updated 4/30/2004 11:04:42 AM ET 2004-04-30T15:04:42

Guest: Donald Rumsfeld

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, an exclusive interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. 

And as Marines try negotiate a pullback in Fallujah, 10 U.S. soldiers are killed in Iraq, including eight in a car bombing on the outskirts of Baghdad.  Pentagon support Jim Miklaszewski will be with us. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.  

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to day four of HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week. 

Two hours ago, I sat down with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who told me that President Bush never asked him if the United States should go to war.  And he found that interesting.  Here‘s my first question to Secretary Rumsfeld. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  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:  It is 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 I guess the word is difficult.  It is a difficult time. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you sense the resistance and what it is made of?  Is it just nationalism or is it organized by the former Baathist regime? 

RUMSFELD:  I think it is much more the latter, the former regime remnants, these people, their intelligence service, their SSO, the Special Republican Guard group, the Fedayeen Saddam group, plus foreign terrorists mixed into that mix. 

And then I suppose these people—there are always people in any cluster of people that are on the fence.  And to the extent it looks like it is going to go that way, why, they tip that way or vice-versa.  And then there‘s people you can hire and thugs to go do something. 

But there still are suicide bombers.  Now, those are not—pick up people off the street that you give a few bucks to 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, the terrorists.

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

RUMSFELD:  Well, there‘s no question but 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 root out the terrorists.  They are trained to do that.  They know how to do it.  They‘re capable of doing it.  And I don‘t think people doubt the military power of these folks.  They‘re outstanding soldiers and courageous. 

It also is possible it could end differently.  It could end with this conclave of some 15 to 80 tribal sheiks and former Iraq military people actually taking over the city and getting the terrorists out of there and turning over the name of the people who killed the Blackwater folks and rounding up the weapons.  The Marines on the ground are the ones that are making those judgments. 

And thus far, they‘ve calculated that it is in our interests to do it the way they‘re doing it and to have these discussions with the Sunni tribal leaders. 

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

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

MATTHEWS:  So, basically, it is 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, that they‘re involved in calling the shots over there. 

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

MATTHEWS:  So there isn‘t a sort of micromanagement, Lyndon Johnson style micromanagement going on? 

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 just talked to Michael Weisskopf.  Of course, you know about him, the “TIME” magazine reporter who lost his hand over there a couple months back.  And I said, what it 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 of 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, Baathists, benefited from the Saddam Hussein regime.  They‘re a minority.  And they had 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, 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 believed 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-Baathification process was going to take all of them with the same brush, which just wouldn‘t have been fair. 

And I think that is the feeling.  And I think that‘s going to change. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there a—you‘ve been in Congress all those years.  Before this, you worked in the White House.  You‘re a political student as much as anybody I can imagine.  Were you surprised at the nationalism of the people across the board that we faced?  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 hostility 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. 

MATTHEWS:  Why not?  Was that the intel you were getting?  Was that the Iraqi National Congress folks, who thought that once you decapitated Saddam, you would 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.  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.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RUMSFELD:  But the—it seems to me that the—how do you put this?  The—over time, the—particularly the Sunnis, but the Shias 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 face on this, 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, Mubarak or one of the Arab moderate leaders, who said, you should have just given them three months pay, the entire Iraqi army, just bought them with bakshish.  Would that have been smarter?

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD:  They‘ve been paying...

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

RUMSFELD:  Oh, well, they‘ve been paying army people who were disassembled.  But that didn‘t solve it.

MATTHEWS:  I thought the army was disbanded when we came in, the Iraqi army, the special forces and 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 three months 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, large numbers of them didn‘t fight.

And the decision was made to reconstitute an army.  And they started hiring back the people that they could and they 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 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, credibility of the 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 that you‘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, we‘re 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:  Right.  Very different situation.  Very different situation.

MATTHEWS:  Why?  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.  It was a—they were governments that were considered by the rest of the Vietnamese people to be puppet governments.

MATTHEWS:  So the Baathist 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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:  Well, now, 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.  Now, so why would you ask me?  You have it from the horse‘s mouth.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  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 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 he asked the vice president.

RUMSFELD:  Possibly.  I just don‘t know.  I haven‘t read all these books...

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t ask his father.  We know that.

RUMSFELD:  Is that right?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s all I go by, these books, as you put it, these bibles we‘re reading, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

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

MATTHEWS:  This is my life.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  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 any number of people he did not ask.

(CROSSTALK)

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

RUMSFELD:  Well, I thought it was interesting.  He clearly asked us, “Could we win?”  And 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 a period of a year about this, that and the other things.  What could go wrong?  What about a humanitarian crisis?  What about an environmental crisis?  What about internally displaced people?  What about a fortress Baghdad?  Thousands of questions along those lines.  And—as the president should, to have looked a the risks and concerns that...

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

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

MATTHEWS:  He knew the chances of resistance down the road?

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD:  ... thirty-five things that could go wrong.

MATTHEWS:  He knew the difficulties of occupation.

RUMSFELD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  The chances we‘d have to face the Baathist remnants, the difficulties between these different groups, the Shia and the Sunni and the Kurds.  He 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:  But isn‘t that the role of a Cabinet, to advise the president?

RUMSFELD:  And, 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 downsides, 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 level of resistance than you thought. 

RUMSFELD:  Exactly.  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  So the costs are higher.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You didn‘t expect hundreds of guys to get killed after we took occupation or took over the country.

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

MATTHEWS:  You know, we were over at Walter Reed a couple weeks ago, and I‘ll tell, there‘s nothing like it, to meet those young guys.  They‘re gung-ho.  They‘re gung-ho guys.

RUMSFELD:  You don‘t need to tell me.  I go there frequently.

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

RUMSFELD:  They‘re fabulous.

MATTHEWS:  The guy is going go 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:  Chris, 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‘s 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.  The president doesn‘t follow the polls.

MATTHEWS:  You know, when you watch the culture of the country, there‘s a great sense in country music, “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 think soldiers, many of them, 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 today and that it‘s part of the global war on terror.

The direct connection between 9/11 and Iraq is a different one.

MATTHEWS:  Do you see a direct connection? 

RUMSFELD:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Do 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.  The Central Intelligence Agency and the director of central intelligence has testified to the relationships between Iraq and terrorists.  We know he was paying $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?  Or is there 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 go back and read it, because it is a complex set of issues and imperfect 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, were the Iraqis, who were the 18 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 for what was done to us 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, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Is that the case?  It‘s not payback?

RUMSFELD:  You asked it originally in a different way.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me try it correctly.  Is this payback—is this war, in the line—in the sentiments of the music, in the culture in our country, in 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?

You were hit in the Pentagon.  We‘re hitting them in Iraq.  Is that connected?  Is it justice?

RUMSFELD:  If you‘re asking, is it a direct link between 9/11 and Iraq, the answer is no.  If you‘re asking, is the United—the threat to the United States from terrorists that exists and was demonstrated on 9/11 in one manifestation, but exists in a variety of manifestations, and is what we‘re doing in Iraq today a part of that effort against terrorists, most certainly it is.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  There is the HARDBALL seventh anniversary week.  And in a moment, more of my exclusive interview with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld today from his office in the Pentagon. 

Tomorrow night on HARDBALL, “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl on her regrets about reporting about the existence of WMDs in Iraq. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, more of my exclusive interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, plus, the latest on a deadly day for American troops in Iraq. 

But, first, the latest headlines right now. 

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 Ahmad Chalabi.

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

MATTHEWS:  They weren‘t meeting with the Iraqi National Congress—that‘s what “York Times” reported, they were meeting with Ahmad 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.            

You 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—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 Bolton over at the Defense Department—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.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Colin Powell—Colin Powell has called this a second government.  In fact, he‘s called Feith‘s operation the gestapo office.

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 said you don‘t know that.  I talked to Colin about it, and—and I think that you ought to ask Colin what he has said.

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 it.

RUMSFELD:  Well, 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 in Washington, D.C.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That would be what I would call clear-cut denial, Mr.

Secretary.  And so would you.  And that would be a clear-cut denial.  Let

me move on here, because

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD:  Listen, any thought that that‘s a second government is utter nonsense.

MATTHEWS:  Separate government.  There isn‘t...

RUMSFELD:  A separate—it‘s nonsense.

MATTHEWS:  So 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 the conspiratorial view of the world, this...

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s—this is in “The New York Times” yesterday, front page.

RUMSFELD:  Does that make it so?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, but 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 do 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.  It‘s just nonsense.

MATTHEWS:  But then don‘t they—why don‘t the people in your department report up to you instead of crossway over to the vice president‘s office or to that 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 brief George Tenet.”  And 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, about an al Qaeda-Iraqi connection, through to various portions of this U.S.  government and to become part of the United States‘ public 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 and I said, “Say, I understand George Tenet testified before 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 it was classified.

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 used the same piece of paper.  And that was the government‘s position.  Not complicated.

MATTHEWS:  And the last question I want to as you about is the role of Ahmad 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 Wurmser, 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.  And all of that bad intel has been 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?

(CROSSTALK)

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.  So it 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 lobbying all the time for this...

RUMSFELD:  Chris, but let me finish the thought.  Let me finish the thought. 

They get information and they give it to people.  People are on notice, as they say in the law, caveat emptor, let 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. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

RUMSFELD:  And that‘s true with all the intelligence.

MATTHEWS:  This guy was a convicted embezzler in Jordan and we‘re taking his word.  Isn‘t that odd?  Ahmad Chalabi, we‘re believing him on this?

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

MATTHEWS:  We‘re paying him $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 three 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 some other things. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RUMSFELD:  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, as 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 if I said the name Ahmad Chalabi, and I said, “Reliable, unreliable?” what would be your answer?

RUMSFELD:  Oh, 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 at all.

MATTHEWS:  He gets $350,000 a month 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? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... cut him off.

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

MATTHEWS:  No, but I work for NBC News.  At least you know who I‘m being paid by.

RUMSFELD:  You‘re perfectly capable of leaving.

MATTHEWS:  I know. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  All right.  That‘s the good point.  He could 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:  Yes, I have.

MATTHEWS:  Some of our G.I.s. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a good man, but what is your reaction to—when you see that?  Are these bad apples, or is there something in the pressure on these troops over there, the heat?  What is it that brings to—these guys are being paraded around, make to do all these things naked and these weird kind of things to humiliate themselves.  What‘s that about?

RUMSFELD:  I watched the program, is all I have seen on it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RUMSFELD:  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:  I understand, because 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 got some interesting standards that he has set about war.  War is a last resort.  This was the last resort.

RUMSFELD:  We agree.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re both agree on that.

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 endangered?

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

MATTHEWS:  Did we have 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 still true?  Your assessment?

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

MATTHEWS:  A year ago, right.  Today and where we‘re at now, do we have enough troops?

RUMSFELD:  His is not in terms of postwar stabilization, his own rules.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So that‘s the difference then.

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:  The military campaign.

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 lists of conditions?

RUMSFELD:  I do.  I do.  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 that‘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 the neighboring countries in Turkey and Jordan and Saudi Arabia will be so beneficial that it—it -- 25 billion people are in school.  Women are in school.  They‘ve been—they‘re not—the mass graves are not being filled.  The people aren‘t being murdered.  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 all 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, there is that opportunity for 25 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 point in the Powell doctrine.  We do have an exit strategy?

RUMSFELD:  We do.  We‘re going to pass sovereignty sometime between now and June 30 and we‘re going to assist with security 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.  There are 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 that this 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  When we come back, NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski will join us. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski on my exclusive interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and what has been a deadly day for Americans in Iraq.

HARDBALL back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary.

NBC News correspondent Jim Miklaszewski covers the Pentagon and does it so well that you knew everything I was going to ask him, and you knew everything he was going to say. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  What did strike you about the interview?  You mentioned that you were surprised about the secretary‘s statement that the occupation was much more unpleasant than he expected it would be. 

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, you know, Rumsfeld is one of these guys who makes a list about the worst possible things that could happen and go wrong on everything he does. 

I suspect when he goes out on a Saturday drive, he makes a list of things that could go wrong.  But when you asked him about the occupation and the feeling that the Iraqis have that the U.S. is an occupying force, he said that a year ago, he didn‘t think that as of today, so many Iraqis would hate us.  I find that remarkable. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, because I think he did display a lot of candor today. 

And I think that was probably the most candid thing he said, especially—

I thought also I loved the fact, I will always wonder why the president didn‘t ask him his advice.  And then for him to say how he found that interesting.  I would find it very interesting.  If you‘re working for a guy for two years, you‘re planning a war with him and finally he didn‘t say, well, do we go or what do you think?  What do you think, Don?

MIKLASZEWSKI:  But I think there was probably a mind meld there. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You think he knew?

MIKLASZEWSKI:  I think both of them knew where each one was going.  I understand that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, even Captain Kirk asks Mr. Spock, when the time comes, how do we fix this plane? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask the deal on Fallujah.  It seems to becoming almost, as I said in that interview, a Stalingrad where both sides know they have to win. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Well, General Abizaid in Iraq knows that he has to include the Iraqis in any solution to come up—to put an Iraqi face on whatever the outcome there is in Fallujah. 

However, U.S. military officials I talk to are very pessimistic.  They say it is going to ultimately require force, some pretty powerful force, but in selected areas in Fallujah where U.S. intelligence now knows where the leaders of those insurgents are and where these huge weapons caches are.  But they don‘t think that there can be a negotiated settlement that will result in the total surrender of all those insurgents and their weapons. 

MATTHEWS:  He sounded, the secretary today, that he expected his field commanders, his Marine commandants over there to be very strong and firm in their demands.  And the demands would either be, give us the list at least of the people who killed those four American contract employees and that desecrated their bodies or else we want them turned over to us.  He didn‘t want to fine-tune that. 

But can we accept anything less than some sort of criminal justice for those people? 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Absolutely not, and for the simple reason that if you let them go, they‘ll fight again. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  And there are already reports that many of the insurgent leaders have already escaped.  They knew the Marines were coming.  They got out of Dodge and will live to fight another today. 

It seem to me, not being a military expert—you cover the Pentagon.  It doesn‘t seem like it would take that many insurgents to go around knocking off police stations, knocking off policemen that we hire over there.  If we hire a bunch of Iraqi guys, they have got to risk their necks every night before they go home to their families.  But then they notice that they‘re being knocked off one a night. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  And that‘s the problem. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  When push comes to shove, they‘re not willing to risk their necks. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, give their necks, probably, because they are going to get knocked off.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that the fundamental question of this occupation?  At some point, we have to leave and we have got to turn it over to somebody.  And nobody really wants to be the rear guard of our occupation. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  While the military and Pentagon civilians may disagree on many things going on in Iraq, that‘s one thing they agree on. 

There‘s a deep-seated concern that, whenever that time comes, that the Iraqis will not step up.  And they blame it on the fact that for 35, 40 years, they survived by keeping their head down and they‘re still afraid to step forward.  Of course, the fact that, in many cases, the U.S. is up against a very effective guerrilla-style war is causing many of these Iraqis who are willing to step up to stand back and hedge their bets to see how this plays out. 

MATTHEWS:  On a scale of 100, what portion of that 100 is political right now and how much is military in winning control of that country? 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Oh, if you talk to General Abizaid, he thinks it is probably 90 percent political.  That‘s his major concern. 

He knows that the U.S. military can stick this out and beat the insurgents, beat the foreign fighters, beat the terrorists.  But until you get those Iraqis to assume responsibility, not only for their own governance, but for their own security—and that‘s really going to be the hard part—Abizaid knows it won‘t work. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But that part, without overstating the comparison, that is familiar to us from Vietnam days, to try to find local tribesmen, local chiefs, local top people in these provincial capitals to build whole government that are dependent on our military support, because we are going to leave at some point. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Absolutely. 

And a senior Pentagon official told me just this week that even when the U.S. leaves, turns over all the authority, pull out all the troops, which may be up to 10 years,there will still be violence in Iraq for many years to come. 

MATTHEWS:  It always seems to me that the last people there are the one calling the show—the shot. 

Anyway, thank you, Jim Miklaszewski.  Thanks for coming over tonight after we talked to the secretary. 

HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week continues after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR:  Hey, Chris, Darrell Hammond here, impersonator of you on “Saturday Night Live” Saturday nights in front of 10 to 12 million people. 

We‘ve done you four times a year for the last five years, which around here means you‘re a hit character.  But I just want to tell you that you‘ve got the college crowd now.  I was at MIT recently, a pretty substantial school.  And I brought up your name.  And about 200 people, what do you think they said?  They said, shut it. 

I want to ask you a question, Chris.  And I‘ll show what you it is like to be interviewed by you.  So, Chris, I‘ll say, what do you think about the state of foreign affairs.  And you start to answer.  OK?  Start to answer.  Yes?  Yes?  Yes?  Yes?  Yes?  OK, you‘re done. 

A final note.  I want to say congratulations for a second time.  Seven years on television, it‘s amazing.  And I‘ll be thinking about that the next time I sit right over here in the studio and I say, I‘m Chris Matthews.  Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s great.  Darrell Hammond, what a guy.

Tomorrow, HARDBALL‘s seventh anniversary week continues.  We‘ll get reaction to my exclusive interview with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today.  Plus, legendary newswoman Lesley Stahl. 

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.

END   

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