NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
SNOW: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, welcome.
RUMSFELD: Thank you so much, Tony. It's good to be with you.
SNOW: Senator Chuck Hagle last week said we're losing the war in Iraq. Is he right?
RUMSFELD: No. We're not losing the war in Iraq at all, and I don't think there's any military commander or person who's involved over there who believes that's the case. I've not heard that from anyone who's knowledgeable and engaged in it on a continuing basis.
It's a tough business and people are being killed and there are ups and downs and good days and bad days, but if one thinks about it, the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the textbooks are there, the court system's functioning, the political process is moving forward and the Iraqis went out, eight million people went out and voted and elected a transitional government. They're now working hard to draft a constitution. They're going to have elections under that constitution in December and they'll have a new, free Iraqi government.
SNOW: So you expect them to go ahead and finish the constitution on time and have votes. Because some people are now, as they were before, calling to push these things back.
RUMSFELD: There's always going to be somebody. You know if you're in a football game, you're on the 20 yard line heading for the goal, you wish the game were longer. And you'll hear the same thing between now and the time the constitution's drafted and the referendum is voted, and then you'll hear it between then and December when they actually vote under the new constitution. It's going to be the people who think they can get more advantage if it went on longer.
SNOW: But you think it's all going to happen on schedule.
RUMSFELD: Absolutely. It has to. The more they delay the greater the damage and my view is that it must go forward on schedule. That's the President's view. And I predict that's what will happen.
SNOW: So Senator Joe Biden who is recommending that it be deferred, what you're saying is if it's deferred it makes the situation more dangerous in Iraq.
RUMSFELD: Absolutely. These things have to go together in tandem, Tony. You've got to have progress on the economic side, you've got to have progress on the political side, you've got to have progress on the security side. And they've all got to move forward and that's what's happening. You have good political process with that election, good economic progress with things that have happened. They've got a stock market that's open, they've got an economy, the dinar is strong. And the security forces, the Iraqi security forces are now up to something like 169,000 and they're strengthening their ministries and they're improving their linkages to intelligence and they're increasingly taking on more and more of the security responsibilities in the country.
SNOW: Quoting Senator Biden again, he says, "The insurgents are more dangerous than they were a year ago and they're shaping the political landscape." Your reaction.
RUMSFELD: Well, I don't know what that means. Insurgents are shaping the political landscape.
SNOW: I was hoping you'd be able to tell me because I'm not quite sure either.
RUMSFELD: It sounds like words to me. But I suppose you could say there are lots of things shaping the political landscape and the reality of an insurgency is one of them, but so too is the political process, and so too is the development of the Iraqi security forces. There are a great many things, factors, entering into it and I suppose anyone can reach in the middle of that long list and isolate one or two and claim they're factors, and not be wrong.
SNOW: We seem to be coming to the conclusion now that many of the insurgents are coming from Syria and they're getting paid. Is that correct?
RUMSFELD: There's no question that insurgents are being paid and so are criminals being paid. That's a fact, and it's also true that a lot of people are coming through the border of Syria. That's notably unhelpful.
SNOW: Who's paying them?
RUMSFELD: Well, there's all kinds of money available, I suppose. The al-Qaida network, the Zarkawi network, the other places that funds come from. If you'll recall, Saddam Hussein stole hundreds of millions of dollars out of the Central Bank of Iraq before the war ended. I'm confident that a lot of that money's still around and Iraqi insurgents are using it.
SNOW: What about the Iranians?
RUMSFELD: Well, Iran is clearly putting money into the country and it's clearly trying to influence the elections and the constitution. The Shia holy places, of course, are in Iraq, not in Iran. They've got a very active interest. They've not been helpful either. They've harbored some al-Qaida as well.
SNOW: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with us.
Senator Biden, and I'm going to toss in a couple of more proposals Senator Biden's made and then we're going to move on. He says that we need to take advantage of foreign offers to train Iraqi security forces outside of Iraq, mentioning the French have offered to train 15 hundred gendarmes, the Jordanians and others. Do we in fact need to be training Iraqi police forces using other governments outside Iraq?
RUMSFELD: Sure. Some of it's done inside Iraq. Some of it's done outside of Iraq. We've been doing that for a couple of years. We have a training center in Jordan and there are other countries. We've got NATO, a number of countries in NATO have agreed to train and equip Iraqi security forces of different types -- border patrols, police. No, there's nothing new to that. That's been going on for months and months.
SNOW: So in other words he's ratifying the status quo.
SNOW: Mr. Secretary, I continue to get calls every day, people saying the administration lied about weapons of mass destruction. The most common focal point is the Vice President. I want you to walk people just very quickly through what we thought going into the war and whether we made a mistake or whether you still think there may be weapons of mass destruction that can be traceable to Saddam Hussein.
RUMSFELD: We know for a fact, I know for a fact that no one in the Administration lied about weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. intelligence community and the intelligence community of other countries believed, apparently inaccurately, but believed sincerely, that they would find weapons of mass destruction. Now it was based on a lot of information that they had that may eventually prove to be wrong. We haven't found weapons of mass destruction so one has to assume that.
Now how does that happen? Well, we know that Saddam Hussein, for example, used chemical weapons against his own people and against his neighbors. We had intelligence that talked about the reconstitution of various capabilities in that country or the ability to reconstitute. They made those conclusions.
The other thing that was going on at the same time was that Saddam Hussein had refused to comply with 17 UN Resolutions. He was given a last chance to comply with those Resolutions and he filed fraudulent, what's known to be fraudulent declarations with the United Nations.
What's all that mean? It certainly doesn't mean that anyone misled the American people. It means that the world of intelligence is imperfect, as it is, and that the information was, at least thus far has not been proved to have been the case, and that's the way it is in life.
SNOW: Let's now talk about Guantanamo. I think the facts are more ascertainable here.
Senator Richard Durbin, you know what he said. Your reaction.
RUMSFELD: Anyone who says something like that is going to have to live with those words the rest of their lives.
SNOW: I'm trying to get you to continue now.
RUMSFELD: Well, that will not be a happy prospect for a person.
SNOW: Former President Clinton speaking to the Financial Times the other day said Guantanamo needs to be closed down or cleaned up. I want to ask you a question from a different angle.
Guantanamo Bay, people working at Guantanamo Bay have extensive regulations in everything from food preparation to how to handle the Koran to dealing with prisoners. Could one make the argument that far from being a charnel house on the order of Auschwitz, that in fact Guantanamo Bay may be the most humane prisoner of war camp ever?
RUMSFELD: I can't speak for POW camps throughout history, but I can tell you that the men and women who are operating Guantanamo were told by the President, they were told by me, to conduct it in a humane manner. They have been doing that. I saw someone on one of the television shows yesterday who said there had been 100 people killed in Guantanamo. Just totally untrue. It's factually wrong. That place is, as you suggest, a model detention facility.
Now why does it do that? Why is it there? These people who say well, we shouldn't have it, what do they recommend? The people who are there are terrorist trainers, bomb makers, suicide bombers, UBL's bodyguards, financiers, recruiters, facilitators. These are bad people. These are people who want to go out and kill innocent men, women and children. And the idea that people would let those people loose is just unthinkable.
What are we learning from them? Well, we're learning a lot. One of them was the 20th hijacker, everyone is convinced of. But we've learned a great deal about al-Qaida's terrorist network and its presence in Europe, the U.S., the Middle East, their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, their methods of recruitment, their terrorist skill sets, we've learned a great deal through the interrogation process which has been humane.
SNOW: Mr. Secretary, would you then maintain that we in fact have saved lives as a result of the intelligence gathered at Guantanamo?
RUMSFELD: There is no doubt at all but that American lives and Western lives have been saved because of those detentions.
Now, what's going on? It's transparent. We've had the International Committee of the Red Cross has been down there from day one. They have full access to the place. They've had a permanent presence for months and months and months. The media. There have been 400 visits by over 1,000 national and international journalists who have been there. Lawyers for the detainees have been there. Eleven senators and 77 congressmen have been down there, with 100 congressional staff members.
The idea that there is some mystery about this or that it needs to be cleaned up, it couldn't be cleaned up any more than it's been cleaned up. It is operating in a manner that's consistent with the correct principles of detention.
SNOW: Mr. Secretary, are you aware of any human rights abuses that have taken place at Guantanamo Bay?
RUMSFELD: I think that there have been several investigations and they have looked into things and found allegations where people have conducted themselves in a manner that was inconsistent with the policy and the rules that they were given. In those cases they have been prosecuted and convicted where appropriate or acquitted where appropriate.
SNOW: In other words, American service men and women seeing something gone amiss have in fact turned in their own people.
RUMSFELD: Absolutely. They have absolutely turned in their own people and those people have been prosecuted.
There's one ongoing investigation that's still underway, and we'll learn more. That's the way it ought to work. But most of what's been coming out in the press recently is because of Freedom of Information requests and the press plays it as though it's something brand new and different when in fact it's mostly repetition of things that have already been investigated and prosecuted.
The other thing you ought to remember is that these detainees, we captured a document called the Manchester Document. These detainees are trained to lie, they're trained to say they were tortured, and the minute we release them or the minute they get a lawyer, very frequently they'll go out and they will announce that they've been tortured, and the press carries it and says another example of torture, when in fact they've been trained to do that and their training manual says so.
There's one other thing. These photographs from earlier. Apparently there's going to be, some judge is now requiring that they be released I think later this month possibly. What are they going to be? They're going to be the same things that were already investigated, that were already part of the investigation, that were already delivered to the Congress, the House and the Senate, and it's going to come out and people are going to see them and say oh, my goodness, it's something new. More examples of this.
Of course what you had was a group of people on the midnight shift in Iraq who, as the Schlessinger report, behaved in a way that was inconsistent with how they should have behaved, but it wasn't true of the shift before and it wasn't true of the shift after.
SNOW: You know what's interesting is I haven't seen people demanding Freedom of Information Act requests to see the photos of the people who have been tortured by the bad guys.
RUMSFELD: That's true. That's exactly right.
SNOW: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with us here on the Tony Snow Show.
Mr. Secretary, earlier you said of Richard Durbin and his comments that you wouldn't want to be in his place. Why?
RUMSFELD: Well I think that nobody's perfect, some people always in their lives say something they wish they hadn't said. We've just watched Jane Fonda run around trying to recover from the things she did and said during the Vietnam War. I just think that that's about all I have to say about him, is that he said some things and he's going to have to live with them. I think that that's not a happy prospect for a person.
SNOW: Mr. Secretary,
RUMSFELD: These troops,
SNOW: Go ahead.
RUMSFELD: The men and women in uniform are doing a superb job and their families are supporting them. And their performance and their skill and their professionalism and their courage and their sacrifice is truly impressive. And to suggest that the American men and women in uniform, in Guantanamo Bay, are doing things that equate to the things that what's his name, the Senator Durbin suggested, I think is so far beyond anyone's understanding of what's going on. I don't believe he's ever even visited there.
SNOW: As far as we can tell he hasn't.
Mr. Secretary, in previous wars, especially World War II, people talked not about exit strategies but victory. The other thing you saw was a concerted effort of the American people to maintain solidarity. Now at the Pentagon, you guys are working on something called the "America Supports You" effort. I think it's one of those things that perhaps deserves more attention simply because it does once again draw that connection between the public and the people doing the fighting.
RUMSFELD: Well you're exactly right. It's a wonderful arrangement because, spontaneously, people around the country are doing wonderful things to help the troops and support the troops and support their families. Someone devised the idea of having a web site called AmericaSupportsYou.mil, where anybody can go on the web site and find out examples of things that people are doing. Some people are doing them individually, others are doing it with their families or their classroom and school or businesses or organizations they belong to, and it's been just a terrific thing.
If you think about it, these folks are over there doing a superb job for our country. They're fighting terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here at home. They're doing it in a highly professional and successful way. They're making progress. They're making progress politically and economically and they're going to make progress from the development of the Iraqi security forces. And when they look back in five to ten years they're going to be so proud of the noble work they've done to help liberate 25 million Iraqi people, and turn a country that was sponsoring terrorism into a country that's respectful of women, respectful of the various minority groups and that's at peace with its neighbors. I think all Americans would like to find that web site so that they can find ways to be supportive of the people that are doing that and particularly their families that are so far away here at home.
SNOW: Absolutely right. AmericaSupportsYou.mil
Mr. Secretary, as always, a pleasure. Thanks for joining us.
RUMSFELD: Thank you, Tony. It's good to be with you.