Rumsfeld Dismisses Detractors

donald rumsfeld CBS

In Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited U.S. troops assigned to hunt down the Iraqi dictator.

Rumsfeld later visited American forces in the northern city of Mosul.

And when the Secretary arrived in Baghdad Friday, he sat down with CBS News Anchor Dan Rather for an exclusive interview:

Rather: I want to read you something said by Retired General Anthony Zinny, whom you know well.

Rumsfeld: I don't know him well.

Rather: He said, "My contemporaries and sensitivities were forged on the battle fields of Vietnam where we saw the garbage and the lies and we saw the sacrifice." And I ask you, is it happening again?

Rumsfeld: Of course not. There were a lot of people who were affected by Vietnam and see everything through that prism. I think that would be a misunderstanding.

Rather also asked Rumsfeld if a recent article in The Washington Post stating that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the State Department had told President Bush that Rumsfeld's policy was "simply not working" was true.

Rumsfeld: (long pause) No

Rather: Well what is one to make of it?

Rumsfeld: (laughs) Is that the first time you've ever read a story in the newspaper that wasn't true? Why Dan, you know better than that.

Rather: Ah, but it's my job to ask the questions.

Rumsfeld: Of course it is and I can answer it.

Rather: But the story is not true?

Rumsfeld: (laughs) Of course not and it's been knocked down by everyone who was asked.

Rather: I'm asking you, is it true?

Rumsfeld: I said no it's nonsense.

Rather: Now William Kristol, no one accuses him of not being a supporter of President Bush. I want to give you a chance to answer his criticism and there's no other way to describe it.

Rumsfeld: Hey you're really reaching in the duffle bag Dan.

Rather: Well it's not in the duffle bag it's in the newspapers. Bill Kristol, him you do know?

Rumsfeld: I do know him.

Rather: He says, "Rumsfeld lost credibility with the White House because he screwed up post-war planning." His words not mine. "He wanted to do the post-war with fewer troops than many people advised and that turned out to be a mistake." Now Mr. Secretary, you know I don't have any joy in putting that quote in front of you, but what are the American people to make of that?

Rumsfeld: I don't know. (long pause) I guess what I would say is the Combatant Commander Tommy Franks, succeeded by general John Abizaid and General Sanchez here with the responsibility for this particular country of Iraq all have indicated that the level of troops are exactly what they believe is appropriate, what they requested. And I therefore would suggest that the individual you are quoting will prove to have been wrong.

Rather: Mr. Secretary, just this week there have been quotes in the paper, rank and file Americans, saying are we into a tar baby situation? Are we into quick sand? Is this going to be another quagmire? This is the way people talk around coffee in the morning. I want to give you an opportunity to respond to those deep concerns.

Rumsfeld: (long pause) Well, time will tell. The 23 million people have been liberated in an important country, in an important part of the world and that was about five and a half months ago, not five and a half years but five and a half months. Now is five and a half months a quagmire? Well everyone can look it up in the dictionary. I think that it's tough, but I'm hopeful that we'll be successful and I think the American people have a very good center of gravity.
  • Lauren Johnston

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