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Centcom general suggests bin laden dead

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Q: Osama bin Laden, there’s been some reports lately. Our Bret Baier did an interview with a Centcom General and suggested that Bin Laden may be dead. What do you think?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness. You know, we have not seen him on video since 2001, in December, I think. We’ve had audio tapes of him using video from earlier periods that the Central Intelligence Agency’s experts believe are probably his voice and probably recorded subsequent to December of ’01. We don’t know for sure if he’s alive because we haven’t seen him. Our assumption is he is alive. My further assumption -- mine, as opposed to the Agency’s -- is that if he is alive, he would like to be on video and for some reason he’s not.

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with FOX's Rita Cosby

Q: Mr. Secretary, great to have you with us.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, Rita.

Q: There has been a lot of hostage takings recently. And there’s been a lot of hostage releases recently, and it seems that some countries are negotiating on the side. What do you day to one of these countries that seem to be making deals with terrorists?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the risk always is, of course, that if someone does that, it encourages it. And if you reward something, you get more of it. If you penalize it, you get less of it. And to the extent a country decides that if they wanted to negotiate with terrorists and pay ransom or make concessions of various types, acquiescing whatever it is the terrorist wants, then the terrorist is rewarded by that and decides that that’s a good thing to do, so they do a lot more of it and it puts other people at risk and I think that’s unfortunate.

Q: What would you say to these countries, some of these are allies, that seem to be negotiating?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t know that.

Q: They seem to be, though.

SEC. RUMSFELD: In some instances, people have just been released. In other instances, it’s silence, as to why they were released. And so I guess that I would say is each country does what they believe is right. And I like our country’s policy and the policy of the United Kingdom and a great many other countries across the world. Our best course is to not reward things we want to discourage.

Q: How would you describe the situation today in Iraq?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I just got off – I talk to Gen. Casey and Gen. Abizaid every day or two and, as a matter of fact, I just got of a secure video conference with them. And the situation is about like it was earlier this week where the level of violence has gone up in anticipation of the elections. And we expect it will stay up during this period for the rest of the year between now and the Iraqi elections in January.

A free democratic Iraq is something that is exactly what the terrorists and the extremists don’t want. It will harm their goals for that part of the world in a very serious way, so they’re going to do everything they can to try to prevent it. But we’ve got a lot of wonderful people, must have 30 countries helping out there, a fine coalition. We’ve got more Iraqi Security Forces every single day and they’re doing a good job and we’re going to win. The extremists are going to lose.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you think you will always have troops over in Iraq in some shape or form, even if it’s a small portion?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I really don’t. I think that…

Q: You think we’ll have a total elimination of U.S. troops?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, let me put it this way, when the United States of America puts forces into a country, we do it to try to help that country. Unlike other countries, we’re not going to occupy a country or to take over their real estate. We want to go in and be helpful and leave. That’s basically the American way. And so, you know, it’s conceivable there’ve been countries like South Korea that ask us to leave some troops there afterwards to provide a more secure environment and we’ve done that on occasion. But for the most part, our hope is that we can train up enough Iraqi -- and in the case of Iraq and Afghan and in the case of Afghanistan, security forces -- so that they can take over security responsibilities for themselves. That’s the best way to do it.

Q: You’ve said that maybe we might pull out before conditions are, quote, “peaceful and perfect.” When is the earliest that you think we could pull out of Iraq?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the president’s said very correctly that we will stay there as long as we’re needed and not a minute longer. Now, that part of the world tends not to be perfectly peaceful.

Q: It never will be, do you think?

SEC. RUMSFELD: It never will be, is my view. And do I think that when we leave, it will be a perfectly peaceful situation, no. I think it’ll be a situation where the Iraqis have developed the ability to manage their situation from a security standpoint and we will have a mutual agreement that it makes sense now to bring down the coalition forces and leave.

Q: Could that be as early right after the elections? There is some buzz that may be right after the elections, we may see a -

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, no. No, no.

Q: Start pulling out?

SEC. RUMSFELD: No. We’ve already started. We had over 150,000 troops there originally and we’re down to 137 right now – 137,000.

Q: Do you think we’ll see more right after the elections being pulled out?

SEC. RUMSFELD: It depends totally on the security situation in the country. And we would, of course, be working with our coalition forces and bring them down at the same time we would be bringing down our own forces. And at the same time, the Iraqi Security Forces will be increasing. They’re over 100,000 now getting towards 150,000 by the end of this year in anticipation of the elections and then they’ll go still higher or thereafter and at some point, they will be sufficient to do the job.

Q: Is there a possibility we may have to increase troops there…

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure. The situation on the ground is going to determine the pace at which the Iraqi Security Forces are deployed and the rate at which U.S. and coalition forces either increase or decrease. We indicated that, for example, in Afghanistan we wanted to increase our security forces in anticipation of the election there slightly and we’re in the process of doing that. That election is coming up in a few days. And it may be that Gen. Abizaid would say that he will want them to increase U.S. forces in anticipation for the elections. He has not said that, but he might.

Q: Let’s set the record straight. Is there any effort to reinstate the draft?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, no. I‘ve seen a couple of people on Capitol Hill – Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate that have introduced legislation. I don’t believe there’s any Republican support for it out there and I’m dead set against it. There is no need for a draft in the United States of America. We have 295 million people in this country and we have an active force of 1.4 million. We have no problem – none -- in attracting and retaining the people we need. And my view is that anyone who’s talking about the draft, very likely, in this context may very well be making mischief. I just can’t imagine reinstituting the draft.

Q: Mischief for political reasons?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I have no idea. Well, there are some people who think it’s a good idea, quite apart from any other reason. They like the idea of national service. But I think that anytime we had a draft, we’ve had exemptions for people who are married, exemptions for students, or exemptions for teachers, or exemptions for women. And if you don’t need to use compulsion, I can’t imagine why a society would want to use compulsion. Why would we want to force people to do something they don’t want to do, if we don’t need to? And in fact, we don’t. We’ve got wonderful young men and women volunteering to serve in the United States Armed Forces. They are proud. They’re professional, they’re talented. They’re doing a great job for our country. We do not need a draft.

Q: Do you question the timing of this mischief put out there pre-election…


Q: … a scare tactic?

SEC. RUMSFELD: … I’m not supposed to get into politics.

Q: What do you think, though?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I think I’m not supposed to get into politics.

Q: [Laughs] Very diplomatic.


Q: What about shortening the tour of duty for the Army, in terms of, we were hearing that right now, for combat, it’s 12 months? And we talked about trimming down to

six to nine months, maybe making it more pleasant for them.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure. That’s under discussion. The Marines--

Q: Is that a serious one?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. The Marines are currently on a seven-month deployment cycle in Iraq. The Air Force and the Navy have a much shorter deployment cycle for that area of responsibility. And I know that Gen. Schoomaker and Acting Secretary Brownlee are in the process of discussing the question of how they might find a way to reduce the total number of months that the Army ground forces spend in Iraq.

One of the problems they have is with simultaneously doing two big things in the Army to modernize it and transform it for the 21st century. One is to get a proper balance between the active forces on the Guard and Reserve, so we have the right skill sets, because we don’t want to have to call up some Guard and Reserve frequently. They didn’t sign up for that. They signed up, and God bless them for doing so, to be called up periodically, but not frequently. And then some skill sets are in such short supply that we’ve been calling them up more often than we’d like.

This other thing we’re doing is we’re going from – we’ve increased the Army by about 20-plus thousand people. And we’re going from 33 brigades to 43 or 48 brigades. And so doing those two things and then simultaneously trying to lower the rotation rate is a very complicated task. But the Army’s looking at it and we’ll see what can be done.

Q: A lot of focus on Iraq. Do you think they’ll have elections in January?


Q: What kind of elections – partial or full?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, full elections. I mean, elections, good elections. We’re going to have them in Afghanistan in a few days and people have said, “Well, how can you do that?” There haven’t been elections in Afghanistan in decades – probably never fully democratic elections. But is the environment there perfect, at any given time, no. But is there violence in other countries of the world where there have been elections from time to time, sure.

Q: El Salvador is a good example.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It is. And it worked out fine there and I’m convinced it’ll work out in Afghanistan. It’ll work out in Iraq.

Q: Would you still support maybe elections, say 3 or 4 provinces is too crazy, too dangerous and crazy, have it in the rest of them?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we believe that every single Iraqi in Afghan ought to have a chance to vote and…

Q: But if they can’t?

SEC. RUMSFELD: … and the goal…

Q: [Inaudible]

SEC. RUMSFELD: …the goal would be do everything possible to see that is how it’s done.

Q: Would you still support elections if it’s too dangerous?

SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s not for me, it’s for the Iraqi people and the Afghan people to make those judgments. And they’re determined to have elections, the leadership in both countries. And the people of those countries in every poll that’s been taken, they want elections. They want a chance to vote. They want to pick their own leadership. And that’s an exciting thing.

Q: What’s your prediction? Do you think there will be -

SEC. RUMSFELD: We’ll have good elections.

Q: Do you think there’ll be in all the provinces through the region?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I certainly anticipate that.

Q: You do?

SEC. RUMSFELD: That’s my hope and that’s my expectation.

Q: Prime Minister Allawi came here and came under a lot of criticism which made a lot of people angry because here is this man risking his life. What are you saying to those who were criticizing him saying he is a puppet of America?

SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s hard for me to appreciate how someone could come to that kind of a conclusion. Here’s a man who’s life is threatened regularly, who Saddam Hussein tried to assassinate, who is each day demonstrating personal physical courage, as well as political courage, who is along with his ministers and the governors of the provinces and so many others in that country, police chiefs and policemen, putting their lives at risk to create a single country – a country that’s at peace with its neighbors, a country that is respectful of the various ethnic and minority groups within it. And I suppose people sitting in half the world away in an air-conditioned room can say anything they want about other people. But if you haven’t walked in their shoes, it seems to me one ought to be careful about what they’re saying.

Q: Does it make you angry because here is a man who has truly put his life on the line?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, he does, everyday. And the same thing’s true in Afghanistan where you have leadership doing that. So I’ve got a lot of respect for those folks. And I think people who have other opinions, ought to take a little harder look at the situation.

Q: How critical is success in Iraq to the rest of the world?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, it’s enormously important. But think of having a democratic country in that part of the world, with that set of neighbors and the wonderful influence it would be on the other countries and the people in those countries. Think of Iran.

Iran is a country of intelligent people, educated people, competent people that’s being ruled by a handful of clerics, is telling everyone in that country what to do and how to think and how they should dress and every aspect of their lives. And the women in that country know that women across the world can live differently. And the young people in that country know what’s going on. This isn’t like South Korea – correction – North Korea, where the South Koreans have a wonderful situation, but the people in the North are starving and in concentration camps and are repressed by a brutal dictatorship. The people in the North don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the world. The people in Iran do know what’s going on in the rest of the world. And if there were a democratic Iraq at peace with its neighbors and providing protections for the various religious and ethnic groups in that country and treating women respectfully and having a chance to vote for their own country, that could have an effect in Iran, a very beneficial effect.

Q: What if Iraq explodes and turns into a worse case scenario, civil war? What does that mean for the region?

SEC. RUMSFELD: No one sees any sign of civil war in that country at the present time. Obviously, there used to be worries about it, and there have been ethnic conflicts in the past. But at the moment, that isn’t the risk. The risk is that the terrorists and the extremists and the people who were running around chopping off people’s heads and killing innocent men, women and children will take over that country. And imagine, a country ruled by people who go around chopping off people’s heads. That’s a dark future.

Think of Afghanistan three years ago, in a soccer stadium. Instead of playing soccer, what are they doing, they’re chopping off people’s heads. The Taliban rule is a perfect recent example of what Iraq would look like where people couldn’t – women couldn’t go out unescorted. You couldn’t fly a kite. You couldn’t sing a song. The viciousness of these extremists and their determination to reestablish the caliphate across the world from Indonesia to the Middle East is something that civilized people can’t live in that kind of a world.

Q: Did you anticipate the insurgency would be as bad as it is right now?


Q: Why not?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, because no one has a perfect view into the future.

Q: Even though some of these predictions that have come out lately have said they predicted it would be a breeding ground -

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there are always people who like to think that they saw into the future perfectly and they forget that they also predicted there’d be a civil war and they also predicted there’d be the famine and they also predicted that there would be a humanitarian crisis and they predicted that they’d open up the floodgates and flood the marshes again like Saddam Hussein did. They predicted they would light off all of the oil wells like they did in Kuwait. And 9/10ths of their predictions didn’t turn out. If you stand around throwing enough darts at a board, you’re eventually going to get it right by accident.

Q: Fallujah – do you think maybe we got it wrong by not going in and leveling the place? Even now, Sen. John McCain and others are saying we should go in with much more force.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s a tough, tough call. It’s hard for me to second guess it. The decision was made in Iraq that Mr. Brahimi of the U.N. was there and he might have pulled out and we wouldn’t have an Iraqi interim government right now conceivably. The Iraqi…

Q: Were we being to [inaudible]?

SEC. RUMSFELD: … the Iraqi Governing Council was threatening to resign if Fallujah had been attacked. We did not have anywhere near as many Iraqi Security Forces as we do today. And so, that’s the balance that they were wrestling with. And I mean, personally, my instinct is that you cannot allow over a sustained period of time a safe haven in Iraq for terrorists. And they’re going to have to be dealt with. They’re either going to be dealt with through negotiation or by force. Your first choice is discussion; you’re only other choice is by force.

Q: Are we beyond the discussion phase now?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Time will tell.

Q: Do you think we’ll see something fairly soon?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t talk about operations.

Q: There have been reports that we may see some stepped up -

SEC. RUMSFELD: Not by me.

Q: Zarkawi. I have been told that we have put a big dent in that network around him.


Q: How much?


Q: How much?

SEC. RUMSFELD: We don’t do body counts in the Department of Defense like they use to in the old days, because I’m not sure it’s a good metric as to how well you’re doing. But in the last -- a month or two, my guess is that the coalition forces probably have killed 1,500 Iraqi insurgents and a reasonable fraction of Zarkawi’s senior people.

Q: I was told maybe half of the senior people. Is that right?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t know because I don’t know how many there are. And I also know they can be replaced. So at any given time, what’s left is half -- you know, a full 100 percent -- so I don’t know. I know that a number of his senior lieutenants have been killed and that’s a good thing. Some have been captured, as well.

Q: How come we have the best military in the world, these guys parading around on videotapes involving these horrible beheadings, how come we cannot find Zarkawi?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, let’s go back and talk about one we’ve found: Saddam Hussein. He was in a hole in the ground about half the size of the room we’re sitting in. U.S. and coalition forces have been going back and forth past that hole in the ground for weeks and weeks and weeks. He had money, he had protection and he was in a rural remote area and he was hidden. We have people on the FBI Most Wanted List for 10, 20 years in the United States. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s very hard to do. The United States military wasn’t organized, trained and equipped to go out and do manhunts. That’s an FBI job. That’s a police job. That’s the kind of thing that law enforcement does. So suddenly we’re in the 21st century and suddenly, that’s a need. We have to be able to find these folks and we find a lot of them. I mean, take the al Qaeda network, I don’t know what percentage are gone, but I’m sure that at least two-thirds of Saddam Hussein’s network – correction – of Osama bin Laden’s network is gone.

Q: Are you surprised at how vicious Zarkawi has been and his followers?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, no, he’s got a history of that. And that’s what they do -- they go around killing people.

Q: Osama bin Laden, there’s been some reports lately. Our Bret Baier did an interview with a Centcom General and suggested that Bin Laden may be dead. What do you think?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness. You know, we have not seen him on video since 2001, in December, I think. We’ve had audio tapes of him using video from earlier periods that the Central Intelligence Agency’s experts believe are probably his voice and probably recorded subsequent to December of ’01. We don’t know for sure if he’s alive because we haven’t seen him. Our assumption is he is alive. My further assumption -- mine, as opposed to the Agency’s -- is that if he is alive, he would like to be on video and for some reason he’s not.

Q: But you still believe that he’s alive.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I think he’s very likely alive.

Q: Is he sick, maybe?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t know. For some reason, he may not want to be on a video. And, you know, people can speculate, but it’s just speculation.

Q: Just two quick questions [Inaudible]. There’s so much concern about a possible attack here at home pre-elections. In fact a lot of the folks I talk to at senior levels use the terminology that absolutely certain their will be an attempt. Are you concerned that much that this is probably going to happen, a strong attempt?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, for sure. You can’t read the intelligence that we all read and analyze it and not be concerned about the distinct possibility that there could be an increase in effort on the part of the extremists between now and our election, now and the Iraqi election, now and the Afghan election. I think that’s a reasonable assumption from looking at the intelligence.

The advantage that terrorists have and extremists is they can attack at any time at any place, using any technique. And it’s not possible – it’s physically impossible to defend in every location in the world against every conceivable technique at every minute of the day or night. You can’t do that.

Now, we’re a lot safer today than we were on September 11, 2001, let there be no doubt. I mean, the steps that have been taken in homeland security in airports and ports and by state and local officials and by federal officials. It’s been a tremendous effort. And we are, without infringing on personal liberties and without altering our way of life, we’ve been able to significantly make ourselves safer than we were before. But perfectly safe is not possible and we know that.

I mean, think of the number of homicides that occur in any city in America, or any city in Europe, every year -- hundreds of homicides in a given year, so the world is not a perfectly peaceful place.

Q: Based on the intel you see now pre elections here in America, are you concerned?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure. I’m concerned because that’s my job. I get up every morning and read the intelligence and ask what is it we might ought to be doing now to disrupt things that might happen bad.

Q: How likely do you think it is that there will be some sort of an attempt? There seems to be much more assuredness in the voice of people …

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I mean, they’re trying all the time and we keep making life harder today for terrorists -

Q: This period – I guess I am now leading up to elections, is this a particularly dangerous…

SEC. RUMSFELD: The intelligence suggests that. On the other hand, we’re putting pressure on these folks. It’s harder for them to move between countries. It’s harder for them to get weapons, it’s harder for them to raise money. It’s harder for them to do everything they’re doing and that’s a good thing.

Q: Last question. Two questions, very quick. I have to ask you about weapons of mass destruction. Where do you think they are? Were you stunned that they’re not found in Iraq?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Clearly, I’m surprised they’ve not been found. And there’s no question, I don’t think, on the part of anybody that Saddam Hussein had them, used them on his own people, used them on his neighbors, had a desire to have them, had an intention to have them. And what happened that he either has hidden them so well or moved them somewhere else or decided to destroy them, so that he would not have them, in the event of a conflict, but kept the capability of developing them more rapidly. Which one of those, we’ll probably know more as the months and years go by.

But clearly the United States military believed the intelligence from the Central Intelligence Agency. For that reason, Gen. Franks’ soldiers as they left Kuwait to march on Baghdad every day got dressed in their chemical protective suits. Now why do people do that? They do it because they’re convinced. It’s clumsy, it’s hot, it’s awkward, but it’s safer.

Q: Should someone have been fired for that, because clearly that intelligence was given to people like you and the President and no one has been held accountable.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I wouldn’t hold at that…

Q: No one was fired.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I mean, if you think about it, we have figures of intelligence all the time. Intelligence has never been perfect.

Q: This was a big deal. This was going to war.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It was a big deal and it was the general view of the intelligence services of western Europe, the United States, people who had [Inaudible]. It was a general view of the people in the United Nations. Even the people who voted against the resolution agreed that Saddam Hussein had filed a fraudulent declaration to the United Nations and had opposed 17 U.N. resolutions. I believed they were there. I was surprised we have not found them yet. On the other hand, this world is a lot better off without Saddam Hussein, let there be no doubt about it. The Iraqi people are a lot better off, that region is a lot better off.

Q: And finally, what are your plans after November?


Q: I know you have more energy than everybody in this building combined.


SEC. RUMSFELD: I have not decided. That’s something that – we’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it.

Q: Any inklings?


Q: No. How do you think history is going to remember you and the war in Iraq?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness. I think that the war in Iraq has the potential of setting that country, an important country, a potentially wealthy country with an intelligent population on a path towards democracy that we could look back in 20, 30, 40 years and say that that was the beginning of more democratic lives and neighbors in that region and more opportunities for people. I believe that the great sweep of human history is for freedom and that that’s on our side.

Q: And how are they going to remember this Commander in Chief?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, this president, the Commander in Chief will be remembered very positively in the world. He’s an honorable man. He is a dedicated human being and he is a fine president.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, very much.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.

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Binladen already dead { December 26 2001 }
Bl audio tapes fake
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Centcom general suggests bin laden dead
Fbi official bl dead { July 17 2002 }
FBI official thinks binladen is dead { July 17 2002 }
Fbi says bin laden probably dead { July 18 2002 }
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Pakistan musharraf says binalden probably dead { January 18 2002 }
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