September 10th, 2011
04:04 PM ET

Why Donald Rumsfeld doesn't like the phrase "War on Terror"

Editor's Note: The following is a web-only excerpt of Fareed Zakaria's interview with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Watch a special edition of CNN GPS ""9/11 and the World" at 1pm ET/10am PT this Sunday.

Fareed Zakaria: Did you immediately come to the conclusion that we are at war and that this is now a kind of a real turn in history?

Donald Rumsfeld: No. That day, George Tenet called me and told me that he had verified that it was al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. And - and it was at that point where I became convinced that that's what it was and not some other thing that I might not have been aware of. I'd been involved with the problem of terrorism when I was President Reagan's Middle East envoy in the 1980s, after the Marines were killed at the Beirut Airport. But in fact, you used the word war. I avoided the word "war".

Fareed Zakaria: Why?

Donald Rumsfeld: I was uncomfortable with it and argued it internally, in the government. President Bush decided to call it the "Global War on Terror". War sounded, to me, too much like World War I or II or Korea or Vietnam. And I knew this was something that wouldn't be won by bullets. It was something that was going to be more like the cold war period, longer and requiring a competition of ideas and second, the implication, the use of the word "war" suggested that it was the Pentagon's job, as opposed to the society's job. And, third, the idea of warring on terror bothered me because terror is a technique. It's a tactic. You don't go engage in a war against tanks or airplanes or other methods of being aggressive.

Fareed Zakaria: Right.

Donald Rumsfeld: And so I tried to find a better solution to that phrase and I never did.

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Topics: Military • Terrorism • United States

soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. nik green

    Considering that Rumsfeld and his neocon thugs were the architects of the "war on terror", as well as benefitting so greatly from 9/11, it seems an illogical thing for Rumsfeld to say. But most of what he said has been pretty strange, or outright lies... so lets not be surprised at anything.

    September 11, 2011 at 3:18 am | Reply
  2. Peters

    Does anyone have the link to where the British Special Forces were going around Iraq shooting indiscriminately at unarmed civilians until they got caught, and then the British rescued them from the prison? I know there were also British defense contractors who got caught doing the same thing, in an effort to prolong the war and keep it going in it's perpetuality. I'm surprised no one's talking about this anymore. This is like a major violation of the Geneva Conventions (as if there haven't been enough already), and, yet, the major Western news organizations just kinda swept it under the rug.

    September 11, 2011 at 4:08 am | Reply
  3. David

    September 11, 2011 at 4:13 am | Reply
  4. Michael Rockefeller

    "Tell a lie often enough, loud enough, and long enough, and people will believe you." George W. Bush
    "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." Winston Churchill
    "History is written by the victors.." Winston Churchill
    "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." Winston Churchill
    "There's nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it." – William James (1842-1910) The father of modern Psychology
    "...concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it." Adolf Hitler
    "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Adolf Hitler diatribe
    "...the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation." The Big Lie technique , Adolf Hitler , Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X

    September 11, 2011 at 4:37 am | Reply
    • lino

      here here...they are believing their own lie's! ...why are we believing them??? all lie's and a deversion for what or who?

      September 11, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Reply
    • oldsneekers

      Not read or heard often enough. Should be part of the pledge of allegiance at the start of every day, the start of every political broadcast, the intro to every news cast.

      September 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  5. stonedwhitetrash

    Rumsfeld should be in prison for war crimes, and the phrase "Schock and awe"

    September 11, 2011 at 5:09 am | Reply
  6. Frankfoe

    It was a shame that the Bush admin couldn't protect us that day 10 years ago. The Bush admin failed, George W.Bush failed as a president. Thank God for President Obama. He killed Bin Laden. Something the Bush Admin couldn't accomplish. It is very sad to be a Republican. They are very weak and pathetic... So sad......

    September 11, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  7. lino

    why does he have a hard time answering the questions? thank you Fareed for exposing and trying to make him accountable! Irac was a terrible idea and going to cost the US, and the fall of the US is eminent! at the end of all this, who won?

    September 11, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  8. Rags Riches

    Thank GOD, this biased, back-seat driving 'journalist' wasn't in charge! Whata waste of air time.

    September 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Reply
  9. atty1chgo

    What a cream puff interview, Mr. Zakaria. The TV screen displayed the banner "Donald Rumsfeld on Military spending – a decade later." You should have discussed the topic "A Decade plus one day". On September 10, 2001, Rumsfeld announced $2.3 TRILLION (that's with a T) missing from The Pentagon. Never was heard a discouraging word after that, In times of budget crisis, a fair and important question would have been "Was the money ever found?" Thanks for keeping the record intact, Fareed. How will Donald Rumsfeld be remembered? One of a group of many liars in the Bush Administration regarding WMD. The man asleep at the switch on the morning of 9/11, not to be found while HE had the authority (due to policy changes enacted June, 2001) to scramble aircraft in response to the hijacked planes. The man who was pushing for an attack on Iraq almost immediately after the attacks. And the man who lied about the policies at Abu-Ghraib, which have been shown to be pre-planned policies, not random acts by wayward enlisted personnel. Donald Rumsfeld is a disgrace to America

    September 11, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  10. oldsneekers

    Politicians like to define expenses in terms of GDP, thus the near inevitability of GDP rise, reduces the apparent cost of spending. Rumsfeld does the same with defense spending saying that our spending is 4% of GDP compared to the 10% in previous decades. The problem is tax REVENUE does not parallel GDP, but is dependent on tax rate. The tax rates of the present are nearly 1/2 what they were 30 years ago. I would rather like expense ratios ALWAYS described in terms of REVENUE. To do otherwise is to mislead the country.

    September 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  11. TonyC

    Donald Rumsfeld is a genuine low life. If it weren't for the fact that I really enjoy watching Fareed Zakaria I would have changed the channel. Rumsfeld is evil.

    September 11, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  12. Beverley Walrond

    Thank you for being the most intelligent and thoughtful interviewer and discussant on television. Your interview with Donald Rumsfeld only served to highlight how little he has learned deite the mess that the Administration left America in. There is no recognition from him of e unnecessary waste of so many lives, not just of Americans but of Iraquis and Afghans.II hope to live long enough to hear apologies being given for causing so much further pain to innocent people.

    September 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Reply
  13. Keyser Soze

    I would like to point out this is one small piece of Fareeds interview with Rumsfeld. Does anyone besides me realize that Fareed really just seems to hate the USA? Before you bash me with comment, watch the entire interview and notice how so many of Fareeds questions are accusatory.?. He simply is hell bent on making America and ANYTING we do to protect ourselves and our way of life seem terrible, as if we are imposing our will on the rest of the world. You sir, are a closet anti-American. Self proclaimed "balanced reporter". Bull.

    All of your questions about Iraq and Afghanistan before and after our involvement and current war on terror are and were rediculous. NEWSFLASH Fareed.. We invaded Iraq only after being attacked by terrorists and took the war on terror to where the terrorists were/are. I applaud and support the relentless search and destruction of any threat to Americans and our way of life no matter where that may be. Leave no stone un-turned and no dark corner un-lightened. No where to run, no where to hide.

    But that's what seems to bother you, Fareed. Big bad ol' U.S. of A standing up for ourselves and protecting it's citizens. It's clearly apparent in your interview of Rumsfeld (and yea he's far from a saint) but you continue to accuse and try to blaim the U.S.A. for all of the problems any country has that we have occupied in search for terrorists.Thankfully most of those stone aged dirt floored countries still don't have electricity to watch your program. GPS = Great Pile of $%!T!! And any electricity they do have is probably because of USA led and funded constructon projects of power producing facilities.

    The fact that CNN contiues to let you spit your filth and anti-American agenda on a world wide media stage is a crime in itself. You are trying to spread hate and anti-American ideology to other closet America haters, that currently reside in the USA enjoying the American lifestyle. Bigot. We don't need you in America Fareed, and honestly do not want people like you and those you surround yourself with on your forums (most of which are also non-americans like you) in America. Just make sure you all leave the comforts America has given you behind. Like clean drinking water, electricity, safe shopping, cell phones, etc.

    So go back to whatever third-world dust bowl of a country you wish to choose as home, and take your friends with you. I only hope the door on your mud hut is kicked in by American boots and your dark corner closet anti-America rantings are brought into the light.

    September 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Reply
    • 27ENG

      Well said Keyser, well said !! Exactley what my thoughts were this morning listening to this insulting program.

      September 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Reply
  14. 27ENG

    This was a annoying interview conducted obviously by a person who does not understand the values of America.
    I can overlook the trippy attempts to entangle Mr. Rumsfeld, but the most disgusting topic was that on the fate of the Arab people of the World, and how they suffer high unemployment, illiteracy, and on and on. Last I recall is that there is a heck of pool of oil in most those countries that should help the general populations. Guess not however, the dictators–er leaders-make sure that they are first in line, women still get treated as birthing devices and kept hidden, and all the rest of those manners of life mandated by what they beleive in. Ever think that perhaps the problems they have are their own belief/manifestation ? Ever think that we Western countries have exposed them to a better way of life, yet they demand to remain as is. Sorry, Fareed, you'll not get any sympathy from me, nor welfare funds of which you so desire to give them. You need to accept the problems in the Arab countries are not decreed by us. Stop trying to blame my country for
    the issues over there.

    September 11, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  15. bill mccrone

    A VERY decent interview with Rummy. He is not used to well prepared interviewers. Keep up the good owrk.

    September 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  16. Ralph


    Don't worry about the old neo-cons condescending and patronizing tone. He's so intelligent that he doesn't even realize that the parts of the world that hate us are principally because of Americans that share his ideaologies.

    September 12, 2011 at 7:38 am | Reply
  17. Tina L. Moore or Airwnd

    Rumsfeld mother gave birth to him while standing up at a desk in his office!

    September 30, 2011 at 11:11 am | Reply
  18. hooah9422

    I have never agreed with anything Rumsfeld has ever said. I was so glad when he left. I have zero respect for that man.

    October 20, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Reply
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