'This Week' Transcript: Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld

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One of the parade of horribles in which you noted this risk about going to war in Iraq, quote, "Rather than having the post-Saddam effort require 2 to 4 years, it could take 8 to 10 years, thereby absorbing U.S. leadership, military and financial resources." That was October 2002.

And yet one month later, you said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: I can't tell you if a -- the use of force in Iraq today would -- would last five days or five weeks or five months, but -- but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Can you help us understand how this memo is talking about a 2- to 4-year plan -- commitment or 8 to 10, but publicly you were saying five weeks or five months?

RUMSFELD: Sure. Yes, I certainly can. I was talking about major combat operations. And that lasted, I think, about four or five weeks. So it was not inaccurate.

I said dozens of times -- I said what I said earlier, where I agreed with Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, that nobody can tell you about any war, how long it's going to last, how much it's going to cost, or how many lives are going to be lost.

And every war is a terrible thing. Every war is a failure of foreign policy, the inability of governments to solve things in a peaceful way. And -- and that parade -- so called parade of horribles I made before the war started. I -- I circulated it to the National Security Council and the president. And I felt that was my responsibility.

It was to sit down and say to myself, OK, the president's decided he's going to move forward and invade Iraq and change the regime. And we've got a plan, and we know the plan changes with first contact with the enemy. And what are the things that conceivably can go differently? And so I made that list. And then I got other people to help me develop it. And then I sent it around to the president and the National Security Council.

The other day, I was on O'Reilly, and he kept saying, well, why didn't we publicize the list? Well, that would be mindless, to tell the enemy every conceivable thing we didn't want them to do, every conceivable thing they could do that could complicate the problems for the United States and the coalition.

But I felt a responsibility that we look seriously at all of those. Fortunately, a lot of those terrible things that could have happened did not happen. Some of them did, to be sure.

TAPPER: All right. We're going to unfortunately have to leave it there. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck with your book.

Next, across the Middle East, violent government crackdowns against pro-democracy protesters in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain. Why is the U.S. always the nation pressed to intervene and put the lives of our troops at risk? Pressing questions I'll put to our powerhouse roundtable when we return.

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