, that is targeting success. And I think his point is well taken.
You're right, to the extent foreign terrorists come into the country and we have forces there, and Iraqi forces, and coalition forces, and U.S. forces, and we're able to capture or kill them, that's a good thing. It's better doing it there than in Baltimore or in Boise, Idaho.
Our concern, however, is that what we need to do is to find ways to make sure we're winning the battle of ideas and that we reduce the number of terrorists that are being created in the world that are being taught to go out and murder and kill innocent men, women and children and cut off people's tongues and fingers.
Will: Is there any way to measure that, the supply?
Rumsfeld: There is no way to measure it because you don't know what's happening in each one of these radical cleric schools that are teaching people that. But we have to engage that battle of ideas, just as we have to engage terrorists where they are.
Stephanopoulos: But what do we know about the flow that's actually coming into Iraq right now? And you mentioned earlier that there -- you don't see any evidence that Saddam Hussein is coordinating this. But do you see any evidence that the remnants of the Ba'athist regime are coordinating with this influx of foreign fighters?
Stephanopoulos: How so?
Rumsfeld: There are snippets of information that come in that suggest that the Ba'athists have money. They are probably paying people to participate with them in planting these explosive devices.
Stephanopoulos: To bring them in or once they get there?
Rumsfeld: It's hard to know. Some of the people we've captured coming in have money. Whether they were given money in another country by the Ba'athists or whether they were given it by some other terrorist organization, I don't know. But they clearly have money and they clearly are coming in to kill people.
Stephanopoulos: There was a report earlier this week that one of the gentlemen who was captured before he could participate in the bombing of the police stations came in, he was a Yemeni, came in on a Syrian passport, and was able to get his hands on these explosives within 48 hours of arriving.
Stephanopoulos: That couldn't happen without a tremendous amount of coordination.
Rumsfeld: It suggests that either the people external have deposits and caches of weapons and that type of thing in the country. Or there's a connection with the Ba'athists who also may have the ability to facilitate that type of destruction.
Stephanopoulos: How much do we really know about these groups? I was struck yesterday -- the head of a European intelligence agency told the "New York Times" we're quite blind there. The Americans and Brits know very little about this enemy. They are trying to fight an enemy they cannot see. Is that a fair criticism?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that it's a criticism. It's a fact that intelligence-gathering is tough business. That we know there's a mixture of people there, that Saddam Hussein let loose 100,000-110,000 criminals. And we know there are criminals doing bad things. We know that a lot of the Ba'athists were not killed. The remnants of that regime are still there. And we know that we've scooped up 200-300 foreign fighters who have come into that country from a whole host of countries, you know, 20-30 different countries. It's the mixture of all of that.
Now, do we -- does anyone have perfect visibility as to how many of each or what their linkages are? No. So I think the comment is not an unfair one.
Stephanopoulos: We keep hearing that the problem on the ground is intelligence, our counter-intelligence capabilities. How do we improve them?
Rumsfeld: Well, one of the ways we're improving them quite dramatically is by the success we're having in recruiting and training and deploying Iraqi security forces. They speak the language. They live in the neighborhood. They had visibility and situational awareness there. And we have found that the intelligence information coming into our forces goes up significantly when we have joint patrols and joint operations with Iraqi forces. And that's why if one looks at what's happening in that country -- first of all, it's a big country, the size of California. It's quite peaceful in the north and quite peaceful in the south. Most of the trouble is in the so-called "triangle" north of Baghdad and in Baghdad, where a high percentage of the population lives.
And to the extent we end up operating there with Iraqi forces, our forces get much better information about where the caches are, where the risks are, where the explosive devices might be.
Stephanopoulos: You mentioned that eventually the size of the U.S. forces will depend on whether we can get these Iraqi forces up and running and patrolling their own streets. And I want to show you something that was written in the "Washington Post" just a couple of weeks ago about the U.S. force levels. It was from Thomas Ricks and he said: "There are now 130,00 U.S. troops in Iraq. The plan to cut that number is well in advance and has been described in broad outline to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld but has not yet been approved by him. They would begin to draw down forces next spring, cutting the number of troops to fewer than 100,000 by next summer and then to 50,000 by mid-2005." Has that plan be described to you?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I've seen several plans and the reason -- the problem with that kind of a story is that it seems authoritative. And of course --
Stephanopoulos: It's not?
Rumsfeld: The way to look at it is what will happen will depend on what the security situation in the country is. And the total number of forces is what one must look at and that number is going up. Because of the success we're having with Iraqi forces. We're going to go from 100,000 to 200,000.
Stephanopoulos: But if you then --
Rumsfeld: -- Iraqi forces. Now, how the security situation on the ground evolves will determine whether the Iraqi forces growth is sufficient, whether we get additional coalition forces, and how many more or less U.S. forces are needed. And that's not knowable now, three, four, six months out.
Stephanopoulos: I guess what I'm trying to get at is is it determined by the numbers or the situation or some combination of both? For example, if you hit your targets and get to 200,000 Iraqi forces by next September, will that mean that you'll be able to bring the U.S. forces down below 100,000?
Rumsfeld: It depends on the security situation on the ground. So what we're doing is we're planning now the force deployments planned for early next year to replace the U.S. forces there and put in additional U.S. forces to replace them. And it may be that people are speculating about that flow, rather than a net number. I just don't know.
Will: The current spike of violence began on the eve of Ramadan, just as the TET offensive began on the eve of the lunar new year over there. The TET offensive was one of the great military victories in American history.
Will: It destroyed the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese army, but they captured the American homefront. Now, that's pretty clearly the objective of these people, isn't it, to influence America?
Rumsfeld: Oh, sure. The goal is to deter organizations like the United Nations, to attack coalition targets.
Will: It worked with the U.N. They blew the U.N. out of Iraq with one bomb, didn't they?
Rumsfeld: At the moment, it appears that.
Will: What's that tell you about the U.N.'s capacity as an international institution?
Rumsfeld: My wish would be rather than leave that the U.N. would send its humanitarian workers to the north or the south where these kinds of problems are relatively few.
Will: What are your worries about the American people's capacity to stay the course here, to see this low-intensity warfare every night, television, in their living rooms? Do you worry about their staying power?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't, really. I think the American people have a good center of gravity. I think they get it. They see that terrorism is a threat in this world. They would rather have us fighting terrorists outside of the United States of America than inside the United States of America. They know that what's taking place is tragic when you have a day like yesterday. But they also know it's necessary. And it is necessary. We can't -- free people cannot simply hunker down and wait for the next attack. The only way to deal with terrorists is to find them where they are, go after them, capture or kill them, and create a situation where free people can continue to get up in the morning like we do and go where we want and say what we want.
Will: When we were involved in a "long, hard slog," to coin a phrase, in Vietnam --
Will: -- and President Johnson was criticized for not asking the American people to make sacrifices commensurate with the danger and the effort, he went right ahead with the "Great Society" program, there are people here who say the president's domestic program doesn't reflect the dangers in the world, that we're taking tax cuts, and it's business as usual in the United States. Is there any sense in which the government ought to be calling upon the American people to make sacrifices as a consciousness-raising device to convince them of the long, hard slog?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think the American people are making sacrifices. I mean, if you think about it, every young man and woman serving anywhere in the world, in the United States and across the globe, is a volunteer. They are people who have stepped up and said "send me, I want to participate in helping to defend the freedom and the safety and the security of the American people." And that's a wonderful thing.
Will: But you remember when we moved to a volunteer army, you were around in Washington at that time, critics of the all-volunteer army said the problem with that is you'll go to war and it won't involve the American people the way conscription does, that there would be a disconnect between the sacrifices made by the professional people who volunteer to go in harm's way and the country that goes on with business as usual.
Rumsfeld: That was an argument. And that was before 24-hour news. The American people are participating. The American people do see what's happening, when young men and young women get killed, as happened yesterday.
Stephanopoulos: Sir, I want to get to more on the reaction of the American people in just a minute. We have to take a quick break and we'll be right back.
Stephanopoulos: And we're back with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and we were just talking about the worries of the American public about this war. And we have a new ABC News poll out this morning that shows the support for the president's policy is Iraq has dropped below 50 percent for the first time. It shows that more and more Americans are worried, and I know you hate this phrasing, but worried that we're going to get bogged down. And I want to play in particular what one gentleman from Aurora, Colorado said. It was in the "Washington Post" this morning. He says: "It looks more and more like a mistake. I would like the administration admit that they got it wrong or got some things wrong. But you know, from what they're saying, they think they did everything right." And this is from someone, Chris Iverson, who said he was a Bush supporter, still wants to support the effort. Were there mistakes --
Rumsfeld: Oh, sure there were.
Stephanopoulos: What wasn't foreseen?
Rumsfeld: Well, one of the things that wasn't foreseen is the extent to which the Iraqi infrastructure was degraded over the decades of his dictatorship. It was more decrepit, if you will, the oil infrastructure, the electrical grid, those types of things. So it took somewhat longer to get them up to speed than had been anticipated.
No one anticipated, for example -- there were a lot of things that weren't anticipated. We expected a humanitarian crisis. And we were wrong. There was no humanitarian crisis. The people are not starving. They do have water. We expected there would be massive refugee flows. There were large flows back in the Gulf War the first time around. Not so. We didn't have a lot of internally displaced people. We were prepared for that. We worked with the U.N. world food people to be prepared for a humanitarian crisis, but it didn't happen.
You have to prepare for things that might happen that could be bad. No one could calibrate exactly how long or how effective these Fedayeen Saddam terrorists would function, how long -- how difficult they'd be, and -- but they're proving to be a problem today and there's no doubt they're part of that problem.
I can say that we're going to win this and it's going to be the Iraqi people who win it. It will not be the United States and the coalition countries. We're going to have Iraqi people take over their own sovereignty. The Iraqi people are going to take over their own security. And they are going to be the ones, with our help, and we're not going to abandon them. The president is solid as a rock on this. And it's tough. And it's going to take some time. But it's winnable.
Will: At the heart of taking over the Iraqi -- reconstructing their regime is a constitution. In 1787, the Americans sent 55 people to Philadelphia -- Washington, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton -- we had a political class of sophistication and reflection about democracy and they didn't need to worry about being murdered by remnants of the British colonial regime. What are the real possibilities of a constitutional rebirth in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: They are going to have to do it with a low-intensity conflict going on, as you point out. And that's a lot harder than we faced. They're going to have to do it, also, having had three decades of being scarred by a vicious dictatorship where in that dictatorship, anything that was not permitted was prohibited, and suddenly it's backwards. Today, in a free, liberated Iraq, where 23 million people now, anything that's not prohibited is permitted. Just the reverse.
Will: American factions were Quakers against Catholics and Baptists and -- minor factional differences. Not Sunnis and Shi'ites and Kurds who don't like each other, seriously don't like each other.
Will: Can you envision an Iraqi majority that an Iraqi minority is willing to be governed by?
Rumsfeld: I think so. I think it is possible. The president said what he looked for in Iraq was a country that didn't have weapons of mass destruction, that was at peace with its neighbors, that was respectful of the various religious and ethnic minorities and majorities in the country and was a single country.
There are plenty of ways people can live together who don't like each other and don't agree with each other in countries and fashion a system that permits representation of various types. And if it happens, it will be a wonderful thing for that region.
Stephanopoulos: Before we go, I'd like to turn to some broader questions on the war on terror. We've all chewed over your memo now over the last couple weeks.
Stephanopoulos: And I wanted to focus on one line in particular. You said: "The U.S. is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan to stop the next generation of terrorists." Why is that?
Rumsfeld: Well, for one thing, we're not organized, trained, and equipped to do that. That's a hard thing. We don't tend to propagandize. We don't tend to, as a people -- we used to have something called the USIA, the U.S. Information Agency. It's gone. It used to have libraries around the world. It tried to promote the ideas of America, our values. We don't have any instruments of that type that are as capable, for example, as our Army, or our Navy, or our Air Force.
And yet, if we're out there trying to deal with the people who are the product of some organizations that make terrorists, and we're out there trying to capture and kill them, one has to ask the questions, what are we doing about the input, the inflow? How many of these people are coming out of these radical madrasa schools? How many are being trained to go out and kill innocent men, women and children? And we have to care about that and the world has to care about it.
Stephanopoulos: You also mention in the memo that the CIA might need a new finding -- you ask does the CIA need a new finding? Is this what you had in mind here that we might need to figure out how to infiltrate these madrases and that might take a new finding?
Rumsfeld: I was asking questions. And if I had had answers, I would have dictated answers. Instead, I said down and dictated questions. I don't know how many, fifteen questions? And one of them was how do we win this battle of ideas? What has to change in our country, organizationally, overt, covert, either one, so that we can have a higher confidence that we're reducing the number of people who -- I mean, Saddam Hussein was paying $25,000 to families of people who'd go do a suicide bombing, for example. How do you help families not do that? Not let their young people go out and be suicide bombers? That's a fair question, it seems to me.
Stephanopoulos: You also said it was your impression that the United States has not yet made truly bold moves.
Rumsfeld: Those are the kinds of things I'm talking about. We've done a lot. I mean, we've got a new Department of Homeland Security. We've got all kinds of beefing up our Special Forces. We've done a lot of bold things. But in this area of reducing the number of people who are being attracted into the terrorist business, and who are going out and being trained to kill innocent men, women and children, I don't know that anyone in the world in any country has figured out how to reduce that other than going to those schools and finding ways to persuade them, financially, if necessary, to teach things like language and mathematics and things where people can actually contribute to the world's society, rather than destroy it.
Stephanopoulos: It's also difficult to carry this on if we're giving the impression that this is somehow a war against a religion. Of course, you and the president have said you don't want to do that. But this was brought to the fore because of the controversy over General William Boykin. Have you had a chance yet to review his statements?
Rumsfeld: I have. I've seen what -- first of all, there's no transcript of it, there's no video of it. There's a video of portions where people have written words underneath it. That's what I've been able to see. He does not have a tape or a transcript that one could see. And clearly, he has his views and they don't conform to the president's or mine. We do not believe this is a war against a religion. And I don't know that he does believe that. But he's a fine officer and we have an Inspector General reviewing the matter at the present time.
But you're right. The central point of your question is exactly on the mark. Other people in that religion are going to have to be the ones who take the lead in seeing that more terrorists are not created.
Stephanopoulos: But do you think General Boykin can be effective in this position in the war on terror having made these comments?
Rumsfeld: We'll take a look at the Inspector General's review and make a judgment on that.
Stephanopoulos: Secretary Rumsfeld, thank you very much.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.