Donald Rumsfeld On War In Iraq And More
February 28, 2011
By Roger Aronoff
During an exclusive interview with Accuracy in Media, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that “the enemy” we face today “are the radical Islamists.” He said “It is not the Muslim faith, it is not Muslims generally, it is a small minority of Muslims who are determined to kill innocent men, women and children in an effort to impose their view on how the world ought to operate and to damage the nation-state concept.” And he criticized the Obama administration, saying, “Now, for whatever reason, the government of the United States today is unwilling to say that, they’re unwilling to identify the enemy. I don’t see how you can win in the competition of ideas if you’re not willing to, on the one hand, describe honestly what the ideas of the enemy are and then simultaneously talk about the virtues of free political systems and free economic systems that we benefit from.”
Rumsfeld is out with a new book, Known and Unknown: A Memoir, that covers his career from Navy pilot, to three-term Congressman, to White House Chief of Staff. He was also ambassador to NATO, chief executive officer of two Fortune 500 companies, and both the youngest and oldest Secretary of Defense, first under President Gerald Ford, then later under George W. Bush.
Rumsfeld defended the reasons the U.S. went to war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. While it turned out that much of the intelligence was wrong on certain chemical and biological weapons the U.S. expected to find when it attacked Iraq in March of 2003, it turned out that there was much that was found that clearly were ingredients and infrastructure for making new weapons of mass destruction.
He said that “we found ricin and potassium chloride and chemical weapons suits, and books in Arabic explaining how to make chemical weapons. I think that it was unfortunate that the administration did not do a good job in explaining, for example what you suggested, plus what was in the Duelfer report after the war. Mr. Duelfer went in there and actually created a report that analyzed exactly what was found, and there’s no question but that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons on his own people and on the Iranians, that he had an active program, and refused to allow the inspectors to have sufficient inspection and confidence that he has disposed of his supplies of chemical weapons.”
And he pointed out that this was only part of what led to the U.S. coalition invading Iraq in March of 2003.
Rumsfeld said that “Saddam Hussein was giving $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers, he had repressed his people, he had invaded Iran, he had invaded Kuwait, he had been on the State Department’s terrorist list for years, the Congress of the U.S. in the 1990s passed legislation for regime change in Iraq which President Clinton signed, it was passed overwhelmingly by the Congress, all of the members of the intelligence committees in the Congress saw the same intelligence that we saw in the executive branch, the conclusion was uniform in the German and French and British and U.S. intelligence communities and, as you point out, Prime Minister Blair said that the Iraqis had rejected some seventeen U.N. resolutions and at the same time, Iraq was shooting at U.S. and British aircrafts that were patrolling the northern and southern no-fly zones in Iraq, that were enforcing U.N. resolutions. So there were a good number of reasons that were listed in the resolution that was passed by the U.N., there were a good number of reasons listed in the legislation that was passed by the U.S. Congress, it was much broader than simply weapons of mass destruction.”
Rumsfeld criticized some in the media for erroneous reporting (Newsweek), for failure to report on some of the known vicious acts of Saddam Hussein in the period leading up to the war (CNN), and for leaking classified information that might have been detrimental to our troops in the field. Regarding those leaks, Rumsfeld said that “I don’t know why people do it – maybe for money, maybe for self aggrandizement, maybe they have a political difference with the people in government and they want to damage them and hurt them. But whatever the difference, it puts people’s lives at risk. I’ve often thought that I wished the leakers and the people in the media who insist on carrying classified information in The New York Times or other newspapers or television stations, I wish they had children in the lead organizations of military operations that are compromised because I think if they did have their own children in those operations, that they would be very careful about not releasing classified information and not putting the lives of men and women in uniform at risk.”
Regarding WikiLeaks, he is concerned that “one of the effects is that people are going to be very reluctant to put things on paper, I think people are going to be very reluctant to communicate honestly and accurately what they really believe unless it is something that is politically correct, unless it’s something that is going to be seen in the world and the media as being perfectly understandable. And of course what people in government have to have is the honest opinions of people and the honest opinions may not always conform to what policy is or to what preference is at any given time. And people have to be willing to communicate that or else decision makers aren’t going to be able to make good decisions.”
I had many more questions for Sec. Rumsfeld, but not enough time. You can listen to the entire interview or read the transcript here.