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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s Colleagues Debate His Legacy

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's surprise resignation has triggered debate over his relationship with the military, his handling of the Iraq war and his efficacy as leader. A former colleague and a former assistant secretary of defense discuss the legacy of Rumsfeld.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    In the early hours of September 11, 2001, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once again thrust himself into the public eye, running to help fellow Pentagon employees injured in the attack, and then to marshal the American response.

    DONALD RUMSFELD, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense: The attack against the United States of America today was a vicious, well-coordinated, massive attack.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    When the U.S. went after the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, the secretary of defense became a popular figure on television.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: I always love being introduced by a matinee television idol.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    His news conferences and public appearances not only made news…

  • DONALD RUMSFELD:

    I am 69 years old, and I don't believe it's ever happened that I've lied to the press, and I don't intend to start now.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    … they were, to many, entertainment.

  • DONALD RUMSFELD:

    There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Rumsfeld was a major proponent of the war to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, and he repeatedly insisted Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

  • DONALD RUMSFELD:

    We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad, and east, west, south and north somewhat.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Within hours after U.S. troops took Baghdad in April 2003, Rumsfeld was explaining a victory, accompanied by chaos and looting.

  • DONALD RUMSFELD:

    I could do that in any city in America. Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots and problems and looting. Stuff happens! Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes, and commit crimes, and do bad things.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Later that same year, the secretary told reporters American forces did not face guerrilla war in Iraq.

  • DONALD RUMSFELD:

    I guess the reason I don't use the phrase "guerrilla war" is because there isn't one. And it would be a misunderstanding and a miscommunication to you and to the people of the country and the world.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The war turned into an increasingly violent occupation. The secretary was asked by a soldier why troops had to rig their own armor for lightly equipped vehicles. He offered this explanation.

  • DONALD RUMSFELD:

    You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    When the Abu Ghraib prison scandal erupted, Rumsfeld offered his resignation twice, but President Bush kept him on the job. As the war entered its third year, U.S. and Iraqi casualties mounted, and the questions in hearings and news conferences got tougher, as did the answers.

  • DONALD RUMSFELD:

    You ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it's complicated, it's difficult.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    During this latest political campaign, Rumsfeld became a lightning rod; at least 45 members of Congress and candidates called for his resignation. A day after election returns were in, he was out.

  • DONALD RUMSFELD:

    These past years — six years — it's been quite a time. It recalls to mind the statement by Winston Churchill, something to the effect that, "I have benefited greatly from criticism, and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof."

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Rumsfeld also served briefly as President Ford's secretary of defense. He'll leave the Pentagon in December and, after two tours of duty, will surpass Robert McNamara as the longest-serving secretary.

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