February 20th, 2011

Rumsfeld on State of the Union: “[Obama] has made a practice of trying to apologize for America”

In an interview airing today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke about a wide range of topics, including the reasons for going to war in Iraq and why he didn’t believe the U.S. would still be in Afghanistan 10 years later. He also discussed the Obama administration, criticizing the president for making ”a practice of trying to apologize for America,” and commenting on the influence of the Tea Party and future of the GOP.

Links to the CNN Political Ticker and embeddable video are below. The full transcript is after the jump.


Rumsfeld criticizes Obama, says he’s ‘proud of America’

WMDs weren’t only reason for war in Iraq


Rumsfeld sympathizes with Mideast youth

Rumsfeld on Osama bin Laden

Rumsfeld defends Afghan troop levels

Full interview video


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Joining me now here in Washington, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.

When I — I spoke to former President Bush just before he left office, and I said, did you ever have a moment when — we were in the Oval Office — when you sat in this office and you thought, oh, what have we done, was this the right thing.  And he said, sure, yes I did.


CROWLEY:  What kept you up at night?

RUMSFELD:  I think the — the concern I had that the information we had was imperfect.  And I don’t —

CROWLEY:  It was — it was more than imperfect.  Some of it was just flat wrong.

RUMSFELD:  That’s true.  I think that — that — I don’t want to be excessively critical of the intelligence community because it’s a hard job.  We’re dealing with closed societies.  We’re dealing with a complicated world.  It’s very different — difficult to determine intent on the part of others.  And — and we have a lot of wonderful, dedicated people in the intelligence community, but I’ve been around long enough and seen enough instances where the intelligence was wrong and where the information that later was learned didn’t conform to what was expected.

CROWLEY:  And that certainly was the case here this time.

RUMSFELD:  No question, no question.

CROWLEY:  And I want to — there is — there are stories out this week about a man known as “Curve Ball” —


CROWLEY:  — in intelligence circles.  And I want to first kind of set this scene for our audience by playing something that Colin Powell, who was then the secretary of state, he was addressing members of the U.N., he was justifying an upcoming invasion into Iraq.  This is part of what he had to say.


POWELL:  We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails.  The source was an eyewitness, an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities.  He actually was present during biological agent production runs.


CROWLEY:  OK, now I want to show a picture to our audience of an Iraqi defector.  This is “Curve Ball.”  “Curve Ball” talked to “The Guardian” Tuesday, and said it was all a lie, totally a lie.  And here’s what he said, “They,” meaning the U.S., “gave me this chance.  I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime.  I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy.”

This was a major part of the argument for Iraq, and this guy totally lied.  Do you not want to reach through that screen and strangle that guy?

RUMSFELD:  You know, the intelligence community created the National Intelligence Estimate.  Colin Powell is an honorable man.  He understood intelligence products.  He worked hard to prepare those remarks to the United Nations.  He believed every word he said.  And what was he basing it —

CROWLEY:  Well, of course he did, because he was told by, he says — he said, look, go ask the Defense intelligence agency.  You’re as close as I can get, so how did this guy’s information become gospel when in fact he was completely lying?

And by the way, the German sources who turned this over said we don’t think the guy is reliable, but somehow that part of the information didn’t make it up the chain.  How does that happen?

RUMSFELD:  Well, the intelligence community talks to hundreds of people.  They have human assets, such as this man.  Some are honest, some are dishonest.  Some do it for money, some do it for self aggrandizement.   Some do it, apparently, to lie.

CROWLEY:  And did you ever when you found out there were no — again, I asked — I remember asking former President Bush about it — when you found out there were no weapons of mass destruction, he said, I was sick to my stomach.

RUMSFELD:  Oh, my goodness.

CROWLEY:  You know, were you — did anyone say, get me the person who gave us this intelligence?  Because to me, sitting here and listening to you, —

RUMSFELD:  Well, we know who it was.

CROWLEY:  — the fault of the war was the intelligence community.


CROWLEY:  That false premise of the war.

RUMSFELD:  Well, first of all, there were a variety of reasons for the war, not simply WMD.

CROWLEY:  Well that was the one that you all pushed the hardest.

RUMSFELD:  True.  But if you looked at the resolution from the Congress, there were multiple reasons.  If you looked at the U.N. resolution, there were multiple reasons.  So it wasn’t the sole reason.

CROWLEY:  But it was a big one.

RUMSFELD:  No question.

CROWLEY:  It was a big one.

RUMSFELD:  No question it was the big one.

CROWLEY:  I think probably people would argue to you that we wouldn’t have gone in had we said, no they really don’t have weapons of mass destruction.

RUMSFELD:  I think that’s probably right.  A great many people would — would not have.

CROWLEY:  Did you ever think we shouldn’t have gone?  When you found out there were no weapons of mass destruction, your headline reason, was there just one moment in there you thought, oh, we shouldn’t have gone?

RUMSFELD:  Well, it was never my headline reason only, — never the only reason, I should say.

They were shooting at our aircraft, and I was deeply concerned, as were the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the chairman, that one of our planes was going to be shot down and a crew was going to be taken hostage or killed.  And it was almost a daily occurrence.  And — and —

CROWLEY:  Well, there might be less intrusive ways to take care of that.

RUMSFELD:  True, but the knowledge you suggest kind of in your question that there was a single moment.  There wasn’t.  We didn’t know for weeks and weeks whether we’d found — would still find, I should say, something that would approximate what was believed in the intelligence report.

CROWLEY:  But across that expanse of time up to right now, from the start to the finish, was there a moment when you doubted whether we should have gone?  I realize that you came to the conclusion that it was — you got a good outcome, you know, that you’re arguing.  But was there ever a moment in that span of time when you thought we shouldn’t have gone?

RUMSFELD:  Oh, my goodness, we were so busy fighting the war and trying to save lives and to make the right decisions as the enemy shifted their tactics and procedures, I think there clearly were moments where we talked about it.  There were moments where we discussed it.  There were moments where we said, even more importantly, because what’s done is done, what more importantly was what in the world caused that.  How can we avoid that in the future?  Are there other things that we’re relying on that may not be true?

And that kind of was the focus of the intelligence community and the discussions.  What else are we depending on that conceivably we could find out to our surprise might not be the case.  And that focus was terribly important.

CROWLEY:  Mr.  Secretary, stick with me.


CROWLEY:  We’ve got to take a quick break.

And when we come back, moving onto Afghanistan and some other hot spots in the world.  Talking, of course, with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.


CROWLEY:  We are back with our guest, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, author of “Known and Unknown: A Memoir” covering a lot of time.

Let me take you to one of the things I’ve seen you say a lot and that you elude to in here, and that is that you do think that initially the right number of forces were sent into Afghanistan.  That you were fully manned, if you will, there.

If that is the case, why did the Taliban come back in such force in 2006 and 2007?

RUMSFELD:  Because they’re determined, they’re dedicated.  They’re vicious.  They are anxious to reestablish themselves and have a country.  It was such a terrible regime that only three nations in the world had diplomatic relations with the Taliban.

CROWLEY:  But couldn’t more troops have taken care of more Taliban so there would be fewer of them to come back?

RUMSFELD:  Oh, no.  No.  They simply move into another country, go into neighboring countries.  Go into Pakistan.  No, and — or disappear or just become quiet and not be active.  And the minute they have an opportunity, they come back.

So what’s going to have to happen, and General Petraeus is a fine general and I’m sure he’s doing a good job there, but what’s going to have to happen eventually is the Afghan people, the Afghan government, the Afghan security forces are going to have to figure out an arrangement with their people so that it is not hospitable to the Taliban.

And they’re in the process of doing some of that right now, and over time.  But they’re not going to disappear.  It’s a small group of people that are dedicated and determined and vicious. I mean, these people were using the —

CROWLEY:  But did you think going in that 10 years from now are still going to be there?

RUMSFELD:  No, no.  And I said that.  I said, look, you can’t make a career out of this.  The Afghans —

CROWLEY:  It looks kind of like we are making a career out of it.

RUMSFELD:  Well, if you think of it like War World I or II where is starts and it ends, then you’re right. If you think of it like the Cold War where it lasted 30, 40 years and — and —

CROWLEY:  People weren’t dying daily in the Cold War.

RUMSFELD:  No, no, but there were things going on in the world.  I mean, the Soviet Union was expansive in Africa and Latin America and various parts of other — other portions of the globe.

This is not a conventional war with armies, navies and air forces.  We have some troops, but basically it’s going to be won not by bullets, but by ideas and by competition of ideas and by the countries involved.  They’re going to have to —

CROWLEY:  But we’re still kind of in the bullet phase.

RUMSFELD:  Of course we are, to some extent.

CROWLEY: Ten years later.

RUMSFELD:  But we haven’t lost a battle.  We can’t lose a battle in terms of a military battle.  That means that there’s something else going on.

And what’s going on is we’re going to have to persuade the world that these people are harmful, they’re dangerous, they’re against the nation-state concept and then the Afghan people are going to have to have sufficient forces to manage their country.

CROWLEY:  Let me ask you in sort of a broader sense about the Obama administration.  You once said, if you’re not being criticized, you may not be doing much.  So I want to give you this opportunity.  What is it that you think they are not doing right?

RUMSFELD:  I’m not there.  I’ve been out for four years.  You only look at it from afar, and I think private diplomacy is probably vastly more important than their public pronouncements.  And I’m not knowledgeable about their private diplomacy.

I do think they were wrong in attacking the Bush administration’s structures that have kept this country safe for almost a decade now.  They now have switched from the campaign mode, and they are keeping Guantanamo Bay.  They are keeping indefinite detention.  They are keeping military commissions.  So obviously, they’ve come to the conclusion that their campaign promises — easier to campaign than it is to govern.

And I think they’ve made the right decisions in keeping some of those structures because no one wants to be — have a jail.  No one wants to have to do these things, but we’ve got to defend the American people.  We’ve got to be willing to do it.  And I think they’ve made a series of right decisions in not trying to tear down that structure.

CROWLEY:  The — the president’s supporters say that in two years he has been able to return this country to a status of being liked across the world in a way that America was not liked during the Bush administration.  That he has once again made America a beacon.

Do you — do you agree with that?  Do you think that — that the U.S. is now looked at much differently than it was and much more positively than it was during your tenure?

RUMSFELD:  No, and I don’t think there’s data that supports that.  I think he has made a practice of trying to apologize for America.  I personally am proud of America.

CROWLEY:  Well, he seems to be quite popular overseas in a way that President Bush was not.  The streets aren’t full of people burning him in effigy.  There does seem to be a new — a chance to look at America in a different way than it did during the Bush administration.  You don’t think that’s true?

RUMSFELD:  I don’t think that’s true and I don’t think that there’s data that would support that.

CROWLEY:  Even though the streets look differently?

RUMSFELD:  I just don’t think it’s correct.  I could be wrong, but I honestly don’t think it’s correct. I think that the people —

CROWLEY:  Some people think it’s part of the reason why he got the Nobel Prize, was that he was — you know, that people just looked at him so much differently —

RUMSFELD:  Well, he had not accomplished a thing when he got the Nobel Prize.  It was given to him on hope.  Had to have been cause there wasn’t anything that he’d done.  He’d been in office 15 minutes.

CROWLEY:  Little more than 15 minutes.

RUMSFELD:  Little more. (LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY:  Just wanted to say that.  Let me ask you to stick with me for a minute.  We will be right back with the former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.


CROWLEY:  We are back with Donald Rumsfeld, a former defense secretary and of course author of a new book, “Known and Unknown.”

You brought up Guantanamo Bay prison, which I know you have always felt should not be closed, it was as good a place as any to keep some of these people.  We’re now seeing Secretary Gates sort of saying this is backburnered, it doesn’t seem we’re going to close it any time soon.

Are you comfortable with the notion that people that were picked up on the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan in 2001, 2002 could live their lives in Guantanamo Bay, a prison, without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom, be it military or civilian?  Is that OK with you?

RUMSFELD:  Oh, goodness.  None of its OK with me.  You know, no one wants to be the jailer for the world.  I don’t know that they necessarily would have to stay there the rest of their lives.  Some could be sent back to their home countries to be handled there.

In other cases, they could have a military commission try them and come to a judgment.  They might come to a judgment that — like happens in our civilian courts that it was a mistake and they shouldn’t have been there.  Breaks your heart if that’s the case, but it happens.

CROWLEY:  Let me ask you.  If you were still Defense secretary and if bin Laden were caught, what would you do with him?

RUMSFELD:  Oh, my goodness.  I think he’d probably end up in Guantanamo Bay and I think he’d probably be subjected to a military commission.

CROWLEY:  And then?

RUMSFELD:  And who knows what the military commission would decide.  He — he has brought enormous harm to the world.

CROWLEY:  Just out of curiosity, if we did catch him and he was down in Guantanamo Bay prison, would you like to go down there and see him?


CROWLEY:  Really?

RUMSFELD:  No.  I — I — he’s not my type.

CROWLEY:  Let me ask you a domestic political question.

You went to CPAC, you received an award there presented by your old friend, former Vice President Dick Cheney.  You were booed at CPAC, which is conservatives.

RUMSFELD:  Well, there were some Ron Paul people, yes.

CROWLEY:  Yes, yes.


CROWLEY:  Conservatives.


CROWLEY:  And my question is —

RUMSFELD:  There were handfuls in the back.  No big problem.

CROWLEY:  Yes.  No, I understand, this isn’t sort of, you know —

RUMSFELD:  No big deal.

CROWLEY:  — to monitor the boos.


CROWLEY:  It actually just gets me to the question of, what do you make of the current iteration of the Republican Party?  You date back to the Ford years —


CROWLEY:  — and prior to that and watched the —

RUMSFELD:  Eisenhower.

CROWLEY:  — Republican Party — Eisenhower.


CROWLEY:  So you’ve watched it go through a number of iterations.  What do you think of this current one with the Tea Party influence and the conservatives?

RUMSFELD:  Fascinating.   I find it —

CROWLEY:  Oh, come on.

RUMSFELD:  — very — I find it very interesting.  I think the Tea Party people have brought a lot of energy into public life and public affairs, and it’s a good thing that people are energized and active.

I have seen the Republican Party declared dead and over probably four or five times, and it hasn’t been.  And what’s going on now is some energy into it, and that’s a good thing.  And I like to see people involved in public affairs and bring in fresh ideas and what have you.

I am deeply worried about the budget.  I think that the deficit is a danger to our country.  I think it’s going to damage our future and I think it’s putting our next generation at great risk and we have to really be honest enough with ourselves and address it.  And I think that the Tea Party people are — are energized by that concern and I think that’s probably a healthy thing.  It’ll put a balance.

CROWLEY:  I think one of your old buddies, Alan Simpson, who was co-chair of the —


CROWLEY:  — Debt Commission thinks that you can get a hundred billion dollars out of the Defense budget between now and 2015.  Can you?

RUMSFELD:  Oh, goodness.  2015 is a long way off.  You know, so many of these people are saying, well, we can save money tomorrow.  I’d like to see people start saving money now.

Are there things in the Defense budget?  My goodness, every year the Congress was stuffing $10 billion down the Pentagon’s throat that we didn’t want.  There’s no question that there’s money there.

CROWLEY:  Want to mention again, “Known and Unknown” now about to be a number one bestseller in the hardback “New York Times” list.  All the proceeds going to soldiers and their families.

RUMSFELD:  Wounded, their families, yes.

CROWLEY:  Thank you so much.  Its been a pleasure

RUMSFELD:  Thank you, Candy.

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