RUSH: It is a real delight and exciting thing for me to welcome to the program the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, I know your schedule is extremely tight. Thanks so much for joining us. I wanted to ask about your personal take on the results yesterday from Iraq. I see that the New York Times today has done their best to erase that success from the lead item in the news today, but what’s your take on it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it’s a truly historic event and it needs to be understood as such. For these people in Iraq to have gone through what they’ve gone through with a repressive dictatorial regime, a war, and then to fashion a constitution that they wrote and then they ratified it on October 15th, and then go out and risk intimidation and assassination and car bombs and what have you, and vote in the overwhelming numbers that they voted — and not just the Shiite or the Kurds, but the Sunnis as well — is truly just a historic event. I’m so pleased with it, and I know that the Iraqi people are proud of their accomplishment.
RUSH: Well, they ought to be. Does it distress you when you get the impression, if you do, that a large number of people in this country don’t think it’s that important?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you know, I think there are people who feel that way, and they tend to be affected by what they read or hear. On the other hand, there are an awful lot of people who are family and friends of the 155,000 troops that are over there and they get e-mails back from those people every day and those people out there, the men and women in uniform who are doing such a superb job, know that they’re accomplishing something enormously important. They know it’s noble work and they do see the progress, and they come back to their family and friends with information every day that contradicts what frequently people read in the press.
RUSH: I know. I try to put myself in your position, if I were secretary of defense or a member of this administration, and I know you’re informed on a daily basis in the media. You see it. You talk to them. I mean, you deal with them. It’s got to be, as I put myself in your shoes, frustrating. You’ve come under personal attack throughout all of this for so many things, from Abu Ghraib and so forth. I just wanted to say to you personally. I think you’re a statesman and I think you’ve given so much of your life to public service, and I think people need to know what it’s like to sit up and take the slings and arrows that you are taking while not wavering and compromising your beliefs and fortitude in all this and I’m glad to have the chance to say that to you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you’re very nice to say that. I must say the mood during a war historically has been difficult. I mean, George Washington was almost fired a couple of times. Abraham Lincoln was vilified. Franklin Roosevelt was called a traitor to the country and harm, just terrible things said about him — and so, too, Harry Truman during the Korean War, and Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War. I guess that’s part of the nature of the public debate in a free society, and I guess the balance that one has to have is to recognize that throughout history, we’ve seen this kind of debate and controversy, but that in those instances where we’ve stuck to the course and fulfilled our conviction, that this country has benefited and the fact that we’re here today means that most of our leadership over the decades has refused to quit and toss in the towel.
RUSH: What’s next in Iraq now? The election was a success. This is a third successful election. Each one has been more successful than the previous. We hear calls for, “Now, okay, this is a signal we can start withdrawing troops.” What is next for the country and for the region as a result of this?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, the next thing that would happen would be that the election results would be certified, and then there’s a fixed period of time after that when the assembly is to be seated, and then they will begin that process of selecting a president and deputy presidents, and then eventually a prime minister, and the ministers of the various ministries — defense ministry and oil ministry and all of that. That will take some time, just like it takes us from the first Tuesday in November to the — I guess January 20th, when we inaugurate a president. That’s quite awhile from November 3rd to January 20th. So they’ll be doing that, and there will be challenges ahead. The enemies of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government, there’s a lot of pressure on them, and they’re being captured or killed in large numbers, but there’s still a number there. So there will be challenges that we’ll have to face. My biggest concern right now is that I’m anxious to see that the next minister of defense and the next minister of the interior in Iraq are people who have the kind of competence and the breadth as leaders to see that those two important wartime ministries are functioning effectively so that we can continue to pass off responsibility to the Iraqi security forces.
RUSH: Well, are you optimistic about that? I would think you would be after the events of just the last two to three years.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I am. I think that there are some fine leaders in that country, but we just have to make sure that people understand the importance of that. Our goal, of course, is to keep passing off responsibility to the Iraqis. We’ve passed over something like 29 bases thus far, and we’re transferring responsibility for certain pieces of real estate. About half of Baghdad is now under control of the Iraqi security forces, and we want to be able to keep doing that so we can free up the pressure on our forces and the coalition forces and begin a drawdown of some of those forces, so that they can come back home and leave that responsibility to the Iraqis.
RUSH: Now, would I be correct in also feeling optimistic that the insurgency, the terrorists, whatever, failed to stop this election yesterday and that there were fewer attacks than predicted, fewer attacks than previously were mounted at other election occasions?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You’re exactly right. I must say, I’m amazed that the attack level was so low. I think the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces have done a superb job, and by shutting down traffic for a period of time, they undoubtedly made it very difficult for terrorists to move around. I’m quite encouraged and hopeful about it.
RUSH: Now, you mentioned earlier that the troops over there, they get e-mails from back home. I know that the Department of Defense has started a program called America Supports You. There’s a website and so forth. What is that? And is this something that the Department of Defense has not done before?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No, you’re quite right. The department has not, and what is happening is, our folks here decided to create a website called and anyone can go to that site because on it, they’ll find things that families, individuals, corporations, schools, private organizations, have decided to support the troops, the wonderful troops that are over there in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, and also to support their families and their loved ones — and of course this is the time of year when they’re going to be separated, and it’s important that people go to that website, take a look and see if there isn’t something that they might want to do to show their support for the troops.
RUSH: Give me some examples of what people can do on this website to show support.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, there’s a number of people who have sent gifts across the ocean, over to those folks. There are a number of people who have written letters. Thousands of letters have been sent. There are people who will go to a house of a family member, where the service person is overseas, and help them install something, if there’s a problem — a leaky faucet or a leak in the basement or the roof — and there are organizations that are available to go in and provide that kind of assistance, and that kind of a gift to the troops and the family of the troops, while the troops are over there giving the gift of freedom to the Iraqi people and that region is, I think, a wonderful thing for people to do.
RUSH: Based on the reaction I get from the folks in this audience, I think there is a strong desire to do that. They see the criticism of the war and the troops. They see some Americans seemingly invested in our own defeat over there, and they want to show their support for these troops. So this is a great thing that the Department of Defense has set up then, because people want to be able to do this. They feel frustrated at the inability to express their love and support for what these people are doing, so that’s a good thing, and I think you can expect a strong response to that. I know you’ve got to go but I wanted to, once again, just individual to individual, I admire you for sticking to this. These are things you don’t have to do. You’ve been a success in life.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughter).
RUSH: Well, you could be doing other things. You could be on the beach, but you take the arrows each and every day and I don’t think most people understand what life can be like for a person in your situation, but you believe in it and you don’t waver from it, and we all thank God that you’re doing what you’re doing, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, Rush, I thank you for that. I must say I feel fortunate as a human being to be able to be involved in work that I believe is so important to our country and to our people, to protect them from terrorists — and let there be no doubt, the efforts we’re engaged in, in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere around the world are to assure the safety of the American people and so that the American people can maintain their way of life, and I’m proud to be involved, and I thank you so much and wish you a Merry Christmas.
RUSH: Same to you, and all the best in the coming year.