of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Interview with John King on CNN Live at Daybreak
September 19, 2001
7:20 A.M. EDT
KING: That's right. We have the pleasure this morning of being joined across
the river at the Pentagon by the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Secretary Rumsfeld, I want to start with the comment you made yesterday and
try to connect the dots, if we can. U.S. intelligence sources telling CNN that
one of these suspected hijackers met in Europe earlier this year with an Iraqi
intelligence official. At your briefing yesterday, you said you believed that
states, plural, states were helping these people.
Does the United States government, sir, have any hard evidence that Saddam Hussein
may have been part of this?
RUMSFELD: We have a lot of evidence about a number of countries harboring terrorists
that are working across the globe. And if you think about it, the al Qaeda network
probably has activities in some 50-60 countries, not just in Europe or the Middle
East, but even in Asia, and certainly in the United States of America. So the
evidence is very clear that a number of states are doing that.
KING: And would just contacts, even if there was no hard evidence of involvement
in last week's attacks, would just those contacts, whether it would be Iraq
or any other nation, would that be enough in your mind for you to recommend
to the president military strikes against those targets?
RUMSFELD: You know, it's not for me to decide what scraps of evidence constitute
sufficiency. It's up to the people who do that, and the president of the United
States to make those judgments. But what we do know is that this is not a problem
of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. It is a problem of a number of networks of
terrorists that have been active across the globe, and it is something that
strikes at the very heart of what Americans are, which is free people. And the
president has not narrowed this down to a man or an organization or a country.
Indeed, he has properly pointed out that we need to take this effort, this cause,
this campaign to the root of the problem, and that's the terrorists and the
countries that are harboring them.
KING: Help us, sir, understand this emerging international coalition. President
Jacques Chirac of France emerged from the White House last night after discussions
with the president, said he was fully behind the United States' effort, and
that it was conceivable that France would add military aspects to any campaign.
Do you see that happening? Do you believe the United States will reach out to
other countries and ask for troops or airplanes, or do you believe when it comes
to just a military assets would you prefer that the United States go this alone?
RUMSFELD: I think it's important to recognize that every country in the world
is distinctive, and they have their own perspectives. So, I think that what
you will see evolve over the next six, eight, ten, twelve months, probably over
a period of years, is a coalition that will not be exactly the same with respect
to every activity that the United States or another country might undertake
with respect to the problem of terrorism. So, you'll see countries that will
be part of some activities and not a part of others. And I think that what we're
finding is just overwhelming support coming from around the world.
Now, as I say, don't expect that a certain number, a fixed number of countries
will form a coalition and then stay throughout the entire process with respect
to every activity. I think it will evolve and change its shape as we go through
time, and I think that's perfectly understandable.
KING: Let's explain, let's understand the depths of that coalition, we understand
that the president of China Jiang Zemin to the president of Russia Vladimir
Putin yesterday, both leaders voicing concerns that the United States not take
any military steps without the assent, the permission, if you will, of the United
Nations. I would assume the United States government does not accept that view,
that the United Nations would have to be behind each and every military step
taken by the United States.
RUMSFELD: I think that's a very good assumption.
KING: And, sir, what about the cooperation of the Russians? Obviously the Soviet
Union fought a war in Afghanistan, unsuccessful, lessons to be learned from
that, and intelligence information. Is Moscow being forthcoming in giving that
information to the Pentagon?
RUMSFELD: I don't want to characterize any one country, but I think your point
is an important one. The one country may be able to help with intelligence information,
may be able to help with air rights, overflight rights, it may be able to help
with some various types of military assistance. Others might help with moral
support and international resolutions of that type. So it's going to vary from
country to country. And the president has reached out to the world, and I must
say, given the fact that there must have been nationals of 40 or 50 countries
killed, hundreds from some country, killed in the World Trade disaster, and
in the Pentagon attack, this is a world event, it is a world problem. And it's
not surprising that so many countries from across the globe have offered up
a whole host of different types of assistance.
KING: Mr. Secretary, I understand you just came in a short time ago from visiting
the site outside, the site of the devastation, the recovery effort. Your thoughts
on that, and an update on the cost of repairing that part of the Pentagon, and
just how things stand this morning.
RUMSFELD: Well, I just came in. It's back behind me here. I'm in the Pentagon
now, on the first floor. And I was out there this morning early and thanking
people for their help. And I went through the entire underside of the building,
and walked through it to the inner ring. And they are making very good progress.
It is an enormous task, and there's so much to be moved, they're looking for
classified papers, they're looking for remains of people who were killed, and
they're doing a terrific job. It's taking hundreds and hundreds of people. And
they're from every size and shape, from every state in the Union.
KING: Mr. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, we thank you for
sharing your time with us here on CNN this morning. Thank you very much.