September 9th, 2011
02:19 PM ET

Donald Rumsfeld on whether the Iraq War was a costly distraction and defense cuts

We have a special edition of GPS this week, "9/11 and the World.” I sit down with the man who ran the Pentagon when it was attacked and who ran the military response that followed: Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld tells us what he remembers of that day, ten years ago; whether Washington was right to go to war in Iraq; and why he thinks Congress is making a big mistake in considering slashing our defense budget.

Also on the show, my personal reflections ten years after 9/11 and a smart discussion with Francis Fukuyama, Rory Stewart, and Irshad Manji.

Check out the clips from my interview with Donald Rumsfeld below:

Fareed Zakaria:  When you look back over 10 years and you look at where we are, doesn't it strike you that the Iraq War was, at the very least, an enormously costly distraction, a trillion dollars, thousands of lives and it doesn't seem to have been crucial.

Donald Rumsfeld:  Well, it's hard to know.  I - I think the world is certainly a better place with Saddam Hussein gone.

Fareed Zakaria:  But that's not the question. The question is was it central to the war on terror?

Donald Rumsfeld:  There's no question but that al Qaeda and Zarqawi and people were in Iraq.  They aggregated there and they collaborated...

Fareed Zakaria:  Largely after we invaded...

Donald Rumsfeld:  Exactly.

Fareed Zakaria:  Butif we hadn't invaded, they wouldn't have been there.  So that's the...

Donald Rumsfeld:  We don't know that. You don't know that. I don't know that.

Fareed Zakaria:  But they went in to fight us.  So since if we weren't there, why would they have gone into Iraq?

Donald Rumsfeld:  Well, why have they gone into Yemen? Why have they gone into Somalia? Why does al Qaeda go anywhere? They go where it's hospitable.

Also, here's Donald Rumsfeld on the military budget:

Donald rumsfeld:  Today, with a debt crisis and a deficit crisis, we are about ready to make the same mistake we've made after World War II, after Vietnam and Korea and then after the Cold War - pare down our intelligence, cut the budgets in the Defense Department and think we can get away with it.

We got away with it in earlier years.  It's in efficient.  You then have to crank it back up, which is what President Reagan had to do after the Carter years and what President George W. Bush had to do after the George Herbert Walker and Clinton years, after the end of the Cold War.

If we make that mistake again, it seems to me, we're doing it in an environment that's notably different.  The margin for error for political leadership in our country is different today, because of the lethality of weapons.  And if we do what it looks like the Congress is going to do, think they can balance the budget off the Pentagon, I think it will be a tragic mistake for the country.

Watch the full interview on CNN Sunday at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT.

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Topics: GPS Show • Iraq

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Cat

    Rumsfeld is an idiot! Why did we ever listen to anything this man said?

    September 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    • Greg

      Fareed is an idiot as well

      September 9, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Rumsfeld just wanted to justify his hawkish stance during his tenure of secretary of defense.

      September 10, 2011 at 6:05 am | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        According to Rumsfeld, the war machine has to be oiled all the time, or else it would be hard to "crank it back up",

        September 12, 2011 at 5:30 am |
  2. krhn80

    Rumsfeld seemed to be a slightly clueless in this interview snippet.

    September 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Reply
    • Leigh

      Sadly our country has been led by tons of politicians like Rumsfeld, who is capable of defensing his horrible mistakes for himself, yet never forget to attack Democrat Party doing differently from the way Rumsfeld has done. It's our shame to have such a political leader in our country.

      September 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Reply

    Mr. Rums field did not answered the questions.
    Just at the past, we don't know what we don't know when we don't know how we don't know.
    Hahahahahahahahaha..... Who was his Teacher back in School Year?

    September 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Reply
    • notyourname

      Dude, you are barely literate. Please don't comment anymore until you learn how to read and write.

      September 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Reply
  4. Dan Klenke

    What a horse's ass. Diminished our military capacity, bled our economic resources, distracted us from the real event, and increased the difficulty of that mission. Way to go!

    September 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  5. Jack Causevic

    I don't mind Donald Rumsfeld. I've read his memoirs, and they're fairly impressive.

    September 9, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Reply
    • TowelHeadsAreMorons

      Memoirs?!!!! Don't you mean fiction?

      September 10, 2011 at 2:04 am | Reply
  6. Jack Causevic

    I forgot to mention Fareed got his ass kicked by Rumsfeld, who iterated a simple truth: Al Qaeda goes where it's hospitable.

    September 9, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Reply
    • woodofpine

      Jack – that just Rummy's invitation to get 'lost in the fog' (of war) with him. EVERYPLACE is 'hospitable'!! Name a place that isn't? So we sould lumber around lke a drunken giant until we're bankrupt?

      September 11, 2011 at 8:12 am | Reply
    • Sanjay

      Its likes of Rumsfield & Bush who make things hospitable for Al Quida Mad crazy Jeehadis and extreme Islamic elements. In fact with a little diplomacy Iraq would have ensured they remain neutral or even help US & allied forces as they focus on Afganistan. Pakistan & Afghanistan are the epicenter of all terrorism buy attacking Iraq not only was the focus lost and resources dissipated but most unfortunately USA had to compromise with Pakistan and has now to look at Pakistan helplessly promoting Taliban even as Taliban openly attack US assets in Afghanistan and reduce to naught all the sacrifices made my Allied forces...SAD friend Rumsfield had it all wrong and 10 yrs on Afganistan is mostly back to brink

      September 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  7. TowelHeadsAreMorons

    But so is Rumsfeld.

    September 10, 2011 at 2:03 am | Reply
  8. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE just watch out on how CUNNINGLY Mr. Zakaria will STEER THE DISCUSSION his way (anti-American, Pro-Islamic) even with such anti-terror proponents as Mr. Rumsfeld by (in short) holding America & Americans responsible for worldwide Islamic terror, and all the ills facing the Muslim world incl. Muslims living right here in the west.

    Here's a response I wrote on his yesterday's article "Reflections on 9-11 & the aftermath" on CNN-GPS whihc is very relevant here to understand Mr. Zakaria's style (& agenda) and also b'coz it's directly related the current topic of 9-11.

    It TRULY surprises me as to how naïve & gullible we Americans are!

    Many people skim through Mr. Zakaria's articles and retire with a good feeling that he is all nice & sweet and a highly patriotic American. His writings are like figuring out a hidden image in a jumble, even though quite frankly it's not that complicated.

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read the article a little more carefully. After the INITIAL expression of Anger & Horror at the attacks, it's all a SELF-INTROSPECTION (pretending to be an American patriot) on why we brought THIS OPEN OURSELVES! What makes them (Muslims) hate us so much.......then comes his well researched(!) article, or a series of articles "Why they hate us"., Learning to Live with Radical Islam, Why we overreacted to 9/11, etc.etc.

    The conclusion is the SAME in all these articles as it's here "It's all about us and NOT them", which is no different from that of the religious zealots in the ravines of Af-Pak fighting real & perceived discrimination by America & the west against Muslims which touches every issue Muslims are even remotely concerned about. They include of course famously "so-called" Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, support to dictators, non-admission of Muslim Turkey into the EU (for greater Islamization of Europe & eventually America), plus Burqa ban in France, Minaret ban in Switzerland, Norwegian monster Breivik, opposition to GZ Victory and Murfeesboro Mega mosques, FBI monitoring of Mosques, burning of the Koran by an obscure crazy pastor, Prophet Mohammed cartoons etc. etc. all the while being DEAFENINGLY SILENT on the hateful teachings in his Muslim religious texts which is the source of inspiration for these radicals.
    With moderates like Zakaria there is just not a chance that this war with Islam going on for 14 centuries will ever end!

    September 10, 2011 at 9:39 am | Reply
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      BTW, I am an opponent of the unjust Iraq war. While no doubt Saddam Hussain was a bad guy, surely he had nothing to do with 9-11 or Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is there in Iraq now in their stated goal of compounding our miseries.

      Likewise, even though we were justified in going to that wasteland called Af-Pak to boot out the Taliban, there is no longer any reason in sacrifcing our brave soldiers on what is now a meaningless cause!

      We will be better served if we re-foucs our efforts to neutralize the threat from the MOTHER OF ALL ISLAMIC TERROR – PAKISTAN. Unless we DIVIDE that nation, seize their ISLAMIC BOMB the greatst EXISTENTIAL THREAT to America, Europe, Israel, India, Russia & even China (in that order) will never go away!

      September 10, 2011 at 9:52 am | Reply
  9. Muin

    I am fairly confident you, president obama will win this argument against rumsfield and bush administration that Iraq war is an enormous costly distraction. Only some mentally challenged Americans think it was right because America can take over iraq's oil.

    September 10, 2011 at 10:54 am | Reply
  10. Susan Brady

    What is wrong with you putting Donald Rumsfeld on air to comment today!? He just said that, "we thought the first plane was a mistake." I looked out my window from one block south of the World Trade Center momets after that first plane hit and said to myself, "They are back. The terrorists are among us." The second plane flew in front of my building. I did not receive daily briefings, much less recive a warning from the Clinton administration stating that Al Qaeda woudl attack the US. But anyone who has any sense after the WTC bombing of 1993 would know that it was a terrorist attack. He ran a military operation mired in the cold war that was looking for Russians that morning. You have completely discredited your presentation today putting Rumsfeld on air.

    September 11, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Reply
  11. Ray

    Thank you for challenging Rumsfeld on such key and controversial issues.

    September 11, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  12. preet

    Rumsfeld has no touch with reality. He still trying to defend Iraq war.America got to the position (1.3 trillion debt) where it is today, because of people like him.
    I think Fareed serve him right...

    September 11, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  13. peace garden

    I want to congratulate Fareed on speaking truth to power. Rumsfeld tried to evade the uncomfortable questions but
    Fareed gently held his feet to the fire! We need more media people who have the courage and honesty to do that!

    September 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  14. Rock26

    I guess it was unnecessary to start fight in IRAQ. 100 s of thousands of innocent killed there . Does US think about it ?
    Helll No ? Idont think there is any stable goverment in IRAQ . Its just not military Rullled !

    September 11, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  15. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Yet again.....Mr. Zakaria proved me right!

    While he was quite right in nailing Mr. Rumsfeld on the futility & unjustness of the Iraq war, yet again as in every one of his discussions he invariably turns the tables around on America and American policies as the primary reason for all Islamic terror, while also holding America responsible for all the failings of the Islamic world through our support for dictators.

    All through his forays into American policies he NEVER EVER mentions even once that the Jihadists also derive their ideological strengths rightly or wrongly from the Muslim religious texts (just the way it has gone on unabated for 14 centuries!). Also just as he refers to various studies on Muslim backwardness and lack of opportunities he yet again links that US policies by way of support to dictators, while disregarding the fact that given even similar opportunities & socio-economic background Muslims fared far below the rest all over the world as amply demonstrated in PEW's studies of Americans based on religious groups, and UK govt statistics.

    And, he also highlights the absence of major Islamic terror attacks since 9-11 while chastising Americans for being unfairly wary/fixated on Islamic terror, without EVER mentioning the fact that In the 10 years since 9/11, the US has foiled 39 Islamic terror attacks on its soil using a multi-pronged approach, including eleven terror attempts on New York City, five on Washington DC, five attacks at airports or through planes, four on the city of New Jersey and nine other targets.

    After all this Mr. Zakaria concludes by ILLOGICALLY linking the dangers from US economic woes with Islamic Terror by saying that the greatest danger to the world and to ourselves come from us and NOT the Islamists!

    No wonder one of our friends here called Mr.Zakaria an Islamist TROJAN horse stalking America!

    September 11, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Reply
  16. Sanjay

    Sometimes, the bravest thing we can do is to admit our mistakes and be responsible for them!....sadly to expect this from Politicians would be asking for the moon!!

    September 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Reply

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