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

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates speak with Jake Tapper on "This Week."
Share
Copy

JAKE TAPPER, ABC NEWS: And joining me now in their first interview since the attacks on Libya began, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Madam and Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

I'll start with you, Secretary Gates. The mission is a no-fly zone and civilian protection but does not include removing Gadhafi from power, even though regimen change is stated U.S. policy. So why not have, as part of the mission, regime change, removing Gadhafi from power?

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, first of all, I think you don't want ever to set a set of goals or a mission -- military mission where you can't be confident of accomplishing your objectives. And as we have seen in the past, regime change is a very complicated business. It sometimes takes a long time. Sometimes it can happen very fast, but it was never part of the military mission.

TAPPER: NATO has assumed control and command for the no-fly zone or is this weekend but not yet for the civilian protection. When do we anticipate that happening?

GATES: Hillary's been more engaged with that diplomacy than I have.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we hope, Jake, that NATO, which is making the military planning for the civilian protection mission, will meet in the next few days, make a decision which we expect to be positive to include that mission, and then just as the arms embargo and the no-fly zone has been transitioned to NATO command and control, the civilian protection mission will as well.

Tapper: what do you say to the people in Ivory Coast or Syria who say where's our no-fly zone? We're being killed by our government too.

CLINTON: Well, there's not an aircraft -- there's not an air force being used. There is not the same level of force. The situation is significantly different enough that the world has not come together. However, in Ivory Coast we have a U.N. peacekeeping force which we are supporting. We are beginning to see the world coalesce around the very obvious fact that Mr. Gbagbo no longer is president. Mr. Ouattara is the president.

So you know, each of these situations is different but in Libya when a leader says spare nothing, show no mercy and calls out air -- air force attacks on his own people, that crosses a line that people in the world had decided they could not tolerate.

TAPPER: When do we know that the mission is done? The no-fly zone has succeeded, civilian protection has stopped, when -- when do you --

GATES: I would say, for all practical purposes, the implementation of a no-fly zone is complete. Now it will need to be sustained, but it can be sustained with a lot less effort than what it took to set it up. As I indicated in my testimony on the Hill, you don't establishment a no-fly zone by just declaring it. You go in and suppress the air defenses and that mission is largely complete.

I think we have made a lot of progress on the humanitarian side and his ability to move armor, to move toward a Benghazi or a place like that has -- has pretty well been eliminated. Now we'll have to keep our eye on it because he still has ground forces at his beck and call. But the reality is they're under a lot of pressure. Their logistics -- there are some signs that they're moving back to the east -- back to the west away from Ajdabiya and other places.

So I think that we have prevented the large scale slaughter that was beginning to take place, has taken place in some places. And so I think that we are at a point where -- where the establishment of the no-fly zone and the protection of cities from the kind of wholesale military assault that we have seen certainly in the East has been accomplished and now we can move to sustainment.

CLINTON: You know, Jake, I would just add two points to what Secretary Gates said. The United States Senate called for a no-fly zone in the resolution that it passed I think on March 1th. And that mission is on the brink of having been accomplished. And there was a lot of congressional support to do something.

There is no perfect option when one is looking at a situation like this. I think that the president ordered the best available option. The United States worked with the international community to make sure that there was authorization to do what we have helped to accomplish.

But what is quite remarkable here is that NATO assuming the responsibility for the entire mission means that the United States will move to a supporting role. Just as our allies are helping us in Afghanistan where we bear the disproportionate amount of sacrifice and the cost, we are supporting a mission through NATO that was very much initiated by European requests joined by Arab requests.

I think this is a watershed moment in international decision making. We learned a lot in the 1990s. We saw what happened in Rwanda. It took a long time in the Balkans, in Kosovo to deal with a tyrant. But I think in -- what has happened since March 1st and we're not even done with the month demonstrates really remarkable leadership.

GATES: I would just add one other thing in sort of a concrete manifestation where we are in this and that is we and the Department of Defense are already beginning to do our planning in terms of beginning to draw down resources. First from support of the no-fly zone and then from the humanitarian mission. Now that may not start in the next day or two, but I certainly expect it to in the very near future.

TAPPER: Well, I wanted to follow on that. How long are we going to be there in this support role?

GATES: Well, I think that, as I say, we -- we will begin diminishing the level of our engagement, the level of resources we have involved in this, but as long as there is a no-fly zone and we have some unique capabilities to bring to bear, for example, intelligence, surveillance and recognizance, some tanking ability, we will continue to have a presence. But a lot of these -- a lot of the forces that we will have available other than the ISR are forces that are already assigned to Europe or have been assigned to Italy or at sea in the Mediterranean.

TAPPER: I've heard NATO say that this -- they anticipate -- some NATO officials say this could be three months, but people in the Pentagon think it could be far longer than that. Do you think we'll be gone by the end of the year? Will the mission be over by the end of the year?

GATES: I don't think anybody knows the answer to that.

TAPPER: Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States?

GATES: No, no. It was not -- it was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about. The engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake. There was another piece of this though that certainly was a consideration. You've had revolutions on both the East and the West of Libya.

TAPPER: Egypt and Tunisia.

GATES: Egypt and Tunisia.

So you had a potentially significantly destabilizing event taking place in Libya that put at risk potentially the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt. And that was another consideration I think we took into account.

TAPPER: Secretary Clinton, how does --

CLINTON: Jake, I just want to add too because, you know, I know that there's been a lot of questions and those questions deserve to be asked and answered. The president is going to address the nation on Monday night.

Imagine we were sitting here and Benghazi had been overrun, a city of 700,000 people, and tens of thousands of people had been slaughtered, hundreds of thousands had fled and, as Bob said, either with nowhere to go or overwhelming Egypt while it's in its own difficult transition. And we were sitting here, the cries would be, why did the United States not do anything? Why -- how could you stand by when, you know, France and the United Kingdom and other Europeans and the Arab League and your Arab partners were saying you've got to do something.

So every decision that we make is going to have plusses and minuses.

TAPPER: You heard the Secretary of Defense say that Libya did not pose an actual or imminent threat to the nation and bearing in mind what you just said, I'm still wondering how the administration reconciles the attack without congressional approval with then candidate Obama saying in 2007 the president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation and, as a senator, you, yourself in 2007 said this about President Bush.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CLINTON: If the administration believes that any -- any use of force against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek that authority.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: Why not go to Congress?

CLINTON: Well, we would welcome congressional support, but I don't think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama were -- was speaking of several years ago.

I think that this had a limited timeframe, a very clearly defined mission which we are in the process of fulfilling.

TAPPER: I want to get to a couple other topics before you guys go and one of them is in Yemen President Saleh a crucial ally in counterterrorism seems quite on his way out. Secretary Gates, you said this week we have not done any post-Saleh planning. How dangerous is a post-Saleh world -- a post-Saleh Yemen to the United States?

GATES: Well, I think -- I think it is a real concern because the most active and, at this point, perhaps the most aggressive branch of al Qaeda -- al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula operates out of Yemen. And we have had a lot of counterterrorism cooperation from President Saleh and Yemeni Security Services. So if that government collapses or is replaced by one that is dramatically more weak, then I think we'll face some additional challenges out of Yemen. There's no question about it. It's a real problem.

TAPPER: Secretary Clinton, on Pakistan. Pakistan has been trying to block U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the FATA region, it continues to work with terrorists to attack India, it held a U.S. diplomat in its presence for several weeks, as I don't need to tell you. Has this relationship gotten worse in the last six months, U.S. Pakistan?

CLINTON: Well, Jake, it's a very challenging relationship because there have been some -- some problems. We were very appreciative of getting our diplomat out of Pakistan and that took cooperation by the government of Pakistan. We have cooperated very closely together in going after terrorists who pose a threat to both us and the Pakistanis themselves. But it's a -- it's a very difficult relationship because Pakistan is in a hard position trying to figure out how it's going to contend with its own internal extremist threat.

But I think on the other hand, we've also developed good lines of communication, good opportunities for cooperation, but it's something we have to work on every day.

TAPPER: And finally, we've talked a bit about the end of this operation, how it ends. I'm wondering if you can envision the United States supporting a plan where Gadhafi is exiled. Would the U.S. be willing to support Safe Haven and Unity from prosecution and access to funds as a way to end this conflict?

CLINTON: Well, Jake, we are nowhere near that kind of negotiation. I'll be going to London on Tuesday for a conference that the British government is hosting. There will be a number of countries, not only those participating in the -- the enforcement of the resolution, but also those who are pursuing political and other interventions. And the United Nations has a special envoy who will also be actively working with Gadhafi and those around him.

We have sent a clear message that it is time for him to transition out of power. The African Union has now called for a democratic transition. We think that there will be developments along that line in the weeks and months ahead, but I can't sitting here today predict to you exactly how it's going to play out. But we believe that Libya will have a better shot in the future if he departs and leaves power.

TAPPER: All right. Secretaries Clinton, Secretary Gates, thank you so much for joining us.

CLINTON: Thank you. TAPPER, ABC NEWS: And joining me now in their first interview since the attacks on Libya began, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Madam and Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

I'll start with you, Secretary Gates. The mission is a no-fly zone and civilian protection but does not include removing Gadhafi from power, even though regimen change is stated U.S. policy. So why not have, as part of the mission, regime change, removing Gadhafi from power?

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, first of all, I think you don't want ever to set a set of goals or a mission -- military mission where you can't be confident of accomplishing your objectives. And as we have seen in the past, regime change is a very complicated business. It sometimes takes a long time. Sometimes it can happen very fast, but it was never part of the military mission.

TAPPER: NATO has assumed control and command for the no-fly zone or is this weekend but not yet for the civilian protection. When do we anticipate that happening?

GATES: Hillary's been more engaged with that diplomacy than I have.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we hope, Jake, that NATO, which is making the military planning for the civilian protection mission, will meet in the next few days, make a decision which we expect to be positive to include that mission, and then just as the arms embargo and the no-fly zone has been transitioned to NATO command and control, the civilian protection mission will as well.

Tapper: What do you say to the people in Ivory Coast or Syria who say where's our no-fly zone? We're being killed by our government too.

CLINTON: Well, there's not an aircraft -- there's not an air force being used. There is not the same level of force. The situation is significantly different enough that the world has not come together. However, in Ivory Coast we have a U.N. peacekeeping force which we are supporting. We are beginning to see the world coalesce around the very obvious fact that Mr. Gbagbo no longer is president. Mr. Ouattara is the president.

So you know, each of these situations is different but in Libya when a leader says spare nothing, show no mercy and calls out air -- air force attacks on his own people, that crosses a line that people in the world had decided they could not tolerate.

TAPPER: When do we know that the mission is done? The no-fly zone has succeeded, civilian protection has stopped, when -- when do you --

GATES: I would say, for all practical purposes, the implementation of a no-fly zone is complete. Now it will need to be sustained, but it can be sustained with a lot less effort than what it took to set it up. As I indicated in my testimony on the Hill, you don't establishment a no-fly zone by just declaring it. You go in and suppress the air defenses and that mission is largely complete.

I think we have made a lot of progress on the humanitarian side and his ability to move armor, to move toward a Benghazi or a place like that has -- has pretty well been eliminated. Now we'll have to keep our eye on it because he still has ground forces at his beck and call. But the reality is they're under a lot of pressure. Their logistics -- there are some signs that they're moving back to the east -- back to the west away from Ajdabiya and other places.

So I think that we have prevented the large scale slaughter that was beginning to take place, has taken place in some places. And so I think that we are at a point where -- where the establishment of the no-fly zone and the protection of cities from the kind of wholesale military assault that we have seen certainly in the East has been accomplished and now we can move to sustainment.

CLINTON: You know, Jake, I would just add two points to what Secretary Gates said. The United States Senate called for a no-fly zone in the resolution that it passed I think on March 1th. And that mission is on the brink of having been accomplished. And there was a lot of congressional support to do something.

There is no perfect option when one is looking at a situation like this. I think that the president ordered the best available option. The United States worked with the international community to make sure that there was authorization to do what we have helped to accomplish.

But what is quite remarkable here is that NATO assuming the responsibility for the entire mission means that the United States will move to a supporting role. Just as our allies are helping us in Afghanistan where we bear the disproportionate amount of sacrifice and the cost, we are supporting a mission through NATO that was very much initiated by European requests joined by Arab requests.

I think this is a watershed moment in international decision making. We learned a lot in the 1990s. We saw what happened in Rwanda. It took a long time in the Balkans, in Kosovo to deal with a tyrant. But I think in -- what has happened since March 1st and we're not even done with the month demonstrates really remarkable leadership.

GATES: I would just add one other thing in sort of a concrete manifestation where we are in this and that is we and the Department of Defense are already beginning to do our planning in terms of beginning to draw down resources. First from support of the no-fly zone and then from the humanitarian mission. Now that may not start in the next day or two, but I certainly expect it to in the very near future.

TAPPER: Well, I wanted to follow on that. How long are we going to be there in this support role?

GATES: Well, I think that, as I say, we -- we will begin diminishing the level of our engagement, the level of resources we have involved in this, but as long as there is a no-fly zone and we have some unique capabilities to bring to there, for example, intelligence, surveillance and recognizance, some tanking ability, we will continue to have a presence. But a lot of these -- a lot of the forces that we will have available other than the ISR are forces that are already assigned to Europe or have been assigned to Italy or at sea in the Mediterranean.

TAPPER: I've heard NATO say that this -- they anticipate -- some NATO officials say this could be three months, but people in the Pentagon think it could be far longer than that. Do you think we'll be gone by the end of the year? Will the mission be over by the end of the year?

GATES: I don't think anybody knows the answer to that.

TAPPER: Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States?

GATES: No, no. It was not -- it was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about. The engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake. There was another piece of this though that certainly was a consideration. You've had revolutions on both the East and the West of Libya.

TAPPER: Egypt and Tunisia.

GATES: Egypt and Tunisia.

So you had a potentially significantly destabilizing event taking place in Libya that put at risk potentially the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt. And that was another consideration I think we took into account.

TAPPER: Secretary Clinton, how does --

CLINTON: Jake, I just want to add too because, you know, I know that there's been a lot of questions and those questions deserve to be asked and answered. The president is going to address the nation on Monday night.

Imagine we were sitting here and Benghazi had been overrun, a city of 700,000 people, and tens of thousands of people had been slaughtered, hundreds of thousands had fled and, as Bob said, either with nowhere to go or overwhelming Egypt while it's in its own difficult transition. And we were sitting here, the cries would be, why did the United States not do anything? Why -- how could you stand by when, you know, France and the United Kingdom and other Europeans and the Arab League and your Arab partners were saying you've got to do something.

So every decision that we make is going to have plusses and minuses.

TAPPER: You heard the Secretary of Defense say that Libya did not pose an actual or imminent threat to the nation and bearing in mind what you just said, I'm still wondering how the administration reconciles the attack without congressional approval with then candidate Obama saying in 2007 the president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation and, as a senator, you, yourself in 2007 said this about President Bush.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CLINTON: As the administration believed that any -- any use of force against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek that authority.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: Why not go to Congress?

CLINTON: Well, we would welcome congressional support, but I don't think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama were -- was speaking of several years ago.

I think that this had a limited timeframe, a very clearly defined mission which we are in the process of fulfilling.

TAPPER: I want to get to a couple other topics before you guys go and one of them is in Yemen President Saleh (INAUDIBLE) counterterrorism seems quite on his way out. Secretary Gates, you said this week we have not done any post-Saleh planning. How dangerous is a post-Saleh world -- a post-Saleh Yemen to the United States?

GATES: Well, I think -- I think it is a real concern because the most active and, at this point, perhaps the most aggressive branch of al Qaeda -- al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula operates out of Yemen. And we have had a lot of counterterrorism cooperation from President Saleh and Yemeni Security Services. So if that government collapses or is replaced by one that is dramatically more weak, then I think we'll face some additional challenges out of Yemen. There's no question about it. It's a real problem.

TAPPER: Secretary Clinton, on Pakistan. Pakistan has been trying to block U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the FATA region, it continues to work with terrorists to attack India, it held a U.S. diplomat in its presence for several weeks, as I don't need to tell you. Has this relationship gotten worse in the last six months, U.S. Pakistan?

CLINTON: Well, Jake, it's a very challenging relationship because there have been some -- some problems. We were very appreciative of getting our diplomat out of Pakistan and that took cooperation by the government of Pakistan. We have cooperated very closely together in going after terrorists who pose a threat to both us and the Pakistanis themselves. But it's a -- it's a very difficult relationship because Pakistan is in a hard position trying to figure out how it's going to contend with its own internal extremist threat.

But I think on the other hand, we've also developed good lines of communication, good opportunities for cooperation, but it's something we have to work on every day.

TAPPER: And finally, we've talked a bit about the end of this operation, how it ends. I'm wondering if you can envision the United States supporting a plan where Gadhafi is exiled. Would the U.S. be willing to support Safe Haven and Unity from prosecution and access to funds as a way to end this conflict?

CLINTON: Well, Jake, we are nowhere near that kind of negotiation. I'll be going to London on Tuesday for a conference that the British government is hosting. There will be a number of countries, not only those participating in the -- the enforcement of the resolution, but also those who are pursuing political and other interventions. And the United Nations has a special envoy who will also be actively working with Gadhafi and those around him.

We have sent a clear message that it is time for him to transition out of power. The African Union has now called for a democratic transition. We think that there will be developments along that line in the weeks and months ahead, but I can't sitting here today predict to you exactly how it's going to play out. But we believe that Libya will have a better shot in the future if he departs and leaves power.

TAPPER: All right. Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, thank you so much for joining us.

CLINTON: Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: As we know, there are known knowns. There are thing we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say there we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other great countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Donald Rumsfeld speaking words that became the title of his recently released memoir, "Known and Unknown." George W. Bush's first defense secretary laid low for years after he left the administration in 2006, but now he's back with a vengeance. And today Secretary Rumsfeld is here to weigh in on America's new war in Libya.

How is the Obama administration handling it? Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joins me from Florida with his answer.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.

RUMSFELD: Thank you. It's good to be with you.

TAPPER: So, first of all, are we doing the right thing in Libya?

RUMSFELD: Well, the first thing one has to say is that we have U.S. military forces involved, and everyone has to be hopeful that it turns out well and that the progress proceeds.

What concerns me is -- is the questions that have been raised, and they're fair questions, questions about who the rebels are. And I think probably the most important question is whether or not Gadhafi will stay.

If you put yourself in the shoes of the rebels, they -- they wonder whether or not the coalition has an interest in Gadhafi leaving. And there's a great deal of ambiguity about that. Gadhafi's forces wonder whether or not Gadhafi will be leaving. And there's -- that same ambiguity affects their decision-making. And until that's clarified, it seems to me, we'll have a much more difficult time. I think that the goal has to be that Gadhafi leaves.

TAPPER: Well, that is not, obviously, the goal of the military campaign. The military campaign's mission is civilian protection and a no-fly zone. Do you think that the U.S. should not have entered this coalition without Gadhafi's removal being a goal?

RUMSFELD: My personal view is that, once you're involved, you have to recognize that the prestige of the United States is at stake. And if you think about the region, what's strategically important to the United States, it seems to me we'd have to say first is Iran and Syria and their close linkage and the damage they're doing us in Iraq and in Afghanistan and in Lebanon. They are sponsoring terrorism in major portions of that region, which is terribly damaging to us.

Second, in terms of strategic importance, again, is not Libya. It's Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the gulf. Those are the anchors in that region for stability and for the United States of America. And what we do in Libya will unquestionably -- how we handle it, how it turns out -- will unquestionably have a serious impact on the more important issues of Iran, and Syria, and Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and the gulf.

TAPPER: You seem to be suggesting, Mr. Secretary, that Libya was not high on the priority list in that region for the U.S. to be involved in. I'm wondering, if you had been secretary of defense as Gadhafi's troops stormed into Benghazi, and Gadhafi himself threatened no mercy, and there was a very real fear of a mass slaughter, what would you have recommended to the president?

RUMSFELD: Well, I wasn't there, so I can't answer that question. I will say that I think that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are both experiencing the differences from serving in a legislative branch and then serving in executive positions. The perspective is enormously different. And I think you can almost see them transition in their thinking and in their handling of this.

I listened to Secretary Gates. And I must say, I agree with a lot of what he says. He said, when someone asked, well, how many people might be killed or how long will it last or what will it cost, there's no one who can answer those questions. And he's absolutely right in that respect.

I think that you have to pick it up from where we are now. And where we are now is not where your question started, what would you do in the beginning? The fact is, we are involved. And the prestige of the United States is involved.

And think back to the gulf war, the First Gulf War in the early 1990s. Saddam Hussein, when it was over, said he had fought the mother of all battles, and President George Herbert Walker Bush was gone, Margaret Thatcher and the U.K. was gone, and he was still in office. And the implication of that was that he had defeated the United States.

And we are involved -- let there be no question we're now involved in Libya. And if Gadhafi stays on, he will feel he has fought the mother of all battles against the United States. And it will be damaging to us, just as our demeanor in Somalia was damaging, the situation in Lebanon was damaging, and that will embolden others of his ilk.

TAPPER: Well, speaking of emboldening, Gadhafi is -- it's not new that he's a bad guy and that he was involved in the -- Libya was involved in the Pan Am bombing, and yet the administration that you were a member of, after you left, took Gadhafi off the terror list, opened relations with Libya after he abandoned the country's nuclear program. In hindsight, was that a mistake by President Bush?

RUMSFELD: I think the -- the logic behind President Bush's decision there was that, after Saddam Hussein was deposed and pulled out of that spider hole and then executed by the Iraqi people, Gadhafi looked at that and made a conscious decision that he did not want to become the next Saddam Hussein.

He had a nuclear program. And he decided that he would give up his nuclear program to avoid becoming a Saddam Hussein and being deposed, begin inviting inspectors in. They dismembered his nuclear program, and the world is a lot better off today because there is not a nuclear competition going on in that part of the world.

Now, was it a mistake in retrospect? I don't see how anyone, that President Bush or anyone else, could have anticipated necessarily that you'd end up with this kind of turmoil occurring in that country. But I think probably getting rid of Libya's nuclear program was a major accomplishment of the Bush administration.

TAPPER: Your former deputy at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, supports military intervention against Libya. He was on this show last week, and he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFOWITZ: If Gadhafi were to survive, it would be very much against American interests, very seriously so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: If Gadhafi were to survive, it would be very much against American interests. Is Wolfowitz correct?

RUMSFELD: Oh, he is, at this stage. Once the United States gets involved in something like this, if it ends and Gadhafi's still sitting there, as I say, being able to say, with some credibility, that he has just fought the mother of all battles in Libya, and he is still there, and the United States and the coalition countries are all gone, you bet it will be damaging to our country.

That's a quite different issue as to what we should have done at the very outset. And I wasn't knowledgeable about what the details were at that point, and I can't respond to that part of it.

TAPPER: Let's talk for one second about forming coalitions. After 9/11, NATO offered to help. And some argued that the U.S. and you rebuffed the offer. Would the U.S. be better off if it had pursued the military campaign in Afghanistan the way that President Obama has conducted this campaign in Libya, with NATO as the command-and-control structure?

RUMSFELD: I think that argument is just pure nonsensical partisan politics. The coalition that currently is in place with respect to Libya is the -- is the smallest one in modern history. We had over 90 countries in the global war on terror that President Bush and Colin Powell put in place. We had dozens of countries involved in Afghanistan, dozens of countries involved in Iraq. We had 60 or 70 or 80 countries involved in the Proliferation Security Initiative, and still the Democrats were alleging that it was -- President Bush was a unilateralist. It's nonsense.

Now, going -- the first thing you have to do is recognize that, as I talk about in my book, the mission has to determine the coalition. The coalition ought not determine the mission.

Now, that being said, if you determine what your mission is and then you decide, as we did, with respect to Afghanistan, that you put together a coalition that fits that mission, that agrees with the mission, that's not going to back out of that mission, then you have a sufficient seriousness of purpose that you have a chance to prevail.

If you go into something with confusion and ambiguity about what the mission is -- and we've heard four or five different explanations about why we're there -- and that is the root of the problem, is the confusion that comes from that, confusion about what the mission is, confusion about who the rebels are, confusion about whether or not Gadhafi should be left in power, confusion about what the command and control should be.

It seems to me that we proceeded in a very orderly way. President Bush made a decision that America had been attacked and that that was unacceptable. We were going to go after the Al Qaida and remove the Taliban. He set about doing that and then put a coalition together that fit that mission. And that is exactly the way it should be done. And as you properly point out, it evolved into a NATO command in Afghanistan for the major portion of the effort. But there were not ambiguities about who was in charge.

TAPPER: All right. We're going to come back and talk to Secretary Rumsfeld about Afghanistan, Iraq, and he will answer his critics about his book, among them journalist Bob Woodward, who trashed the former defense chief's book as, quote, "one big clean-up job in a brazen effort to shift the blame to others," strong words. We'll give Secretary Rumsfeld a chance to respond right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: A president comes in, he has to deal with the world like he finds it, not a terribly friendly world. It's not a world where everyone believes what we believe. It's a world where there are other military powers besides the United States. He has to deal with what he has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Vintage Donald Rumsfeld right there, appearing on ABC many Sundays ago, in 1976, during his first tour as secretary of defense. His second more turbulent Pentagon tour ended in 2006, after which Rumsfeld clammed up and went low-profile, but now he's back answering his critics with a new book on the New York Times best-seller list -- and I should note that all proceeds are going to military charities that support the wounded and the families of the fallen. Secretary Rumsfeld joins us again from Florida.

Mr. Secretary, let's talk about your book. It's a best-seller, and it's interesting, but there seems to be a common thread in the criticism. Bob Woodward of the Washington Post called it, quote, "one big clean-up job, a brazen effort to shift blame to others, including President Bush, distort history, ignore the record, or simply avoid discussing matters that cannot be airbrushed away."

Without making this a fight between you and Bob Woodward, how do you respond to the general criticism that you used this book to shift blame away from things that were your responsibility?

RUMSFELD: Well, first, I'd say that the comment on the book has been all across the spectrum, a good deal of praise, and then there are people like Woodward who've criticized it. And I understand that. These are tough issues. It's a controversial set of subjects.

I decided that, unlike Woodward, who writes a book fast and doesn't have a website to document it, and talks to people who were not involved in the decisions in some cases, second and three layers down, that's a different kind of a book.

My book has over 1,300 endnotes. It has hundreds of footnotes. I have created a website that has over 3,500 primary-source documents and other types of documents that support the book. So if someone reads the book, they see a paragraph I've quoted from a memo and then go to the endnote and go right to the website and read the entire memo. This is an unusual book in the sense that it is fully documented.

And I feel very good about it. I think that we have had something like 10 million hits on the website, where serious people -- rather than criticizing -- have gone to the website, tried to see what really took place, and began to see how tough those decisions are, that all the easy decisions get made below the presidential level, and that these decisions are inevitably going to be made by people. They're multidimensional. They are decisions that in many instances are made with imperfect information, in some cases, even with inaccurate information.

But I think it will give historians and people seriously interested in these subjects a chance to see really what it was like on the inside, which is, of course, not the case with these books that are written by people who weren't there.

TAPPER: All right. Well, let's talk about some of the footnotes, because I did go to www.rumsfeld.com, the website you surprisingly just failed to -- to name, and also have read the book. And there was something that was very interesting, and that is this memo that you prepared before the war in Iraq in which you outlined all of the worst-case scenarios, the things that could go wrong. You didn't think they were going to go wrong, but they could go wrong. You called it the parade of horribles.

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.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 13232096.
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...