of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Interview with Al Jazeera Television
October 16, 2001
QUESTION: I'll start in Arabic introducing you --
Secretary Rumsfeld, thank you very much for letting us, giving us this opportunity.
Let me start first with the question that of course any journalist in Washington
would ask you about, how is your assessment and evaluation of the military action
Rumsfeld: I think of the actions as much broader than purely military. As you
know, they're diplomatic, they're economic, as well as military, and they're
all important, because when one thinks of the thousands of people who were killed
here in the United States and who have been killed in other countries by terrorists,
it is a very broad-based program that will be sustained over a period of time
as we find ways to see that the terrorists are not successful.
QUESTION: And for the military activities that of course your department is
in charge of?
Rumsfeld: Well, we feel that they're progressing in an orderly way, in a measured
way. We've been, as everyone in the world is aware, we thought through this
very carefully, and we've taken our time, and we have been very careful in selecting
targets. The goal, obviously, is to deal with the al Qaeda terrorist network
that exists in Afghanistan and the Taliban that has been so important to harboring
the al Qaeda network.
QUESTION: Previously and before the military actions, you talked about Taliban,
that there are good people in Taliban and bad people. Do you still have that
view, or has it changed?
Rumsfeld: I think what I've said is the truth, and it is that this effort is
not against the Afghanistan people, it's not against any race or any religion.
It is against terrorism and terrorists and the senior people that are harboring
As we all know, there are any number of people in Afghanistan who don't support
the al Qaeda. There are any number that don't support the Taliban. Indeed, there
are people in Taliban that don't like haven't al Qaeda in the country. And our
interest -- if you think about the damage that's been done to the Afghan people,
the number that are starving, the number of people who have been dealt with
so poorly by the Taliban leadership and by al Qaeda, it seems to us that the
important thing is that we're in favor of those people who would like to see
the terrorists gone. And I think there's a great many people in Afghanistan
who feel that way.
QUESTION: So you can still reach out to good people in the Taliban government,
not just Afghanistan, and you are willing to cooperate with them.
Rumsfeld: And we are hopeful that those people, the Afghan people, the people
who are against al Qaeda and the people who are against the leadership of Taliban
will be successful in their efforts to stop the terrorism and stop the people
who have done so much damage in the world
QUESTION: So are you only targeting the bad people in Taliban?
Rumsfeld: The effort by the coalition countries that are involved, and there's
dozens of nations involved as you know, has been to go after the military targets,
to go after the command and control capabilities of Taliban and al Qaeda, to
deal with the terrorist training camps, and to be careful to avoid civilians
and people who are not involved in the terrorism.
QUESTION: However, some villages have been hit and presumably more than one
specific village, and people questioning whether the U.S. really would like
to reach some people in these villages, and also to hit them regardless of the
Rumsfeld: Well, of course it's just not true. We care a great deal about civilian
casualties. We have to. Think of the thousands of innocent Americans that were
killed by the terrorists.
What we have done is to exercise great care. But the reality is when there's
that much ammunition and ordnance and munitions flying around in a country,
there will inevitably be some unintended casualties.
If you think about it, it's true, the coalition aircraft are dropping some bombs
on military targets. It is also true that there's a great deal of anti-aircraft
fire coming up from the ground by Taliban against those aircraft. That munition
also kills people. It kills people on the ground when it comes back down.
In addition, there's a war going on in Afghanistan, and has been for many, many
years. So you have the various tribes and the opposition in the north, the Northern
Alliance, all shooting at each other.
So it is very difficult to know in any instance exactly what may have caused
an unintended casualty.
QUESTION: So that could be from the Afghanis themselves who are against Taliban?
Rumsfeld: Or it could be from the Taliban ground fire.
Now there is one instance where we believe that a round of munitions actually
went amiss and did in fact kill possibly four people and injured several people,
for which we regret a great deal.
QUESTION: Is any other legality or consequences of compensation for those people
if the Pentagon is admitting officially that that was a mistake?
Rumsfeld: The thing to keep in mind is that the United States has been the biggest
donor of food for Afghanistan this year, well before the terrorist attack on
September 11th. The United States gave over $137 million of food aid to Afghanistan.
President Bush has recently announced a $320 million food aid program, which
is quite apart from the program where military aircraft are dropping food all
across the country and starving people are getting food. My recollection is
just in the last period of days we have put out something like 265,000 rations
of meals of food into Afghanistan from the Pentagon alone.
QUESTION: Would you consider radio, like (inaudible) radio which is civilian
radio that was hit and the Pentagon declared that in the briefing with reporters,
a civilian or a military target?
Rumsfeld: Well, there's no question but that the several radio stations and
the television station in the country were controlled by Taliban. They certainly
were not what anyone would characterize as free press or free media. They were
propaganda vehicles for the Taliban leadership and for the people that are harboring
the terrorists and for the al Qaeda.
QUESTION: So Voice of America controlled by the U.S. government would be also
a target for Taliban if they had the chance to do it?
Rumsfeld: Think about it this way. Voice of America is paid for by the United
States government, but it has an independence that it says what it wishes to
say and is not controlled by the Department of State.
QUESTION: So it depends on the message itself and then built on the content,
analysis of the message from the radio we could decide whether to hit it or
Rumsfeld: Well, I guess everyone has to make their own decisions. But our decision
was that the radio station and the television station in fact were vehicles
for the Taliban leadership and for al Qaeda to manage their affairs and that
therefore they were certainly appropriate targets.
QUESTION: We're talking about military targets, and there is one of the controversial
issues, I believe, which is the most important issue about the definition of
terrorism. This is something standing even between or in the middle of cooperation
between people and countries in the Arab world and the U.S.
Would we consider, I mean any military target in a fight or a war between al
Qaeda and the U.S. a legitimate one if the al Qaeda people would consider the
Pentagon a military target? So would that considered a terrorist act or an act
of war from their side?
Rumsfeld: Terrorism, of course, has a lot of definitions and people have different
views as to what it means precisely. For myself, I think of the word as meaning
an act whereby innocent people are involved and killed.
The purpose of terrorism is to terrorize people. It's to alter their behavior.
Therefore, I think of it as a situation where a group of people decide that
they want to terrorize a person and the way, or a group of people, and the way
QUESTION: Or a country.
Rumsfeld: Or a country. And the way they do that is to attack innocent people
and kill them. That, for me, is what terrorism is.
QUESTION: Because some of the argument that we hear from the other side, regardless
whether we agree or disagree with it, I personally disagree, that okay, the
World Trade Center is a very clear civilian target and that should not be considered
but a terrorist act, but the Pentagon is the same way as the headquarter of
Taliban that is being hit.
What is your take on that?
Rumsfeld: I guess my take on it is that it's an irrelevant question. The reason
I say that is that the Pentagon and the United States were hurting no one with
respect to the Taliban or al Qaeda. And these people decided that it was in
their interest to go after a symbol of the United States of America. They began
with the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as illustrative of what they were
trying to achieve.
I think trying to put that into a legitimacy of a war or a non-war target is
QUESTION: In view of the cooperation that you're getting from U.S. allies in
the Arab and Moslem world, how is it so far with Pakistan?
Rumsfeld: Well I think that the number of countries in the Moslem world, Arab
world and non-Arab Moslem world, has been overwhelming. It's been truly wonderful
to see the response and the concern about these acts of terrorism and the support
and the unity and the cohesion that's been achieved. They all have announced,
in the way they wish to announce, their support and their involvement. It varies
from country to country, to be sure. And we understand that. Every country has
a somewhat different perspective. They have a different history. They live in
a different neighborhood. That, from my standpoint, and from the standpoint
of the United States is perfectly understandable, but it has been truly wonderful
QUESTION: Has Saudi Arabia allowed you to use the command and control center
in Prince Sultan base?
Rumsfeld: You know, what I've decided to do, I think it's probably -- my goal
is to get the maximum amount of support from other countries and other people,
even people within countries as we're getting help from people in Afghanistan
right now. And I think the way to get the maximum support is to have each country
describe for itself the extent to which it is or is not involved in trying to
deal with the problem of terrorism. And to the extent each country uses their
own words and their own phrases to characterizes it, I think it's probably more
appropriate, rather than for me trying to characterize how 100, 150 countries
have managed their affairs.
QUESTION: But 100 percent satisfaction of, for example, if we start with Saudi
Arabia, is there or not from your own perspective?
Rumsfeld: I am delighted to have the help from every country in the region that
we're getting help from, and that's almost all of them. And we are fully sensitive
to the fact that each country should do it in a way that they feel good about,
that they feel comfortable with, and they feel fits their circumstance.
QUESTION: You have more than, or around 20,000 U.S. soldiers now in Egypt for
the Pakistan maneuvers. What are you going to do with them after they finish?
Rumsfeld: I haven't ever gotten into the practice of describing the future with
people. It seems to me that it's best not to describe operations or intelligence
matters so I just have a standard policy of not speculating about the future.
QUESTION: The reason for my question is that they are being trained annually
on desert territory and not mountain territory as in Afghanistan, and people
talk about, or at least people in (unintelligible) your name is mentioned many
times, would like to enlarge the war on terrorism to start immediately after
Afghanistan with Iraq. Is that a fair assessment of the situation?
Rumsfeld: Well, it's obviously -- you can assess things any way you want and
so can others. As I've said, I don't discuss what the United States of America
might or might not do in the future. We do know a few things about that. We
know the president of the United States is the one who makes the decision, not
the secretary of defense or others. We also know that the president has announced
a determination to root out terrorists where they are.
The only way you can defend against terrorism is not by self-defense, because
a terrorist can attack any place at any time. You simply must take the battle
to them, and that's what President Bush has announced he's going to do, and
that's what he is in the process of doing.
QUESTION: So in this case, Secretary Powell was right when he characterized
what your deputy, Dr. Paul Wolfowitz said, that we are in the business of ending
regimes, that Mr. Wolfowitz was speaking for himself?
Rumsfeld: First of all, Mr. Wolfowitz did not mean to say that he was in the
business of ending regimes at all. He was ending terrorists and stopping terrorists
from terrorizing the world, and it would be, it was a misquotation on his part
that he corrected at a later time.
Secretary Powell and I and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz all support President
Bush's policies. We're all very much in agreement.
QUESTION: So the ending regimes or ending terrorist regimes should not be on
the agenda? I mean only mainly on al Qaeda, or do we look for something else
past the Afghanistan walls?
Rumsfeld: Maybe I misinterpreted your question. The statement that Dr. Wolfowitz
was quoted on, it was something to the effect that he then corrected.
The president's position, which is my position and Secretary Powell's, and Deputy
Secretary Wolfowitz's position, is that the United States is going to, throughout
the world, seek out terrorists and stop them from terrorizing people. And persuade
countries that are harboring terrorists and fostering and financing and facilitating
their terrorist activities, and stop them from doing that.
QUESTION: It is a perception in the Arab world among politicians that they look
as if there are two camps in this administration. The doves and the hawks. You
are supposed to be the chief of the hawks, or at least perceived as so, and
Secretary Powell as the symbol of the doves in the administration.
How far is that characterization in their mind if you are (inaudible)?
Rumsfeld: Of course it's not a useful way to think of it at all. I work with
Colin Powell every day. We have views that are very similar on most things.
We differ from time to time, but then I differ from time to time with my wife
on various issues, so that doesn't mean much.
QUESTION: It's a compliment.
Rumsfeld: He's a very good friend, and we find ourselves in agreement almost
all the time.
I don't know, there's something about the press that they like to get up in
the morning and create conflict between people. It's apparently a lot easier
for people in the media to write about personalities than it is about concepts
and strategies and direction.
If you personalize a thing into good guys and bad guys, it's an easier story,
I suppose, for a journalist, but it's not terribly useful.
I've been kind of amused by it all from time to time, and my wife and children
know I'm basically a nice person.
QUESTION: They are sure about that.
But as one of the individuals, as I would say in this administration, perceived
to be, what is the concept that you are coming from? What is the background?
How do you look at it? Because --
Rumsfeld: Of terrorism?
QUESTION: No, about where to go in the war on terrorism. Because some people
think that you are carrying back to this administration the mentality and the
strategy of the Cold War that you did serve under during President Reagan or
Rumsfeld: Actually I served back into the Nixon administration --
Rumsfeld: -- and the Ford administration, as well as the Reagan administration.
QUESTION: Twenty-five years ago.
Rumsfeld: It's a very different time, and I'm a very different person and the
world's a very different place.
It seems to me that the past approach of armies and navies and air forces competing
with each other and the need to have a super power in the United States deter
a super power that was expansionist in the Soviet Union is a time that's gone.
It was another century.
There are a lot of people who still seem to have their head stuck in the Cold
War. I don't. Since I've been here we've been addressing not Cold War problems,
but the problems of the 21st century, which is why we've been working to transform
the Department of Defense here, to be able to deal with the new kinds of threats
and capabilities that exist.
You ask how do I approach it. I approach it with a great deal of concern that
there are very, very powerful weapons out there, and because of proliferation
of these technologies they clearly are falling into the hands of some people
who are trying to terrorize the world.
You think of the anthrax mailing to -- imagine a human being getting up in the
morning and deciding that what they'd like to do that day is to put anthrax
in an envelope and mail it to an innocent person. Now that takes a certain mentality.
I think the world would be better off without people who think that way.
QUESTION: And this mentality, does this come from a certain culture?
Rumsfeld: Not that I know of. I think we've probably had terrorists over the
history of mankind in all sizes and shapes and stripes.
QUESTION: Some people are worried because of what is going on since September
11th. First, 40 or 50 [sic] people with very primitive weapons, knives and boxcutters,
managed to do all of that happened to the U.S. and to their homeland. And also,
they were interested inputting all that military power to deal with Taliban
as if it's something similar to the U.S. And people wonder what is going to
happen if we have to face China or any military power if we are doing all of
that just for Taliban or government or Taliban, or few people that manage to
hijack four airplanes at the same time.
Rumsfeld: I guess if you're an American and you look at what happened at the
World Trade Center and here at the Pentagon and you think of the thousands of
people who are dead and the many, many thousands of people who have lost a parent,
it's not that easy to be dismissive and say just because of this.
What happens is that the terrorists are able to use America against America.
They're able to use our freedom and our free society as a way to damage this
We're an open country. We're a democratic country. Our borders with Canada are
for all practical purposes, open. Our borders with Mexico are, for all practical
purposes, are open. We are quite open to people coming and going in our nation.
We don't spend all of our time carrying pistols or rifles to defend ourselves.
We expect the best of our fellow man. And when a group of people decide that
we're wrong and we should not expect the best of our fellow man, then we have
to consider what we do about that.
It seems to me one thing one could do is say well, as you suggested in your
question, that's not that much. Why not just accept that and don't do anything?
The problem with that is that the weapons today are very, very powerful. And
it is perfectly possible that those kinds of weapons could be used and it would
be not just hundreds or thousands of people, but hundreds of thousands of people.
We have an obligation in the government to provide for the common defense under
the Constitution, and we intend to do that. The only way to do that is to let
the world know that we're not going to allow our free way of society to be taken
from us, to be stolen from us. We're not going to allow a thousand or thousands
of innocent Americans to be killed and not do anything about it. We intend to
find the people that did that and the kinds of people who believe that's something
they want to do, and stop them from doing that.
QUESTION: President Bush mentioned that the Pentagon and the Defense Department
is adjusting, everybody is adjusting after September 11th. I know that the way
the command of the five regions for the Pentagon is really being rethinked or
reconsidered. How about military, U.S. military presence in the Gulf, especially
Saudi Arabia and others, that at least presumably created the hostility from
al Qaeda people and others. Do you think it is worth it to be there?
Rumsfeld: I think that's a reach to say presumably that caused that. I mean
I don't know what causes some person to inflate their own opinion of themselves
that they begin to think that they are all powerful and can go out and kill
thousands of their other fellow human beings. That's not a part of any religion.
That's not a part of any culture. That's a behavior pattern that's strange,
that's weird, that's wrong.
QUESTION: But U.S. military presence would continue to be there regardless of
any price, any cost.
Rumsfeld: The U.S. military presence is where it is depending on how countries
would like to have it. We're nowhere that we're not wanted. We seek no one else's
land. We occupy no other country's territory. We try to conquer no other people.
Where we are is where people who live there have decided they would like to
have us for their protection.
If you think about it, the United States went in and saved Kuwait from a foreign
invader, a Moslem nation. The United States helped Moslems in Kosovo and Bosnia.
The United States provided, and the coalitions, provided assistance in Somalia,
another Moslem nation. Now we've been the biggest food provider for Afghanistan
well before this latest terrorist act.
The United States has a record of helping people. It is not a country that covets
anyone else's land or their people.
QUESTION: That's appreciated, but people also look at the U.S. supporting occupation
of Palestinian land. Sometimes I mean condoning target killing against Palestinians
or so some people condemn this. I don't know what your opinion is.
Rumsfeld: The United States has worked tirelessly to try to bring peace in the
Middle East. It is anxious to have there be peace in the Middle East. President
Bush and Secretary Powell have worked very hard on it. And we've not agreed
with the behavior of countries and the Palestinian organization in that part
of the world on a number of occasions. But we don't agree with a lot of people.
Some of our allies in Europe from time to time.
But to suggest that the Middle East conflict or U.S. presence of a ship or an
airplane in some country in the Middle East is cause for al Qaeda and for terrorists
to come over the United States and kill thousands and thousands of people is
a tortured thought. It is not good thinking.
If that were so, there would be people being killed all across the globe, and
there must not be.
QUESTION: Finally, any conclusionary remarks that you --
Rumsfeld: I don't have any concluding remarks.
QUESTION: -- conclude the interview.
QUESTION: If there is something that you wanted to emphasize that I didn't have
in the questions.
Rumsfeld: I did say one thing that probably was not right. When I said I was
sweet and loveable. (Laughter)
QUESTION: Is that for me -- (Laughter)
We will interview Mrs. Rumsfeld to get her version.
QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld, any concluding remarks that you might have that
we neglected to ask about?
Rumsfeld: Well I would only say in conclusion that I think it's important for
people in the region as well as throughout the world to understand that the
United States is dealing only with the problem of terrorism. And this effort
on our part is a matter of self-defense. It is not against any religion. It's
not against any race. It's not against any country. That's why we're so aggressively
trying to be helpful to the Afghan people by providing food and trying to help
them rid their country of foreign invaders who are fostering terrorism in that
country and bringing great damage and harm to the Afghan people.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Secretary Rumsfeld. I appreciate it. Thank you