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Encore Presentation: Rumsfeld, Man of War
Aired October 22, 2006 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FRANK SESNO, CNN HOST: March 2003, U.S. tanks rumbled across the desert, racing to topple Saddam Hussein. An innovative war plan, smaller, faster, a 21st century fighting force. The regime falls in less than three weeks.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: What a sight.
SESNO: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, strategic, decisive, a force for change. If only time had stopped here. It didn't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take cover.
SESNO: Three and a half years later, same place, a different war, i Insurgency, sectarian violence, maybe civil war. What happened? Where was the plan? Now Rumsfeld's blamed. Didn't listen. Slow to adapt.
If time stopped today -- it won't.
The not so distant future, shadowy terrorists step up attacks around the globe. A rogue state rattles a nuclear saber. America's security hinges on a new U.S. military, agile and high-tech. A force that has to be ready. The architect?
Donald Rumsfeld has a mission,in Afghanistan, in Iraq, against terrorism worldwide. They are battles in what he says is a long war on terror. That will go on for decades.
But the early years show how difficult and how decisive this may be.
After early victories, violence and the Taliban have come back to Afghanistan, Iraq may be on the verge of a civil war. In the U.S., patience is wearing thin. Politicians are after him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For God's sake, don't listen to Rumsfeld. He doesn't know what in the hell he is talking about on this.
RUMSFELD: I hear great reports on you.
SESNO: And some of his former generals have turned on him.
JOHN BATISTE, U.S. MAJOR GENERAL: We have got to hold the Secretary of Defense accountable for the incredibly bad judgment, poor planning that took us in to this fight.
SESNO: Rumsfeld is the man who's come to personify the most controversial military operation since Vietnam.
THOMAS RICKS, MILITARY CORRESPONDENT: Whether he likes it or not, I think Donald Rumsfeld's legacy will be determined by what happens in Iraq and obviously no one knows what' going to happen in Iraq.
RUMSFELD: Stuff happens.
SESNO: Assertive, abrasive, determined, Rumsfeld will argue a point or challenge a premise. He's been a lightning rod everywhere he's gone.
PETER SCHOOMAKER, U.S. ARMY GENERAL: There is reason to have controversy and leadership. Leadership is about getting people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't do on their own.
RUMSFELD: I really want it open. I want them to use their own brains.
SCHOOMAKER: It is about changes peoples' comfort zones.
SESNO: The camera often captures the contentious Rumsfeld.
RUMSFELD: Oh my goodness, you didn't have a plan. That's nonsense.
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D-MASS): Basically, you have mismanaged the war and created an impossible situation.
RUMSFELD: Well, that is quite a statement.
How you doing?
SESNO: But his allies say there's another side.
PETER PACE, U.S. ARMY GENERAL: He's tough. He's smart. He's fair. But he's not the guy that most people think he is.
UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: It's a remote control initiation device.
SESNO: This Donald Rumsfeld, the listener. The man that welcomes debate, gets people to think differently.
LAWRENCE DIRITA, FORMER SPECIAL ASST TO SECRETARY RUMSFELD: In some ways he is a revolutionary. Somebody who looks at the established order and questions whether the established order is the proper order.
SESNO: whether it's war in Iraq, futuristic weapons systems or changing the way the military is organized and fights, Rumsfeld's influence will be felt for years.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, aside from the retired two-star general calling you incompetent and... SESNO: He is a personality to be reckoned with, a force of nature.
RUMSFELD: You like to repeat all that stuff, don't you? On camera. Did you get that?
BARBARA STAFF, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: He's a bulldog. He's a bully.
RUMSFELD: He loves that stuff.
STARR: He is always convinced he's right.
RUMSFELD: You better get a life.
STARR: He never lets go.
JAMES JAY CARAFANO, FELLOW, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: He is a perfect historical figure. So the historians won't find brilliant, insightful, clear Head decisions and they will find bone head, jarring, dumb mistakes.
RUMSFELD: Well, this is mine.
SESNO: When I meet with him on a late summer morning in his spacious Pentagon office, this man of war, constantly under fire, is notably relaxed and gracious.
RUMSFELD: I found that in a flea market in Michigan.
SESNO: He points to history, which he invokes again and again.
RUMSFELD: Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.
SESNO: And that's Teddy Roosevelt?
SESNO: He knows that America doesn't like long wars. And he knows that this one is increasingly unpopular.
A lot of people say, when you get in there with Donald Rumsfeld, give him hell. Why didn't we have more troops? If he is so tough, why wasn't he do that? What do you say to those people?
RUMSFELD: Well, it is awfully easy to be on the outside and opine on this and opine on that and critique this. If you go back and check the people who have been offering opinions, they have been wrong as many times as they have been right.
SESNO: But he betrays no doubts about its wisdom with a need to prevail.
RUMSFELD: I do enjoy completion. SESNO: He was a collegiate wrestler. And at 74, he still leads to win. He believes he's right and that Iraq and the American people will come around.
RUMSFELD: When people are writing the history books, you're going to be in it.
SESNO: History again.
RUMSFELD: On big things over time the American people have been right. If they're not, they would have tossed in the towel on the Revolutionary War. And we wouldn't have had a country. Think of the people who were telling Abraham Lincoln not to even have a civil war. We wouldn't have had the United States of America today if he had believed that.
SESNO: But Donald Rumsfeld, who has acknowledged few mistakes and is not one to second guess, now says something that seems obvious. But from him, is surprising.
RUMSFELD: Well, I think that anyone who looks at it with a benefit of 20/20 hindsight has to say that there was not anticipation that the level of the insurgency anything approximating what it is.
SESNO: It is a remarkable admission. A statement that begs the question, why?
UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Go.
SESNO: Why didn't Rumsfeld and his generals anticipate this? Was it inevitable? What was Rumsfeld's role?
UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Fire.
SESNO: The kaleidoscope that is Iraq -- power and miscalculation, progress and terror -- and at the center of it, all, Donald Rumsfeld. But this wasn't the job he was brought in to do.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will give the secretary a Broad mandate.
SESNO: Candidate Bush wanted someone who would shake up the military which he had believed had not changed with the times or the threat.
RUMSFELD: I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
SESNO: For many, Rumsfeld was a surprising choice. A man who had been defense secretary 25 years before in the Middle of the Cold War.
But President Bush believed, to take on the Pentagon bureaucracy, he needed a warrior with a resume, a bottom line former CEO, a change agent.
BUSH: We have just sworn in a leader of exceptional strength and ability and vision.
SESNO: Rumsfeld knew Washington. He'd cut his political teeth in Congress, played brass knuckle politics in the Nixon White House, served as chief of staff for President Ford.
He knew the military, as well. A former navy pilot, who at age 43, became the youngest defense secretary in history? He was ambitious, articulate and already a Washington insider.
JAMES MANN, AUTHOR, "RISE OF THE VULCANS": He seems to relish the back and forth with very powerful opponents within an administration.
SESNO: When Ford lost, Rumsfeld moved to the corporate world. He took over GD Searle, a struggling pharmaceutical company. Results mattered. Rumsfeld delivered. He slashed the work force and completely restructured the company.
JEFFREY KRAMES, AUTHOR, "THE RUMSFELD WAY": This guy was ahead of his time because here, in 1977, you Don't have companies out there doing things like down sizing and delayering and selling off noncore businesses.
SESNO: An article from "The Times" described him as an ax man. A former manager quoted as saying you could almost hear peoples' knees knocking when he walked down the hall.
"Fortune" magazine named him one of the 10 toughest bosses in America.
KRAMES: This is a guy who not only was willing to shake up an organization, but was quite happy to do so if he thought that it was going to be good for the Company.
BUSH: A good man, an honorable man, Mr. Don Rumsfeld.
SESNO: This was the demanding boss who returned to Washington in 2001 to become, at age 68, the oldest secretary of defense.
RUMSFELD: The Department of Defense is very different than a corporation and I don't think of myself as a chief executive officer in that sense. The dynamics are totally different.
SESNO: But in many ways, the bottom line was the same. Rumsfeld wanted to do to the Pentagon what he had done at Searle, embrace efficiency, restructure, modernize.
Former General Mike Rifle DeLong says the management style was rough but right. His orders very clear.
MIKE "RIFLE" DELONG, FORMER GENERAL: If you could do it with less people and better equipment, come back to me and show me how you can do it. Because I'm open to a plan change. SESNO: Rumsfeld was out to change this corporate culture.
RUMSFELD: People in the Congress are uncomfortable with change. People in the defense industry are uncomfortable with change. People in the bureaucracy are uncomfortable with change.
SESNO: You are comfortable with change?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I am. Always have been.
SESNO: And you push change?
RUMSFELD: You bet.
SESNO: And if it makes people uncomfortable, too bad?
RUMSFELD: Well, it's unfortunate, but life has to go on and the things have to get done and the American people have to be protected.
SESNO: Rumsfeld went to work. He zeroed on plans, procedure and strategy, minute detail. The generals didn't know what hit them.
DELONG: He said stop. He said, General, there is no verb in the last sentence.
SESNO: General DeLong remembers the first time he briefed the secretary.
He stopped you to correct your grammar?
RUMSFELD: He stopped me to correct my grammar.
STEVEN CAMBONE, UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: He asked me how many words I thought were in that paragraph. I didn't know.
SESNO: Undersecretary of Defense Steven Cambone remembers Rumsfeld counting words in the first brief he ever wrote for him.
CAMBONE: It was 93. He thought that was a long paragraph.
SESNO: And he is sitting there counting the number of words in your paragraph?
CAMBONE: It was to make a point.
SESNO: Did it work?
CAMBONE: Yes. There isn't a paragraph I've ever done that's 93 words long.
SESNO: What frustrates him?
DIRITA: Time. The sense that things take too long is an enormously frustrating for him. He is, as I said, somebody who always is looking to get things done, get decisions made, make decisions stick. RUMSFELD: Shh. Just stop.
SESNO: In meetings and memos, Rumsfeld's style is to fire off questions frequently at a withering pace.
RUMSFELD: Now, wait a second. Are you going to let me finish or not? Just a minute. I'm going to finish my responses. How do you know? It is not released.
SESNO: He tells me it's the way he learns.
RUMSFELD: I find that asking a lot of questions is a useful thing to do, and I've been doing it, I guess, a good chunk of my life.
Make a full sentence for me.
L. PAUL BREMER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY TO IRAQ: It is a difficult style. This style of asking a question, asking a follow up question, and asking yet another question and pushing, pushing, which is what he does.
SESNO: Paul Bremer was Rumsfeld's man in Iraq.
BREMER: I certainly had the impression that, at times, some of the people who worked for him were basically just so afraid to give an answer that they kind of froze.
RUMSFELD: Imagine that.
SESNO: Rumsfeld's demanding, unyielding style was rattling the Pentagon and so were his actions.
SESNO: He took special aim at the Army, which he felt too big, too slow, and too reluctant to work with the other services.
He and the team that came in with him wanted big changes and proposed big cuts.
JACK KEANE, U.S. ARMY GENERAL (RETIRED): We got off on the wrong foot. We had the wrong plan, the wrong concept.
SESNO: General Jack Keen was vice chief of staff of the Army. While he's a Rumsfeld ally, he says it was a tense time.
KEANE: So you're sitting there as a senior army leader and you find yourself having to rationalize why you need an Army? That gets you off on the wrong foot with anybody.
SESNO: Just eight months in to the job, Rumsfeld created so much fiction he was rumored to be on the way out.
RUMSFELD: Modernization of the Department of Defense is a matter of some urgency.
SESNO: But he was dug in and identified a serious threat.
RUMSFELD: It's the Pentagon bureaucracy.
SESNO: That was September 10th, 2001. The next day, the world changed.
SESNO: September 11th, 2001, America under attack. The Pentagon, nerve center of America's military, is burning. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is inside.
RUMSFELD: I felt the shock of the airplane hitting the building.
DIRITA: Something happened. He heard it. There was commotion and he moved toward it to understand it, to see what was happening.
SESNO: Larry DiRita watches his boss rush through the smoke to the spot where people are hurt.
DIRITA: While his perspective is one of detachment when something like this happens, his instincts are of throwing himself in to what's going on.
SESNO: There is chaos.
STARR: It is in flames. The dead, the wounded were tended to, but Don Rumsfeld refused to leave.
SESNO: CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr calls it the essential Donald Rumsfeld.
STARR: No retreat. No surrender.
SESNO: I was going to ask you about 9/11 and that day for you.
Rumsfeld shows me a piece of the plane that he keeps in his office, a constant reminder.
RUMSFELD: Well, it certainly focuses the mind, to think of seeing those sights of the airplane going in to the twin towers and crashing in to this building and the one out of Shanksville.
SESNO: He had seen terrorism's horrific aftermath before, as President Reagan's Middle East envoy in the mid-'80s, when he visited Beirut shortly after a suicide bomber killed 241 U.S. servicemembers.
He left a lasting impression and taught him a lesson.
STARR: What he recalls most, and he's used in conversation as an example, is the adaptability of terrorists. I think he views Lebanon as the case study in the resiliency of terrorists' networks.
SESNO: President Reagan pulled out of Lebanon. Rumsfeld learned from that, too, because the terrorists saw it as American weakness and didn't stop --Saudi Arabia, U.S. embassies in Africa, the USS Cole, 9/11.
RUMSFELD: There's too many people being killed by terrorists. And the government of the United States simply cannot sit there and take the attack.
SESNO: The first target, Al Qaeda and its Taliban sponsors in Afghanistan. Rumsfeld wanted to move fast. He had been hired to think differently, to transform the military. The time had come.
Rumsfeld pushed the man in charge, General Tommy Franks, to use fewer troops, deploy them differently, exploit technology, move faster.
DELONG: We used the northern alliance Army as our army on the ground, reinforced, now, with something that had never been done before, a team of CIA and special forces people.
SESNO: He was on the phone with the commanders constantly. At times, they felt, micromanaging them, demanding results.
DELONG: What he wanted was, like we run most wars, hit 500 targets a day. Well, sometimes there were only 50. But when Franks pushed back or when Franks said, Mr. Secretary, come on. And that -- then he would say, I got it and he'd stop.
SESNO: Militarily, the plan to oust the Taliban was a stunning success, just a thousand U.S. troops working alongside indigenous warriors.
PACE: What we learned in Afghanistan was that the home-grown armies would be loyal to their country, not to the despot leaders they had, and would, given the opportunity, fight for freedom. That's a mind set that I certainly had going in to Iraq.
SESNO: But there was a major fault in the strategy and an ominous sign. It would show first in the stark terrain of Tora Bora where a crucial manhunt came up dry.
MICHAEL GORDON, "NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF MILITARY CORRESPONDENT: bin Laden got away at Tora Bora -- and I was there -- because we didn't have sufficient U.S. ground troops to do the job and relied on others to do it for us.
SESNO: That was despite specific requests from CIA operatives on the ground for more U.S. troops.
GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: In the first two or three days of December, I would write a message back to Washington recommending the insertion of U.S. forces on the ground.
SESNO: Gary Berntsen was the leader of a secret CIA paramilitary unit that had pursued bin Laden.
BERNTSEN: I was looking for 600, 800 rangers, roughly a battalion. They never came. SESNO: Rumsfeld had won the first big battle in the war on terror but lost the prize, Osama bin Laden. He bet heavily on Afghan forces and said American troop strength wasn't the issue.
RUMSFELD: We have seen repeated speculation about his possible location. But it has obviously not been verifiable. Had it been verifiable one would have thought that someone might have done something about it.
BERNTSEN: I was providing the intelligence to the community. I was the person on the ground. He was there.
SESNO: Even before Tora Bora, President Bush told Rumsfeld to have his generals start looking at Iraq.
Rumsfeld had a long history with the place. As Reagan's envoy, he went there, shook Saddam's hand when Saddam was at war with Iran, America's arch enemy.
But after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, and the first Gulf War, Rumsfeld signed on to a new line of neo-conservative thought, that America should actively promote democracy in Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein.
RUMSFELD: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger.
SESNO: At the end of the 2001, Rumsfeld ordered Tommy Franks to throw out the existing Iraq war plan, which called for more than 400,000 troops?
RUMSFELD: It didn't reflect any of the lessons from Afghanistan, that it didn't reflect the current state of affairs in Iraq.
SESNO: Rumsfeld was adamant, leaning hard on General Tommy Franks, who was putting together the war plan.
RICKS: There was quite a lot of friction, a fairly harsh time. Franks would fly up to Washington, show it to him, and Rumsfeld would say fewer troops, faster, cut it down, pare it down.
SESNO: Rumsfeld was thinking transformation and asking tough questions.
KEANE: The question sort of goes like this, listen, Saddam Hussein's army today is half the size it used to be. Why do we have to attack with the same size force we did back then? Isn't it reasonable to do it with less? Well, that's a very good question. It deserves to be asked.
SESNO: The U.S. would attack with fewer than 150,000 troops, though more were available if needed. Rumsfeld's vision had prevailed. It was about to be tested again, but on a very different battlefield.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
SESNO (voice-over): Take out Saddam Hussein. And his military. While preventing him from using the weapons of mass destruction we're told he has. Do it while preserving Iraq's infrastructure and securing his oil fields. Do it all faster and with fewer troops than anyone, especially Saddam, thought was possible. That was Donald Rumsfeld's challenge.
He'd win the battle but winning the peace would be another matter.
So what happened? How did we get here?
Despite more than three years of work to rebuild and repair, write a constitution, form a government, create an Iraqi security force, insurgency and sectarian bloodletting have brought Iraq to the edge of civil war. Critics say the problem began with a war plan that looking back was fatally flawed.
THOMAS RICKS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": They spent over a year working on that war plan. Yet they devoted overwhelmingly probably 90 to 95 percent of their energy to the 10 percent problem, how do I get to Baghdad? And they devoted almost no serious thought to the more important question, what do I do once I get there?
SESNO: In fact, the Pentagon's post war planning didn't begin in earnest until less than two months before the invasion.
MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE, U.S. ARMY, (RET.): Frank, we did not have a campaign plan beyond the day when we took down Saddam Hussein to win in Iraq.
SESNO: Former General John Batiste commanded the First Infantry Division, the army's famed Big Red One. He has emerged as one of Rumsfeld's toughest critics and called on him to resign.
BATISTE: We are in a real fix right now. We're there because Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ignored sound military advice, dismissed it all and went with his plan and his plan alone.
SESNO: Rumsfeld's plan was to follow the same model that had been established and was working in Afghanistan. Replace the government, and establish democracy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was Rumsfeld's concept. We're not doing the nation building big time. We are enabling them to do it and we're encouraging other nations to come in afterwards.
SESNO: Reducing troop strength fast was part of the plan from the beginning.
L. PAUL BREMER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY TO IRAQ: I showed drawing down by almost two thirds the number of troops. I think we had, America had about 160, 170,000 troops there when I got there and they were going to draw down to 60,000 by September. SESNO: Heated debate over troop strength had been going on behind the scenes less than one month before the war began, it burst in to public view. Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki testified before Congress and pressed on the post war needs of Iraq. His unscripted comments reflected his opinion but directly contradicted what the Pentagon was advertising.
GEN. ERIC SHINSEKI, (RET) FORMER ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably a figure that would be required.
SESNO: Rumsfeld's relationship with Shinseki was already strained. The general's testimony got a public rebuke.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post Saddam Iraq are wildly off the mark.
SESNO: According to generals who were there, Shinseki was called on the carpet in private as well. Word spread.
MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON, U.S. ARMY (RET): Oh, it was deplorable. Absolutely deplorable.
At the Kirkuk Military Training Base ...
SESNO: Former Army General Paul Eaton trained the new Iraqi military from May 2003 to June 2004, he too has called for Rumsfeld to step down. He said the Shinseki incident had a chilling affect.
EATON: We got the message.
SESNO (on camera): Which was?
EATON: If you speak up and give your best advice and it's counter to what is coming out of the third deck earring (ph), then you are going to have a problem.
SESNO: And that was Rumsfeld's military?
EATON: And that is Rumsfeld's military and that is the loyal -- it's not loyalty. It is fealty that he demands.
SESNO (voice-over): Eaton reflects what is critics charge about Rumsfeld's management style and the decision that is come out of it. That Rumsfeld doesn't listen, doesn't like dissent. Dismisses that ideas that differ from his own.
SESNO: A lot of the rap, TV, books, articles, you have read all these things is that he wants to be surrounded by yes men. That would make you one of those yes men.
GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: But that is an absolute fallacy. This man is a wrestler. He loves body contact. He loves mental body contact. He wants people to push back.
SESNO: Where have you done that?
PACE: I have done that many times.
SESNO: But anyone who's been in the room with Rumsfeld will tell you, you can take him on but you better be prepared.
LT. GEN. MICHAEL DELONG, U.S. MARINES, (RET): If you brief him and he knew more about the subject than you, you're - on a boat with no paddles.
SESNO: It's a demanding management style that can be intimidating, even for people who have been to war.
DELONG: Were the generals tough enough? Some of them were and some of them weren't. If you're not willing to stand up to the secretary of defense, and give your input, and take your hits, then you shouldn't be there.
RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know.
SESNO: But it's a style that carries risks. John Riggs is another former army general who has called for Rumsfeld to be replaced.
LT. GEN. JOHN RIGGS, U.S. ARMY, (RET): If you press the military, like the generals so hard they will eventually say, yes, sir, Mr. Secretary. Three bags full. We'll take what you have given us and do the best with it.
SESNO (on camera): All the stuff Donald Rumsfeld throws people out of the office if they disagree with him.
(voice-over): I put the issue directly to the secretary.
(on camera): Somebody come in and slam the desk and say, you are wrong.
RUMSFELD: You got it.
SESNO: And you say?
RUMSFELD: I say, why, explain it. Make your case. Let's hear it. I have got no problem with that. I've been, you know, I've been wrong many times.
I've had more people come in and do that and say, look, we've gone through this. We simply -- you need to understand this. I -- my view of this is this. Your view is that. And I say, talk about it. Tell me about it. And we've ended up adjusting or changing or calibrating.
SESNO (voice-over): Rumsfeld's ability to adjust to change, to calibrate, would be tested because the experts and exiles he and the team were listening to told them Iraq would be easy. Saddam was weak. His army poorly led and unpopular.
(on camera): You were told you were going to be greeted as liberators?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's absolutely true.
SESNO: And you believed that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, we believed it.
SESNO: And Rumsfeld and the civilians believed that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is true.
SESNO: So you didn't plan for an insurgency.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's true. We were dead wrong.
SESNO (voice-over): And what does Donald Rumsfeld say about that? The answer may surprise you.
SESNO: Iraq today. Endurance and bravery. Grief and fury. Iraq's stubborn insurgency and religious war within a war now extract a reluctant acknowledgment from the man who's been most confident and most determined not to second guess.
RUMSFELD: Well, I think that anyone who looks at it with a benefit of 20/20 hindsight has to say that there was not an anticipation that the level of insurgency would be anything approximating what it is.
Not anything approximating what it is. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Peter Pace is even more blunt.
PACE: I think it is fair to say that we did not expect an insurgency and that over time, as it showed its head, we had to adjust.
SESNO: It is a revealing acknowledgment and for Rumsfeld, especially damaging because he prides himself on anticipating the unexpected.
(on camera): Why wasn't that question asked?
RUMSFELD: It was asked and it was -- on a memo.
SESNO (voice-over): The memo from late 2002 was Rumsfeld's. The Pentagon says it's classified secret. Won't release it so the public can't see it.
Still Rumsfeld and those around him like to point to it as proof he did ask questions, nearly three dozen what could go wrong scenarios. Among them, resistance and insurgency. PACE: Not that the questions weren't asked, it's just the belief was that there would not be a strong insurgency. That, in fact, the Iraqi people having lived under a despot for three decades would, in fact, do what Western minds tell us folks would do which is to grab a hold of this freedom and nurture it.
I certainly did not foresee the strength of the sectarian hatred that has caused a lot of the problems.
SESNO: But more than just missing the insurgency in the summer of 2003, Rumsfeld and the generals are criticized for being too slow to adapt to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seemed to kind of freeze and that kind of froze the military hierarchy.
SESNO: Undersecretary of defense Stephen Cambone says not so. Rumsfeld wasn't slow to react. He was being careful.
STEPHEN CAMBONE, UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: His argument at the time was let's be certain we know what this is before we cause ourselves to wake up one morning and find out we made the wrong assessment.
SESNO: It was clear to many on the ground that the situation was dangerously unstable. U.S. forces were supposed to be providing security.
BREMER: We were not effectively doing that. My instinctive reaction was we need more troops.
SESNO: But Bremer says the top military men in Iraq were telling Rumsfeld something else.
BREMER: They are consistently telling him, because I heard them say, they had enough troops. You pretty much go with the military experts.
SESNO: Rumsfeld and his military advisors wanted enough troops to secure the country but not so many that America would be seen as an occupier.
PACE: It is a balance. I'm comfortable with the choices we made.
SESNO: Still, Pace, Rumsfeld and the commanding generals all say they made it clear, if more troops were needed, more would be sent. General John Batiste says not so. As he deployed his First Infantry Division in the spring of four, he says he needed and he asked for more troops. But didn't get them.
(on camera): What weren't you able to do that you wanted to do or could have done better because you didn't have the troops you felt you needed?
BATISTE: Oh my. Frank. Secure the Iranian boarder in a serious way. Secure the oil infrastructure. We would have been early on more successful.
BATISTE: In securing the countryside. In intimidating and crushing the insurgent. In getting our arms around Iraqi people.
SESNO: So your force levels hurt your effort to fight the insurgency when you were in command?
BATISTE: Oh, there's no question.
SESNO: One of your harshest critics, John Batiste, who commanded the First Infantry Division in Iraq says he asked for more troops while he was there. And he didn't get them. Were you aware that he felt that way or that request was out there?
RUMSFELD: No. I wasn't.
SESNO: Should you have been?
RUMSFELD: Well, I'm certainly aware that in any given location in any part of the world or in any part of that country that at any given moment someone down the line feels they need more of something.
SESNO: Batiste was wasn't just someone down the line. He had 22,000 troops under his command, responsibility for an area the size of West Virginia.
RUMSFELD: I'm also aware that the military commanders that he reported to had exactly the number of troops they asked for and wanted and assured us were appropriate.
SESNO: So when you look back and you think about what's gone right. What's gone wrong. Lesson learned. Troop strength is not something that you think about?
RUMSFELD: It's understandable people have different views on that. So it's that tension that General Abizaid and General Casey have been managing and trying to balance as well as they could and I think they have done a pretty darn good job.
SESNO (voice-over): Too often the good works have been overshadowed by the violence and the unexpected. Nowhere was that more costly than when pictures appeared from a place of Abu Ghraib.
RUMSFELD: As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them. And I take full responsibility.
SESNO: Twice, Rumsfeld says, he offered to resign. President Bush told him to stay. But critics say Abu Ghraib reflected the core problem, insufficient troop strength, trying to do too much with too few, but also, a failure at the highest levels to take responsibility.
RUMSFELD: What was going on in the midnight shift in Abu Ghraib prison halfway across the world is something that clearly someone in Washington, DC can't manage or deal with. RICKS: The army phrase for this is different spanks for different ranks. What we didn't do was look at leadership failures among the top commanders in Iraq. And also, how actions by the secretary of defense and other people around him led to that situation.
SESNO: Iraq has proved far more difficult than Donald Rumsfeld ever imagined. The insurgency he and the generals didn't foresee now presents a future they can't predict.
RUMSFELD: Insurgencies are historically very difficult things. They take time. They take anywhere from five, eight, 10, 12, 15 years.
SESNO: That is not how long Rumsfeld thinks U.S. forces will be fighting but he won't say when they leave, either. It depends, he says, on getting Iraqi security forces on their feet.
RUMSFELD: That insurgency is going to be dealt with in Iraq by the Iraqi people. But the success of that government. Over time. It isn't going to be dealt with by foreigners in my view.
SESNO: But even as he fights this war, Donald Rumsfeld is preparing for the next war.
SESNO: Welcome to the future. This is Land Warrior, an experimental new fighting system under development by the army. It puts cameras on weapons, allowing soldiers to see around corners or e- mail pictures of the enemy back to headquarters.
Helmets come with video monitors attached so troops can look at maps or to see where their friends are in nearly real time. Soldiers have GPS trackers so commanders know exactly where they are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As these soldiers are actually walking, I can see them moving and walking individually. I can also see that I have another squad to my rear by about 600 meters. Even though I can't see them with my own eye back there I can see them here.
SESNO: Land Warrior is just one small piece of what the military calls transformation. The drive to create a 21st century fighting force. Donald Rumsfeld, the former CEO who turned corporations around, wants to turn the military on its head.
RUMSFELD: You don't start untransformed and end up transformed. It is a process, it's a way of thinking, it's a culture that recognizes we are living in a time that's dynamic, not static.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rumsfeld believes the world has passed the Pentagon by and the military by. SESNO: Rumsfeld's goal. Organize it to fight insurgents and terrorists as well as nations and standing armies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He sees this as a world of what the Pentagon likes to call asymmetrical threats. He sees it as low tech, terrorist organizations around the world attacking the United States and U.S. interests everywhere.
SESNO: There have been some big changes. Redeployed forces, reorganized fighting units, and at every turn, new technology.
PACE: Precision especially is a huge transformation item.
In World War II it took about 3,000 bombs to destroy one bridge. Today, one airplane can attack and destroy 10, 20, 30, 40 bridges in one pass.
SESNO: It is a struggle to shape future wars being fought in the middle of the current war.
RUMSFELD: It actually is providing impetus to the transformation. We have been able to do more because of the sense of urgency that people feel about getting up every morning and knowing our job is to try to help protect the American people.
SESNO: But fighting a protracted war while trying to change the military is expensive and difficult and Rumsfeld's own army chief has bluntly told his boss the army needs an extra $25 billion to do the job.
RUMSFELD: How are you?
SESNO: Rumsfeld's critics say he placed too big a bet on transformation. Compromising the basics like armor and troop strength in the process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I honestly believe in some cases that he felt like that if you had enough shock and awe, had enough spiffy aircraft, and enough precision weapons that you could somehow or another be successful in the type of encounters that we were in fact facing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Iraq War showed the limits of transformation. If you look at what was required in the post war was large numbers of forces. And there's no way high-technology could take the place of those troops.
SESNO: But Rumsfeld is right that war and the technology of war change. In his office, he shows me Eisenhower, Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt. Men who lived in times of crisis and who also faced withering criticism.
RUMSFELD: I have watched polling go from zero to 55 percent to 12 percent in six weeks. What's important is what's right. What's important is what makes sense.
SESNO: But ask him to judge himself, how he measures his success on transformation, Iraq, the war on terror and he refuses to engage.
RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't worry about me.
SESNO: You have got to worry about -- you have a job to do. You want to succeed at it.
RUMSFELD: You bet your life we do and we have got a lot of wonderful people helping to do it.
SESNO: I still want to know how you will define your own success.
RUMSFELD: I don't worry about me. I really don't.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He may say that he is not a historic figure but I think there is no question he cares very deeply about how his positions are portrayed and how people view him.
RUMSFELD: The great sweep of human history is for freedom.
SESNO: Donald Rumsfeld came in determined to transform the largest and most powerful military in human history. Nine-eleven intervened. And his mission was transformed. The war in Iraq and the insurgency that he and his generals failed to plan for will shape his legacy.
DELONG: The enemy did some things we didn't anticipate. We made some mistakes. And that's war.
SESNO: But the war unleashed powerful forces in an unstable region. America's military is strained. And according to U.S. intelligence the occupation of Iraq has become a cause celebre for the next generation of terrorists.
BATISTE: We must be held accountable. We have got to admit what we did wrong and then we have got to move forward to finish what we started in Iraq.
SESNO: Rumsfeld remains defiant.
RUMSFELD: I don't think there's ever been a conflict in the history of our country were people, critics didn't disagree with what was being done. And, that's fair enough.
SESNO: America is at war. And Donald Rumsfeld, wrestler, politician, CEO, secretary of defense, knows more than anyone he'll be judged by the results.
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