updated 4/29/2004 7:45:00 PM ET 2004-04-29T23:45:00
An MSNBC Exclusive

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talks about the current state of the war in Iraq, the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis, the American lives lost, and the initial decision by the president to go to war. Below is a transcript of his April 29 interview with MSNBC:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Mr. Secretary, we lost 10 Americans today over in Iraq. What is the condition over there right now, as you see it?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Difficult. Many of them were in one incident.  We’ve been losing people for the last three or four weeks at a level considerably higher than the preceding series of months. I guess the word is difficult. Difficult times.

MATTHEWS:  Do you sense the resistance and what it’s made up, is it just nationalism or is it organized by the former Ba’athist regime?

RUMSFELD: I think it’s much more the later, or the former regime remnants, these people, their intelligence service, the Special Republican Guard group, the Fedayeen Saddam group, plus foreign terrorist, mixed into that — that mix.

And, I suppose, these people, there are always people in the organization — in the cluster of people that are on the fence.  And to the extent it’s going to go that way, they tip that way and vice versa.

And then there’s people you can hire, thugs to go do something.

But there still are suicide bombers. Now, those are not pick-up people off the streets that you give a few bucks if they go kill themselves. They’re not going to do that. 

But within the last week there have been two or three suicide bombers. So these are the extremists.

MATTHEWS:  What about Fallujah?  Has it become, like, a Madrid in the 1930s or Stalingrad, sort of a point of principle that we must win and they must win?  It’s a decisive battle?

RUMSFELD: Well, there’s no question that, for success in Iraq, you can’t have a city taken over by a bunch of terrorists and the former regime elements and have that persist over a sustained period of time.  That means it has to end at some point. 

How it ends, I guess, is an open question.  It could end by the Marines having to go in and go through the place and weed out the terrorists.  They’re trying to do that.  They know how to do it.  They’re capable of doing it.  I don’t think people doubt the military power of these folks. They’re outstanding soldiers and courageous.

It’s also possible it could end differently.  It could end with this conclave of some 50 to 80 tribal sheikhs and former Iraq military people actually taking over the city and getting the terrorists out of there and turning over the names of the people who killed Blackwater folks and rounding up the weapons.

The Marines on the ground are the ones that are making those judgments.  And that’s why they calculated that it’s in our interests to do it the way they’re doing it and to have these discussions with the Sunni tribal leaders.

MATTHEWS:  Are times so tough that we’re demanding they turn over the people that have killed our people?  Are they that tough, or are we going to allow them to let them escape?

RUMSFELD:  Certainly, the Marines are not inclined to allow the terrorists to escape.

MATTHEWS:  So basically, it’s an ultimatum: turn over the bad guys, and that’s the deal?

RUMSFELD:  I wouldn’t phrase it that way.  And I’m not on the ground.  There are several things they’re interested in.  They’re interested in getting the terrorists out of that city. And they’re interested in turning it back to the people of the city.

MATTHEWS: Okay, what is the White House role? The “Washington Post” reported today the White House is so concerned about the political, I mean grandly political sensitivity about the issue of Fallujah they’re involved in calling the shots over there.

RUMSFELD:  The president has said to me that it’s up to the combatant commanders, and you, you figure it out.

MATTHEWS:  So there is a sort of micromanagement going — Lyndon Johnson-style micromanagement?

RUMSFELD: No, indeed. The president is very clear on that, and there’s no question in Abizaid’s mind or my mind as to that.

The connection that’s taking place is at the ground level with General Sanchez and Ambassador Bremer. They talk continuously about who can be helpful to the other and what they can do to be of assistance.

MATTHEWS: I was talking to Michael Weisskopf. Of course, you know about him, the “TIME” magazine reporter who lost his hand over there a couple of months back. And I said, “What was it like to go through the streets outside the Green Zone, in the Sunni Triangle area, among the Sunnis?”

And he said, “All you see are the faces of hatred, the people looking at you as you go by.” Did that surprise you, that level of hostility a whole year after major combat operations?

Video: 'Difficult times' RUMSFELD:  I think the fact that the Sunnis, who ran that country, and benefited from a number of the senior Sunni types are Ba’athists, benefited from the Saddam Hussein regime. They’re a minority, and they have a position of dominance. 

And I think as time has gone on, they have seen the likelihood that they clearly are not going to have a position of dominance. They’re not going to be running the country. They’re not going to be able to deal from a position of strength, that the Shia and the Kurds are going to have a role, a big role, and that everyone in the country will be on, if it works out properly, that they’ll all be in a country where there’s respect for everybody and that no one element is dominant over the other.  So that’s a big change. 

I think that they’re removed from the way things were being communicated, that not only was that the case, but it was worse for them, that they weren’t going to be able to play.  And that just isn’t right.  The Sunnis have to have a stake in that country. 

And I think the facial expressions you’re talking about undoubtedly came from the perception that the de-Ba’athification process was going to paint all of them with the same brush, which just wouldn’t have been fair.  And I think that—that is the feeling.  And I think that’s going to change.

MATTHEWS:  You’ve been in Congress all these years before this.  You worked in the White House.  You are politically astute as much as anybody I can imagine. Were you surprised at the nationalism of the people across the board that we faced when we got in?  Just we don’t like being occupied?  As the president said in his press conference the other night, “They don’t like being occupied.  I wouldn’t like being occupied.”

Did that level of hatred, generally across the board in the country, in the faces of mobs, surprise you?

RUMSFELD:  I guess if you asked me a year ago, I would have expected that the word “occupation” and the negative aspects of that would not have been assigned to us to the extent it has been.

Waging war, making peaceMATTHEWS:  Yes.  Why not?  Is that the intel you’re getting?  Was that the Iraqi National Congress folks who thought that once you decapitated Saddam, you’d have a country ready to move on?

RUMSFELD:  No.  There were some people who talked like that.  Certainly I didn’t.  And I—but the intelligence was all over the lot on that, and our intelligence people had a great many contacts, both with Sunni and Shia.  And the information was mixed.  And it turns out, after the fact, that it was not perfect. As you know, most intelligence is not perfect.

But it seems to me that—how do you put this?  Over time, particularly the Sunnis, but the Shia are now jockeying for their position in the future.  And that is a complicated thing.  Their lives, their futures, their circumstances are at stake.  And we’re there in a difficult situation. 

So it ought not to surprise us that there is that feeling.  And our task is to see that we get an Iraqi state founded, which is why the president is so determined to see that sovereignty does pass over to the Iraqis by June 30 and that the Iraqis take an increasing role in governing their country.

MATTHEWS: Who was it, McBride (ph), one of the moderate leaders, who said, you should have just given them three months’ pay, the entire Iraqi army, just bought them with...

RUMSFELD:  They’ve been paying...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, the army that was disassembled as we came in.

RUMSFELD:  They’ve been paying army people that were disassembled. But that doesn’t solve it.

MATTHEWS:  I thought the army was disbanded when we came in, the Iraqi army, the special forces in the Fedayeen.  I mean, the organized regular army was all disbanded.  That was a mistake that was made.

RUMSFELD:  That’s what some people are saying.  It disappeared.  It was gone.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  So you couldn’t pay them any pay.

RUMSFELD:  Well, the bulk of the army was Shia conscripts.  And they didn’t want to be there anyway.  And they disappeared.

The Sunni generals, and there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of generals and colonels from the Sunnis, and they disappeared.  They didn’t—at the end, there were a large number of them who didn’t fight.

And the decision was made to reconstitute an army.  And they started hiring back the people that they could, and started paying pensions to a lot of army people.  So I think there’s kind of a myth—the facts—certain things, myths arise and people then repeat them over and over and over again, even thought they’re inaccurate.

MATTHEWS:  Back in ‘91, a friend of yours, Dick Cheney, when he was secretary of defense, sitting in this Pentagon, running the Pentagon, he said, “How much credit would a government which we set up, if we’d gone into Baghdad back in ‘91, would it have if it was set up by the United States military when they’re there?  And how long is the United States military going to have to stay there to protect the people who do sign onto that government?  And what happens to it once we leave?”

Are those concerns still alive today, the present government?

RUMSFELD:  You bet.  And that’s why everybody has to say, “Look, it’s interim.”  Anything we set up is interim.  The only way we’re going to have a government that is—some people use the word legitimate; I use the word acceptable to the Iraqi people—is if it in fact results from a constitution that’s fashioned by the Iraqi people and elections by the Iraqi people.

MATTHEWS:  Can that happen while we’re still in force?  Still there with a strong force there, of military people?

RUMSFELD:  Probably.

MATTHEWS:  It never happened in Vietnam.  Those governments were all considered jokes by the world as long as we were — we were so strong in Vietnam.

RUMSFELD:  Yes.  Very different situation.  Very different situation.

MATTHEWS: What’s different?

RUMSFELD:  Well, in Vietnam, you had a very nationalistic element in North Vietnam that—and the Viet Cong that was part of the situation there.  And you had a government that was not a popular government in the south.  They didn’t have—hadn’t fashioned their own constitution.  They hadn’t had their own elections.  They were governments that were considered by the rest of the Vietnamese people to be puppet governments.

MATTHEWS:  So the Ba’athist elements that remain, the remnants, are nowhere as strong, as you believe, in their passion as the V.C. were and the North Vietnamese were?

RUMSFELD:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS:  They wouldn’t be as much of a threat.

Let’s come back.  Thank you for your time, Mr. Secretary.

We’ll be right back talking to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld here at the Pentagon.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Secretary, let me ask you about the war in Iraq and the boldest question I could put to you here in the Pentagon.  Did you ever advise the president to go to war?

RUMSFELD:  Chris, I saw some clipping of your interviews on this subject when you asked that question of Woodward, and Woodward said that the president said he had not asked me.  So why would you ask me?

MATTHEWS:  Good question.  Well, that’s right, in that circumstance, in that room.  But all those months in the run-up to war, I would imagine that at some point, sitting in the interstices of the West Wing, he would have say, “Hey, Don, you think we ought to go?” Weren’t you ever asked your advice?

RUMSFELD:  I don’t know who he might have asked their advice.

MATTHEWS:  Well, apparently it’s the vice president.

RUMSFELD:  Possibly.  I just don’t know. 

MATTHEWS:  He didn’t ask his father.  We know that.

RUMSFELD:  Is that right?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that’s what I go by, these books.  I read...

RUMSFELD:  You ought to get a life.  You could do something besides read those books.

MATTHEWS:  This is my life. Let me ask you about something a little more...

RUMSFELD:  Let me answer your question.

MATTHEWS:  Did you advise the president to go to war?

RUMSFELD:  Yes.  He did not ask me, is the question.  And to my knowledge, there are a number of people he did not ask.

MATTHEWS:  Does that surprise you, as secretary of defense?

RUMSFELD:  Well, I thought it was interesting.  He clearly asked us, “Could we win?”  I said, obviously, that the military are sure that they can prevail in that conflict, in terms of the changing of regime.

He asked if they had everything they needed.  He must have asked 5,000 questions over the period of a year about this, that and the other thing, what could go wrong?  What about a humanitarian crisis?  What about an environmental crisis?  What about internally displaced people?  What about a fortressed Baghdad?  Thousands of questions along those lines.  And the president should, to have looked a the risks and concerns that...

MATTHEWS:  So he knew the tally sheet of costs and benefits, without only seeing the bottom line?

RUMSFELD:  You bet.  You bet.  I gave him a list.

MATTHEWS:  You knew the chance of resistance data?

RUMSFELD:  Thirty-five things that could go wrong.

MATTHEWS:  You knew the difficulties of occupation.

RUMSFELD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  The chance that we’d have to face the Ba’athist remnants, the difficulties between these different groups, the Shia and the Sunni and the Kurds.  You knew all that?

RUMSFELD:  And the risk of ethnic cleansing.

MATTHEWS:  By the winners?

RUMSFELD:  Yes.  And no question, he worried through all of those issues in a very thoughtful and probing way. I keep coming back to this question you asked.  It does not surprise me that he didn’t.  His response, I thought...

MATTHEWS:  Isn’t that the role of the cabinet, to advise the president?

RUMSFELD:  Goodness, we advise him all the time.  But his point was, he said, “I knew where Rumsfeld was.”  So he didn’t need it.

MATTHEWS:  Did he?

RUMSFELD:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  He knew you were for it?

RUMSFELD:  He knew that I’d done my job over here and I had looked at the down sides as well as the upsides.

MATTHEWS:  Did you think it was the right thing to do?

RUMSFELD:  I did.

MATTHEWS:  At the time?

RUMSFELD:  At the time.

MATTHEWS:  Any second thoughts?

RUMSFELD:  Well, my goodness, you...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, given the costs.  You admit that there’s been a different—a slightly different—

RUMSFELD:  ... level of resistance than I thought.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  I ask you the question: Hundreds of guys to get killed after you took occupation, you took over the country.

RUMSFELD:  I still think it was the right decision by the president.

MATTHEWS:  You know I went to Walter Reed a couple weeks ago, and I’ll tell, there’s nothing like it, to meet those young guys.  The gung-ho guys.

RUMSFELD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And the ones that lost, like, a limb.  They’re going to make it, you know.

RUMSFELD:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS:  The guy goes back to UPS.  He’s going to learn how to use the prosthetic device. But the other guys, you know, totally blind, both arms gone, brain injury, is that worth it?  I mean, the blunt statement.  Is this worth what we’re likely to get out of Iraq?

RUMSFELD:  If you are a historian, you know that throughout the history of our country, there have always been things that need to be done where lives are put at risk.  And this country wouldn’t be here if people hadn’t been willing to put their lives at risk.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of “The New York Times” poll today?  I know polls aren’t everything.  Fifty-eight percent of the people say it’s not worth the loss of life, this war in Iraq.

RUMSFELD:  I didn’t read the poll.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  It spiked up, you know.  Is this the bad news that’s done this?  What do you think has done it?

RUMSFELD:  Well, I suppose it’s the most recent three weeks of—of casualties that have been taken in Iraq that might have affected the polls.  I don’t know.  I don’t follow the polls.

MATTHEWS:  You know, when you watch the culture of the country, there’s a great sense in country music, you remember how you felt.  You’ve heard these songs.  They’re so American.  And they talk about the war in Iraq as being some kind of payback or justice for what happened to us on 9/11.

Do you think that’s a fair way to look at it morally and sort of sentimentally, the idea that we’re getting back at the people that hit us? 

I mean, the soldiers are, maybe—probably think that.  I’m just guessing.  They think, “We’ve got to go back and hit them.  They hit us.”  Like Pearl Harbor.  They hit us; we’re hitting them back.

Is that accurate in history?

RUMSFELD:  I guess in life, things are never quite as simple as they seem. There’s no doubt but that we’re fighting terrorists in Iraq, there, and it’s part of the global war on terror. The direct connection between 9/11 and...

MATTHEWS:  You feel there’s a connection?

RUMSFELD:  There’s a different one.  No.

MATTHEWS:  You see one?

RUMSFELD:  No.

MATTHEWS:  You don’t see an al Qaeda-Iraq connection before 9/11?

RUMSFELD:  Well, It’s not a matter for me to see it, but the—the Central Intelligence Agency and the director of central intelligence has testified to the relationships between Iraq and terrorists.

We know he would spend $25,000 to suicide bombers.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.  For the ones in Israel.  Sure, those people. 

RUMSFELD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  But in terms of 9/11, there’s no connection?

RUMSFELD:  Is it?

MATTHEWS:  Between Iraq and 9/11?

RUMSFELD:  It’s too complex a subject for me to answer yes or no. George Tenet has testified publicly and privately on that subject before Congress, and that is the official position of the United States government.

MATTHEWS:  Which one?  There’s no connection?

RUMSFELD:  No. You have to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), because it is a complex set of issues and implicit intelligence facts.

MATTHEWS:  But the president said recently, when he was asked—it was with Tony Blair that time, the prime minister of Great Britain.  And he said there’s no connection between 9/11 and Iraq.

RUMSFELD:  If you’re asking whether Iraqis, who were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people engaged in 9/11, the answer is no.

MATTHEWS:  You believe there’s still a possibility that the Iraqi government had something to do with planning the attack on us, 9/11?

RUMSFELD:  Not to my knowledge.

MATTHEWS:  Therefore, this war is not payback?  There was no direct 9/11?

RUMSFELD:  The...

MATTHEWS:  The Iraqi war is not getting even with the people that hit us 9/11?

RUMSFELD:  No.  I see your point.

MATTHEWS:  Is that the case?  It’s not...

RUMSFELD:  It is, but in a different way.

MATTHEWS:  Let me try, correctly. Is this payback—is this war, in the line—in the sentiments of the music, in the culture of that country, many people’s minds, this is somehow justice for what happened to us 9/11.  Is it?  Or is it unrelated?  Or is it not directly related?  How would you connect the two?

If you were hit in the Pentagon, we’re hitting them in Iraq, is that connected?

RUMSFELD:  If you’re asking if there’s a direct link between 9/11 and Iraq, the answer is no. If you’re asking, is the United—the threat (ph) of the United States from terror that exists and that was demonstrated on 9/11, in that manifestation, but exists in a variety of manifestations, and is what we’re doing in Iraq today a part of that effort against terrorists, no, certainly it is.

MATTHEWS:  Yesterday in “The New York Times,” Mr. Secretary, they talked on the front page, a reporter talked about a group within the Pentagon here, headed by Douglas Feith, the undersecretary for policy.  A two-man shop, very small shop.  It was basically developing intel, either existing intel or developing it, from Iraqi National Congress sources, including Ahmed Chalabi.

RUMSFELD:  That’s not correct.  They were not developing intelligence.  They were not creating intelligence.  They were reviewing intelligence that had been established by other people.

MATTHEWS:  In a meeting with the Iraqi National Congress—that’s what “The New York Times” reported, they were meeting with Ahmed Chalabi, getting information from him about connections between al Qaeda—the thing we were talking about before—the connection between al Qaeda and 9/11 and the Iraqi government.            

Don’t believe that was the case?

RUMSFELD:  My understanding of that, and I have not read the article, so I can’t speak to the article which is the basis of your question.  My understanding of it is that there were two people that were, most times, four people on occasion and what they were doing is reviewing intelligence that was provided from a variety of sources.

MATTHEWS:  In and out of the intelligence agencies?  Both.

RUMSFELD:  Sure.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That’s—and they were providing it to the vice president’s office and the NSC.  People like John Baldwin over at the defense—over at the State Department.  People who were pretty hawkish to begin with.

They were giving it to Scooter at the vice president’s office.  They were giving it to Hadley.  It was being used, according to the “Times” yesterday, it was actually finding its way into the speeches of the vice president.

RUMSFELD:  That I don’t know.  I do know that they—in fact, I encouraged them to brief George Tenet.  I mean, he’s the director of central intelligence.  When I heard that they had this—this information, I said, “Why don’t you go brief George Tenet?”  So they did.

MATTHEWS:  Colin Powell has called this a second government.  In fact, he’s called Feith’s operation the Gestapo.

RUMSFELD:  You don’t know that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is what—this is what Bob Woodward has reported in his book.

RUMSFELD:  I’m correct when I say you don’t know that.  I talked to Colin about it, and—and I think that you ought to ask Colin what he...

MATTHEWS:  He didn’t say that on the record.  I can only go by what he said on the record.  We haven’t gotten to him yet, but he has said that’s something he doesn’t recall saying.

RUMSFELD:  Then why would you say he said it?

MATTHEWS:  Because he says he doesn’t recall saying...

RUMSFELD:  So why would you say he said it?

MATTHEWS:  Because if he didn’t say it, he would have said, “I didn’t say that.”

RUMSFELD:  I see.  Is that the code and...

MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be...

MATTHEWS:  That would be what I would call clear-cut denial, Mr. Secretary.  And so would you.  And I would say—let me move on here, because...

RUMSFELD:  Listen to me.  Any thought that that’s a second government is utter nonsense.

MATTHEWS:  Separate government.  There isn’t...

RUMSFELD:  Separate government is nonsense.

MATTHEWS:  There’s no traffic in intel from the Iraqi National Congress pushing intel that would support the connection between al Qaeda and Iraq didn’t find its way through these various, these people working here in the Defense Department...

RUMSFELD:  This is a conspiratorial media...

MATTHEWS:  This is in “The New York Times” yesterday, front page.

RUMSFELD:  Does that make it so?

MATTHEWS:  It’s a heavily reported article.  It’s not conjecture.  It’s heavily reported.  If you deny it, fine.  That’s all I can ask you, if it’s true.

RUMSFELD:  No, but what I’m saying is that—that it is appropriate for policymakers to review intelligence from a wide variety of sources, including the director of central intelligence.  To view it carefully, to come to conclusions, to pass those conclusions to other people, to have people take them or leave them.  That’s the way it is. That’s an effective user of that kind of intelligence.  That’s no more a separate government than the man in the moon.

MATTHEWS:  Then why aren’t the people in your department reporting up to you instead of crossway over to the vice president’s office?

RUMSFELD:  Well, they did.  They came and asked to brief me.  I’m busy.  They said, “We’d like to brief you.”  They briefed me. 

I said, “Gee, I don’t do intelligence.  Go do George Tenet.”  They did.  There was no mystery about any of this.

MATTHEWS:  So there wasn’t any effort within this department to push the case there was—like we were talking about in the last segment, an al Qaeda-Iraqi connection, due to various portions of this U.S. government to become part of the United States’ published statements on the subject?

RUMSFELD:  There clearly was an effort on the part of this department and every department to try to know what the facts were.  So what I did was I called up John McLaughlin (ph), and I said, “Hey, I understand George Tenet testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the relationship between al Qaeda and the government.  And I’d like to know what you said.”

And he said, “You bet.”  And he showed me, and we talked about it.

So I said back to him, “Look, I’m getting asked publicly.  Why don’t you tell me on an unclassified basis what I can say about that relationship?” 

No one made up anything.  And then what did I do?  I used that...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RUMSFELD:  ... unclassified version of George Tenet’s testimony in a press briefing.  Condi Rice, she used the same piece of paper.  And that was the government’s position.  Not complicated.

MATTHEWS:  The last question I want to as you about is the role of Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress. 

And what I’m trying to get to here is that there was a reliance on the part of smart people in this department, people like Douglas Feith, people like David Wormser, relying on Chalabi, who had an interest in us going into that country, to give him back his country, if you will.  And that a lot of that information was faulty.  Faulty on WMD, faulty on al Qaeda connections, faulty on the hopeful, limited nature of the resistance we’re facing right now.  All of that bad intelligence damaging to our effort.

I just wondered if you thought that that was something that should be looked at.

RUMSFELD:  There were several...

MATTHEWS:  Like “The New York Times” is doing.

RUMSFELD:  Which is fine.  I’m all for...

MATTHEWS:  Doesn’t it disturb you that people within your department might be pushing a cause?

RUMSFELD:  Let me answer your question.  There were a variety of Iraqi expatriate groups in the world, and they had contacts in Iraq.  And they provided information to the United States government, to the Central Intelligence Agency, to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

In fact, the Congress passed the Iraqi Liberation Act and provided money for some of these groups, as you know.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

RUMSFELD:  And it was partly in exchange for intelligence information that they were gathering, so that they could do that.  There was a—passed by Congress.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RUMSFELD:  Authorized by Congress, signed by the president.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

RUMSFELD:  And—and then they provided information.  Now...

MATTHEWS:  But they were allowed...

RUMSFELD:  Let me finish the thought.  They get the information, and they give it to people.  People are (UNINTELLIGIBLE), as they say in the law.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that’s the buyer beware.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RUMSFELD:  So you have to read that, and you have to think about it.  And you have to know who your source is. And that’s true with all...

MATTHEWS:  This guy is a convicted embezzler in Jordan and we’re taking his word.  Isn’t that odd?  Ahmed Chalabi, we’re believing him on this?

RUMSFELD:  There were more people in that organization than one.

MATTHEWS:  We’re paying $350,000 a month right now.

RUMSFELD:  Under the act of Congress.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that’s good, that we’re paying this guy this kind of money for intel that’s been so questionable, if not corrupted, so far?

RUMSFELD:  It’s—it happens I know an awful lot about this subject.  In the last days I’ve had occasion to interest myself in it.  And there are three people: one in Iraq that is looking in intelligence every day, that feels that what they’re getting from that organization has been very, very helpful and helped save people’s lives in Iraq.

Another that was a mixed review and positive on tactical intelligence, less positive on other things.  And a third was a report evaluating the contribution of that organization in terms of the work that is being done in Iraq. And that was positive.

Now, it’s a mixed bag, but most things are in life. There are very few things that are perfect, one way or another.  But he is a member of the governing council, along with 24 other people, and...

MATTHEWS:  Does that corrupt his position, that we’re paying him $350,000 a month, $350,000 a month and he’s meant to be independent of us?

RUMSFELD:  I think that—that it’s known that—that the Congress passed a law, provided for that arrangement with them.  And—and if you think of all the countries that are doing various things in Iraq, I think—I guess one—like anything else, one has to look at the benefits and the costs, the cost-benefit ratio.  And those are the kinds of things people look at and they have to make a judgment about.

MATTHEWS:  If you had to make a quick reaction, and said to me Ahmed Chalabi, and I said, “Reliable, unreliable?”  What would be your answer?

RUMSFELD:  Look, I’m not going to start criticizing members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

MATTHEWS:  But he’s an employee of yours.

RUMSFELD:  He’s not an employee

MATTHEWS:  He gets $350,000 a month for—from the Defense Department.

RUMSFELD:  Come on.  Under the law passed by Congress, he—his organization, the INC, receives funds to do a variety of things.  An employee, that’s unbelievable, Chris.  You know better than that.

MATTHEWS:  No.  I just think that people in the world who hear that he’s making this kind of money from us would question his independence.  Wouldn’t you?

RUMSFELD:  Well, you—you’re an employee.  You get paid.  Would I question your independence?

MATTHEWS:  But at least I know who’s paying (ph)...

RUMSFELD: You’re capable of leaving.

MATTHEWS:  All right.  All right. That’s a good point.  He can stop us right now.

RUMSFELD:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—I think we’re going to have to just run out of time here now.  You’ve seen these photos from CBS of the treatment of some of the prisoners over there.

RUMSFELD:  I...

MATTHEWS:  Some of the G.I.’s.  You’re a tough (ph) man, but what is your reaction to—when you see that?  Is this bad apples, or is there something in the pressure of these troops over there, the heat?  What is it?  Based in the—these guys are being paraded around, make them do all these things naked and weird kind of things to humiliate themselves.  What’s that about?

RUMSFELD:  I watched the program, is all I have seen on it. And I watched General Kimmitt on that program, who is in Iraq and is a professional soldier.  And the pain in his face, the expressions that he gave of his disappointment and his heartbreak at seeing those accusations and allegations that are there.

I’m in the chain of command.  I’m not allowed to opine about things like that.

MATTHEWS:  They have to go to military justice, right?

RUMSFELD:  You bet.  Allegations like that will end up in the military justice system, as they should.  And they will be dealt with in an appropriate and just way.

And I’m not in a position—it could alter circumstances if I made expressions on the subject at this time.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Colin Powell’s notion of the Powell Doctrine.  I’m sure you’ve heard it recently or lately.  It’s just the interesting standards that he set about war.

War as a last resort. This was the last resort.

RUMSFELD:  We agree.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  You’re both in agreement?

RUMSFELD:  And—and I, if you—I’m told by Woodward that if you read the book, you’ll find that was my view.

MATTHEWS:  National security definitely at risk?  We had to act?

RUMSFELD:  That’s...

MATTHEWS:  This country’s security in danger?

RUMSFELD: That’s a judgment people have to make, but clearly, in my view, the president made the right decision.

MATTHEWS:  We had overwhelming and disproportionate force in the field sufficient to do this job, including the occupation?  Disproportionate and overwhelming force in the field?

RUMSFELD:  The...

MATTHEWS:  Is that true?  Your assessment?

RUMSFELD:  There’s no question we had overwhelming, disproportionate force.  We accomplished that in a matter of days.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Right.  And where we’re at now.

RUMSFELD:  His analysis is not in terms of post-war stabilization.  He was...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So—Let me ask you about the campaign of the general public.  There’s been so many changes...

RUMSFELD:  What campaign?

MATTHEWS:  The—this military campaign.

RUMSFELD:  I understand.

MATTHEWS:  Putting it up against public opinion.  I know public opinion shifts.  You know that.

We were in there in the beginning, WMD, for liberation, for threat to the region, all the reasons were spelled out.  WMD thing is questionable.  The al Qaeda thing is certainly questionable.  We talked about that.

Do you think there’s enough remaining arguments for the war that if the public understood those remaining arguments, they’d still be for this war?  Perfect vision as to what we’re really able to accomplish and what the threat really was?

RUMSFELD:  The—It appears that—we’re going to go through a period where public opinion will move up and down, as you suggested.  It tends to.  Decisions can’t move up and down.  The decision when the president made it, I believe, was the right one.  I believe it’s the right one today.

MATTHEWS:  Given the new conditions?  The new...

RUMSFELD:  I do.  I do.

MATTHEWS:  ... tougher conditions.

RUMSFELD:  And I think, as we said in the outset, this is a difficult time.  And I think it is—the prospect, if that country is able to navigate through this difficult period and end up as a single country.  It’s respectful of the different religious groups in the country and not a threat to its neighbor. 

Those people are intelligent.  They’ve got water.  They’ve got oil.  The economic circumstance in that part of the world for—enabling countries in Turkey and Jordan and Saudi Arabia, will be so beneficial that it—it -- 25 billion people are in school, literally in school.  They’ve been—they’re not—the mass graves are not being filled.  The people aren’t being raided. He’s not using chemicals against his own people or against his neighbors.

The up—the number of amazing things that have been accomplished in a year.  You’ve only cited negative ones.  But they’ve got a new currency. They’ve got the schools open.  They’ve got the hospitals open.  They’ve got the clinics open.  There was not a humanitarian crisis.  Food is there and available for people.  The people are able to form part of an Olympic team.  They’ve got

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Mr. Secretary, we lost 10 Americans today over in Iraq.  What is the condition over there right now, as you see it?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Difficult.  Many of them were in one incident.  We’ve been losing people for the last three or four weeks at a level considerably higher than the preceding series of months.  And it is—I guess the word is difficult.  Difficult times.

MATTHEWS:  Do you sense the resistance and what it’s made up, is it just nationalism or is it organized by the former Ba’athist regime?

RUMSFELD:  I think it’s much more the later, or the former regime remnants, these people, their intelligence service, their FSO (ph), Special Republican Guard group, the Fedayeen Saddam group, plus foreign terrorist mixed into that—that mix.

And, I suppose, these people, there are always people in the organization—in the cluster of people that are on the fence.  And to the extent it’s going to go that way, they tip that way and vice versa.

And then there’s people you can hire, thugs to go do something.

But there still are suicide bombers.  Now, those are not pick-up people off the streets that you give a few bucks if they go kill themselves.  They’re not going to do that. 

But within the last week there have been two or three suicide bombers.  So these are—these are the extremists.

MATTHEWS:  What about Fallujah?  Has it become, like, a Madrid in the 1930s or Stalingrad, sort of a point of principle that we must win and they must win?  It’s a decisive battle?

RUMSFELD:  Well, there’s no question that, for success in Iraq, you can’t have a city taken over by a bunch of terrorists and the former regime elements and have that persist over a sustained period of time.  That means it has to end at some point. 

How it ends I guess is an open question.  It could end by the Marines having to go in and go through the place and weed out the terrorists.  They’re trying to do that.  They know how to do it.  They’re capable of doing it.  I don’t think people doubt the military power of these folks. They’re outstanding soldiers and courageous.

It’s also possible it could end differently.  It could end with this conclave of some 50 to 80 tribal sheikhs and former Iraq military people actually taking over the city and getting the terrorists out of there and turning over the names of the people who killed Blackwater folks and rounding up the weapons.

The Marines on the ground are the ones that are making those judgments.  And that’s why they calculated that it’s in our interests to do it the way they’re doing it and to have these discussions with the Sunni tribal leaders.

MATTHEWS:  Are times so tough that we’re demanding they—they turn over the people that have killed our people?  Are they that tough, or are we going to allow them to let them escape?

RUMSFELD:  Certainly, the Marines are not inclined to allow the people—the terrorists to escape.

MATTHEWS:  So basically, it’s an ultimatum: turn over the bad guys, and that’s the deal?

RUMSFELD:  I wouldn’t phrase it that way.  And I’m not on the ground.  There are several things they’re interested in.  They’re interested in getting the terrorists out of that city. And they’re interested in turning it back to the people of the city.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What is the White House role?  The “Washington Post” reported today the White House is so concerned about the political, I mean grandly political sensitivity about the issue of Fallujah they’re involved in calling the shots over there.

RUMSFELD:  The president has said to me that it’s up to the combatant commanders, and you, you figure it out.

MATTHEWS:  So there is a sort of micromanagement going—Lyndon Johnson style micromanagement?

RUMSFELD:  No, indeed.  The president is—is very clear on that, and there’s no question in Abizaid’s mind or my mind as to—as to that.

The—the connection that’s taking place is at the ground level with General Sanchez and Ambassador Bremer.  They talk continuously about who can be helpful to the other and what they can do to be of assistance.

MATTHEWS: I was talking to Michael Weisskopf.  Of course, you know about him, the “TIME” magazine reporter who lost his hand over there a couple of months back.  And I said, “What was it like to go through the streets of—outside the Green Zone, in the Sunni Triangle area, among the Sunnis?”

And he said, “All you see are the faces of hatred, the people looking at you as you go by.”

Did that surprise you, that level of hostility a whole year after major combat operations?

RUMSFELD:  I think the fact that the Sunnis, who ran that country, and benefited from—a number of the senior Sunni types are Ba’athists, benefited from the Saddam Hussein regime.  The—they’re a minority, and they have a position of dominance. 

And I think as time has gone on, they have seen the likelihood that they clearly are not going to have a position of dominance. They’re not going to be running the country.  They’re not going to be able to deal from a position of strength, that the Shia and the Kurds are going to have a role, a big role, and that everyone in the country will be on a—on a—if it works out properly, that they’ll all be in a country where there’s respect for everybody and that no one element is dominant over the other.  So that’s a big change. 

I think that they’re removed from the way things were being communicated, that not only was that the case, but it was worse for them, that they weren’t going to be able to play.  And that just isn’t right.  They—the Sunnis have to have a stake in that country. 

And I think the facial expressions you’re talking about undoubtedly came from the perception that the de-Ba’athification process was going to paint all of them with the same brush, which just wouldn’t have been fair.  And I think that—that is the feeling.  And I think that’s going to change.

MATTHEWS:  Is there—you’ve been in Congress all these years before this.  You worked in the White House.  You are politically astute as much as anybody I can imagine.

Were you surprised at the national—nationalism of the people across the board that we faced when we got in?  Just we don’t like being occupied?  As the president said in his press conference the other night, “They don’t like being occupied.  I wouldn’t like being occupied.”

Did that level of hatred, generally across the board in the country, in the faces of mobs, surprise you?

RUMSFELD:  I guess if you asked me a year ago, I would have expected that the word “occupation” and the—the negative aspects of that would not have been assigned to us to the extent it has been.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Why not?  Is that the intel you’re getting?  Was that the Iraqi National Congress folks who thought that once you decapitated Saddam, you’d have a country ready to move on?

RUMSFELD:  No.  There were some people who talked like that.  Certainly I didn’t.  And I—but the intelligence was all over the lot on that, and our intelligence people had a great many contacts, both with Sunni and Shia.  And the information was mixed.  And it turns out, after the fact, that it was not perfect. As you know, most intelligence is not perfect.

But the—it seems to me that the—how do you put this?  The—over time, the—particularly the Sunnis, but the Shia are now jockeying for their position in the future.  And that is a complicated thing.  Their lives, their futures, their circumstances are at stake.  And we’re there in a difficult situation. 

So it ought not to surprise us that there is that feeling.  And our task is to see that we get an Iraqi state founded, which is why the president is so determined to see that sovereignty does pass over to the Iraqis by June 30 and that the Iraqis take an increasing role in governing their country.

MATTHEWS:  Who was it, McBride (ph), one of the moderate leaders, who said, you should have just given them three months’ pay, the entire Iraqi army, just bought them with...

RUMSFELD:  They’ve been paying...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, the army that was disassembled as we came in.

RUMSFELD:  They’ve been paying army people that were disassembled.  But that doesn’t solve it.

MATTHEWS:  I thought the army was disbanded when we came in, the Iraqi army, the special forces in the Fedayeen.  I mean, the organized regular army was all disbanded.  That was a mistake that was made.

RUMSFELD:  That’s what some people are saying.  It disappeared.  It was gone.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  So you couldn’t pay them any pay.

RUMSFELD:  Well, the bulk of the army was Shia conscripts.  And they didn’t want to be there anyway.  And they disappeared.

The Sunni generals, and there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of generals and colonels from the Sunnis, and they disappeared.  They didn’t—at the end, there were a large number of them who didn’t fight.

And the decision was made to reconstitute an army.  And they started hiring back the people that they could, and started paying pensions to a lot of army people.  So I think there’s kind of a myth—the facts—certain things, myths arise and people then repeat them over and over and over again, even thought they’re inaccurate.

MATTHEWS:  Do—back in ‘91, a friend of yours, Dick Cheney, when he was secretary of defense, sitting in this Pentagon, running the Pentagon, he said, “How much credit would a government which we set up, if we’d gone into Baghdad back in ‘91, would it have if it was set up by the United States military when they’re there?  And how long is the United States military going to have to stay there to protect the people who do sign onto that government?  And what happens to it once we leave?”

Are those concerns still alive today, the present government?

RUMSFELD:  You bet.  And that’s why everybody has to say, “Look, it’s interim.”  Anything we set up is interim.  The only way we’re going to have a government that is—some people use the word legitimate; I use the word acceptable to the Iraqi people—is if it in fact results from a constitution that’s fashioned by the Iraqi people and elections by the Iraqi people.

MATTHEWS:  Can that happen while we’re still in force?  Still there with a strong force there, of military people?

RUMSFELD:  Probably.

MATTHEWS:  It never happened in Vietnam.  Those governments were all considered jokes by the world as long as we were—we were so strong in Vietnam.

RUMSFELD:  Yes.  Very different situation.  Very different situation.

MATTHEWS: What’s different?

RUMSFELD:  Well, in—in Vietnam, you had a very nationalistic element in North Vietnam that—and the Viet Cong that was part of the situation there.  And you had a government that was not a popular government in the south.  They didn’t have—hadn’t fashioned their own constitution.  They hadn’t had their own elections.  They were—they were governments that were considered by the rest of the Vietnamese people to be puppet governments.

MATTHEWS:  So the Ba’athist elements that remain, the remnants, are nowhere as strong, as you believe, in their passion as the V.C. were and the North Vietnamese were?

RUMSFELD:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS:  They wouldn’t be as much of a threat.

Let’s come back.  Thank you for your time, Mr. Secretary.

We’ll be right back talking to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld here at the Pentagon.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Secretary, let me ask you about the war in Iraq and the boldest question I could put to you here in the Pentagon.  Did you ever advise the president to go to war?

RUMSFELD:  Chris, I saw some clipping of your interviews on this subject when you asked that question of Woodward, and Woodward said that the president said he had not asked me.  So why would you ask me?

MATTHEWS:  Good question.  Well, that’s right, in that circumstance, in that room.  But all those months in the run-up to war, I would imagine that at some point, sitting in the interstices of the West Wing, he would have say, “Hey, Don, you think we ought to go?”

I mean is there any—weren’t you ever asked your advice?

RUMSFELD:  I don’t know who he might have asked their advice.

MATTHEWS:  Well, apparently it’s the vice president.

RUMSFELD:  Possibly.  I just don’t know.  I haven’t read the—all the...

MATTHEWS:  He didn’t ask his father.  We know that.

RUMSFELD:  Is that right?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that’s what I go by, these books.  I read...

RUMSFELD:  You ought to get a life.  You could do something besides read those books.

MATTHEWS:  This is my life.

Let me ask you about something a little more...

RUMSFELD:  Let me answer your question.

MATTHEWS:  Did you advise the president to go to war?

RUMSFELD:  Yes.  He did not ask me, is the question.  And to my knowledge, there are a number of people he did not ask.

MATTHEWS:  Does that surprise you, as secretary of defense?

RUMSFELD:  Well, I thought it was interesting.  He clearly asked us, “Could we win?”  I said, obviously, that the military are sure that they can prevail in that conflict, in terms of the changing of regime.

He asked if they had everything they needed.  He must have asked 5,000 questions over the period of a year about this, that and the other thing, what could go wrong?  What about a humanitarian crisis?  What about an environmental crisis?  What about internally displaced people?  What about a fortressed Baghdad?  Thousands of questions along those lines.  And the president should, to have looked a the risks and concerns that...

MATTHEWS:  So he knew the tally sheet of costs and benefits, without only seeing the bottom line?

RUMSFELD:  You bet.  You bet.  I gave him a list.

MATTHEWS:  You knew the chance of resistance data?

RUMSFELD:  Thirty-five things that could go wrong.

MATTHEWS:  You knew the difficulties of occupation.

RUMSFELD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  The chance that we’d have to face the Ba’athist remnants, the difficulties between these different groups, the Shia and the Sunni and the Kurds.  You knew all that?

RUMSFELD:  And the risk of ethnic cleansing.

MATTHEWS:  By the winners?

RUMSFELD:  Yes.  And no question, he—he worried through all of those issues in a very thoughtful and probing way.

I keep coming back to this question you asked.  It does not surprise me that he didn’t.  His response, I thought...

MATTHEWS:  Isn’t that the role of the cabinet, to advise the president?

RUMSFELD:  Goodness, we advise him all the time.  But his point was, he said, “I knew where Rumsfeld was.”  So he didn’t need it.

MATTHEWS:  Did he?

RUMSFELD:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  He knew you were for it?

RUMSFELD:  He knew that—that I’d done my job over here and I had looked at the down sides as well as the upsides.

MATTHEWS:  Did you think it was the right thing to do?

RUMSFELD:  I did.

MATTHEWS:  At the time?

RUMSFELD:  At the time.

MATTHEWS:  Any second thoughts?

RUMSFELD:  Well, my goodness, you...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, given the costs.  You admit that there’s been a different—a slightly different—a different...

RUMSFELD:  ... level of resistance than I thought.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  I ask you the question—hundreds of guys to get killed after you took occupation, you took over the country.

RUMSFELD:  I still think it was the right decision by the president.

MATTHEWS:  You know I went to Walter Reed a couple weeks ago, and I’ll tell, there’s nothing like it, to meet those young guys.  The gung-ho guys.

RUMSFELD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And the ones that lost, like, a limb.  They’re going to make it, you know.

RUMSFELD:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS:  The guy goes back to UPS.  He’s going to learn how to use the prosthetic device.

But the other guys, you know, totally blind, both arms gone, brain injury, is that worth it?  I mean, the blunt statement.  Is this worth what we’re likely to get out of Iraq?

RUMSFELD:  If you are a historian, you know that throughout the history of our country, there have always been things that need to be done where lives are put at risk.  And the—this country wouldn’t be here if people hadn’t been willing to put their lives at risk.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of “The New York Times” poll today?  I know polls aren’t everything.  Fifty-eight percent of the people say it’s not worth the loss of life, this war in Iraq.

RUMSFELD:  I didn’t read the poll.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  It spiked up, you know.  Is this the bad news that’s done this?  What do you think has done it?

RUMSFELD:  Well, I suppose it’s the most recent three weeks of—of casualties that have been taken in Iraq that might have affected the polls.  I don’t know.  I don’t follow the polls.

MATTHEWS:  You know, when you watch the culture of the country, there’s a great sense in country music, you remember how you felt.  You’ve heard these songs.  They’re so American.  And they talk about the war in Iraq as being some kind of payback or justice for what happened to us on 9/11.

Do you think that’s a fair way to look at it morally and sort of sentimentally, the idea that we’re getting back at the people that hit us? 

I mean, the soldiers are maybe—probably think that.  I’m just guessing.  They think, “We’ve got to go back and hit them.  They hit us.”  Like Pearl Harbor.  They hit us; we’re hitting them back.

Is that accurate in history?

RUMSFELD:  I guess in life, things are never quite as simple as they seem. There’s no doubt but that we’re fighting terrorists in Iraq, there, and it’s part of the global war on terror.

The direct connection between 9/11 and...

MATTHEWS:  You feel there’s a connection?

RUMSFELD:  There’s a different one.  No.

MATTHEWS:  You see one?

RUMSFELD:  No.

MATTHEWS:  You don’t see an al Qaeda-Iraq connection before 9/11?

RUMSFELD:  Well, I—it’s not a matter for me to see it, but the—the Central Intelligence Agency and the director of central intelligence has testified to the relationships between Iraq and terrorists.

We know he would spend $25,000 to suicide bombers.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.  For the ones in Israel.  Sure, those people. 

RUMSFELD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  But in terms of 9/11, there’s no connection?

RUMSFELD:  Is it?

MATTHEWS:  Between Iraq and 9/11?

RUMSFELD:  It’s too complex a subject for me to answer yes or no. George Tenet has testified publicly and privately on that subject before Congress, and that is the official position of the United States government.

MATTHEWS:  Which one?  There’s no connection?

RUMSFELD:  No. You have to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), because it is a complex set of issues and implicit intelligence facts (ph).

MATTHEWS:  But the president said recently, when he was asked—it was with Tony Blair that time, the prime minister of Great Britain.  And he said there’s no connection between 9/11 and Iraq.

RUMSFELD:  If you’re asking whether Iraqis, who were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people engaged in 9/11, the answer is no.

MATTHEWS:  You believe there’s still a possibility that the Iraqi government had something to do with planning the attack on us, 9/11?

RUMSFELD:  Not to my knowledge.

MATTHEWS:  Therefore, this war is not payback?  There was no direct 9/11?

RUMSFELD:  The...

MATTHEWS:  The Iraqi war is not getting even with the people that hit us 9/11?

RUMSFELD:  No.  I see your point.

MATTHEWS:  Is that the case?  It’s not...

RUMSFELD:  It is, but in a different way.

MATTHEWS:  Let me try, correctly. Is this payback—is this war, in the line—in the sentiments of the music, in the culture of that country, many people’s minds, this is somehow justice for what happened to us 9/11.  Is it?  Or is it unrelated?  Or is it not directly related?  How would you connect the two?

If you were hit in the Pentagon, we’re hitting them in Iraq, is that connected?

RUMSFELD:  If you’re asking if there’s a direct link between 9/11 and Iraq, the answer is no. If you’re asking, is the United—the threat (ph) of the United States from terror that exists and that was demonstrated on 9/11, in that manifestation, but exists in a variety of manifestations, and is what we’re doing in Iraq today a part of that effort against terrorists, no, certainly it is.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We’ll come right back with Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

MATTHEWS:  Yesterday in “The New York Times,” Mr. Secretary, they talked on the front page, a reporter talked about a—a group within the Pentagon here, headed by Douglas Feith, the undersecretary for policy.  A two-man shop, very small shop.  It was basically developing intel, either existing intel or developing it, from Iraqi National Congress sources, including Ahmed Chalabi.

RUMSFELD:  That’s not correct.  They were not developing intelligence.  They were not creating intelligence.  They were reviewing intelligence that had been established by other people.

MATTHEWS:  In a meeting with the Iraqi National Congress—that’s what “The New York Times” reported, they were meeting with Ahmed Chalabi, getting information from him about connections between al Qaeda—the thing we were talking about before—the connection between al Qaeda and 9/11 and the Iraqi government.            

Don’t believe that was the case?

RUMSFELD:  My understanding of that, and I have not read the article, so I can’t speak to the article which is—which is the basis of your question.  My understanding of it is that there were two people that were, most times, four people on occasion and what they were doing is reviewing intelligence that was provided from a variety of sources.

MATTHEWS:  In and out of the intelligence agencies?  Both.

RUMSFELD:  Sure.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That’s—and they were providing it to the vice president’s office and the NSC.  People like John Baldwin over at the defense—over at the State Department.  People who were pretty hawkish to begin with.

They were giving it to Scooter at the vice president’s office.  They were giving it to Hadley.  It was being used, according to the “Times” yesterday, it was actually finding its way into the speeches of the vice president.

RUMSFELD:  That I don’t know.  I do know that they—in fact, I encouraged them to brief George Tenet.  I mean, he’s the director of central intelligence.  When I heard that they had this—this information, I said, “Why don’t you go brief George Tenet?”  So they did.

MATTHEWS:  Colin Powell has called this a second government.  In fact, he’s called Feith’s operation the Gestapo.

RUMSFELD:  You don’t know that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is what Bob Woodward has reported in his book.

RUMSFELD:  I’m correct when I say you don’t know that.  I talked to Colin about it, and I think that you ought to ask Colin what he...

MATTHEWS:  He didn’t say that on the record.  I can only go by what he said on the record.  We haven’t gotten to him yet, but he has said that’s something he doesn’t recall saying.

RUMSFELD:  Then why would you say he said it?

MATTHEWS:  Because he says he doesn’t recall saying...

RUMSFELD:  So why would you say he said it?

MATTHEWS:  Because if he didn’t say it, he would have said, “I didn’t say that.”

RUMSFELD:  I see.  Is that the code and...

MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That would be what I would call clear-cut denial, Mr. Secretary.  And so would you.  And I would say—let me move on here, because...

RUMSFELD:  Listen to me.  Any thought that that’s a second government is utter nonsense.

MATTHEWS:  Separate government.  There isn’t...

RUMSFELD:  Separate government is nonsense.

MATTHEWS:  There’s no traffic in intel from the Iraqi National Congress pushing intel that would support the connection between al Qaeda and Iraq didn’t find its way through these various, these people working here in the Defense Department...

RUMSFELD:  This is a conspiratorial media...

MATTHEWS:  This is in “The New York Times” yesterday, front page.

RUMSFELD:  Does that make it so?

MATTHEWS:  It’s a heavily reported article.  It’s not conjecture.  It’s heavily reported.  If you deny it, fine.  That’s all I can ask you, if it’s true.

RUMSFELD:  No, but what I’m saying is that—that it is appropriate for policymakers to review intelligence from a wide variety of sources, including the director of central intelligence.  To view it carefully, to come to conclusions, to pass those conclusions to other people, to have people take them or leave them.  That’s the way it is. That’s an effective user of that kind of intelligence.  That’s no more a separate government than the man in the moon.

MATTHEWS:  Then why aren’t they—why aren’t the people in your department reporting up to you instead of crossway over to the vice president’s office?

RUMSFELD:  Well, they did.  They came and asked to brief me.  I’m busy.  They said, “We’d like to brief you.”  They briefed me. 

I said, “Gee, I don’t do intelligence.  Go do George Tenet.”  They did.  There was no mystery about any of this.

MATTHEWS:  So there wasn’t any effort within this department to push the case there was—like we were talking about in the last segment, an al Qaeda-Iraqi connection, due to various portions of this U.S. government to become part of the United States’ published statements on the subject?

RUMSFELD:  There clearly was an effort on the part of this department and every department to try to know what the facts were.  So what I did was I called up John McLaughlin (ph), and I said, “Hey, I understand George Tenet testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the relationship between al Qaeda and the government.  And I’d like to know what you said.”

And he said, “You bet.”  And he showed me, and we talked about it.

So I said back to him, “Look, I’m getting asked publicly.  Why don’t you tell me on an unclassified basis what I can say about that relationship?” 

No one made up anything.  And then what did I do?  I used that...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RUMSFELD:  ... unclassified version of George Tenet’s testimony in a press briefing.  Condi Rice, she used the same piece of paper.  And that was the government’s position.  Not complicated.

MATTHEWS:  The last question I want to as you about is the role of Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress. 

And what I’m trying to get to here is that there was a reliance on the part of smart people in this department, people like Douglas Feith, people like David Wormser, relying on Chalabi, who had an interest in us going into that country, to give him back his country, if you will.  And that a lot of that information was faulty.  Faulty on WMD, faulty on al Qaeda connections, faulty on the hopeful, limited nature of the resistance we’re facing right now.  All of that bad intelligence damaging to our effort.

I just wondered if you thought that that was something that should be looked at.

RUMSFELD:  There were several...

MATTHEWS:  Like “The New York Times” is doing.

RUMSFELD:  Which is fine.  I’m all for...

MATTHEWS:  Doesn’t it disturb you that people within your department might be pushing a cause?

RUMSFELD:  Let me answer your question.  There were a variety of Iraqi expatriate groups in the world, and they had contacts in Iraq.  And they provided information to the United States government, to the Central Intelligence Agency, to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

In fact, the Congress passed the Iraqi Liberation Act and provided money for some of these groups, as you know.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

RUMSFELD:  And it was partly in exchange for intelligence information that they were gathering, so that they could do that.  There was a—passed by Congress.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RUMSFELD:  Authorized by Congress, signed by the president.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

RUMSFELD:  And—and then they provided information.  Now...

MATTHEWS:  But they were allowed...

RUMSFELD:  Let me finish the thought.  They get the information, and they give it to people.  People are (UNINTELLIGIBLE), as they say in the law.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that’s the buyer beware.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RUMSFELD:  So you have to read that, and you have to think about it.  And you have to know who your source is. And that’s true with all...

MATTHEWS:  This guy is a convicted embezzler in Jordan and we’re taking his word.  Isn’t that odd?  Ahmed Chalabi, we’re believing him on this?

RUMSFELD:  There were more people in that organization than one.

MATTHEWS:  We’re paying $350,000 a month right now.

RUMSFELD:  Under the act of Congress.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that’s good, that we’re paying this guy this kind of money for intel that’s been so questionable, if not corrupted, so far?

RUMSFELD:  It’s—it happens I know an awful lot about this subject.  In the last days I’ve had occasion to interest myself in it.  And there are three people: one in Iraq that is looking in intelligence every day, that feels that what they’re getting from that organization has been very, very helpful and helped save people’s lives in Iraq.

Another that was a mixed review and positive on tactical intelligence, less positive on other things.  And a third was a report evaluating the contribution of that organization in terms of the work that is being done in Iraq. And that was positive.

Now, it’s a mixed bag, but most things are in life. There are very few things that are perfect, one way or another.  But he is a member of the governing council, along with 24 other people, and...

MATTHEWS:  Does that corrupt his position, that we’re paying him $350,000 a month, $350,000 a month and he’s meant to be independent of us?

RUMSFELD:  I think that—that it’s known that—that the Congress passed a law, provided for that arrangement with them.  And—and if you think of all the countries that are doing various things in Iraq, I think—I guess one—like anything else, one has to look at the benefits and the costs, the cost-benefit ratio.  And those are the kinds of things people look at and they have to make a judgment about.

MATTHEWS:  If you had to make a quick reaction, and said to me Ahmed Chalabi, and I said, “Reliable, unreliable?”  What would be your answer?

RUMSFELD:  Look, I’m not going to start criticizing members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

MATTHEWS:  But he’s an employee of yours.

RUMSFELD:  He’s not an employee

MATTHEWS:  He gets $350,000 a month from the Defense Department.

RUMSFELD:  Come on.  Under the law passed by Congress, his organization, the INC, receives funds to do a variety of things.  An employee, that’s unbelievable, Chris.  You know better than that.

MATTHEWS:  No.  I just think that people in the world who hear that he’s making this kind of money from us would question his independence.  Wouldn’t you?

RUMSFELD:  Well, you—you’re an employee.  You get paid.  Would I question your independence?

MATTHEWS:  But at least I know who’s paying (ph)...

RUMSFELD: You’re capable of leaving.

MATTHEWS:  All right.  All right. That’s a good point.  He can stop us right now.

RUMSFELD:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—I think we’re going to have to just run out of time here now.  You’ve seen these photos from CBS of the treatment of some of the prisoners over there.

RUMSFELD:  I...

MATTHEWS:  Some of the G.I.’s.  You’re a tough (ph) man, but what is your reaction to—when you see that?  Is this bad apples, or is there something in the pressure of these troops over there, the heat?  What is it?  Based in the—these guys are being paraded around, make them do all these things naked and weird kind of things to humiliate themselves.  What’s that about?

RUMSFELD:  I watched the program, is all I have seen on it. And I watched General Kimmitt on that program, who is in Iraq and is a professional soldier.  And the pain in his face, the expressions that he gave of his disappointment and his heartbreak at seeing those accusations and allegations that are there.

I’m in the chain of command.  I’m not allowed to opine about things like that.

MATTHEWS:  They have to go to military justice, right?

RUMSFELD:  You bet.  Allegations like that will end up in the military justice system, as they should.  And they will be dealt with in an appropriate and just way.

And I’m not in a position—it could alter circumstances if I made expressions on the subject at this time.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Colin Powell’s notion of the Powell Doctrine.  I’m sure you’ve heard it recently or lately.  It’s just the interesting standards that he set about war.

War as a last resort. This was the last resort.

RUMSFELD:  We agree.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  You’re both in agreement?

RUMSFELD:  And—and I, if you—I’m told by Woodward that if you read the book, you’ll find that was my view.

MATTHEWS:  National security definitely at risk?  We had to act?

RUMSFELD:  That’s...

MATTHEWS:  This country’s security in danger?

RUMSFELD: That’s a judgment people have to make, but clearly, in my view, the president made the right decision.

MATTHEWS:  We had overwhelming and disproportionate force in the field sufficient to do this job, including the occupation?  Disproportionate and overwhelming force in the field?

RUMSFELD:  The...

MATTHEWS:  Is that true?  Your assessment?

RUMSFELD:  There’s no question we had overwhelming, disproportionate force.  We accomplished that in a matter of days.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Right.  And where we’re at now.

RUMSFELD:  His analysis is not in terms of post-war stabilization.  He was...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So—Let me ask you about the campaign of the general public.  There’s been so many changes...

RUMSFELD:  What campaign?

MATTHEWS:  The  military campaign.

RUMSFELD:  I understand.

MATTHEWS:  Putting it up against public opinion.  I know public opinion shifts.  You know that.

We were in there in the beginning, WMD, for liberation, for threat to the region, all the reasons were spelled out.  WMD thing is questionable.  The al Qaeda thing is certainly questionable.  We talked about that.

Do you think there’s enough remaining arguments for the war that if the public understood those remaining arguments, they’d still be for this war?  Perfect vision as to what we’re really able to accomplish and what the threat really was?

RUMSFELD:  The—It appears that—we’re going to go through a period where public opinion will move up and down, as you suggested.  It tends to.  Decisions can’t move up and down.  The decision when the president made it, I believe, was the right one.  I believe it’s the right one today.

MATTHEWS:  Given the new conditions?  The new...

RUMSFELD:  I do.  I do.

MATTHEWS:  ... tougher conditions.

RUMSFELD:  And I think, as we said in the outset, this is a difficult time.  And I think it is—the prospect, if that country is able to navigate through this difficult period and end up as a single country.  It’s respectful of the different religious groups in the country and not a threat to its neighbor. 

Those people are intelligent.  They’ve got water.  They’ve got oil.  The economic circumstance in that part of the world for—enabling countries in Turkey and Jordan and Saudi Arabia, will be so beneficial that it—it -- 25 billion people are in school, literally in school.  They’ve been—they’re not—the mass graves are not being filled.  The people aren’t being raided. He’s not using chemicals against his own people or against his neighbors.

The up—the number of amazing things that have been accomplished in a year.  You’ve only cited negative ones.  But they’ve got a new currency. They’ve got the schools open.  They’ve got the hospitals open.  They’ve got the clinics open.  There was not a humanitarian crisis.  Food is there and available for people.  The people are able to form part of an Olympic team.  They’ve got a symphony that started.

Now...

MATTHEWS:  Will that last when we leave?

RUMSFELD:  I couldn’t see into the future before, and I can’t see into the future now.  Nobody can.  Certainly, they’ve got opportunity.  Twenty-five million human beings, men, women and children, who lived in a repressive, vicious dictatorship have an opportunity to get on a path towards a freer, more civilized system.  And that’s a wonderful opportunity.

MATTHEWS:  And last part in the Powell doctrine, we do have an exit strategy?

RUMSFELD:  We do.  We’re going to pass out and be sent down between now and June 30 and we’re going to assist with the jury until we have enough security forces that they can take it over.  And it isn’t an easy road, but if you look back, it’s never been an easy road to go from a dictatorship to a free system.  It’s bumpy; it’s hard.  And it isn’t going to be a straight path.

It’s going to be a couple of steps forward and a couple of steps back.  And then we have to keep moving.

MATTHEWS:  Well, once again, I’ve learned it is a great country, because I get to come over here to the Pentagon and to challenge you on these tough issues.  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

RUMSFELD:  We’re glad to have you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

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