Donald Rumsfeld: Prepared for War
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JIM LEHRER: And now to the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, welcome.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Thank you..
JIM LEHRER: Nothing, no breakthrough yet on the Turkish bases situation, is that right?
DONALD RUMSFELD: That’s correct.
JIM LEHRER: What’s the problem; is it money?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, no. It’s — it’s the fact that Turkey is a democracy, has a relatively new government. It is wrestling with a whole set of issues, and the reality is that what the United States has asked of Turkey is significant, and so they need time to think it through and talk to their parliament and then give consideration to it.
I suspect in the day or two immediately ahead, why we’ll have some sort of an answer, and in the last analysis Turkey is our ally in NATO; Turkey is participating now in Operation Northern Watch, where we have coalition aircraft in Turkey that monitor the northern portion of Iraq. And they have been helpful in any number of ways.
JIM LEHRER: What would not having access to their bases do to a potential military action against Iraq?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, I don’t think that’s really the issue, whether we’ll have access to their bases and whether we’ll be able to over-fly and those types of things; we already have that for Operation Enduring Freedom, the global war on terror.
I think the real issue they’re considering now is the extent to which they want to increase that to permit larger numbers of heavier troops to come in from the North in the event that the decision is made that force is necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein.
JIM LEHRER: But if you don’t have — there are 40,000 troops — what I’ve been reading — there are 40,000 troops that the U.S. wants to put into the Northern boundary through Turkey for potential with conflict with Iraq. If you can’t do it that way, what I’m asking is –
DONALD RUMSFELD: We’ll do it another way.
JIM LEHRER: You’ll do it another way. And it still can be done and it’s not going to upset things. I just — did you read the New York Times? The New York Times quoted a White House spokesman — a White House person this morning as saying that this was extortion in the name of alliance; that’s what Turkey was up to. Do you agree with that?
DONALD RUMSFELD: No. I don’t. I mean, I think what it is, is a democratic country going through the whole series of questions as to what they think their role ought to be, and that’s fair. These are tough issues that countries are wrestling with. I think that’s not the way I would characterize it.
JIM LEHRER: The Turkey problem aside, is the U.S. military ready to go against Iraq?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: In general terms — I know you don’t like to talk specifics — but in general terms what is the force that is ready to go?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I would characterize it as ample. The United States — at the president’s request — decided that as the diplomacy took place in the world and in the United Nations that it was important to begin flowing forces to support that diplomacy.
And we’ve had many, many weeks now to do that. The United Kingdom has had many, many weeks to do that. Other countries have taken steps to deploy various types of assets. NATO did this last week, deployed some capability to Turkey, for example. Other countries have been deploying things like chemical and biological detection units to Kuwait.
So a number of countries have been flowing capabilities and forces into that region. And then there’s been a good deal of time, so we are at a point where if the president makes that decision, why, the Department of Defense is prepared and has the capabilities and the strategy to do that.
JIM LEHRER: In general terms, the figure is 150,000 troops, five aircraft battle groups and heavy bombers, is that roughly it, from the U.S. point of view?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I don’t do numbers.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. But that’s the conventional wisdom; it’s in every story.
DONALD RUMSFELD: It doesn’t make it so.
JIM LEHRER: I know. I know.
DONALD RUMSFELD: You know the old rule: People who don’t know talk and people who know don’t talk.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. But are there limits to how long these American forces can remain ready to go?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, there’s obviously a preference. You don’t ramp up to a high level and sustain it for a long period easily. What you have to do is rotate capabilities in and out over time.
JIM LEHRER: We keep hearing that the time is running out to keep these forces ready. Is that true?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, the way to think of it, it seems to me, is the way the president put it; and that is that it’s been 12 years. What’s being tested now is not whether or not inspectors can go in and find weapons of mass destruction. That’s not what inspectors are for; they’re not finders or discoverers. What’s being tested now is whether or not Saddam Hussein is going to cooperate.
And it doesn’t take a lot of time to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein is going to cooperate. So once the construct of that issue is placed properly before the world, it seems to me the answer gets increasingly clear.
We’ve now had 17 resolutions. It’s been 12 years. They’ve tried diplomacy. The world has tried economic sanctions. The world has tried military activity in the northern and southern no-fly zones. At some point — at some point — why — the time runs out. And that’s what the president has said.
JIM LEHRER: No, I didn’t make my question clear. I meant is there a time element involved in keeping those thousands of troops — how many ever there are, in bombers and hardware — at a state of readiness before they have to stand down? That’s what I meant.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, as I say, it costs money. It keeps people away from their homes and families and their jobs in the case of Guard and Reserve. So obviously your first choice is not to flow forces and then sustain them there for one, two, three, four years whatever, another twelve. There has to be some end to these things. Either you use them or you bring them back.
JIM LEHRER: Well, let’s talk about that a moment. Do you feel that just having this large force that you outlined in general terms is a momentum for war in and of itself just because they’re there, they must be use used?
DONALD RUMSFELD: No, I don’t. What I think of them as, Saddam Hussein was ignoring the United Nations for the past period of years. Saddam Hussein is not ignoring the United Nations today.
He’s not cooperating but he’s not ignoring them. Inspectors are back in there. They’re not being cooperated with, so they’re not finding much. But the only reason Saddam Hussein has changed at all is because of the flow of forces and the threat of force.
JIM LEHRER: What would be your, as secretary of defense, what would be your position on pulling those troops back, bringing them back home? In other words, if there was a peaceful solution to this, I’ve heard what you said, that you don’t think that’s going to happen, he isn’t cooperating but if somebody pulls something out of a hat, is it… what’s the down side of bringing all those people back home and all that equipment?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I think… I still… I mean, everyone agrees the last, the last choice is to use force and have a war. There are dangerous things. People get killed. Unforeseen things happen. There still is at least a remote possibility that he could decide to leave the country at some point.
To the extent he is persuaded that it’s inevitable that he’s going to lose his position and his regime is going to be cast out, it’s at least possible… is it one percent? I don’t know. But it’s not zero percent that he might leave. The second possibility is the people in Iraq might decide he should leave — and help him. And so that’s a possibility.
If that happens, if that were to happen, as remote as it may be, it would only happen because the people in Iraq — he or the people around him who decide they would prefer he not be there — were persuaded that it was inevitable that he was going to go either voluntarily or involuntarily.
JIM LEHRER: Would it be your position that, hey, look, we won a war without having to fight it?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, that would be everyone’s first choice would be to not have to have a conflict.
JIM LEHRER: You do understand that people believe… as you know, this is a matter of public debate. People think, oh, my goodness, Pres. Bush and Sec. Rumsfeld have all these forces there now and they feel obligated to use them. You’re saying that is not the case.
DONALD RUMSFELD: No. The president’s determination — and I work for the president — his determination is that Iraq be disarmed. His first choice is that it be done voluntarily. The Iraqi regime refuses to cooperate with the inspectors and with the United Nations. They have for many, many years.
His second choice would be that the regime leaves — voluntarily or involuntarily. And the last choice would be that the regime has to be thrown out. And the president is determined that if that’s necessary, he will lead a coalition of a large number of countries and do that.
JIM LEHRER: Let’s talk about that option. How would you describe the mission of that? If, in fact, it comes to military action and those people, those Americans and the others who are standing by have to actually take military action, what’s the goal? What’s the mission?
DONALD RUMSFELD: The mission would be to invade the country, make it very clear that the purpose was, number one, to change that regime and disarm the country; that the purpose is to disarm the country of weapons of mass destruction, and it would be done in a certain way adhering to certain principles. And the principles would be that when that regime was gone, the new government of Iraq — and it would be an Iraq that would be for the Iraqi people. It wouldn’t be a regime, you know, determined from outside of Iraq — but it would be a single country, it would be a country with no weapons of mass destruction.
It would be a country that did not threaten its neighbors. It would be a country where the people of that country, the ethnic minorities and the religious minorities, would have a voice in their government and that there would be some process, the sooner the better, that Iraqi people could govern themselves. The oil is the oil of the Iraqi people, and this speculation around that somebody is interested in their oil is nonsense. That oil belongs to the Iraqi people and it will be important for the Iraqi people.
JIM LEHRER: On the combat itself, are you planning… are you and your folks planning for a ferocious war where, I mean, an all-out defense by the Iraqi military when the U.S. comes in and the others come in?
DONALD RUMSFELD: The task of war planners is to plan for every conceivable contingency. They are doing that — from the most pessimistic to the most optimistic.
JIM LEHRER: Is it likely that… the Gulf War spoiled everybody, of course. Most of the Iraqi military threw down their arms and surrendered. Are you expecting that to happen again?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, I would expect that there would be Iraqi forces that would surrender rather rapidly. Their morale is not high. They also have lived under Saddam Hussein and know what kind of a person he is.
JIM LEHRER: Is that a central part of your planning? Does that have to happen for this to be successful?
DONALD RUMSFELD: No, no, no, absolutely not. No. As I say, Gen. Franks and his planners have developed plans that will address the wide variety of contingencies.
JIM LEHRER: What about the use of chemical and biological weapons?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Including that.
JIM LEHRER: By them, against our folks.
DONALD RUMSFELD: They have looked at the risk that Saddam Hussein, which says they have no chemical and biological weapons, of course, would use biological and chemical weapons against U.S. forces.
They could use them against neighboring countries like Kuwait or Jordan or Turkey or Israel. They could also use them against their own population and blame them on the United States or coalition forces. They’ve done that before. So there are a variety of ways they could use chemical or biological weapons.
JIM LEHRER: Do you expect that — expect them to do it?
DONALD RUMSFELD: What we expect is that it’s our job to be prepared for any conceivable contingency. And therefore all the way from that unhappy thought — and dangerous thought — all the way over to catastrophic success where so many people surrender so fast that the task becomes very quickly humanitarian assistance and medical assistance and water and those types of things. So they have developed contingency plans for the full spectrum of contingencies.
JIM LEHRER: What do you expect the Iraqi civilians to do, to treat American troops as liberators or as conquerors?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I suppose you’ll get that across the spectrum as well. Certainly the people that are close in to Saddam Hussein would know that their future is not bright. The people who are engaged in managing or using weapons of mass destruction would have to know that their future would be bleak.
On the other hand, people who surrender and people who recognize that resistance is not wise, that it’s inevitable that the United States and the coalition forces would prevail and acquiesce in that, would be treated quite differently.
JIM LEHRER: Do you expect the invasion, if it comes, to be welcomed by the majority of the civilian population of Iraq?
DONALD RUMSFELD: There’s obviously — the Shiite population in Iraq and the Kurdish population in Iraq have been treated very badly by Saddam Hussein’s regime. They represent a large fraction of the total. There’s no question but that they would be welcomed.
Go back to Afghanistan — the people were in the streets playing music, cheering, flying kites, doing all the things that the Taliban and the al-Qaida would not let them do.
Saddam Hussein has one of the most vicious regimes on the face of the earth. And the people know that. Now, is there a risk when that dictatorial system isn’t there that there could be conflicts between elements within the country, get-even type things? Yes. And we’ve got to be careful to see that that doesn’t happen.
JIM LEHRER: What about just the basic idea that they’ve been told for years that the Americans are the infidels? I mean, it would be like welcoming Hitler into Chicago if he had taken over, you know… I mean, is that not….
DONALD RUMSFELD: Jim, my goodness.
JIM LEHRER: I’m just saying the enemy.
DONALD RUMSFELD: That’s a terrible thought.
JIM LEHRER: I know. But are you….
DONALD RUMSFELD: If a politician had said that, they would get in trouble.
JIM LEHRER: I know. I know, but I’m just saying, is your planning, the war planning based on the idea that the Iraqi people are going to welcome American troops and American invasion?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Contingency planning is based on a full spectrum of possibilities. And that is one. And there are others at the other end of the spectrum that are less happy. And the plans have been prepared to deal with that full range of possibilities. But to suggest that a war plan depends on one of them happening would be wrong.
JIM LEHRER: It’s been suggested that you all are emphasizing only the up side of this, and that you haven’t talked publicly about, hey, wait a minute, they may not…they may resist. They may do this. They may do that. Thousands and thousands of people could die including a lot of Americans. Do you feel that this has been…that American people have been told enough about the possibilities for the down side of this kind of conflict?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I think the down sides have been widely discussed. I mean, I prepared a list of things that could be very unpleasant back in September or October, and I’ve added to the list. And everyone who works with me has seen the list including the president and the National Security Council.
And they know that there are a full range of things that can be unfortunate and make life very difficult. And we’ve heard them all: The use of weapons of mass destruction; the possibility of firing ballistic missiles and chemical weapons into neighboring countries; the possibility that one ethnic group in the country could take advantage of disorder and attack another ethnic group; the possibility of using chemicals against his own people; the possibility of fortress Baghdad and urban conflict and it goes on and on; flooding — the possibility of flooding.
There are any number of things that can go wrong. Now there are also a number of things that can go right. And what one has to do is to look at them at all with a cold eye and be very clear that you’ve simply got to be prepared to deal with all of them. And that is what Gen. Franks and his team have been doing. And he’s doing a superb job for the country.
JIM LEHRER: You mentioned yourself the possibility of a humanitarian crisis that could come. Is the intelligence information saying — it’s been written up in the papers — that Saddam Hussein may intentionally try to starve these people, may intentionally set the oil fields afire, may intentionally do all kinds of things to create a humanitarian crisis, chaos for his own people. Are we prepared to deal with that?
DONALD RUMSFELD: We are certainly organized and have thought through what we would do in each instance where we have either imagined or seen intelligence that suggests that that regime might do one or more of those things.
JIM LEHRER: And there are a lot of what they call, you know, the private aid groups have been on this program and elsewhere saying that there has been very little coordination with them from the U.S. government. They’re prepared to help out and all that and they’re waiting for the calls. Have you all been talking to them? Are your folks talking to them?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Yes. There are inter-agency groups in the United States Government that have been planning the civil side, a post Saddam Hussein Iraq, that is to say, what do you do about food, what do you do about water, what do you do about medicine?
And they have been working for weeks, and they have been coordinating with international groups. Indeed, there have been stockpiles of various types of humanitarian assistance that have already begun to flow into the region.
And there’s no question but that the United States military is prepared to participate and help, international organizations including the United Nations are already storing materials, and I think probably the information you have is out of date.
JIM LEHRER: Okay, all right. Are you concerned about how just the prospect of going to war is dividing the world?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, you always would want unanimity in anything. And of course the president has not decided to go to war.
JIM LEHRER: I’m saying just the prospect of it.
DONALD RUMSFELD: I understand. You’d always prefer that everyone agree. And yet you say dividing the world. I don’t know that I would say that. I think that if I were to look at the globe and the countries on earth, I would find people in almost every country who agreed and people who didn’t agree.
And you’d find in Europe that eight countries signed a letter supporting the president, that ten countries signed a letter supporting the president. The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to support the resolution, 17th resolution on Iraq, Resolution 1441.
So, to say that it’s dividing the world I think is a bit of an overstatement. There are an awful lot more people who didn’t demonstrate than who demonstrated. And demonstrations occur in democracies. That’s what we do. We have free speech. And that’s fine and that’s fair. And these are tough issues.
These are not easy issues. The idea of having to think about the prospects of the use of chemical or biological weapons by a terrorist state or by a terrorist network killing hundreds of thousands of people is not a nice thing to think about. And it’s not something that people immediately say, “well, we have to avoid that.” We have to think about that a while.
JIM LEHRER: But it has not given you any pause at all to consider whether or not — the numbers you just laid out, that aside– that the message as to why this military action may have to be taken has not gotten through to every — you feel it so strongly clearly and so does the president and so do a lot of other people — Tony Blair, others — and yet it hasn’t gotten through to a lot of other folks. Does that not concern you, bother you?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Of course. You always would prefer everyone agree. But I’ve never seen a situation where everyone agreed. In democracies, everyone never agrees. And it doesn’t mean that someone is right and someone is wrong. It means that, in my mind at least, it means that in this instance, these are difficult issues for people to wrap their heads around.
And yet the risk of being wrong, the risk of inaction… there’s risks to action. And you’ve been discussing them at length here. There are also risks to inaction. Three thousand people were killed in the United States on Sept. 11 in a very conventional — unconventionally delivered — but a very conventional attack. If that had been chemical weapons or biological weapons, it might not have been 3,000; it could have been 30,000 or 300,000 or a million.
And we know that. And the world has to think about that. Now, there’s a big effort going on in the Congress to try to connect the dots. Who knew what before Sept. 11? What could you have known, a phone call here, a credit card there, someone taking flying lessons — how do you connect those dots?
How many countries would have participated in trying to stop that before it happened — based on that fragmentary information? And yet we have Sec. Powell’s powerful presentation to the United Nations, laying out the case as to what the Iraqi government has been doing.
JIM LEHRER: Well, as you know, they’re all over you in Europe and elsewhere because of remarks you made about Germany and France and all of that and suggesting that you, above a lot of others, really are not that concerned about what the governments….
DONALD RUMSFELD: I am concerned. I mean I just went over to Munich and spoke to their Kunde conference — the security conference — and met with all of those folks. Needless to say you’re concerned. You want as many people as possible to agree with you. And the president has taken this to the United Nations.
I keep reading things like “unilateral.” I can’t make a prediction but I’ll bet you anything there is at least a 50-50 chance that there would be more countries, if the decision is made, that there would be more countries supporting the United States in a coalition of the willing with the United Kingdom and other countries in this coalition than there were in the Gulf War in 1991.
So the charge “unilateral” just isn’t right. The allegation that the United States has an issue with Europe isn’t right. The issue in Europe is between Europeans; it’s basically between France, Germany and the rest of Europe.
JIM LEHRER: What’s your own view about the positions of France and Germany on this?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I think they’re democracies. They have to decide what they want to decide. They’re sovereign countries. People elected those people to office. That’s what they think. And that’s life.
But the idea that therefore there’s a split between the United States and Europe, I think is a misunderstanding. There’s a split between the most of the European countries — the eight and the ten — and France Germany.
JIM LEHRER: But there’s also a split between the United States and France and Germany as well.
DONALD RUMSFELD: But not with the 18 countries of Europe.
JIM LEHRER: No. But there is with France and Germany.
DONALD RUMSFELD: On this issue. And we’re allies with NATO.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think that’s all it is — that’s all it is, is this issue?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, certainly that’s all it is today. I mean, I think they made a mistake on Turkey, and I think they’ve corrected it now. They opposed sending defensive capabilities, chemical and biological detection units to Turkey in the North Atlantic council. And since then, they’ve permitted it to happen and they’ve since been deployed so I think that they’ve changed their position on that, which is a good thing.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think eventually they could even change their position on military action?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to predict. Of course, you know, things change; times change.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
DONALD RUMSFELD: If the inspectors found something that was disturbing to them, I just don’t know what will happen. We would much prefer that Germany and France were in agreement.
JIM LEHRER: But it’s not necessary?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, you’d prefer it. The president has indicated that he will…if Saddam Hussein doesn’t cooperate and he doesn’t flee and he isn’t removed and the president is determined to see that he’s disarmed, then he will lead, he said, a coalition of willing countries. And there will be a large coalition. There will be a lot of countries.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Thank you.