Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Bob Woodward -- Donald Rumsfeld Interviews

Bob Woodward interviewed Donald Rumsfeld extensively on two occasions in July, 2006, probably in preparation for Woodward's book, State of Denial, published by Simon and Schuster on Sept 30, 2006. (Hat tip: The Anchoress) They go over events such as the selection of Paul Bremer; the disbandment of the Iraqi Army; why it took 'so long' for Rumsfeld to acknowledge the existence of the insurgency; and the question of 'inadequate' troop levels, among other things. In a word they walk the cat back over the landscape of Iraq. Both men are clearly traversing familiar terrain but each one sees it so differently that the vistas appear to each as distinctly different worlds. Woodward sees things clearly through the prism of very limited information. He has a distinct history of events constructed from notes, documents and incidents whose value is apparent only from hindsight. With the sureness of a prospector who already knows where all the nuggets are, Woodward, for example, asks Rumsfeld if has read this or that memoir; remembers this or that page from a retired bureaucrat's book. Rumsfeld on the other hand recalls the same events from the perspective of a bureaucrat who has read too many documents, listened to too many opinions, and knows too many secrets to see any story, least of all one as complicated as Iraq, with any reassuring simplicity. Both Woodward and Rumsfeld display a fine intelligence and command which makes the interview fascinating reading for anyone, whichever side of the Iraq debate he is on. I've highlighted certain excerpts from the interview to give the flavor. But do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

On the impossibility of America solving an Iraqi problem for Iraqis

MR. WOODWARD: -- that you were looking for Iraq's Karzai, is that correct?

SEC. RUMSFELD: ... Clearly, you needed somebody who people could recognize as providing leadership in the country. And I always felt that foreign troops are ... unnatural and not welcomed really. ... And I used the phrase of it's like teaching a youngster how to ride a bicycle. You run behind them with your hand in the seat. And at some point you've got to take some fingers off, and then you've got to let go, and they might fall. You help pick them up and put them back on it. But otherwise, if you don't take your hand off, you're going to end up with a 40-year-old who can't ride a bike. ...


SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I'm sure, yeah. There's also the concept of declining consent and the like. And there's the -- John Abizaid and I and the president talked on many occasions about this, and we used this construct that there is a natural tension between having too many and too few.

Who disbanded the Iraqi Army?

SEC. RUMSFELD: ... I talked to Abizaid all the time, and he felt that way about the military; he felt that way about the Sunnis that they were losing control of the country, and constantly was looking to see that decisions being made in the CPA reflected ... that the goal was to have everyone feeling that the country is fair and representative of them....

LT GEN RENUART: Yes sir, I think in fact this comment was pretty consistent with General Abizaid's view ... that you had to provide for the Iraqi regular army because they were the folks least dependent upon Saddam or more likely to be representative, that they would be a force that you would be capable of using and reintegrating very quickly back into the Iraqi security. ...

MR. WOODWARD: ... I mean, as you know, the current Iraqi army has all these officers back. All the NCOs and officers in the Iraqi army served in Saddam's army.

LT GEN RENUART: This is when Bremer -- ... CPA order one and two -- de-Ba'athification and dissolution of the entities -- were -- I think he said this in his book. He wanted to make a statement that there was an authority in Iraq, he was the authority, and these were the two ways he was going to establish that authority. But if you read both of those orders -- have you read them?

MR. WOODWARD: Oh, yes.

LT GEN RENUART : Very carefully ... was allowed to come back colonel and below without question, if I remember correctly.

MR. WOODWARD: I mean, the whole army was just disbanded completely -- I mean, I've read the order and --

LT GEN RENUART: But in building the new Iraqi army, there were provisions, I believe, in disestablishment to bring them back.

MR. WOODWARD: Later on.

LT GEN RENUART:: Right, right.

MR. WOODWARD: Later on, which is what happened.

On WMDs in Iraq

MR. WOODWARD: Can you give me, for the record here, some idea of your feelings about whether WMD would be there or not?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure. I don't know how much is colored by what's happened, to be honest. I just don't. I'll tell you I was very worried about it ... particularly ... after I knew that Colin Powell was spending day after day on the subject with George Tenet and with the intel people and with his intel people and with Condi Rice over at his house drafting his U.N. speech. ... I was worried about it in a ... DOD sense -- because our military people were worried about it. ... And every morning, they're getting up and putting on their chemical suits -- not for the hell of it; because they were worried about having their troops killed by chemical weapons. ... Now, the fact that these people -- 100-plus thousand -- put those chemical suits on every day as they were going north tells you that the --

MR. WOODWARD: They're believers.

SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet. You bet.

Acknowledging the Existence of the Iraqi Insurgency

MR. WOODWARD: ... there's a November 11th NSC meeting -- 2003, again. This is when the CIA comes in and says there's an insurgency out there. And you were quoted in the notes telling the CIA briefer, "I may disagree with you," and the president did not think it had reached the point where there was an insurgency. ... Do you remember your thinking in that period?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't. I can't put it in time and place. I do remember the phrase "insurgency," the phrase "guerrilla war" and the al Qaeda terrorist activity. ... And I raised a question in a public briefing on the subject. ... And I said gee, you know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess, and people have different ways of characterizing it, and I didn't have conviction. ... that I was the one who ought to use -- set the phrase as to what we would call it at any given time; let me put it that way. It has been, for a long time, characterized by a mixture of things, multiple problems. ... And it has evolved over time. It's not been static, it's been dynamic. ... I did not think it would be useful if I called it one thing and Abizaid called it something else, for example. ...

MR. WOODWARD: And this issue of who was the enemy in Iraq ... and somebody told me that in fact the mystery has deepened.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It has. It's gotten more complex. ...

MR. WOODWARD: So we know less?

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, no, we know more. They're getting so much more intelligence now. And they're looking -- they're seeing schisms and gaps and seams between elements, and they're finding people who are doing things for money as opposed to love or conviction. But it is just a fact that the world is round, it's not flat. It's evolved and changing.

On Rumsfeld's Willingness to Resign

MR. WOODWARD: But there was a moment when you said I'll stay or leave if you want.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, I mean I can remember saying that to Andy Card. I can remember saying that to the vice president. I can remember saying something like that to the president, but I don't remember precisely what. I just don't want to get in the habit of resigning every 15 minutes and having them feel they have to beg you to stay. I submitted my resignation in writing twice since I've been here.

MR. WOODWARD: In writing you actually submitted a letter.


How Everyone Fights His Own War in Washington

MR. WOODWARD: It's interesting. You've told Hadley -- or he's reported to others that the interagency process is broken, a number of times --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I think it is that in the 21st century, in the Information Age, we're still functioning with an interagency process and a governmental structure that is in the Industrial Age in the last century. And it would be like if the DOD tried to function today without Goldwater-Nichols, where each service goes off to fight -- the Navy war and the Army war and the Air Force war, and that's -- that doesn't work in this environment. And it is not -- my comment about the interagency being broken is not in any way meant at characterizing the people who are in it or even the structure that they control. It's a reflection of the fact that the government structure is a leftover from an earlier era. And it is something that I think all of us feel on occasion. ...

MR. WOODWARD: Have you told the president this? ...

SEC. RUMSFELD: You might want to give him the memo I did -- the speech I gave at the Truman Library where I talked about the fact that Truman was at the juncture of the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. And he fashioned a number of institutions that were appropriate for the period coming forward, and successive presidents have used those institutions. This president is at the end of the Cold War and at the juncture of the global war on terror and the types of problems he's facing and the Information Age. And he's trying to fight a war in a set of new realities as to how people communicate with each other and function electronically. And it's a vastly different task, much more complex today. The time pressures are very much greater.

On Exit Strategy in Iraq

MR. WOODWARD: And he says -- Kissinger says victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy in this war. Do you agree?

SEC. RUMSFELD: He's right. Sure. No, no, I'd qualify it. First of all, I don't agree that he said that.

MR. WOODWARD: Oh, he did. He's written it publicly and he's --

SEC. RUMSFELD: He may have, I think ultimately, the victory over the insurgency will be made by the Iraqis because it will take time. As I mentioned in the memo I showed you, it could take eight to 10 years. Insurgencies have a tendency to do that. Victory -- is that the word he used?

MR. WOODWARD: Yes. Victory by the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy. It's a great line.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, but I would say that our exit strategy is to have the Iraqi government and security forces capable of managing a lower level insurgency and ultimately achieving victory over it and repressing it over time. But it would be a period after we may very well not have large numbers of people there.

On Rice's Articulated "Clear and Hold" Strategy

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, I was a little worried that -- and we talked about it. I mean, clearly, you need a bumper sticker, and that's what they were looking for. ... And my problem was that I wanted ... 263,000 Iraqi security forces. I wanted them clearing and them holding. And I didn't want the idea to be that it was just us. And so that was my concern, because that is grabbing a hold of the bicycle seat and hanging on for dear life.

MR. WOODWARD: Forever.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Forever. Clear, hold and build – worried me -- for the reason I mentioned earlier -- on reconstruction, because that's going to take 30 years and it's going to take a pile of money and it is not going to be the taxpayers' money -- our taxpayers' money. ... I was concerned that it had a connotation that sounded good at the moment, but that it could, over time, come back and -- because of the nuances in it -- not be seen right. ... And the building is we want to help create environments that they can reconstruct their own country, and that type of thing. And those refinements are in there now. ...

MR. WOODWARD: In the end saying we won't be able to do it for this president, we'll have to do it for the next president.

SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, in any administration that's almost true of everything. ... And if you think about it -- I approved the M-1 tank that was used in the Gulf War and was used in Iraq, back in 1975. The F-16, which we're using, which is what bombed Zarqawi, I was at the fly-over for the F-16 in Fort Worth back in 1974 or 1975. That's the nature of this. These decisions you make play out over a long period of time, either to the benefit of the country or, conversely, to the detriment of the country if you fail to do something.

Complaints that Civilian Agencies Are Not Doing Enough

SEC. RUMSFELD: ... We needed money for the Afghan security forces, and we couldn't get a nickel anywhere. --

MR. WOODWARD: When was this, sir?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Right after the -- 2001 ... And we finally went and tin-cupped the French.

LT GEN RENUART: Yes, sir, borrowed money from the French. They gave us money.

SEC. RUMSFELD: And we couldn't get the Congress to do anything. We couldn't get the government here to do anything legally, and we knew we needed to train Afghan soldiers. Now, why couldn't we? Well, because the Department of State has the training plan, and they've programmed out two or three years in advance. And they're divided up by the subcommittees in Congress. They decide who gets that money. Well, no one really thought of Afghanistan back then. And trying to get the government to spin on a dime and adjust, it just doesn't do it.

LT GEN RENUART:It took us five years and we now have what's called 1206 authority -- just passed by the Congress a few months ago. It doesn't appropriate money; it gives the secretary authority to spend $200 million on training and equipping indigenous forces out of his own pocket. So we're one step at a time. ...

MR. WOODWARD: You know, you've got lots of people in the military who are quite unhappy that the rest of the government hasn't showed up with the same level --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Don’t say you have, we have --

MR. WOODWARD: We have. Okay, fair point, fair point.

SEC. RUMSFELD: You’re a citizen. I've got a lot of rocks in my knapsack, and I don't mind you dumping some more in there. But I like to think we're all part of this country.

On the Responsibility of Command

MR. WOODWARD: Because Bob McNamara said publicly -- and very interesting and hard point, and I want to ask it directly of you. He said, "Any military commander who's honest with you will say he's made mistakes that have cost lives."


MR. WOODWARD: Is that correct? ...

SEC. RUMSFELD: I can see a military commander in a uniform who is engaged in a conflict having to make decisions that result in people living or dying and that that would be a truth. And certainly if you go up the chain to the civilian side, to the president and me, you could, by indirection, two or three steps removed, make that case. But the fascination with that question comes up at almost every press conference. "Oh, tell us every mistake you've ever made, please. We want to have a litany of all your mistakes." And I hear it over and over. And they ask the president. And finally everyone says well, of course there have been mistakes made. And then they'll tell us about these mistakes. You know? I think it's kind of a -- my attitude is this: Our job is to get up every morning and figure out how we can help protect the country and the American people, and to have people that are dedicated to this country, that are patriotic, that care about defending the American people, and help to organize and encourage and lead and bolster their efforts to do that. And sitting around contemplating the kinds of questions that you in the media are so fascinated with is not my idea of how to spend my time on the taxpayer's dollar.

MR. WOODWARD: Can I just say something very -- we know each other well enough -- that you don't understand the power of admitting error ...  It is the most powerful thing you can do is to --  as the leader ...

SEC. RUMSFELD: I've done that. I've done that.

MR. WOODWARD: You have.  I understand that. I understand.

SEC. RUMSFELD: But do I need to do it every day?


Final Words

MR. WOODWARD: And Wolfowitz got -- right after 9/11 set up this thing called – Bletchley II. Do you remember that? Chris DeMuth at the AEI -- And they wrote a paper, seven pages, called, "The Delta of Terrorism," meaning the origin of terrorism, and it essentially said we are in a two-generation war with radical Islam, and we have to do something, and we better start with Iraq.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I remember that.

MR. WOODWARD: Yeah. It had a lot -- quite an impact on the president and Cheney and Rice, because it was short, and it said a two-generation war; that other countries are the real problems, but you can't deal with them; you better start with Iraq.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Interesting…I don't remember that.


Blogger L. C. Staples said...

An amazing input from Mr. Woodward: "that you don't understand the power of admitting error... It is the most powerful thing you can do is to -- as the leader..."

If only the admission of error were actually "powerful". It is certainly a powerful way to help enemies and detractors. And as long as mistakes are seized upon, rather than understood as an inevitable part of any complex undertaking (especially in the face of intelligent opposition) and weighed to judge their maker, then admission of errors will be detrimental and men like Mr. Rumsfeld will continue to shun it.

10/05/2006 02:42:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

As was pointed out last night on the Rachel Maddow Show, in an interview with Andy Borowitz the person who stole "The Republican Playbook," any admission of error by a leader has been dubbed "waffling" and is fodder for criticism in an election. This makes one's leadership brittle. Master Sun Tzu is rolling in his grave.

10/05/2006 04:37:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Woodward is more a novelist than a reporter.

He sued the authors of the book “Silent Coup” – a far more accurate work than “All the President’s Men” - because it was just that. In another of his books he supposedly interviewed CIA Chief William Casey at a time in which the man was in a deep coma.

His works should be labeled, at most, “Inspired by actual events.” They bear far less relationship to real history than did the TV special “The Road to 9/11” because he seeks to alter facts, ignore other data, and fabricate evidence as required to tell his preconceived story.

10/05/2006 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger geoffgo said...

Remember Woodward is of the same persuasion as those who "outed" the prank IMs of Foley. He needn't accept any degree of responsibilty for his actions.

10/05/2006 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger buck smith said...

The place to spend that $200 M training budget is in Darfur. Build up a Darfur protection force and then use it with close air support against Sudan and then to strike Somalia

10/05/2006 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Golblado - did you press charges?

10/05/2006 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hewitt Interview with Tom Edsal

TE: I know the doctor who was treating Bill Casey, and the doctor who is someone who I think is very credible told me that Bill Casey was dead by all standards, except burial. And for him to have said anything cognizant at that time just was incredible to him. And this doctor is a liberal Democrat.

HH: Have you ever published that?
TE: No.
HH: Does that not go to undermine Woodward's credibility, far beyond that one account?
TE: To some extent. You know, I have a theory of what happened in Veil.

HH: But I'm going to the fact that you obviously don't believe that Woodward thing, as do a lot of people just think it's crap, including Michael Ledeen, who published a reason why. A lot of people know that. Doesn't that go to Woodward's credibility in everything that he does?

TE: Yeah, but I'll tell you what I think may have happened, because I've talked to people...
HH: Yeah, but let me be a reporter, though, Thomas Edsall. Does it go to his credibility?

TE: Yeah, but let me explain...say something. I think Bob Woodward may well have gone into the hotel room. He leans over the bed to try to say something to this body that's there. He leans on the chest as he asked this question of whatever it was. And when a body is like that, out comes air. and he goes (groan). And when Woodward hears that, because that's what he wants to hear, as the quote that he puts into Casey's mouth, and he may well be convinced that what he wrote is true.

HH: Do you think that's plausible, Thomas Edsall?
TE: That's my theory.

10/05/2006 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

TE: I think the problem is that Woodward allows it to go too far, and it becomes evident in his books. Richard Darman was clearly a source in one of his books about Herbert Walker Bush. He comes out golden, and Herbert Walker comes out looking terrible. Darman should have been fired by any legitimate administration right after that, but he's making millions of dollars now.

HH: But given everything you've just said, that he shades towards his sources, he punishes those who don't work, he's not credible in Vail, and the Final Days, doesn't that really undermine the idea that this guy should be listened to? It seems like you've got a very wart-filled primadonna who by virtue of his early work at the Post, has inherited a lot of credibility which he simply doesn't deserve?

TE: I think that there are significant problems in Bob's reporting techniques, and the product that he produces, that every reader of his work should be aware of. But I don't think you can dismiss what he writes, and just disregard it, because he does get a lot of information that no one else does.

HH: Okay, last question. Does the press push him in any way like they should push him? Or do they lay down for him, because it's Bob Woodward?

TE: If it's an either/or question, they lay down for him.

10/05/2006 06:39:00 PM  

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