FTN – 3/23/03- Part 1

donald rumsfeld AP

BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on a special one-hour edition of Face The Nation Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The coalition forces are pushing toward Baghdad now and they are meeting some resistance. There have been casualties. Is the war on track? Have any weapons of mass destruction been found? We'll ask the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

We'll get the latest from our correspondents with the troops and then we'll talk about Saddam Hussein with Jerrold Post, who wrote the CIA profile of the Iraqi leader. Then we'll hear from Senators John McCain and Joe Biden. CBS News Pentagon Correspondent David Martin and Dana Priest of The Washington Post will also be here and I'll have some final thoughts about how the government dealt with Tractor Man.

But first, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Face The Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face The Nation, with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: Good morning again. And the scretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, is in the studio with us this morning.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for coming.

Joining in the questioning, our National Security Correspondent, David Martin.

Mr. Secretary, you've been talking to David and to me just before the broadcast. Would you clear up this situation about an American aircraft missing and also are there some missing soldiers?

DONALD RUMSFELD, Secretary of Defense: Well, first with respect to the aircraft, there -- to the best of my knowledge, the only aircraft that didn't return is one that was shot down and that was a British aircraft. With respect to some soldiers being missing, I had been told that there is a small number that is unaccounted for. And whether they're prisoners or whether they're lost or whether they simply aren't accounted for, we don't know. I don't know.

SCHIEFFER: But do you -- can you tell us were these Special Operations people or...

RUMSFELD: Since we don't know what their circumstance is, we'll -- they're just soldiers.

SCHIEFFER: OK. But there may be as many as -- what? -- a dozen?

RUMSFELD: That would be high.

SCHIEFFER: Give us your assessment at this point. How is it going?

RUMSFELD: Well, it's going well. It's tough. And wars are unpredictable. And it's very difficult to know how long it will take, but if one thinks about it -- we've been at it for 72 hours. That's a very short period of time. The air conflict and war is going exceedingly well and the overwhelming majority of the country is--is controlled by coalition aircraft.

The situation on the sea is going very well, the maritime forces, and they're in the process of de-mining, so that humanitarian assistance can come in. The land forces are proceeding and moving towards Baghdad. There are still pockets of resistance in the south and after they've gone through, there will be skirmishes and people firing at each other from time to time. But the pace has been a fast one and the component commanders have done a very good job.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, I am told that we have just gotten some pictures that have come in from Al-Jazeera. We're told that these are Americans in Iraq. I don't know what else to say about it.

Let's just watch. It appears that these are Americans who may be in Iraqi hands.

(Excerpt of videotape)

SCHIEFFER: Well, there you have it. Those apparently are American prisoners. As I said, we just received that. Do you -- can you tell us anything or what do you make of that?

RUMSFELD: I have no idea. There are some journalists that are missing; not journalists that were embedded with our forces but some freelance people who were moving around on their own. Some have been killed and some are missing. And whether they were journalists or coalition forces I simply don't know.

I will say this. The Geneva Convention indicates that it's not permitted to photograph and embarrass or humiliate prisoners of war. And if they do happen to be American or coalition ground forces that have been captured, the Geneva Convention indicates how they should be treated.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask our own people. Do we know where those men were? Were they in Baghdad or did we have any information? We do not know where they were. All we know is it just came in on Al-Jazeera.

David.

DAVID MARTIN, CBS News National Security Correspondent: Will the fact that the Iraqis have American prisoners in any way affect American strategy?

RUMSFELD: Oh, no. It can't. I mean, the plan will go forward. It is proceeding. And it seems to me that showing a few pictures on the screen, not knowing who they are and being communicated by Al-Jazeera, which is not a perfect instrument of communication in my view, obviously is part of Iraqi propaganda. And responding to Iraqi propaganda, it seems to me, is not what the United States armed forces are about.

MARTIN: Mr. Secretary, before we go any further, I'm told that yesterday you officially became the oldest secretary of Defense in history and since you were once the youngest secretary of Defense, I guess that makes you two-fer, so congratulations.

RUMSFELD: Thank you. I'm told that there was a secretary of war, however, Henry Stimson, who was 78 years old, so he's got me by a few years.

MARTIN: Well, you've turned into a Secretary of War.

RUMSFELD: That's true.

MARTIN: Can I ask you about Saddam Hussein? Do you think -- did you have good reason to believe that he was in that compound on Wednesday night when you launched that quick strike?

RUMSFELD: What took place there was an indication of the superb linkages between the Central Intelligence Agency, the intelligence community and the Department of Defense, not just at the George Tenet-Don Rumsfeld level but it's knitted together all the way down to the ground. And there are occasions when an excellent piece of intelligence is available and a military leadership like General Franks and his folks were able to respond flexibly, promptly and utilize that intelligence in a way that was effective.

MARTIN: You had an excellent piece of intelligence...

RUMSFELD: We did.

MARTIN: ...that Saddam Hussein was in that compound?

RUMSFELD: I didn't say that. I said we had an excellent piece of intelligence that senior regime leadership were in there.

MARTIN: Senior regime leadership, including Saddam Hussein?

RUMSFELD: And I did not answer that. I don't plan to. I do -- I don't -- it's so complicated and I wouldn't be able to do it justice in a quick Q&A.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Mr. Secretary, let me ask you this. This morning we're getting reports from the British press. I'll just read you what they're reporting. Tony Blair's war Cabinet was told by intelligence chiefs yesterday that Saddam Hussein survived last week's attack in that bunker but sustained serious injury.

They said they have learned that ministers were told that the Iraqi leader had been so badly wounded, he needed a blood transfusion and that his son Uday, also thought to have been injured, may even have been killed. Would that jibe with the reports that you're getting?

RUMSFELD: You know, if you're not there on the ground and able to question two or three people and then triangulate what people saw, it's very hard to develop conviction about what actually took place. I have heard all these reports. I've read intelligence. We've had people on the ground who have opined and I'm sure very honestly and accurately reflected what they think they saw. But if there's a car accident out in front of this building right now and there's 20 people out there, you'll -- they'll get 20 different opinions as to what happened, whose fault it was and how it all turned out.

SCHIEFFER: Well, do you have any indication that their command and control has been disrupted? For one just sitting back here and watching this, it would appear that it's very disorganized, their response to this.

RUMSFELD: We hear those kinds of reports from the field that there seems to be some disarray. If you think about it and put yourself in their shoes, what's happening is we -- I see these images on television, people commenting that we're bombing Baghdad. We're not bombing Baghdad.

That is a precise attack on the regime of Saddam Hussein. That's what's being targeted. And that is what's being hit and they know it. And the military targets in there are being hit, the communications targets are being hit and they know that's what's happening. That has to affect their
judgment. It has to affect how they behave and at some point, we're finding people in the field, at least, starting to surrender. Units are calling up and saying, 'We want to surrender.' And we're communicating with them and finding ways to do that. Still other units are fighting and there's resistance going on.

SCHIEFFER: Well, is what you're saying is you know, you had good information that there were some people in the top command in this bunker.

RUMSFELD: That's true.

SCHIEFFER: And from what you know now, you hit that bunker?

RUMSFELD: There was a lot more than a bunker. It was a very large complex and there were multiple aim points in that complex.

SCHIEFFER: Who and whether anybody survived is what you don't know but you know you hit where you thought they were?

RUMSFELD: You bet your life.

MARTIN: But take it one step further. You said people on the ground thought they saw things. Were there people on the ground who thought they saw a badly injured Saddam Hussein being taken out of that complex?

RUMSFELD: Look, the task here is to change the regime and find the weapons of mass destruction and put in place a government for the Iraqi people which is representative of them.

The outcome is clear. There is no question but that when this will be over and Saddam Hussein and his regime will be gone. Whether it happens last night, tonight or the next night, no one can predict but it will end and he will be gone.

SCHIEFFER: We keep hearing...

MARTIN: Killing Saddam is a good start to changing the regime.

RUMSFELD: There -- that's true. It would be. But there are many other people involved with his regime that are every bit as repressive and vicious.

SCHIEFFER: But to win this war, you've got to get -- it seems to me to win this war, you've got to do two things. You've got to get Saddam Hussein and you've got to find those weapons of mass destruction.

RUMSFELD: To win this war, we have to see that that regime is gone; doesn't exists, is not in control of that country. If one looks at a map, it's pretty clear they haven't controlled the northern part of their country for years. And they don't today. We have a large number of troops up there. The west they don't control. We have troops pretty well moving all around that western portion. And the forces coming in from the south are moving towards Baghdad. Now that means that the air is dominated by coalition aircraft, not by Iraqi aircraft.

SCHIEFFER: Have they launched any aircraft? Do they have any to launch?

RUMSFELD: They do have aircraft and they've dispersed them. They parked some near mosques so we can't attack them. They parked them near schools and hospitals. It is the lack of respect for human life by the Iraqi regime is just breathtaking.

SCHIEFFER: Do you have any -- can you enlighten us? We keep hearing these reports that you're making contacts with various people about surrendering, about what they should do next. Can you give us any information about that?

RUMSFELD: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: And are some of the people you're talking to members of this elite Republican Guard?

RUMSFELD: The contacts that are being made are not U.S. government to Iraqi government at senior political levels. The contacts that are being made tend to be military contacts and they are extensive. There is a lot of communication going on. A number of units have surrendered. We have a number of prisoners of war that are being treated under the Geneva Convention. And, of course, that's a violation of the Geneva Convention, those pictures you showed. In fact, those are our soldiers.

But every hour or two a report comes in suggesting that this outfit may or may not be willing to surrender and then some decide they will. In some cases, they bring the troops with them. In some cases, it's the senior people and the troops just kind of go back into their villages and communities.

There are discussions with Republican Guard leaders in selected places and needless to say, our goal is to have this done with the minimum loss of life on the coalition side and on the Iraqi side.

The Iraqi people are hostages of a very repressive regime. And to the extent the Iraqi military will act with honor and stop supporting a regime that's history, it's done, and help liberate the Iraqi people and help find the weapons of mass destruction and destroy them, the whole world will be better off.

SCHIEFFER: David.

MARTIN: Have any Republican Guard units surrendered yet?

RUMSFELD: Not as of last evening that can I recall.

MARTIN: And have American troops come in contact on the ground with Republican Guards units yet?

RUMSFELD: The Republican Guards units have been kind of following a pattern of moving closer to Baghdad and Tikrit and away from where US forces are. They have been hit from the air and will continue to be hit from the air. And they'd be well advised to surrender.

MARTIN: So are they going back into a fortress Baghdad?

RUMSFELD: I don't know that. I know they've been, over a period of several weeks, tended to move back towards that area.

SCHIEFFER: Let's take a break here and then we'll come back and talk about this some more. Back in a minute.

COMMERCIAL

SCHIEFFER: Back now with the secretary of Defense and with David Martin, our national Security Correspondent.

Mr. Secretary, perhaps you can explain to me what is going on. We seem to be going into towns when we first entered, we've had this one division, as I understand it, of Iraqi solders that surrendered. But basically what happened was the senior officers, as I'm told, surrendered and then we hear from various people that the rest of division sort of melted away. Did we take them prisoner, did we take their weapons or did they just quit and go away? I don't understand. Just explain to me what's happened.

RUMSFELD: Well, General Franks and his land component commander, General McKernan, have arranged so that there are prisoner of war capabilities that move in and establish camps.

SCHIEFFER: Yeah.

RUMSFELD: Last time I looked, there were something like a couple thousand prisoners that have been taken, and are in these camps being fed and provided medical attention and being treated humanely.

The situation can vary. In one case, the commander may come in and say, `We're surrendering,' and all the people would be put in one of the camps. And in another case, the commander might say to his troops, 'Look, we're going to throw it in. I'm going to surrender with the senior officers. You folks just disappear, go back to your villages, go where you want and so the time we get to the division, the division is gone.

SCHIEFFER: It's just not there.

RUMSFELD: The unit it not there, and we take the people who have offered themselves up. And we've sent lots of leaflets, millions and lots of communications by radio, lots of covert transmissions of instructions as to how people can get out of this fight and stay out of the way and not get hurt. And people read those, listen to those things and then we start in communication with them and then it happens.

SCHIEFFER: Well, are these people, the ones that just sort of disappear, I assume they take their weapons if they had any with them, so that still poses something of a...

RUMSFELD: I'm sure some do and some don't. There may be some dead-enders. We've gotten into -- our folks have gotten into firefights with people who are loyal to the regime, very small numbers, not big units, you know, threes and fours. But on the other hand, a lot of people don't want to take their weapons because they don't want to be seen as threatening. And the instructions say, 'Leave your weapons somewhere else and don't have them with you.'

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask this. Because this...

RUMSFELD: They're a lot safer if they don't have their weapons.

SCHIEFFER: Yeah. If we just sort of roll into these towns and then roll on by, and we obviously take out the infrastructure or leadership, or whatever there is there, do we just sort of leave the area there, just sort of its civil war because we have reports of some Iraqis killing each other in those areas? Or how do we make sure...

RUMSFELD: I have not seen those reports.

SCHIEFFER: ...they've maintained order in those places?

RUMSFELD: Yeah. I've not seeing those reports.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I may have misstated that but...

RUMSFELD: It's a concern that there could be inner communal strife or religious strife or ethnic cleansing, as they said in the Balkans. So we're attentive and alert to it, but what happens is, every hour since G-day -- ground day -- the number of U.S. forces in that country goes up and we are moving in a manner of General Franks' choosing. And what he does is he takes an area and then moves out and leaves it for someone else.

For example, the oil fields in the south -- it's a wonderful thing that only 10 of those wells are ablaze and the rest have been apparently, at the moment, secured. Sufficiently, that we -- unless there is a surprise and there are deeply buried explosives that that go off, we think the bulk of that oil field is safe for the Iraqi people because it's going to be needed to provide for their needs. The forces that took that field have now turned it over to some British elements that came in behind and they have that.

In the case of Basra -- Basra is pretty well subdued. There is still some fighting that will take place but -- and there will be some forces that will stay there.

Now the bulk of that country, is -- from the south, west -- and portions of the north is vacant. There aren't large concentrations of people and there would be no reason in the world to leave lots of people along the way.

SCHIEFFER: David.

MARTIN: Have we have we found any evidence yet of weapons of mass destruction?

RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, no. It's what have we been going for 75 hours in the south and the west, and the north and have been fighting a war.

MARTIN: But you have searched some sites?

RUMSFELD: I don't know that.

MARTIN: You don't have a team out there in the west that is searching sites?

RUMSFELD: We have lots of teams in the west and lots of teams in the north and large numbers of forces in the south. Are they may very well have information from somebody that said, 'Gee, you might go on and look here,' and you'll find some people and you'll find some things.

But the task now is to see that there are not ballistic missiles fired from the west at neighboring countries and to see that the progress towards Basra, towards ...(unintelligible) and towards Baghdad continues going up. And to see that there are not any problems up in the north where people make mistakes and think they can take advantage.

MARTIN: Is there any evidence that Saddam or whoever is in charge attempted to launch Scud missiles at Israel?

RUMSFELD: I have no evidence of that.

MARTIN: So you have not seen any of the launchers come out or anything like that?

RUMSFELD: I have not heard anything about that.

SCHIEFFER: Would there -- and I guess perhaps you've already answered this question -- but I take it you have seen no evidence that they are getting ready to use chemical weapons against our forces?

RUMSFELD: That would not be correct. We have seen intelligence that capabilities are dispersed, and whether it's true or not, indications that orders have been issued that permit selected commanders to make judgments with respect to that. But whether they will or not, the important thing to remember is Saddam Hussein cannot use weapons of mass -- chemical or biological weapons. He has to get other people to do it for him. And we have to persuade them that they best not do it. That they don't want to be supporting a dying regime, a regime that's done, and be hunted down the rest of their lives for having committed those kinds of crimes.

SCHIEFFER: But let me just make sure I understand what you said here. You have seen preparations...

RUMSFELD: We have seen...

SCHIEFFER: ...that they might do that.

RUMSFELD: ...intelligence over many months that they have chemical and biological weapons, and that they have dispersed them and that they're weaponized and that, in one case at least, the command and control arrangements have been established.

SCHIEFFER: And what does that mean? Is it like if the local commander thinks he needs to use them, he's been authorized to do it?

RUMSFELD: I don't think I'm going to go beyond what I've said. But the command and control arrangements have been established.

SCHIEFFER: David, final question.

MARTIN: Let me just be clear on this. You've seen intelligence, but have you seen the weapons themselves?

RUMSFELD: Oh, no, I just answered that question.

SCHIEFFER: Yeah.

RUMSFELD: We're not there.

MARTIN: No, but have you dispersed -- well, those are the sites you that you are searching. But I'm talking about...

RUMSFELD: I didn't say we were searching sites, you said that.

MARTIN: OK.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, I'm sorry we have to end it right there. But I think we understand what you said here. Thank you so much for joining us.

RUMSFELD: You bet.

SCHIEFFER: Thank you.

We'll be right back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL)

SCHIEFFER: You're watching a special edition of Face The Nation: America At War. We'll be back with our expanded coverage in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL)

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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