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America Strikes Back: Donald Rumsfeld Interview on War on Terrorism Strategy

Aired October 19, 2001 - 04:36   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SHIHAB RATTANSI, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has spoken to Christiane Amanpour about the military mission so far and the challenges ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You have said that many, many times and indeed you've said over and over again and so have all the leaders of this coalition that this is not a war against Islam but one against terrorism. But as you know, there are very loud voices in this region who are saying exactly the opposite that this is in fact, they claim, a war against Islam. You and indeed Condoleezza Rice have just appeared on the Al-Jazeera Arab satellite network. Are you concerned that you have been slow in getting your message out to the Muslim world?

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think it's terribly important that we do it. I think it's important that we be effective and do it.

I just came back from a trip to several countries in the region, as you may recall, and met with the leadership there and went on television in each of those countries and discussed the purpose of this effort and the reasons for it. We -- it is clearly important that the world understand what this is about.

When a terrorist attack, they can attack any place at any time and it's not possible to defend every place at every time. The weapons are very powerful today. The only choice that the United States has is to take this effort to the terrorists themselves and to find them and to root them out and to stop them from their murderous ways. This is all we are about. The United States has no interest in any piece of real estate anywhere outside of the United States of America. We don't covet other people's land. We have no ax to grind with any people in the world except for people who are going about the world killing innocent people.

AMANPOUR: But in this part of the world, people, Muslims, feel that the United States has not shown similar empathy for the poverty and the misery of the Palestinian cause. In this part of the world that is a litmus test and they make -- they make a link between the Palestinian cause and the perceived lack of empathy and the claim -- the claim that Osama bin Laden makes to represent their cause. Now I know you do not think, nor does most people think, that link is justified, but do you accept that America has a long-term problem with this kind of perception in the Muslim world unless that issue is dealt with and resolved?

RUMSFELD: The United States is deeply involved in the peace process in the Middle East. You used the word until it is solved. It has been there a long time, most all of my adult life, more than your adult life. It has been going on for decade, after decade, after decade. It is a terribly difficult intractable problem.

President Bush and his predecessors dating all the way back have all been involved in that peace process. I've been involved in it in three administrations. It is -- it is not something that lends itself to instantaneous solution. And I think that the people of the region have to know that President Bush and Secretary Powell and any -- George Tenet, any number of other people are on the phone, are meeting in person with the leaders on both sides in the Middle East peace process, working diligently to try to help solve those problems.

The violence seems to continue. It ebbs and it flows. It gets a little better and a little worse. It is a tragedy. People have been killed within the last week. It's something that the entire world has to be concerned about. But I think that suggesting that the United States of America should be attacked by terrorist networks and thousands of Americans killed, innocent people, men, women and children, by people who are proud of having done it and go on television about how much they agree with the fact that it was done and then to suggest that we must not do anything about that until a very intractable problem between the two sides in the Middle East is solved suggests that it might be another decade.

That problem is being worked hard by the President. We understand its importance, and we also understand that there are people out there making mischief. They're trying to stir up that pot and to make it more difficult and to contend that the United States, for whatever reason, is inattentive. We are not inattentive. We are doing, as are other countries, everything humanly possible to help solve that problem in a way that makes sense for the parties to the process.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RATTANSI: The U.S. Defense Secretary speaking to Christiane Amanpour.

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