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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rumsfeld Speaks at Hoover Institute

Aired February 25, 2003 - 12:11   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is speaking over a luncheon here in Washington sponsored by the Hoover Institute. Let's listen in.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... has known. We're dealing in the 20th century, for the most part, with conventional weapons in a relatively stable situation with nuclear weapons. If we miscalculated, we could, of course, absorb the attack, recover, take a deep breath, mobilize our resources and our friends and allies around the world, and go out and defeat the attackers.

In the 21st century, we're dealing with weapons that can kill tens and hundreds of thousands of people. We have to be very forthright and recognize that there are -- there's no question but that there are risks to acting. And they're real risks and they cannot be ignored. And the people who are raising those risks are doing a useful thing, because they are things that need to be thought about and rolled over in our heads and steps taken to try to avoid or mitigate those risks.

But what needs an even greater discussion are the graver risks of not acting. And it seems to me that that part of the debate and discussion and dialogue that's taking place needs to be expanded. And the new danger is clearly the nexus between those very powerful weapons, biological particularly, contagious weapons. Think of what anthrax did to this city and our country in terms of stopping it, and anthrax is not contagious.

I think it was called Dark Winter exercise that was conducted with the cooperation of Johns Hopkins University, ended up taking smallpox, for example, and locating it in three places in the United States.

And within a relatively short period of months there were deaths numbering in the hundreds of thousands, up to a top level of potentially a million people dead from smallpox.

So the dangers of the nexus between terrorist states, terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction is something that is a new thought for us for the world. It's something we have to think about and come to grips with and make judgments about.

And they're not easy. These are tough issues. They really are. And the fact that there's a debate in the world ought not to surprise anybody or the fact that there's a debate in our country and that it takes time to get -- I almost said comfortable -- I don't suppose anyone ever gets comfortable with those thoughts, but get familiar with those thoughts in a way that we can make rational judgments and decisions about them.

Consider North Korea. If it starts its reprocessing plant, which it's making noises and signs that it might do, the current assessment is that North Korea has something -- nuclear material sufficient to have made one weapon and it's assessed to have one or two weapons.

If the reprocessing plant starts, they could have material sufficient for six to eight additional weapons. It's a country that has been very active in proliferating ballistic missile technologies.

And I guess the question one has to ask is, does anyone really doubt that they would hesitate to sell some portion of the material for six to eight additional nuclear weapons to the highest bidder? And the countries they deal with are those countries that are on the terrorist state list, and the countries they deal with or the networks they deal with are those terrorist networks that deal with the terrorist states.

The United States is, of course, taking a diplomatic route with respect to North Korea, and that issue has been moved into the United Nations where we hope that the United Nations will seize it and recognize it as a problem for the world because that is, indeed, what it is, a problem for the world. It is not a problem that is a U.S.- North Korea issue; it is a problem that North Korea has to address with the entire civilized world.

By contrast, the diplomatic effort with Iraq has been going on for some 12 years. Diplomacy has seemingly not worked. Economic sanctions were tried and they have, obviously, not worked.

If they worked, we would not even be talking about Iraq today. If the international 16 resolutions had been successful in preventing countries from providing various types of lethal capabilities or dual- use capabilities that can be converted to lethal capabilities, the name Iraq wouldn't even be in the newspapers today.

But diplomacy didn't work through 16 resolutions, and the economic sanctions didn't work and the limited military strikes in the northern and southern no-fly zones have not worked.

And so, now there's a 17th resolution that was passed within the recent months.

There's now discussion today about the possibility of introducing a second resolution, they call it; it's actually the 18th resolution, not the second resolution. The oil-for-food program has not inhibited the advancements in their WMD programs.

We still hope for a peaceful solution, but as the president has made clear, Iraq needs to be disarmed. And it's important for us to remember that today terrorist states and terrorist networks do not need massive economies, large armies, large navies, large air forces to inflict great damage on free people.

Just after September 11, I was in a tent in Oman with the sultan of Oman, and we were talking about what had happened in the world. And we discussed the problems where there were people being trained to be terrorists in many countries in that part of the world and elsewhere in the world, and that they were receiving funds to do that. And there were people training them and teaching them how to do that, young people.

And he said something that was stunning. He said, "Well, maybe September 11 was a blessing in disguise. Maybe it will be the thing that will wake up the world so that we will, as free people, take the kinds of steps necessary to see that there is not a September 11 that involves biological or chemical or nuclear weapons. And hopefully we'll," he said, "we can wake up the world in a way that can save those lives, tens of thousands of lives."

I just pray he's right.

Why don't I stop there and answer questions. Who has a question?

Yes, sir, go ahead.

QUESTION: There've been a lot of reports in the last 24 hours on TV in regard to these small aircraft, and I mean very small aircraft, that are pilot-less, that potentially could deliver biological things. Can you comment, to the extent you're allowed to, in regard to how we're looking at that, what is the degree of equipment that they have, in your assessment, et cetera?

RUMSFELD: They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and capabilities. They are perfectly capable of being equipped with spraying and aerosol-type capabilities.

Today with global position systems, GPS, and the kinds of maps that one can buy readily, these types of things can be purchased and used and guided and directed with great precision and capable of dispensing those kinds of weapons.

They do exist. We know that Iraq has a number of so-called UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles, of different types, that they train with them and exercise them.

QUESTION: What's the typical range that they have?

RUMSFELD: They vary dramatically in their range, but in some cases, they've taken -- countries have taken regular manned aircraft and equipped them for unmanned flight so they would have the typical range, depending on the speed and circumstance, of the aircraft that they converted.

Of the smaller types that are made directly for the purpose, as opposed to being first made as a manned aircraft, we've seen them go hundreds of kilometers. And it can be done two ways: It can be done on a guided basis or it can be done on a preprogrammed basis. And as I say, with great precision.

QUESTION: Let me just ask whether -- could you speculate for us what is going to be the event that will trigger the decision to go to war? And do you think that event will have an impact on the support that you have from the U.S. population, as well as countries that should be part of our coalition but aren't yet there?

RUMSFELD: No.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: Actually I could, but I won't.

You know, who knows what's going to happen in the U.N., who knows what could happen on the ground. There are so many different things that could happen. You know, as we're meeting he could decide to leave the country. It's a nice thought. Someone could decide to help him leave the country. It's not a bad thought. I just don't know.

There are so many things that can happen, and these are decisions that are made, of course, by the president of the United States and by other countries' leaders, and I just simply wouldn't want to even begin to speculate.

We have aircraft flying around in that region, as you know, in the northern and southern no-fly zones, and we have U-2 aircraft that are assisting the U.N. inspectors. And I suppose something could happen to one of those aircraft that could cause a problem. There's any number of things, and it's just not possible to speculate on it.

QUESTION: What do you see as Iraq's military capability?

RUMSFELD: If you go to organizations like "Jane's" and others that look at militaries in various countries, you know, and drop a plumb line through everyone's best guess -- first of all, it's a closed society, so there's a great deal that people don't know. But the guess is that it's something under 50 percent of what its capability was in 1991 during the Gulf War in terms of conventional capability, full stop.

With respect to chemical/biological capabilities, one knows that they have advanced, and they are, in my judgment, probably more lethal and dangerous today than they would've been back in '91, but I don't know that for sure. I don't think anyone does, except the Iraqis.

QUESTION: What would you perceive would be the problem with the government of Iran? Would they be throwing a wrench in the process? How dangerous are they? And how dangerous are the Syrians on the other side to help Saddam maybe take his weapons and hold them? Whatever that comes up.

RUMSFELD: Well, back in the Gulf War, the Iraqis flew their airplanes into Iran to save them rather than use them in the conflict, and they never got them back.

(LAUGHTER)

So, my guess is that he'll be more careful this time if something were to happen. And I don't know what he might do.

There's no question but that he does have some things that he doesn't want inspectors to find, and it's entirely possible that he could try to move those off into some other country.

My guess is that in the event that the decision is made to use military force to disarm Saddam Hussein, in the event that he refuses to cooperate with the inspectors, which one still hopes he might do, that -- just a guess -- I would think that probably both Syria and Iran would probably stay pretty much out of it and not do anything particular that would be disadvantageous to either side.

QUESTION: How much support do you think Saddam truly has from the Iraqi people? How do their sentiments break down?

RUMSFELD: It's awfully hard to know; in fact, it's impossible to know unless one just speculates. I don't know how many people who live in an exceedingly repressive regime actually like it. So one has to believe that to the extent people prefer not to be repressed and not to live in fear, that they would prefer to have a different regime.

Because it is such a repressive regime, however, people are afraid to say what they think. And until, at some moment, they see that it is inevitable that that regime is not going to be there, I would suspect that it would be very difficult to come up with any accurate speculation.

We have a lot of intelligence and a lot of anecdotal information that, needless to say, is encouraging. But I think, you know, placing your hopes in it is a stretch. I think you just have to wait and see what happens in the event that that would be the case.

They've lived under that repressive regime for a very long time, and it can't be easy. If one looks at the size of their prison population and looks at the number of people that the regime kills each year and reads the various nongovernmental organizations' reports on their human rights violations and the way they treat people, it's hard to believe that there would be an awful lot of support, to say nothing of the fact that there's a relatively small minority of Sunni that pretty much run the country, and there's a large Shi'a population and a large Kurdish population that probably holds that with a minimum of high regard.

QUESTION: There has been commentary, primarily in the European press, to some extent in the American press, about three Iraqi ships sailing under radio silence, operating without visiting ports. Do you have any information you can share with us as to whether they are carrying weapons of mass destruction or whether they represent any other kind of threat?

RUMSFELD: I can't. I see that speculation, but there's really nothing that's definitive that I could add.

Yes?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there's been a lot of speculation that the window of opportunity for an attack on Iraq is getting narrower and narrower, in a sense that the weather will hinder any operations. I've been to Baghdad and 110 degrees is regarded as a cool morning. What is going to happen if you keep waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting for the U.N. to pass or not to pass something, and it eventually gets to be April and May? Can you invade at that time?

RUMSFELD: The force flows that have taken place by the United States and several other countries have really been designed to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose on the part of the U.N. Resolution 1441 and to support the diplomacy, and it has had a very favorable effect. There's no question. It has not caused that regime to cooperate fully in a manner that is required by 1441 as yet, but there's no question but that there wouldn't be any inspectors doing anything if those force flows had not taken place.

It is very clear that once you flow forces, it's stressful to maintain them for long periods of time.

Second, as you suggest, it is clearly preferable to be engaged in Iraq in a period other than the summer. There's always going to be a whole host of considerations that the political leadership of a country have to take into account, and that's part of it. But so, too, are the implications that are being discussed and debated up in the United Nations.

QUESTION: There's been a lot of discussion in some of the opposition to the war about our interest going into Iraq with respect to the oil resources that are there. And I'm wondering if you could comment on any post-war plans we have for redistributing the assets for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

RUMSFELD: Yes, sir. Thank you for asking that.

There's been a lot of speculation in the world, and I suppose it's understandable, suggesting that the interest of the United States and the coalition countries that are concerned about Iraq relates to oil. It does not relate to oil. I mean, it just plain doesn't.

There are a lot of market folks here that understand markets, and the reality is that if you own oil, you want to sell it. That's why it's valuable to have it. And if you sell it, it doesn't matter who you sell it to, it's going to go into a world market. And oil's fungible, and money's fungible. And it's going to get purchased by somebody. And the United States will have plenty of oil, as will other Western European countries, in my view.

The short answer is that the oil belongs to the Iraqi people. The full intention is that in the event there is a post-Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, that the oil would be operated and sold for the benefit of the Iraqi people, I suppose initially by the coalition forces, or some international group of some sort, and then shortly thereafter by some legitimate Iraqi operation that would be managing that important natural resource.

But it is clearly not something that anyone in the coalition thinks is for any purpose other than the benefit of the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you tell us why the administration, to date at least, doesn't favor direct talks with the North Korean government? After all, we continue speaking to the French.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: I'm not going there.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: The French are our allies in NATO, and North Korea is a very different situation.

The reason is is because we have a very close partnership, relationship with the Republic of Korea, South Korea, with Japan, and we have tended to work very closely with them with respect to the problems in North Korea. We have been also working with the Peoples Republic of China as well as Russia.

And to the extent the United States decided that a bilateral set of discussions with North Korea made sense, which we believe would not make sense, it would end up very quickly as to what would the United States be willing to pay North Korea to stop doing something that they're doing that we would prefer they not do -- make nuclear material and sell it to other countries or make nuclear weapons with it.

To do that, it's hard for me to believe that there is any price that we'd be willing to pay for that. It isn't something that's bilateral. It's a worldwide problem. The world faces a very serious problem, and the problem is that the international agreements and understandings and treaties that theoretically inhibit the flow of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles and technologies and the ability to deliver these capabilities are moving all across the globe, and we're going to be living in a world in four, five, 10, 15, 20 years where there are going to be double the number of nuclear powers that exist today. There are going to be double the number of countries that have ballistic missiles capable of reaching long distances, and that is not a pretty picture.

And it seems to me that it would be unproductive for the United States to engage in strictly a bilateral relationship, so I agree completely with President Bush and Secretary Powell's decision to keep it on a multilateral basis because it is a multilateral problem.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you referred to NATO a moment ago. I wonder if you could comment on your views about the viability of NATO in the long term, what role it may play in the future, and whether the recent events have damaged it beyond repair?

RUMSFELD: No, I don't believe the recent events have damaged it beyond repair. NATO's an important institution. It happens to bring together a large fraction of the like-thinking nations of the world in terms of political freedom and economic freedom and democracies that don't aspire to take over anyone else's land, and that linkage and connection and relationship is an enormously important one.

NATO has gone through many periods in its long history where there have been difficulties within Europe or difficulties between Europe and the United States. In this instance, I would characterize what's taking place as more a set of differences within Europe than between Europe and the United States. If you think about it, there was the letter that was signed by eight nations and then a letter signed by 10 nations that supported the United States and its position with respect to Iraq.

So my personal view is that NATO is just an enormously successful institution that's contributed a great deal to peace and stability in the world over my entire adult lifetime, and I think it has a role to play in the future and I'm convinced that that'll be the case.

QUESTION: I consider us to be in a prolonged period with the threat of war, and I'm feeling very helpless, and I assume others share my feelings. What can the American people do to help the Defense Department?

RUMSFELD: Well, you know it isn't an easy thing to wake up on September 12 and realize that the circumstance had changed and that the kinds of threats that people felt were across oceans could, in fact, be here in the United States.

My conviction is that we can live in this world. And it is not the world one might choose, but it is a world that we can live, and we can live in and still continue to be free people and not so dramatically change our lives that we give up the freedom that we value so much and very likely is one of the reasons that those threats exist against us, is the fact that we are free people and successful countries.

The democracies that believe in economic and political freedom tend to be the ones, if you look down from Mars, are doing the most for their people, where the people are the most successful and have the greatest opportunity. And once you decide that you're so fearful, were we to do that, that we wouldn't get up in the morning and go do what we do and have children go off to school and live our lives, it would so dramatically change our society that it would be unacceptable to all people who value freedom.

And I think what we can do as people is to engage these issues. These issues are tough issues and they're not easy issues. They deserve the kind of debate and discussion they're getting. And it's only getting the discussion and debate in free countries. Let there be no doubt about that. You don't see protests and this kind of debate in Iraq or in countries that repress their people.

But I think that it is a matter of finding those things we can do as individuals to support the Department of Homeland Security's ideas, to support the Department of Defense, to support the people who serve in first responders, whether they're domestically or international, to see that, as President Bush suggested, people live their lives and do their normal things, but do it with a sense of heightened awareness, that people make the kinds of rational decisions about what they do and how they do it.

But we simply have to continue to be what we are. But I think the debate is a good debate. And I think it's important that the president went to the Congress. I think it's important the president went to the United Nations. I am hopeful that our country and other like-thinking countries will go to the international bodies, including the United Nations soon, and elevate this issue that our treaties and agreements that are designed to restrict the flow of these weapons are not working and that we must find ways to see that we can stop, interdict, whether it's land, sea or air, shipments of nuclear materials and chemical materials and biological materials, and prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorist states and terrorist networks to the extent it's humanly possible.

And that is going to be a big issue, because there are an awful lot of people, I suppose, in most free countries who want to be to sell things and to continue to sell things to countries like Iraq. I mean Iraq -- there are countries today selling things to Iraq that Iraq not ought to have. And we have to find ways to improve that.

QUESTION: Given all the time, the deliberation of the process, the global media coverage, and the helpfulness of the element of surprise, there's also a lot of discussion about strategy going on, and maybe there's been an evolution of strategy during these international discussions, can you tell us anything about the extent to which surprise will play a role here, should we have a war? And to what extent can you disclose whether there has been an evolution or let's say a refinement of the strategy that would be used in Iraq?

RUMSFELD: Well, there's strategic surprise and tactical surprise. And clearly you give up strategic surprise when you decide you want to flow forces over a prolonged period of months. You do not necessarily give up tactical surprise. So it seems to me the answer's kind of yes and no.

To go back to Bob's question, what could conceivably precipitate it could be surprising to anyone, because at the moment we're still on the diplomatic track.

And what has been tested -- it's just fascinating to me -- I suppose they never should have called them inspectors. They should have been called verifiers, because once the U.N. used the word inspector, people began to think of them as discoverers and finders. And in fact they're not. There isn't any way in the world that a country that size, that these handfuls of people could go in and find things that the Iraqi government was determined to have them not find.

What that process really was was a process to determine whether or not the Iraqi government was going to cooperate with the United Nations resolution. And that's what being measured and tested.

So when people say the inspectors need more time to find things, it seems to me that construct needs to be answered, "Gee, it's a big country, let's give them more time to find things." But if in fact the test is not whether or they're going to be able to discover something -- which is very, very difficult absent defectors who have their families outside the country and feel free to actually talk to a U.N. person.

So I think that the test really is whether or not they're going to cooperate. And that's something that is yet to be seen.

QUESTION: The question I have pertains to terrorist groups.

There will always be radical ideologies, and the problem is less the existence of the ideologies than their conjunction with means and money.

You have shown that there is -- the government has shown that there is a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, but arguably an even larger source of funding is our friends, the Saudis.

What can you say about your prognosis of our relationship with them?

RUMSFELD: Well, we've had a long and valuable relationship with Saudi Arabia over many, many years.

There is no question but that there are individuals around the world who are sending money to terrorist organizations, and there are individuals in that part of the world, but I would add there are individuals in this part of the world as well that are sending money to terrorist organizations and to some of the -- a relatively modest total number, but it's a serious problem -- of these madrasa schools that are training terrorists and to organizations and countries that have provided haven and terrorist training camps for these terrorist networks.

That money is harmful to the world, and it's still flowing in. There's no doubt in my mind but that the world has been successful in reducing it.

Without question, the 90 nations -- I keep reading about the United States being unilateralist and it amuses me. The president and Secretary Powell have put together a coalition of 90 nations. It's the largest coalition in human history that I've ever heard of. I suppose there's historians here and I shouldn't say that. Someone will come up with a bigger one. But, I mean, it's just an amazing thing.

And all of those countries are busy trying to freeze bank accounts, to try to make transfers of money more difficult, to try to find the people that are, in fact, funding these terrorist organizations, and they're having a degree of success.

They're also cooperating with respect to the movement of these people between countries and making that more difficult, and raising their cost because of the difficulty of doing all of that, quite apart from the several thousand people now who've been arrested and detained and interrogated and provided information that has been helpful in arresting still additional people.

So it seems to me that it's a problem that's bigger than any one country, and just as with the difficulty of proliferation, this is not a problem that the United States can do alone. It's a problem only that can be done by the cooperation of great numbers of countries.

We live in a world where weapons of sufficient lethality that they ought to get our attention and register on us require that we work with a large number of other countries. And let there be no doubt, even today, without a second resolution there are a large number of countries in the world who have indicated that they would be cooperative in the effort against Iraq and the need to disarm Iraq in the event that Iraq continues to refuse.

So there's good, broad support in the world, although, admittedly, there is opposition on the part of some important countries and there is opposition with respect to people in almost every country of the world, and it's much easier today for those people to organize, given the Internet and the ease of communication. So you see a larger number, a more visible set of demonstrations than one might have in an earlier, pre-Internet period.

Well, I will always respect what this institution does. I respect those of you who serve it in various ways and who contribute...

BLITZER: That's about it for the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking briefly, answering questions for almost a half an hour, mostly, of course, on Iraq. Although he was pretty forceful on the North Korean as well.

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