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

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace December 08, 2006

Town Hall Meeting with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace

Thank you, folks. (Applause continues.) Thank you very much.

Pete, thank you. It has really been a privilege to be able to work with this outstanding human being, the first Marine ever to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I have valued your counsel. I have valued your candor and I've enjoyed your sense of humor. And the American people are well served by having this enormously talented individual willing to make a career in the military. So thank you very much, Pete. (Applause.)

I'm told that we not only have the folks in this room, but we have a bunch of folks out in different locations with monitors, plus we have the Pentagon Channel that is carrying this town hall, I suppose most -- way around the world. Is that about right, Allison?

I'm also told that this is my 42nd town hall since I began this second tour as Secretary of Defense about six years ago. Thirteen of them have been here in the Pentagon, and some 28 have been with troops stationed in countries all across the world.

These sessions, I suspect, are among the very few occasions when everybody -- civilian, military, contractor, folks from all branches of the services, from all levels -- can gather with the senior leadership of the department, with a microphone in your hand, and ask a question and speak your mind. I -- it is a chance for everyone to be heard, to ask questions.

And goodness knows there have been a great many questions asked over these 42 town halls. I certainly remember the fellow who used to sit in the back over here somewhere and ask about whether we're going to move the Metro entrance. (Laughter.) Are you here today? (Laughter.) Stand up and be recognized. (Laughter.) Well, Merry Christmas, wherever you are.

As we've seen, when you're willing to have an open exchange like this, every once in a while a question gets asked or an answer is given that generates a bit of a fuss, depending on how it's reported. That's happened. So be it. I think each of you -- and indeed all of the uniform and civilian folks in the Department of Defense deserve this opportunity. So I've done it an unprecedented 42 times. And I can tell you I have benefited from hearing your questions and hearing your views, and I thank you for engaging as you have.

I suspect this will be among my last public remarks as Secretary of Defense -- so I'd like to take a few minutes to talk a bit about our time together these past years.

Every day, in one way or another, I've seen the strength of men and women in uniform, and the dedication of the many thousands who serve here -- military and civilian -- who do their jobs knowing that theirs is the essential business of protecting a nation and protecting a people. You do so knowing that you contribute directly to the safety of millions of Americans -- people you'll never meet, whose names you'll never know.

And I leave office very proud to have served with you. Inspired by your dedication, by your patriotism, and by your sacrifice, and we recognize that sacrifice.

And I also leave office proud to have served with you, and of the accomplishments that this institution has been able to achieve. I can't think of a more challenging period -- I'm sure there must have been -- but in the 59-year history of this department than these past years.

I have a few words to say about the Pentagon Press Corps. (Laughter.) No, it's not what you think! (Laughter.) As a group, they may well be, year to year, the most professional press corps in the Washington, D.C., area. Now considering the competition -- (laughter) -- I'll leave it to you to determine exactly what kind of a compliment that is. (Laughter.)

But the Defense Department Press Corps is an important part of the fabric of this institution. Some braved the smoke and fire of September 11th. Some came back to work later that night and the next morning in a still-burning building. And a number have risked their lives to report from war zones, and to them I say thank you for that.

As hard as it may be to believe, I even miss our press conferences. I think I will. The stakeouts, the briefings. I'm told it was something like 613 over six years -- all across the globe. Now, you know, we've not always seen eye to eye, I haven't, with the press, but I still hold out hope that over time, they'll get it close to right. (Laughter.)

When I think about these past years, there are a number of moments that stand out.

· I think of those proud Afghan girls that were sitting in the front row at President Karzai's inauguration in Kabul when he became president, the first president elected by the people in the 5,000-year history of that country. They were standing there, and then they sang. And of course, under the Taliban rule it was against the law to sing. And the reports of the Afghan children flying kites that day, and of course, it had been against the law to fly kites.

· I think of the Iraqis, who, through it all, believe that their future is bright and who are working toward something that they've never had before -- a free country, a representative country.

· And I do, as Pete Pace suggested, I remember being stunned by the news of the abuse at Abu Ghraib, and then watching so many determined people spend so many months trying to figure out exactly how in the world something like that could have happened and how to make it right, and then seeing how the department eventually demonstrated to the world how our democracy deals openly and decisively with such egregious wrongdoing.

· And yes, I remember the irresponsible comments by some who tried to sully the image of the courageous and dedicated men and women in uniform who keep the American people safe.

· I remember the literally hundreds of military families I met in Alaska, and a gracious woman who, at the end of the meeting came over and asked me to take a bracelet. It's this green woven thing. And I told her I'd wear it until the 172nd Stryker Brigade came home. That was the group that we had to extend, I think, up to 120 days. After they had done a great job up north, they were heading to Kuwait, and they were diverted into Baghdad when General Casey determined that he needed additional assistance there.

· And I, of course, remember the American heroes -- the Medal of Honor recipients, Paul Ray Smith, and soon Jason Dunham -- and countless others whose names are now part of history.

If there's one thing I wish could be more widely known, it's the miracles that the men and women of this department really perform every day.

Supporting the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, while putting pressure on terrorists all across the globe is an enormous challenge.

But at the same time, quite beyond that challenge -- and it is an enormous challenge -- the folks in this department have stepped forward to

· Deliver aid to millions affected by the greatest national disasters in recent memory: the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, tragic earthquakes in Pakistan, here at home, Hurricane Katrina.

· We evacuated thousands of Americans from Lebanon, literally the size of a city, and doing it while a war was going on.

· Training counterterrorism forces in the Philippines and in the Horn of Africa.

· Put in place an initial missile defense system to protect the American people from rogue states.

· Establish the new Northern Command to better protect the homeland.

· Established a camp, and stood guard in Guantanamo over some of the world's most dangerous terrorists, while suffering grossly uninformed and irresponsible charges in the media from almost every quarter.

· Oversee the largest domestic base realignment and base closure in the history of this department.

· Implement the most significant changes, since World War II, in our nation's global posture, force posture across the globe, away from the static defensive orientation that was left over from the Cold War, and towards arrangements that are much more appropriate to this 21st century.

· Put in place a new civilian national security personnel system to provide the urgently needed flexibility in hiring and in assignments, and with a linking of pay to performance.

· Expand our very talented Special Operations Forces to meet the new demands in this global struggle against violent extremists.

· Transition from a division-based Army -- the approach that dated back to World War I -- to a considerably more agile, vastly more capable combat brigade force.

· And so much more.

Each of you here in this room and listening through the Pentagon Channel have played a part in one or more of these accomplishments, these endeavors, and you can look at what you've done here this past period with great pride.

I wish I could say that everything we've done here has gone perfectly, but that's not how life works, regrettably. When thousands of people make dozens of difficult decisions on hundreds of pressing issues, for the most part, matters that are new and unfamiliar, where there's no road map, no guidebook that says here's exactly how you should do something, the hope has to be not perfection but that most decisions, with the perspective of time, will turn out to be the right ones, and that the perspective of history will judge the overwhelming majority of those decisions favorably.

When we reflect back on these past years, each of you will likely have some different memories. Some memories will no doubt be of hard work in grueling times -- working long days, months, even years, on critical tasks that really are never noted in a headline or in a news story -- at least never favorably noted. (Soft laughter.) But let there be no doubt, each of you and the future generations of Americans and -- as well as future generations of Iraqis and Afghans -- will be able to look back on these past years as a time of enormous challenge, of historic consequence and of solid accomplishment.

Today is a time to look forward. The institution is important well beyond those who temporarily serve here. We come and go. Some of us come and go more than once. (Laughter.) But what remains is this great institution's mission and its cause -- the challenge of defending this nation and the ideals that this nation represents.

It's been three decades since I left the Pentagon at the end of my first tour. Our country was then engaged in a long struggle -- the Cold War -- a conflict that seemed costly, and it was. It seemed unlimited in duration, and it was, and seemed unclear in its course and its outcome, which was the case. In fact, many then believed and indeed acted as though it was the United States that was the cause of the world's troubles.

We even see a little bit of that today.

And yet despite the tumult of the times, I left this post in 1977 believing strongly that America was a force for good in the world, that the vast majority of the American people were wise and decent people, and that America would continue to be the principal leader in the free world. That has been proven right.

And I can say that as I leave at the end of my second -- and the good Lord willing my last -- (laughter) -- I do leave believing as I did 30 years ago that America is a truly great nation, that the American people are wise and decent, that America's leadership in the world is not just useful, but that it is urgently needed. And let there be no doubt -- despite the fact that we have been successful in preventing attacks since September 11th, years without an attack in this country -- ours is a troubled and very dangerous world, and we must not forget it.

I've been asked recently what I've taken away from public life over these, I guess, 50 plus years, and I suppose what I feel most is gratitude.

Gratitude to the folks here in this department, men and women in uniform, civilians, the contractors; gratitude to the American people who continue to serve as a guide for the dreams and the hopes and the aspirations of so many millions of people who live all across the globe, but who seek opportunity and a better life for themselves and see in what we've done in this country a model that they hope for and wish for.

Now, I'd be happy to respond to some questions, and as always, if they're too tough, Pete Pace is going to come up and join me. (Laughter.) Come on up here, Pete! (Laughs.) All right. The microphone's around, I'm told, and there's a hand. Oh, I still always worry about the first hand. (Laughter.)

Q Mr. Secretary, I'm wondering what books you read while you were secretary that you found most useful and edifying?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I've read a great many books. They're all history books. They -- a number about the Revolutionary War and about George Washington and John Adams and others, Jefferson. I started reading a number of books about the Civil War, and one particularly good one was a book on Ulysses S. Grant. But I stopped. I found the struggle going on -- gosh, those years there was so many people killed and wounded, and they were all Americans, except for the foreign fighters that came over from Germany and Poland and elsewhere. But it -- so I turned away from that and read a great deal about World War II, and then that has been basically what I've been reading.

That's where I ran across that quote by Winston Churchill where he -- that I mentioned in the Oval Office when we were announcing my departure.

I think it -- Churchill said something to the effect that "I have benefited greatly from the criticism I have received, and I have never suffered from a lack thereof." (Soft laughter.)

So that's -- now, question? Yes, sir? You had a question, right here.

Q Mr. Secretary, this is not a question. It's simply a chance to say thank you. Three years ago my daughter brought her performing troupe on September 11th, 2003. You took the time to come over, not just to say howdy but to actually talk to a group of young people. These 30 young people -- of those 30, five of them are now members of the military. You have had a profound effect on the young members of that troupe and on our country, and for that I thank you. (Applause.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thanks very much. And do thank that young lady and give her a merry Christmas.

Q I will.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Back there. Why don't folks go towards the mike or the mikes go towards the people who have some hands up, and we can --

Q Hello, Mr. Secretary. I certainly don't want to put you on the spot, but I'm going to, and --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Then why? (Laughter.)

Q Well, luckily for me --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I mean, just suck it up and go home. (Laughter, applause.)

I'm just kidding. I want to hear what you have to say. (Laughter.)

Q I'm still going to take advantage of the time --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Pete will answer it, though. (Laughter.)

Q -- and that is that I really am hoping that you plan on writing about your second tour in the Pentagon. Is there any chance that will happen?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, my gosh. My wife's after me to do that. (Laughter.) I suppose there is a chance. I have never written a book. I always thought I was too young to write a book. (Laughter.) I can't use that anymore. (Laughter.)

I might. I might. I'll have to think about it, but I've decided I'm not going to make any decisions about what I'll do next for a couple of months and just a little -- let a little time go over it.

Pardon me? (Scattered laughter.) Oh.

Okay. Question.

Here's one back here. Good.

Q Mr. Secretary, how do you want history to remember you?

SEC. RUMSFELD: My goodness. (Laughter.) Better than the local press. (Laughter, applause.)

Questions. There's one.

Q Hello, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for your leadership during this really difficult time in our country's history. My question is, as the U.S. supports democracies throughout the world, one of the great things about democracy is that it brings freedom of intellectual exchange and technological developments. While those two things bring about great things for humanity, it also brings about conflict within people, and you have a lot of dissent and people becoming enemies. How do you think we can stop our world from becoming chaotic and just becoming a bunch of individuals and small groups who think of everyone else as being their enemy?

SEC. RUMSFELD: That's a tough -- tough thing to answer, except if one, you know, goes back through history and thinks of the deep divisions that can exist, the reality is that people, over time, observe and they see what works and what doesn't work. And if we were able to be on Mars and look down on Earth, for example, we would find that those societies that -- where conflict is continuous lose.

You can -- I have this wonderful picture of the Korean peninsula on my desk that -- it shows -- the same people, North and South, same resources North and South, but it shows the -- satellite shot at night, and it shows all the electricity and the energy and the opportunity and the success south of the Demilitarized Zone. They have a free political system and a free economic system. And now they're the 10th or 12th economy on the face of the Earth. And in the North, there's no light except a pinprick of light in Pyongyang. The country in the North has a command economy that doesn't work, and it has a repressive political system where people don't have free choice.

And if you look down from Mars on the world, you'd see that the countries that are succeeding and doing well, where the people have opportunity and are able to make free choice, indicates that free choice on the part of people in the economic realm and in the political realm works vastly better than the decisions by a few. As Winston Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government, except for every other that's ever been tried. And it is. It's untidy, and there's debate and partisanship, and people make mistakes. But it works, and it works very well, and it works better than any other form.

And I think that we have to have confidence in people that things that work will be seen by intelligent people and they'll gravitate to that. I mean, it's not an accident that people line up to come to this country every year to work and to visit and to live, because they see that here is a land of opportunity.

Questions. Oh good. Yes, sir?

Q Mr. Secretary, with respect to your second tour of duty here in the "puzzle palace," what are some of the things that you wish you could have accomplished, like transformation items that you didn't get a chance to get to this time?

SEC. RUMSFELD: One day we were sitting in the Oval Office with the president, and the president turned to Pete and to me and said, "Give me a report on how transformation's going."

And before I could even think, out of General Pace's mouth -- he said something like with respect to attitude and culture, an eight on a scale of 10; and with respect to progress --

GEN. PACE: A four.

SEC. RUMSFELD: A four. Is that what you said?

GEN. PACE: Yes, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. (Soft laughter.) And I think that was probably about right. That was about a year ago, so I think I'd give a five today. But I think the important thing is that there have been -- there's been a change in people's approach, a recognition that in this 21st century, the way we did things in the 20th century isn't good enough, and we're simply going to have to be wiser and more agile and more skillful, and we're going to have to be able to do different things. We're not engaged in major land battles or air battles or sea battles at the present time. We're being challenged asymmetrically by irregular warfare by people who operate totally differently than the way people operated in World War II. And that is a challenge. It's a task, and it's still not well understood in our country. It's unfamiliar.

But I think the major sign of progress is the fact that the senior people in this department today are overwhelmingly people who understand that and who are attracting people in their activities who also understand it, and that that energy and that impetus will give the prospects of continuing a -- "transforming" process is better word than "transformation," I suppose. "Transformation" leads to believe you start untransformed then suddenly you're transformed, which isn't the case, because the world's not static. It's dynamic, it's changing, and we need to continue to transform as we go along. And I think that Pete's eight for that is important and indeed is the driver.

You know, when you think about words, I have felt just an enormous sense of urgency these years. Some of you may have noticed it. (Laughter.) I do. Anyone who lives through September 11th and then sees in their mind's eye the prospects of a September 11th times two or three or four six months out has to ask themselves, "What ought we be doing today to prevent that coming September 11th six months from now? What can we do to prevent it from happening? What can we do to mitigate its effects were it to happen?" And so I have felt a tremendous sense of urgency.

Conversely, if there's anything that the Cold War required, it was patience, just the -- seemingly the opposite of urgency.

And this is a long struggle. This is not this -- what we're engaged in today, this struggle against violent extremism, is going to take a long time, and that's going to require patience and it's going to require perspective. And I do hope people will read more history and understand and be able to help our fellow citizens have a perspective on what's taking place.

I read the other day somebody was comparing the length of time we've been in Iraq to the length of World War II totally ignoring the period after World War II, where the German government didn't even have a government I don't think until 1949, and the -- trying to compare what we're in today -- I mean, just take Iraq or Afghanistan. The military can't lose. They can't lose a battle let alone a war over there, but they also can't win because it is not a conventional conflict. There isn't an army, a navy or an air force to go defeat. It takes political and economic activity, and you need that three- legged stool for success to be achieved. And that takes patience, and we have to understand that as a society, as a people and not be impatient.

I mean, I -- and I'll tell you that people over there in uniform get it. They really do. I was in Walter Reed the other day, and a fellow just come in with multiple wounds, and he was on his back and he had a tube in his nose. And he looked up and he said, "If only the American people will give us the time, we can do this. We're getting it done." And it's a fact it will take patience, and it will take understanding. And yet it takes that sense of urgency on the part of the people here, as we know, because we have such an important responsibility.

Question. Yes, sir.

Q The needs are urgent. Leaders make decisions. Yet our national security apparatus consisting of several departments and agencies are very slow and unresponsive. And I'm just wondering in a world war of significant duration, we can continue to have the significant staffing levels we have, and I think the numbers of people that we have, which are greater than several years ago, have caused a problem.

(Laughter, applause.)

GEN. PACE: I knew that.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

Q No pink slips.

GEN. PACE: No. (Inaudible.)

I think our government does a really good job of teeing up decisions for the national leadership, but once the decisions are made, we tend to go back into our stovepipes. DOD takes our piece, State takes theirs, Treasury takes theirs, et cetera, and we go on about our business and try to do the best we can inside of our own stovepipes. And we cannot continue to function that way and be successful against an enemy that is going to be moving much more quickly than that.

So we do need and we are looking at -- our government's looking at as a government, the administration, the Congress is looking at and outsiders are looking at ways that we can take the national security apparatus and bring it into the 21st century and empower those below the president with the capacity and responsibility to make decisions inside of a chain that's responsive to the president's lead. So we do need to do that much better and much more efficiently.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Pete's exactly right. That is a question that comes up every time we meet with the combatant commanders and the chiefs and the senior leadership of the department, is a level of concern that the institutions that exist are basically 20th century institutions. And that's true in terms of within our government. It's true in terms of the international institutions. Most of them were formed in the aftermath of World War II for a very different world and a very different set of circumstances.

This first conflict of the 21st century is so different, so just enormously different from the World War II conflict, and yet the institutions, the committees of Congress, the subcommittee system in Congress, the turf fights over jurisdiction that exist and the micromanagement of the bureaucracy in so many instances leads to a situation where the bureaucracy can't respond.

We're well behind in Afghanistan and Iraq in terms of the development of the police in those two countries. Why? Well, because there was no line item for the Department of Defense to do anything about police. It was over in the State Department. And they didn't have the people to do it. And the Congress didn't authorize the money to do it. and it took -- they're at least, what, two years behind, the police, from the military? And that's harmful.

That's costly.

And yet it's because we aren't -- the federal government has not had a Goldwater-Nichols, in a sense. They haven't decided that in this different era, we have to have different arrangements among the various departments and agencies, and greater flexibility to move rapidly to try to avoid problems, rather than to wrestle with them well after the case.

We're still having trouble getting the kinds of funds and the kinds of support to build partner capacity on the part of other countries. And if you're trying to fight a war against people who are in countries that you're not at war with, your solution is to build their capacity, the capacity of those other countries, so that they can better govern their own space, so that they can better deal with their terrorist problem, and that terrorists aren't allowed safe havens to plan attacks against the United States and other nations, and yet trying to -- and the cost benefit of investing money to build the military and anti- -- counterterrorism capability of other countries is so much cheaper than our doing it and our having to deploy people to do those things. And their language facility is vastly better, and their respect for their own sovereignty is not infringed on. I mean, there's just every reason in the world for us to have that as a very high priority.

And yet, as I say, even today, it's difficult to get a -- the Congress responsive to that. And it just takes time.

Question. Yes?

Q Mr. Secretary, thank you for your service, sir. As you depart and Dr. Gates plans -- prepares to take on the next phase of his public service, what advice or guidance have you given him or would you like to give him as he takes over your responsibilities?


GEN. PACE: (Off mike.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: Pardon me?

GEN. PACE: Listen to the chairman, sir. (Laughter.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: I said I liked his humor. Pete just whispered in my ear: The advice should be, he should listen to the chairman. (Laughter, applause.)

Oh, my. I've had two meetings with him, and we've had a good discussion on a variety of things. The senior folks in the department have been briefing him.

And you know, each person is different. Each person comes in with various strengths or weaknesses. And he will -- he'll do a good job. He'll come in and he'll find a way to begin the process of serving as secretary of Defense in a way that fits his background and his -- the needs of the current time. And I've got every confidence that he'll do a terrific job.

But the short answer is, any advice I give him, I'll give him in private. (Laughter, applause.)

There's a question. Any more back there?

Q Mr. Secretary, first of all I'd like to thank you for your leadership over the last six years. It's meant a lot to us to have a steady hand on the helm here.

But I'd like to ask you your thoughts on strategic communication, sir, what I might call that. We're fighting an enemy that is using the media as a weapon, and doing it very well. We don't do that; in a free society we shouldn't, but we're losing the war on that front in my opinion, sir. Can you give us your thoughts on how we might better attack that problem?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, thank you, it is a simple question. If they don't have an army to go out and destroy, or a navy or an air force, and they do exactly what you say -- they're very skillful, they have media committees, they plan their attacks for the maximum drama and impact, designed to weaken the will of their enemies.

We have to do better. I was asked one day what kind of a grade I'd give us, and I guess I said D-plus, as to how well we are combating and engaging in that struggle for ideas. And we have to do a better job so that they are -- it's more -- make everything for them more difficult. Harder for them to raise money, harder for them to recruit people, harder for them to talk people into becoming suicide bombers, harder for them to get across borders. Everything has to be harder for them. And a good deal of pressure has been put on around the globe, with a 90-nation coalition.

The dilemma, obviously, is -- I mean, take General Casey. General Casey has got -- getting people killed over there every day. And we all know that if people are positive and leaning forward to be helpful, that things are easier, and that's true in Iraq. And to the extent people are friendly and feel positive about the coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces, they're more likely to give tips as to where the IEDs are being placed or where the caches are, and call up the local police or the Iraqi army or the coalition forces and say, "Look, there's some bad guys in this house, and you ought to do it -- take care of them." To the extent people are hostile, they don't do that.

And Casey knows exactly all the things that are being done. My goodness. The stock market's open, their free press is there, they've got television, they've got radio. They've got -- schools are open, the businesses are open, hospitals are open, there are new textbooks.

I mean, if you -- if you just watched what's happening every time there's a bomb going off in Baghdad, you'd think the whole country's aflame. But you fly over it, and that's just simply not the case. There are people out in the fields working, and there's cars in the gas lines waiting to get fuel.

Casey decided he wanted people to know that and -- the truth, mind you. So he said let's get that into the local papers. I don't know, there's over 100 papers in the new free press there. They didn't even have a free press before. Even the American folks who were over there were restricted in what they could do. The first thing that happened is they did that, they gave people some money and said get this -- these true facts about hospitals and schools, and goodness knows what else, get them in the local papers, and by golly, there'll be a more positive feeling, if people are aware of that, because the lies from the enemy go on day after day after day. He did it. And, of course, there was just a big outcry here in the United States in the Congress, in the press: Oh my goodness! Isn't that terrible? He's trying to reduce the number of people getting killed over there by asking people to print the truth, and paying them to do that.

Well, it goes right to the point you make. We've got to be careful. There are multiple audiences. And every time we invest our time and effort trying to do a better job communicating, strategic communications, what's going on truthfully, not only do the Iraqi people hear it, but so, too, do our people hear it. And there's always that the line where you begin to propagandize, and you have to be careful. So it is a dilemma. We've not solved it. We have to do better, and we've not made much progress.

Question back here. Yes, ma'am?

Q Good morning, sir. I have two questions for you. The first, for purposes of this question, if terrorism is the greatest threat against America today, what, in your opinion, is the second and the third greatest threats?

And also, what was your greatest day or most satisfying day while in office and, the opposite, your worst? (Laughter.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: Do you plan to go into the media? (Laughter.)

She'd fit right in. (Laughter.)

I would not agree with the premise of your question in this sense. I don't think terrorism is the greatest threat. I think that terrorism is a weapon of choice for violent extremists, and violent extremism is, in my view, the threat. It is that conviction that they want to destabilize moderate, mainstream Muslim regimes and establish a caliphate and have a handful of clerics determine what everyone in that country can do, and then spread that across the globe from Indonesia to the Middle East through North Africa and Southern Europe. This is what they say on the Internet. You can read it. That's their goal. That's the threat. And it can be manifested in a variety of ways. At the present time -- we've used the phrase "global war against terror," which I find not perfect. I think that it is really a long struggle, as opposed to a war, which implies armies, navies, air forces and Marines contesting each other. It is irregular, it's asymmetric, and it is not against terrorism per se; it is against these violent extremists who use terrorism, but they also could use other things.

And a second thing that I worry about is the kinds of damage that can be done to a society through weapons of mass destruction, even through -- cyberattacks can be -- but I mean, a biological attack is something that -- it could be used to terrorize. Of course, the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize; it's not to kill people. It's to alter people's behavior, and you can do that using a variety of different techniques.

You know, clearly, the worst day was Abu Ghraib and seeing that -- what went on there and feeling so deeply sorry that that happened.

And I guess my best day -- I don't know -- may be a week from Monday. (Laughter, applause.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: You had a question. Yes?

Q Sir, first off, again, let me say thank you. And then second, looking back over your time as secretary of Defense, and if you can't be convinced to write the book, if there was one anecdote you could share that would sort of capture your time in office, what would it be?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Wouldn't you think that's what would sell my book? (Laughter.)

Goodness gracious, you know, the days are so full and you feel so fortunate to be engaged in the challenges, the enormously difficult challenges that our country faces, that I've been just really fortunate to feel each day that there was an opportunity to contribute and to serve and to learn, particularly from the folks here in this department, who've invested much of their lives in these important subjects.

But I do; I think I'll save it for my book. (Laughter.)


Q Good morning, Mr. Secretary. I guess I'm a little nervous. I wanted to know, if you could walk away with one memory or one accomplishment during your second term, what would that be, and why?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I suppose it'll sound strange and somewhat pedestrian. And I'd be interested in Pete's view. Because there's practically nothing that I've done that I haven't -- you know, unless you're a Mozart or an Einstein who goes off in a room and does something brilliant and then comes out and reveals it, all the rest of us, at least this guy, anything we accomplish, we do it with other people. We do it through a process of talking and discussing and thinking and probing and trying and failing and trying and succeeding.

And this institution is so big and so complex that there isn't any way in the world anyone can lead it by command. It's led by persuasion. And it's led through a process of discussion and interaction.

And I think probably the thing that has been the most important, at least for me, not being an Einstein or a Mozart, is the fact that we've -- when I came in, we made a conscious decision that we would engage the military, not at the end of a process asking for their advice, but we would engage them at the beginning of the process.

And General Myers and General Shelton and General Pace have been involved in -- there is not a single important decision of any magnitude at all that the chairman and the Joint Staff and the combatant commanders, where appropriate, and the services, where appropriate, have not been involved. And they have not been involved, as I say, at the end. They've been involved at the beginning, and at every step along the way.

We created something called the Senior Level Review Group. It's called the SLRG. (Laughter.) Not very nice, but -- (laughter) -- but it has the secretary and the deputy, the chairman and the vice, the undersecretaries and the service secretaries and the service chiefs.

We then expanded it and created a second group that included the combatant commanders for those things that were appropriate in that case.

There's almost nothing of any major importance that hasn't been thoroughly discussed, digested, masticated by the SLRG, and in many cases with the combatant commanders as well. They chewed it. They've discussed it. We've gotten them to the point where they talk about not just their own service, which is the case when I arrived -- you go down in the tank, and they -- service secretary -- they wouldn't want -- the service chief -- they'd want to talk about their service. They did not want to talk about the department and the joint efforts that are required here.

Today they do. Today they participate fully in everybody else's business. Why? Because there isn't anyone smart enough to figure these things out. We simply have to do it that way.

And I would say if there's anything that's been accomplished here, it is a monumental effort to try to knit together the services, to knit together the organize, train and equip group with the combatant commanders and the senior civilians in a way that they developed ownership, investment; they had an investment in the decision, because they all know of certain knowledge that they were involved in it. They had a chance to affect it. And by golly, this department isn't worth anything if all the services are going off in every different direction, working their own little projects and harming the other services.

And I've been around when that's happened in this department, where it wasn't joint, where people were working their own agendas and were going to the contractors and getting the contractors to do such and so; were going to up to Capitol and trying to get the Capitol Hill to sabotage what was decided in the department, because they didn't agree with it, and they didn't like it, and they didn't feel they had a stake in it, they didn't feel they had a voice in it.

Well, by golly, there's no one at a senior level in this department who can say they haven't been involved in the decisions in this department because they have. And as a result, we have had a period of a substantial degree of unity where people are all pulling at oars in the same direction instead of popping around and going off in 18 directions and damaging themselves, damaging the department, damaging the men and women in uniform, and damaging the country. And that's not happened, and that's an enormous accomplishment.

Pete, do you want to --

GEN. PACE: The only thing I would add to that, Mr. Secretary, is that the secretary and his team have spent an enormous amount of time on picking leaders, civilian and military, to be on this team, and with a special focus on 10, 15, 20 years from now, if you want to have a certain type of individual be a general or an admiral, how many of those kinds of individuals do you have in your population right now? So, if you want to have more women be admirals and generals, where's the population from which they're going to come? You want more minorities? A lot of focus on not only picking the right leaders for today, but for putting your seed corn where you need it to be able to grow and have available to the nation a diverse leadership population in the future.

STAFF: Mr. Secretary, we have time for one last question, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I'll decide if it's last. (Laughter, applause.) It depends on how good it is!

Q Sir -- (inaudible) -- on your book a bit. I think for great Americans like yourself, sir, it is a duty, and you will cheat future generations if you don't provide -- (laughter, applause) -- the experience, the background and the knowledge you've gained over the past years.

And to continue in that line a little bit, 10 other great Americans just recently wrote a book. I would like to know if you've read any excerpts from that, or if you'd like to provide any of your impressions from that book, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: This is the commission -- the Iraq Study Group?

Q Yes, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I know all those folks pretty well, and you have to be appreciative of the fact that they invested their time and thought and experiences in undertaking that project. I have not read the entire book.

I have -- do think that it would be helpful if I kind of explain where the president is on all of this, because I know there's been a lot in the press, and so forth.

The president asked General Pace to work with the chiefs and put forward some views that they feel would be appropriate. He asked me and General Pace to work with the combatant commander -- John Abizaid and General Casey and the folks in CENTCOM -- to put forward some views. He asked the Baker-Hamilton commission to offer their ideas.

He's been meeting with outside academics and people, so-called experts, from time to time I think as recently as earlier this week. He just had a session with Tony Blair. We have offered up our department's views that have been well scrubbed. And what he plans to do is to take into account all of those things, including the Baker report, and then probably make some decisions with respect to it during this period between now and the end of the year.

I look at the problem this way, and I'd rather say what I think about the situation. There is an impatience in the United States and in the Congress, and there's nobody who sees people being killed and wounded and doesn't feel a sense of urgency about getting it right and doing the right thing and seeing that their loss of life is minimal as it possibly can be.

The other thing we have to think about, though, is the dire consequences were we to fail there, and it is not just an Iraq problem, it is a regional problem. There is a major divide between the Shi'a and the Sunni community, and that part of the world and the risks to its stability are significant; and that what's taking place in Iraq is, in effect, a microcosm of what's taking place in that region, this power struggle, partly religious, partly economic, certainly political for power, but in very real sense not terribly military in its nature. Violence is not military necessarily. I mean, it doesn't -- I don't describe someone strapping on a suicide vest and going in and blowing up 20,30,40 civilians in Baghdad as a military operation myself, but that's the kind of thing that's taking place.

I think that our country has to be able to obvious constantly recognize that the situation's not static, it's dynamic. The enemies have a brain. They watch what we do, they make adjustments. They -- we have to keep changing our tactics, our techniques, our procedures.

We have invested a whale of a lot in the Afghan situation and in the Iraqi situation, and those countries have made considerable strides towards governing themselves. They are not there yet, and to pull out precipitously and inject that instability into the situation there, in that country and in that region, I believe would be a terrible mistake.

And we, simply, as a society have to recognize that it's not -- the military people are doing everything that can be done from a military standpoint. But they can't win this, quote-unquote, "militarily." It has to be won by the Iraqi people. It has to be won through a reconciliation process and through a political process, and it is those diplomatic and economic and political things that have to move forward in that country. And our goal is to keep training and equipping and preparing the Iraqi security forces so that they can create an environment within which that can happen.

And it makes a big difference to us, to our safety here in this country. And I think that while it's -- everyone feels it's not going fast enough, everyone feels it's not going well enough, everyone's looking for the kinds of things that might be done to improve that process -- political process, economic process, diplomatic process. And there are some people who say, "Well, you should do this or that or the other thing," and I can tell you I can't think of a thing that anyone thought of that General Pace and General Abizaid and those folks have not been working on and analyzing and studying and adjusting to over time. And we have every chance in the world of succeeding in both those countries, but only if we have the patience, and only if we have the staying power.

In every conflict in our country's history, there have been those who said, "Toss in the towel. It isn't working." The Revolutionary War, by golly, George Washington almost got fired. He didn't win a battle, that I can recall, for a whale of a long time. You think of the beginning of World War II and all the battles that were lost. You think of the Cold War, when Eurocommunism was in fashion and millions of people -- hundreds of thousands of people were demonstrating not against the Soviet Union, against the United States, saying we were the ones in the wrong. But by golly, it -- something important isn't easy, and this isn't easy. And by golly, it's important, and we'd better do it right.

That is the last question. God bless you all. (Applause.)

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