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Donald Rumsfeld with TNT

Mar 1, 2011|

TNT ask former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about WMDs, Hussein, and UFOs - a great interview!

Transcript - will not be 100% accurate

Good morning -- Todd WRKO. We are joined by the former secretary of defense Don Rumsfeld. Good morning sir welcome to WRKO. Good morning thank you what you want us to call you shall we call you Don -- Rami what he like. On his final OK okay because my time is very respectful so I wanted to preempt him -- going overboard embarrassing. We try to be respectful and of course Don is the author of the book known and unknown. He and all the proceeds from the book known and unknown is gonna go to will go to charities that support military families wounded veterans and families of those who have been killed in action. It is a number one seller on the New York Times best seller list were on a to have an atomic talk show on AM 680 WRKO. Thank you can graduate congratulations by the way. Thank you -- actor for years to write the book so I'm at a long gestation period did you actually write yourself for do you bring in one of these pros who. Hold your hand through the process. Well what we actually have with a team of about six people I have an enormous our side up and so we digitize it and it can be accessed. Rumsfeld dot com. And people if I quote a paragraph of from a memo in the book you can go to the web site and actually beat the entire memo and that that the big pride. All that's that is about that's fabulously valuable to the you know to the really the in to rest -- not. Mr. secretary I wanna ask you served with two these two presidents I called George Bush the elder in the of course is W. George Bush the all the put together a very impressive alliance with we got to the gulf war and W was criticized for being. Either inept our ineffectual that -- god urine inside observer of both. Tell us the wise in the way applause ended W specifically. Is that a failing on his spot his inability to put together in a press of coalition. I think if failing. It to the candidate this is what the failure to help people in the world understand that he put together -- nineteen nation coalition. Against. Terrorists. And he put together a coalition in Afghanistan. It was any number of countries and the same thing in Afghanistan and he had a sizable coalition in both countries. There are. There's -- what happened was that Senator Kerry ran around calling the senator president George W. Bush a unilateralist. And and and criticizing. Him and in fact there was a very sizable coalition both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. -- here is a marketing challenge that the Bush Administration failed to rise up to. But apparently. -- -- people believe that he function unilaterally it's just not attend. Secretary of defense Robert Gates said the other day that any future Defense Secretary who advises the president to again. Send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa or should have his head examined. Have things shifted so that this kind of endeavor is no longer possible what exact you know how do you interpret what gates said. And was that I zing towards you guys. Well effort all I don't know many secretary of defense is made such a recommendation. President made the decision. Second I didn't have a chance to read the full text so I know was what was printed in the paper. But I I would say that I agree -- -- goal obviously is that is that -- have large land forces anywhere. And -- it in lecture confronting a major conventional. Army navy or air force somewhere in the world. The goal is is -- not do that. So if if I understand what that if I am correct in interpreting what the press said about what said that that would be -- Former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld as I guess the author of the book of a -- known and unknown. Mr. secretary would become hot achingly familiar with stories of us soldiers who have go up on. Three to a sport to a similar couple in Iraq a couple and of Afghanistan. There reservists for the most part -- away from their families they all the all the rules of the game when they go in and this is possible. But doesn't make sense for the United States of America to have a military that is so dependent on the eruption on. Of of families from all across the United States. Well. For -- I don't know quite what you mean by rupture of families all across the United States which you have. Is that the finest military in the world and the finest military the United States of America has ever head. It is an all volunteer force every single person certainly there is serving there because they've decided they wanted to help protect their country. And throughout our history from time to time men and women in uniform both on the active forces in the reserves in the National Guard. Have been called upon to serve overseas and as a result of those deployment. There's no question that this separation from family. And obviously families all closer. And I would I would say we have. It just didn't wonderfully. Dedicated patriotic. Capable professional military. And and they care a great credit to our country. Was that all volunteer around me. That the nature of it and then da -- numbers is diminished as they may be in comparison to the old days when there was a draft. Was that the bout one of the bases -- disagreement with Colin Powell it's been reported that Powell said we go into Iraq we're gonna -- couple 100000. Folks. And you eat you seem to be determined to do it on what I'll characterize as a much smaller footprint. Well I never heard Colin Powell say that. And it certainly never sent it to me here every Saturday and National Security Council. I don't know quite where you got that information. But the fact of the matter is that general franks the and that matter with the one who briefed the president -- National Security Council. And and and a great deal of time with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and there was no disagreement whatsoever. With respect to the size of the force and I don't know where the couple 100000 number came from but I ever call. General franks -- ready to go in something in the neighborhood of 450000. American troops. You go into Iraq plus. Forces that were located in surrounding countries. And and capable of supporting from the see it from the air. He made a decision and recommendation which I read it that at some point he would he would not he would have offer. And he would not continue to flow forces of those numbers in the last -- we needed. -- and he made a judgment they were not needed made that recommendation and everyone in the chain of command agreed with that and -- -- it it it continued it's something like 150000. What should happen to the military moving forward if you're gonna game plan. How we can figure. Our forces over the next couple of decades what you will it be a technologically. Based force much more than is now will we be. More technology based on numbers based or will this traditional. Approach to having a large military lots of men in uniform who can hit the ground is is that gonna stay the -- Well right now I think what we've seen is is that. It's actually in my book there there are. Unknown unknowns there things we don't know we don't know and and one of the comment that made him with inspectors back in America with. Being confirmed before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Not one senator asked about Vietnam but that became the thing that dominated its ten year. When secretary. Cheney with being confirmed before the Senate Armed Services Committee about one person asked about Iraq. And that dominated his change and when I was being confirmed that one senator asked about it stance. And and obviously that became enormously important. Well that's why did they did the insights of somebody with your experience -- intriguing in terms of where you're -- you know because we have to -- who -- these orders for equipment years and advance it. And are able can use exactly what was left by their predecessors. The decision they make during their ten years you point out take years to be involved in capability. And what happened at the end of the Cold War. For about a ten year period the end of the George Herbert Walker Bush period in the eight years of the Clinton period. It was a draw down in our military and it and I can -- in our intelligence to capability. And so when president George W. Bush. -- and he was faced with what they call them -- up to draw down and and he again had to take steps. I -- like President Reagan and had to take steps when he first did build up the military Annie get your impression it seems to me is that we. The goal of the military not to fight wars it's it's to prevent them. As -- an -- that peace through strength. So what one -- I. I think if one wants he is to have the kind of capabilities. That deter other countries from engaging in activities that are harmful to our national. And that deterrent aspect to the this week of people. Is enormously important that suggests to me is it going forward we're gonna need -- we're gonna need. Capability to land sea and air for conventional effort. Epic as a way to dissuade. But will also need the deep appreciation and the speed and the kind of thing that President Bush -- speak to the citadel. Talked about before he was even elected this morning. Former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld as I guess he's the author of that number one best seller on the New York Times list. The name of the book is known and unknown and all proceeds from the seller that book go to charities that support military families wounded vets and families of those killed and action mr. secretary is served. The two presidents bush you've the -- he had a number of missions a number of responsibilities. Did you they have a mission are an opportunity to meet for a -- it to the Iraq invasion did you ever meet with Saddam Hussein. As part of some kind of mission and if so what were your impressions of that guy. Well I was President Reagan. Mainly unemployed and and president Reagan's secretary shall and I read it. Make sense for me to go in and meet with Saddam Hussein which I did. And I described in the book and -- And at the time and when I met them they. Capital city of Iraq Baghdad is relatively close to the Iranian border. And there were you know sandbagged but that surround the building where we were meeting. Periodically they came under. He was in fatigues. Yet has ordered yet he was. I guess fairly standard Middle Eastern desperate. We have had not had diplomatic relations with Iraq and the Middle East War and one of the result remind me -- that the United States. Under President Reagan did establish. Diplomatic relations -- -- With Iraq shortly after my visit. So what were your impressions of though -- a human being kind of guy you want to have a beer with story you thought did you think he was crazy. What was your sense. I mean I think way to characterize it is. And I do look at it that it it may develop a cult of personality. As a way of asserting. Authoritarian control. This is a man who who and it repressive regime. You kill hundreds of thousands of its own people use chemical weapons against his own people against the Iranian. He is picture with him every public buildings and an -- all over the country. He would he was vicious and brutal. So did you get a sense of some kind of the charisma is every driving out of power charisma. I believe you could say that. The cult of personality is. Is that you you leave the view it in Middle Eastern -- like at least -- to leave the impression that he's all knowing and all seen and everywhere. And as a way of intimidation. Oh tell us about -- WMD's weapons of mass destruction do you think that Saddam Hussein had them. And smuggle them out before we arrived and conducted what apparently has been. A fruitless search that was at least one -- of the justification for our invasion. Lots of people focused on the absence of WMD's curious about your impressions and thoughts on. There were they there once upon a time and moved or where we just was our intelligence that bad. Well there's no question if they repaired he used them on his own people and on the Iranians. The United Nations is -- -- and an enormous amount of time trying to gain access to the country. Saddam rebuffed some seventeen UN resolution. He was shooting at our aircraft. On a daily basis over 2000 times as the United States and UK. Britain patrolled -- northern and southern no fly. And we actually filed chemicals. Traces of chemical weapons in from all after these. In -- Writes in and the -- in chlorine. Weapons chemical weapons suits and and aerobic. Guide as how to develop chemical and biological weapon but weapons found were large stock. There -- -- Iraqi generals who suggested that at the last minute Saddam Hussein had moved some of these stockpiled out of the country. I've never been able to confirm that will we do know is that. Former UN inspectors -- way and then it here examination after the war. And what he concluded what he found was that Saddam Hussein still had the people who worked on its chemical and biological weapons. In place. He still had a nuclear capability people in place. And that he would respect the chemical and biological weapons at the precursor so that he could very rapid. Increase its capability. After the use that dual use facilities. That could also do. Not chemical and not biological weapons and that that could make things that we're commercial you let it be readily converted. And that that was the conclusion of developer report which was I think everyone agrees the sort -- authoritative. Don Rumsfeld former secretary defense is our guests NW RK author of known and unknown. The number one best seller on the New York Times list we got kind of off the wall question from Melissa that I -- intriguing nevertheless. Regarding UFO's because. The US military supposedly knows about alien contact. And has covered it up what do you know about that. Nothing at all -- That's very sad we thought we're gonna get the the scoop on it right here up. You know and I let the bad -- that -- -- seven. I would I went home to Chicago and it went in business and and they're single question I would add more than any other. People with sidled up to me -- after months. You can tell us now I know what's going on with you that vote and -- Chelsea. What's going on in overall swell along the same lines we were we were talking earlier about but the whole notion of the military industrial complex as warned about by Dwight Eisenhower. To what to greed does the machinery. Of war. Guide decisions. It in this country with regard to going to war. -- not at all. I think presidents are elected by the American people and and they go to congress can and what you found in this case for example was that the President Bush looked at the intelligent and and see. Behavior pattern of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and and decided that it would be the safest thing to do to avoid the risk that greater danger to the American people. It had nothing to do of these military industrial complex thing if you need me if he thought we should go to war he made the decision himself. And certainly in the industry had had no connection even people. I think got that well. Who did you discuss that -- He discussed it -- everybody. National Security Council pollen and rice and George -- vice president and in other people on that and -- but not you. Of course he did with me I was on the National Security Council. -- he did not. Turn around and ask to my knowledge anyone out. What what we thought about it we got elements of it but the other problems but it could go wrong things that -- go right. The intelligence. But I don't remember him asking anyone in the National Security Council he was president he's someone who had to make it in any native. It it talked a few minutes ago mr. secretary about the deterioration of our intelligence -- capabilities. Under a couple of different presidents. How would you characterize. Our intelligence capacity today Barack Obama's in two years but obviously George Bush had eight. So there's a little mix and match the I'm wondering you know how we anywhere close to where we should be is it better then. Then then maybe I believe. Well it's hard to say first the first thing we have stated that very. It's a big world. It's complicated we're dealing with closed societies like North Korea and Iran. That that are skillful at preventing people from knowing precisely what's going. We're dealing with terrorist networks that are even countries -- non state and they operate the shadow. They function frequently if I'm governed areas where evenly. Even the countries there in the government of the country there and don't it assert control effective control or effective sovereignty over portions of their country. I'm talking for example. Oh for example in Pakistan. So all Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Are areas where the Pakistan government really is not assert effective sovereignty over the so it is a very tough job. I I think that. We have to respect surprised. And you can anticipate something -- Described in the book there's something we know we know some things we know we don't know what we can worry about the things we know we don't know. And try to figure them out and put intelligence assets trying to sort through it operate with other countries. But they're also unknown unknowns the things we don't know we don't know and and there are there's a failure of imagination. Because it would applications one can probably begin to understand better about those things. That I think it is a very tough job and I think we have to expect to be surprised you know a terrorist can attack at any time anyplace using any technique. There's no way to physically -- Every place in every moment there against every conceivable type of attack. It just camped -- literally can prevail. What President Bush it and put in places structure that put pressure on terrorist networks all over the world and and make everything they do heart. It's harder for them there's. Talk on the phone to move from country to country it's harder for them to raise money it's harder than print from any harder than -- Harder for them to train harder and my country it will be hospitable to them. So that that is the reason we've we've had did this amazing accomplishment of not having it successful terrorist attack on the United States of America. In close to a decade and no one ever let them. That would have been. The name of the book is known and unknown the authors from a secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld all proceeds from the sale of this book by the way going to charities that support. Military families wounded vets and families of those killed in action it is the number one. Best seller on the New York Times best seller list recently a horrific event. Down in four wheel with a major has signed breaking out in some type of Muslim are Arab Arab chance. Killing a number of US servicemen and we read in dismay afterwards. That US soldiers have disarmed on the own bases and the military seems to be -- well we need the religious diversity. And all the rest of you know the feel good stuff. What's your take on all of that and why in heaven's name would US soldiers -- sound on on military bases. Well I wouldn't know what -- particular rulers there at any base there it is there a debate debate and the other circumstances and and there are. Status of alert I do think that that the risk of attack -- in the United States by people who are absolutely part of our society. Is a rip -- it's -- danger and and we've seen. And number of attempts unsuccessful. What moderately successful others serious and some foil and prevent it. But it something that that everyone have to be attentive to I should add that that I I have this. -- because I've lived a third of our country's history a long long. I have a very sizable are. And I spent a lot of time and effort digitized and a good portion. It is available. Major fraction of it is available on Rumsfeld dot com web site that created. Where people could go in and it actually. Read the mammals that that this a lot of danger asking questions. Yeah this is a wonderful part of the book the interactive aspect of it that we we get access to. All those records and and to get our heads into that moment that you're describing. I think it helps people see. How decisions were made it and how complicated they are. And to go to your question I think it it helps people realize that president have to make decisions based on incomplete. And often imperfect information. -- -- doubt that the question though was alluding to this fear that. PC values are infecting every aspect of the country including. The one we would care about most and that is our ability to defend ourselves did you have some sense that that was something that needed to be. Protected against. And that there's a kind of a mental softness that goes along with all this concern you have to have about everybody's feelings today. Well if there's there's some truth to what you're saying it people have to be vigilant with respect we want to be proper and -- it. He feared -- people on the other hand if you bend over too far you can end up creating dangers for the country. Idea. I must say yeah I I. Well let me just lay it on the line -- 101000 lawyers in the department and. -- no I'm not -- that's opposite military and civilian. Lawyers in the Department of Defense that's gross functioning -- different levels there's practically we had such a litigious society. There's practically nothing there. In that department it doesn't have league. Who we view my own lawyer at every level not just one level but multiple. The one recommendation comes up from down below. It's been look at by the legal people at the a command level that that legal people at the combatant command level that that legal people of the joint staff and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Then by the civilian legal people look at it. It is it is for -- it in the department to that was enormous change from when I heard there 25 years earlier. Was -- that pervasive sense of hi I'll call hyper legality. That prevented the killing of one of the leaders in Afghanistan -- I recalled that we had somebody lined up in the cross is. And it had to go back up the chain of command with phone calls to the Pentagon to get an approval account or your doctor Bill Clinton are in I don't know whether it was Clinton Adobe I don't. Now remember one instance where where there was eight debate at a lower level than mine. About what they believed was Mullah Omar the Taliban leader. That's interesting. Yeah that's what do you think gonna. And I think it within a convoy that was moving along and it went into a mock. And and there was apparently debate down the line as to what to do about it because it with the -- and and that had been set aside as as something that people did not wanna do. -- people in a law which is exactly why the telethon is the it -- eight. But the concern was a real concern what you start. Shooting up a -- you're gonna end up alienating the population. And and if you're in a war that can't be won by boat and airplane then -- and so forth but. Requires cooperation with people you don't want to alienate the people so. Apparently they had a debate down at lower level I heard about it after the fact but I -- that. What you are very mr. secretary you -- you referenced Faris a moment to go you've lived 13 of our country's history -- the number of presidents Richard Nixon I believe Ronald Reagan the two bushes. Extraordinary. Responsibilities. That being said with the the with the polite fuel leak of the -- What is the biggest regret you have in terms of the decisions you've been involved and probably coming on here today hot hot hot. Now all come on I've enjoyed it. The other -- because clearly anyone that certainly. Runs. Goes away having served I'm hopeful. Heartbroken about the lives were lost on September 11. Valuing every human life and and and particularly wonderful men and women in certain military. And when one visits with the families of those that have been killed and and it is with the wounded in the hospital. You'd use search for ways you can help them trying to understand. Of society -- country the American people value of their service value act. And recognize. This act like and recognize out of positive that it won't of their life is change in many forever. That's everything if it. Tell us something about Richard Nixon we don't know. Let me go into the book that number anecdotes about. He was a a very intelligent. -- strategic thinker. He brought in big government for example a a decent collection of people who served in the next 34 decades our country with great distinction. And we thank them at Chaney George Herbert Walker Bush. Alan Greenspan. And bill -- and so many others George shall. Cap Weinberger all of these people came in with the Nixon administration in 1968. After his election. Don Rumsfeld thank you for being here the book is known and unknown. Please watch the sales are gonna get a big spike this morning because Iran with -- us it's already a number one best seller on the New York Times best seller list and all proceeds as is important for people to know all proceeds from the sale of the book go to charities that support military families. Wounded veterans and families of those killed in action when your -- only come hang with us in the studio. I am delighted to have enjoyed it. Speaking for myself -- and they are just tremendous -- what a great interview mr. secretary thank you for your service thank you for your time on the -- talk show on AM 680 WRKO. Do you feel like you learned anything hi yah I do and I feel very very much obliged to go out get the book now usually we try to do the pulpit that the see you tomorrow -- -- -- tax cuts.