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EIB Interview: Donald Rumsfeld

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: We want to welcome to the program the former secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, whose new book is out today. It's a memoir called Known and Unknown. Mr. Secretary, welcome. Great to have you here on our program.

RUMSFELD: Thank you so much, Rush, I'm delighted to be with you.

RUSH: Is this your first book?

RUMSFELD: It is my first book, and at 78 years old, it's a long gestation period.

RUSH: Well, it is amazing, you have been in public life -- folks, here's how long he's been in public life. He met Dick Cheney when Cheney applied to be an intern in Secretary Rumsfeld's congressional office. What year was that?

RUMSFELD: The early part of 1969.

RUSH: Okay.

RUMSFELD: Rush, I've lived one-third of the history of America. That's breathtaking to think of that.

RUSH: That's what I want to get to. You have a perspective on this that no one else really has. Just from one standpoint: civility in American politics. You have been around since 1969, that's the Vietnam War, you were around through Watergate. You left for a while and joined G.D. Searle where you presided over the marketing of aspartame, Equal. You go back into government, you've been a patriot all of your life. I want to ask you, as forthrightly and honestly as you can tell, what is the difference, if there is any, in civility, mean-spiritedness, extremism, intraparty rivalries, the defamatory things said about people in politics. Has it always been the same to you or has it gotten progressively worse and at any time were you just shocked and saddened by it that you thought maybe it's not worth it anymore?

RUMSFELD: Well, actually, when I left the Navy -- I was a Navy pilot -- I went to Washington when Eisenhower was president, then I was in Congress during a tough period, during the Kennedy and Johnson era when the Vietnam War was going on and the civil rights legislation, and there were riots in America and protests and blood being thrown on the Pentagon and graves being dug. So that was a tough time. And as you said, we now come up into the twenty-first century, and you think of what people like Senator Kennedy said about the Abu Ghraib. He said that, "Saddam Hussein's torture chambers are now under new management, the United States government." And Senator Durbin said that Guantanamo Bay was like Nazis and the Soviet gulag and Pol Pot. You could even go back to Abraham Lincoln and some of the perfectly terrible things that were said about him. We've had these periods in our history where that's happened. But the short answer to your question is, no, Rush, there's never been a time when I've thought that it wasn't worthwhile. I believe it is worthwhile, and I think that it's important that Americans be willing to serve and be willing to live with the kind of lack of civility that occurs. And I'm proud to have served.

RUSH: Is this lack of civility -- and I'm focusing on this here at the outset because it's now used as a political wedge to try to silence people like you in government when you're there. Is it worse now? You cite the Civil War. I can't imagine the country ever being more roiled since the Civil War. Is it worse today? Are the people claiming that we need to get rid of public voices of a certain persuasion, do they have a point or is this all just manufactured, it's standard operating procedure for democracy?

RUMSFELD: Well, let's hope it isn't standard operating procedure for a democracy. What we need is people willing to say what they believe, to become engaged and helping to guide and direct the course of this country. And you look at most recently the energy from the Tea Party people where they've gotten excited and concerned and stood up and spoke their minds, and that's such a healthy thing, and provides energy for our country. I think that's a good thing. Now, is it disappointing to see people behave in a way that's so uncivil? Yes, it is disappointing, but we can't let that turn us off because we as citizens have a responsibility.

RUSH: Now, you talked to Diane Sawyer at World News Tonight recently, and you told her that you wanted to be allowed to resign after the pictures from Abu Ghraib were published. You thought those pictures were such a stain on the country, and then you had these six generals that stepped forward to call for your resignation. What was it about, given all the things you've seen, all the things that you have been in charge of over your years in government, what was it about Abu Ghraib that so disgusted you?

RUMSFELD: Well, the behavior was disgusting. It was perverted. It was deviant. And here are these truly wonderful men and women in the United States military who volunteer to serve our country, and their reputations were stained by the behavior of a few handfuls of people. And the implication was that that had something to do with interrogation. And of course the truth was none of the people that were being abused were subjects of interrogation, and none of the people doing the abuse were interrogators. They were prison guards. It was discovered by the military, investigated by the military, and people were prosecuted and punished. But the damage to our country was significant. If you think about it, the enemy could go out and use those pictures to raise money against us, to recruit against us, and I've always believed in accountability. And since the lines of accountability were confused and some people who had been there were gone and the people who were there were new, I decided that the easiest way to demonstrate accountability and the importance of it would be for me to submit my resignation, so I did, twice.

RUSH: But the president didn't want you to quit?

RUMSFELD: That's correct.

RUSH: Now, do you really think that those pictures from Abu Ghraib, do terrorists really need that to recruit?

RUMSFELD: No, they're perfectly capable of lying, and they did. I mean take one of the rumors that was spread around the world about alleging that someone at Guantanamo Bay had flushed a Koran down the toilet. There were riots in three or four cities, people were killed, and by the time the truth came around that there never was a Koran flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo, it was absolutely false, and of course the journalist that did it then said if there was some portion of their story that was wrong, they're sorry, but the people were dead already. So these things are important. The thing that was on the backside of that however is that there's something about our country that we're reluctant to engage in a competition of ideas in government. We are up against a vicious enemy, the radical Islamists are there, they intend to try to create a caliphate in this world and fundamentally alter the nature of nation states, and we're reluctant to engage in the competition of ideas and point out what they really are and how vicious they are. This current administration is even afraid to say the word Islamist. And we need to fight. We need to be willing to say what it is and be willing to tackle it. And thank goodness for people like you who are willing to do it.

RUSH: In context of all that, what do you make of what's happening in Egypt? So many people are confused. I must confess I'm having a tough time finding somebody I believe is able to convince me what this is really all about.

RUMSFELD: Let me make a couple of comments in that regard. First, it seems to me that what's important is private diplomacy, not public diplomacy. Public diplomacy tends to be aimed not so much at the people you're trying to persuade, but to satisfy your own base and to make yourself look good. And one knows that the private diplomacy is what ultimately is going to be important. So it's not surprising that those of us on the outside don't have a perfect fix on what's taking place. Second, I would say that there are without question -- first of all, Egypt's an enormously important country. It's large, it's historically important. From an educational standpoint it's a big factor in the Arab world and what happens there makes a big difference to us. As you know well, we watched what happened in Iran where there was a popular revolution and the people that were the best organized and the most vicious took over the country. And they didn't end up with freer political systems or freer economic systems. They ended up with the ayatollahs controlling that country.

RUSH: Well, that's the thing. Are we looking at something similar here or is this really -- I mean there are people telling us this is a democracy movement, we need to be fully, fully behind what's going on here. If that means the ouster of Mubarak, then we must be for it immediately. We're hearing that argument as well.

RUMSFELD: Well, you can have a perfectly legitimate democracy movement where there are a variety of people across the political spectrum who all agree that there needs to be change. The problem is the people who tend to be the best organized are the most radical and the most vicious. And so you can have a broad popular democracy movement and have it end being taken over by the most vicious people and the result is you don't end up with free political systems or free economic systems, you end up with a handful of radicals controlling the country. That's the risk.

RUSH: We're speaking with former Defense Secretary Ronald Rumsfeld, former secretary of practically everything in his career in the US government. Were we surprised at what happened in Iran when we decided the Shah had to go? Was there intel that the ayatollahs might take over and form an Islamist government as they have?

RUMSFELD: There was certainly intel that suggested that the return of the ayatollah from, as I recall, Paris to Iran and that there were people who had extreme views. I think that the actual departure of the Shah came as a surprise. I don't think our intel suggested that. There was clearly information that there was concern about the secret police, the SAVAK during that period, and the country had not moved toward freer political and freer economic systems.

RUSH: Well, people have the same fear that the process is repeating itself in Egypt.

RUMSFELD: That's true. I mean it's a perfectly legitimate concern. How it will come out, we don't know. But if you think about our world and the relatively small number of countries where people are doing well and have opportunity, those are the countries with the freer political and the freer economic systems. The places where people are not doing well -- my favorite picture as you probably know is that picture of the Korean peninsula taken from a satellite at night, and the same people north and south, the same resources north and south, and below the demilitarized zone you have this brilliant light with the 12th or 13th largest economy on the face of the earth and up north people are starving because there's a dictatorship up north and a free system down south.

RUSH: We're speaking with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: And we're back with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. His new memoir is Known and Unknown, and right at the start of the program it was number nine on the Amazon list. It's big. It's 815 pages. It's his first memoir, first autobiography in his entire life and it is as comprehensive as it can be, and of course Secretary Rumsfeld, it's been out now. You've had it reviewed. The usual suspects are finding all kinds of things wrong with it, particularly Maureen Dowd at the New York Times. She is just is as petty as you can be, claiming your entire 815 pages is an attempt to blame everybody else for everything imaginable under the sun, that you can't find any way in your heart to accept any blame or shame for what transgressions that they at the New York Times think you are responsible for.

RUMSFELD: (laughing) Well, that's no great surprise. You know, when you think about it, there was a lot of criticism of President Bush and his administration about Guantanamo Bay, about the indefinite detention and military commissions and the structure he put in place to go after terrorists and to put pressure on them everywhere in the world. And after all that criticism and all that fussing, we now have had two years of the new administration and that structure is still in place, and the reason it's still in place is because President Bush did a superb job for this country in defending it. Here we are a decade later and we have not had another attack on the United States of America, and that didn't just happen.

RUSH: Were you surprised...?

RUMSFELD: That didn't just happen. That took a lot of work and a lot of courage and God bless President Bush for the work he's done. I must add one thing. This book is, as you say, well documented. There are a lot notes. There's 1300 endnotes. And in addition, we've digitized a large fraction of my archive, and if a person reads a paragraph on a memo in the book they can then go to the website and at Rumsfeld.com and get the entire memo and see for themselves what the context was, what the perspective was. So I feel very good about the book and the perspective it offers to the interested reader, a person who's interested in history of the time.

RUSH: Now, I want to talk to you about the Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame escapade. I know this didn't involve the Department of Defense, but to those of you watching this, there were certain things that were true that just befuddled us. We knew that the leak had taken place in the State Department. Everybody knew that the leak had taken place in the State Department. Everybody knew that the mission of the Wilsons was to undermine and discredit the Bush administration in the war on terror and the war in Iraq, and yet this whole thing played out -- with everybody knowing the truth -- as though we were in search for a scapegoat. It ended up being Scooter Libby, who didn't leak anything to anybody, who got caught on a process crime. What is it like for you? I mean, you had to know all this. What's it like for you over at the Department of Defense, or recently out of it, watching all this going on and unable to say anything about it at the time?

RUMSFELD: It is heartbreaking to see a fine human being like Scooter Libby punished in that way, even though, as you properly point out, he was not involved in leaking anything that should not have been leaked. It was a travesty, and I felt terrible about it. What's interesting, though -- and I think it's important that you point it out -- is now there's a movie out that perpetuates the mythology about all this.

RUSH: Right, exactly.

RUMSFELD: It's disgraceful.

RUSH: By the way, there's no wrong answer here and I'm not trying to put you on the spot: Do you have time at the end of the half hour here for another segment? If you don't and you have to move on, that's fine. But if you do --

RUMSFELD: I do. I'd be delighted.

RUSH: Okay, 'cause I'm not gonna get into everything I would like within the last three minutes of this segment. You have 815 pages. The documentation of things here is unprecedented in a memoir, as you've just pointed out. Is there one thing you could tease people with that you think will surprise people the most if they endeavor to read all 815 pages?

RUMSFELD: Well, I'll say one thing I did do which I found of interest. You know, a lot of people don't read footnotes. So what we did was we moved all the technical information and the sourcing and the referencing to the endnotes in the back of the book. And as I say, there's something like 1300 endnotes. But there's several hundred footnotes, and they're basically anecdotes or interesting things about the period that I was writing about in that chapter which might have interrupted the narrative but nonetheless I think they're interesting to read and I think people will enjoy them if they take the time to take a look them.

RUSH: How much of it did you have to get declassified?

RUMSFELD: Oh, quite a bit. We've had good cooperation. We've taken my... Of course, my earlier year when I was US ambassador to NATO under President Nixon and then as Middle East envoy for President Reagan, they're far enough back that much of that could be readily declassified. Same thing when I was secretary of defense in the seventies. The material from 2001 to 2006 we had to go through a process where the government did declassify it. So we've been able to put up literally hundreds of documents on the website, many of which were previously classified but now have been declassified.

RUSH: General Petraeus. The newspaper ads, they called him a liar before he even testified about the surge. Now, you probably have to, even in your position now, remain somewhat politic. But as we watch it -- I'm talking about myself as a representative of just the average American citizen. As we watched all of that play out -- the surge, the attempt to finally win this thing in Iraq -- many of us concluded that for political reasons, the Democrat Party simply did not want to see victory there; that they were too tied up in securing a malaise, if not a defeat for their own political advancement. There you are. You're over at the Pentagon. You are charged with executing policy and instructions as they come from the White House and you have to listen to generals and they're telling you what's best to achieve victory.

And you have to sit here, or there, and you watch all this on television. You listen to these outrageous things said about people under your command. You know full well that you are doing everything you can to achieve victory for this country and in this war, and you have to sit there and watch this. There are those of us -- and I'll put myself at the top of the list, and I want you to ponder the answer. I gotta go to a break here in 20 seconds. But we sit here and wonder: What must it be like for you? You're a patriot; you've devoted your life to serving this country. You have to sit here and listen to this kind of thing. You know it can't possibly be true in your own heart. You can't possibly be listening to these people tell the truth, yet you have to sit there and endure this, as did General Petraeus. I want to get your reaction when we come back.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Welcome back, folks, we are with the former secretary of defense twice in this country, Donald Rumsfeld, and his new book is Known and Unknown, an 815-page memoir, started today number nine on Amazon and no doubt now is number one and climbing. Secretary Rumsfeld, I'm looking forward to your answer on that because I don't know how you would do your job, how you would keep the lid on watching such outrageousness, such efforts to tarnish you, impugn you, your department, your reputation, your purpose, and there it plays out on national TV, and there you have the media supporting all this, and all of it is for political advantage, the first time in my life I could remember an entire political party opposed to American victory.

RUMSFELD: If you take it one step further, Senator Reid, Democratic leader, announced that the war was lost. He came to that conclusion.

RUSH: Happily so.

RUMSFELD: And you know, if you think about it, we're fortunate to have generals like Petraeus and McChrystal and Odierno and so many others who go about their business, recognize that what they're defending in this wonderful country of ours is the right for people to be wrong, the right for people to have opinions different from ours or theirs. I should add, however, on the surge, what George Bush did, President Bush, was courageous, it was bold. He made a judgment that he needed to galvanize opinion in Iraq and show that he was determined and wasn't looking for a way out. He was looking for a way to prevail. He galvanized opinion in the United States, and thank goodness we had a leader with that kind of courage and that kind of insight.

RUSH: Now, you think of President Bush, people may not know, you were asked to be secretary of defense in 2000, you were surprised by that because you and his father had not gotten along. What was the root of that?

RUMSFELD: You've got me. I have no idea. He led people to believe that I had something to do with his going to the CIA, which was not the case and that he felt that that might have been because it would rule him out for vice president, and that's kind of what the books about him suggested. President Ford pointed out accurately, in writing and orally, that that was not the case. I've never really quite understood it.

RUSH: But you do know the Bush family's close. You get the call from 43 wanting you to be secretary of defense. Was there any red flags that went up, did you think maybe I'm being set up here for something or how did you make sure he was genuine about it?

RUMSFELD: No, no, no. George W. Bush is not George Herbert Walker Bush. He's his own man, and, as I discussed in my book, he made his own judgments and made his own decisions and I think one has to respect him for that.

RUSH: Let's go back to the Pentagon. Correct me if I'm wrong -- just outside looking in -- it seems to me there are two kinds of generals, warriors generals and political generals, generals who will be politically correct in order to advance, and the warriors generals who, you know, "Turn me loose and I'm gonna win the war for you, Mr. Secretary." You wanted to transform the military. You wanted to revolutionize it, modernize it, starting in 2000. You met a lot of resistance in the Pentagon. From whom, and why?

RUMSFELD: You know, in Washington there is a kind of an iron triangle that operates. It's the permanent bureaucracy in the Pentagon, it's the permanent bureaucracy in the Congress and it's the defense contractors. And they like things the way they are. There's a lot of golf games and a lot of discussions and a lot of dinners and meals, and when someone comes in as President Bush did, he gave a speech at the Citadel, he said he was gonna transform the Department of Defense and get it arranged for the twenty-first century, and he knew and I knew that if you are a gonna try to do that you're gonna have to make changes and we also know that if you change something, somebody's not gonna like it and there's resistance. So we set about that task, and as I look back, I really feel proud about what was accomplished. If you think about it, we have dramatically increased the capability of our special operations forces. We have significantly improved the brigade concept in the United States Army where we move from a division concept to a brigade concept, which has been as transformational as anything that's taken place.

RUSH: For people that don't know, what's the difference in a division and a brigade?

RUMSFELD: Well, what you can do today is deploy a much smaller element with all the capabilities needed in a brigade, whereas previously if you needed a relatively small element, you would weaken the entire division, and the division would then not be able to function because the capabilities would have to go with the small elements. And we would not be able to be doing what we're doing today if Pete Schoomaker, General Schoomaker and the Department of Defense had not made those amazing changes. I would say one other thing about the department. To the extent that the department functions jointly, we are leveraged to an enormous advantage for our country. To the extent each service goes out and believes they can fight an Army battle or a Navy battle or an Air Force battle separately, we lose that leverage. And we have one other thing we've accomplished in transforming the department. We have rearranged our forces around the world in a way that fits the twenty-first century. They were basically still in locations where they were at the end of World War II. And they today are lighter, they're faster, they're more lethal and our country is vastly better off for those changes.

RUSH: Mr. Secretary, I once had the chance to talk to a former director of central intelligence, and I asked him if the director at CIA knows everything the agency has going on at the time. I want to ask you, your office is at the Pentagon. Is there anybody in the United States government who knows everything going on in every office at the Pentagon at one time? It's so massive, it's so big.

RUMSFELD: Oh, you're exactly right, Rush. When you're dealing with an entity as large as the defense establishment you have to delegate enormous chunks of responsibility and try to pick good people, and then work with them to see that the president's goals are accomplished. But I think it was Dean Rusk who used to say, "At any given moment, two-thirds of the world is up to something." (laughing) And it's a big responsibility. We have, fortunately, a great many wonderful people who are willing to serve our country and do it with dedication and patriotism.

RUSH: Do we have people there that aren't doing it with distinction and patriotism? Do we have people at various levels of our defense structure who may not have the same national interests that, say, I might or that you might or the president might? How do you avoid, how do you keep that from happening?

RUMSFELD: Well, of course in any large organization you're gonna have people that run all the way across the spectrum. One of the biggest problems after September 11th was trying to inject a degree of urgency into the institution and to get the rest of the government behaving in a manner that they understood that our country was at war and that we had a task of defending our people. I remember one thing I used to say to the leadership in the department is, sit here today and imagine that we suffered a 9/11 attack six months from now, only it was twice or three times as bad. What is it that we would regret we had not been doing today, tomorrow, and the next day and every day between now and six months from now, what is it we have to do, with what degree of urgency to protect the American people? And you simply need to see that there's a recognition of the danger and the lethality of weapons today and try to get a gigantic institution determined to protect the United States of America.

RUSH: Well, some people might say we need Joe Biden as vice president. I mean he said that he and Obama have won the Iraq war. What was your reaction to that?

RUMSFELD: Well, you know, I've listened to him for so many years. There's not much he hasn't said from time to time.

RUSH: (laughing) One more thing before we go to the break, maybe a couple more. You just talked about the Pentagon and trying to rally everybody after 9/11. One of the things that happened after 9/11 was over at the State Department some people got together and said we need to have a symposium here to find out why they hate us. We gotta find out why they wanted to do this to us. Now, there you are over at the Pentagon, and did it affect the way you did your job? Or was it just something that was somebody in another department was saying, or you were scratching your head. What's your reaction when somebody over at State says, "Oh, my gosh, we have to have a forum, a symposium, we've got to find out why they hate us," as though we almost deserve this, as though this was our fault. It was in your government, it was your administration.

RUMSFELD: (crosstalk) -- our country's behavior. Remember Jeane Kirkpatrick and the speech she gave, the blame-America-first crowd?

RUSH: Yeah.

RUMSFELD: And there's something in the American, oh, behavior pattern that we tend to want to look for assuming responsibility. And of course what that ignores is the respect that our country has around the world, the number of people who line up at night to get a visa to come to our country, the opportunities that this country provides people. I had a new hip not too long ago and I had a therapist from Nigeria, and as I was leaving, finishing up after three or four sessions, he said to me, "You in America just simply don't appreciate your country." He said, "In Lagos, Nigeria people line up and sleep in the grass at ten o'clock at night trying to be first in line to get a visa to come to your country. It is an amazing land of opportunity." And we need to be proud of it, not ashamed of it. We need to stand up for it and be gracious and grateful that we were born here and we have the opportunities. And I hope that my memoir, when people read it, will recognize the kinds of opportunities that I've had and the kinds of opportunities they can have and be inspired, to be engaged in government and public service.

RUSH: Well, I would heartily recommend it. I don't think anybody could go buy a book written by anybody who has been more intimately involved, closer to power, for as many years, has been through as much, has known all of the power players as you have. It is amazing. I can ask you about the Halloween massacre. I could ask you what were Rumsfeld and Cheney like back during the Nixon and Ford years, and that's not recent. We're going way, way back. You were a congressman in 1969 and that's where you met Cheney when he shows up to be an intern. You've led quite a life, and the vast majority of it in public service.

RUMSFELD: I was elected to Congress in 1962 at the age of 30.

RUSH: Okay, 30, and you are now eighty what?

RUMSFELD: Sixty-eight going on 69. Seventy-eight! Seventy-eight going on 79.

RUSH: Seventy-eight. And footnotes, documentation, it is an eye on government that I don't think anybody else who's ever served has offered like you have here, and I think it's wonderful. I wish you the best with it. Proceeds go to the Rumsfeld Foundation, correct?

RUMSFELD: Well, actually, we have a foundation that does four things, but all the proceeds from the book, my proceeds, are gonna go to the charities that support the troops, their families, and the wounded. And every nickel that we receive from this book is gonna go to support the wonderful men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces and their families who also serve.

RUSH: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. I've appreciated it. And I appreciate your giving us the time today here on the EIB Network. Thank you so much.

RUMSFELD: Thank you so much, Rush. Good to be with you.

RUSH: Same here. That's the former defense secretary, former secretary of practically everything, Donald Rumsfeld, and the title of his book again is Known and Unknown: A Memoir. When we started it was number nine on Amazon. About 25 minutes ago it was number six. And it will soon be number one, deservedly so.

END TRANSCRIPT

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