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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rumsfeld Addresses National Press Club

Aired September 10, 2004 - 13:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PHILLIPS: All right, we want to take you live now -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addressing the National Press Club. He's actually taking questions from members there of the National Press Club, talking about Iraq right now. Let's listen in.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And, as a result, Najaf has been taken back peacefully.

RUMSFELD: There are other places that will be taken by that will be taken by force. And it's really going to be a choice between the people in those towns, and I don't mean the innocent Iraqi people, the overwhelming majority of which support the government and don't want to see their towns ruined, taken over by terrorists and by militias.

What will take place in Fallujah is -- correction. We know what will take place in Fallujah. And that is that it will be restored as something under the control of the Iraqi government eventually. What we don't know is whether it will be done peacefully or by force. But one way or another, it will happen.

MODERATOR: How confident are you, Mr. Secretary, that general elections will be held in Iraq in January?

RUMSFELD: Well, I'm one of those people who's been around long enough to not make hard predictions or dates, set dates or numbers, costs and those types of things, because every time I watch people do it, it turns out they're wrong. So I'll be very careful.

The Iraqi government is determined to have the elections take place on time. The United States government is determined to have those elections take place on time. The elections are being administered by the United Nations.

There's no question but between now and the end of the year the terrorists are determined to try to prevent the elections from taking place and from taking place on time. And they will, without a doubt in my mind, increase the level of violence between now and then. And they'll attempt to attack coalition countries to see if they can get other coalition countries to pull out.

Some countries have elections taking place, and there's a big tug of war over whether or not they should stay or whether they should have been there. And the terrorists know that. They're not stupid. They're smart. And they've got brains. And they think. And they watch. And they saw what Spain did. And they thought, "My goodness, if we can effect that, maybe we can do something." So they're going to be going after coalition countries. They're going to be looking for weak spots. They're going to be going after people who are running for office, Iraqi people who are engaged in that process. And they're going to do their best to try to stop it.

Do I think it will go forward? Yes I do. I think it will go forward because if you look at any measure -- by any measurement, the Iraqi people want elections. They want to vote. They're determined to vote.

RUMSFELD: Now, will it be perfect election? Probably not. Will there be places where the violence is being targeted that will probably prevent people from voting? No, it won't be perfect, but I've never seen an election anywhere that's perfect.

There's always a little...

(LAUGHTER)

I didn't mean just the outcome.

(LAUGHTER)

I meant the process. So I think it'll happen. I think it'll happen.

QUESTION: The "Financial Times" today editorializes that it is, quote, "time to consider Iraq withdrawal," close quote, noting the protracted war is not winnable and it's creating more terrorists and enemies of the West.

What is your response to this question you're asked?

RUMSFELD: Who put that question in? He ought to get a life. If he's got time to read that kind of stuff, he ought to get a life.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

They've been saying things like that for months. And there have always been critics. There have always been people who say it's not worth it. And, indeed, if you watch in any conflict in our history, there have always been people who said, "Why, why should we do that, another loss of life, another person wounded, another limb off?" And you can't go to the hospitals in Bethesda or Walter Reed and see those folks and not have your heart break for them and the fact their lives are going to be lived differently, or tomorrow when we go to Arlington and recall all those who died on September 11, and lives not lived.

But it is worth it. It is worth it. And those who suggest to the contrary are not only wrong, but they will be proved wrong.

Germany and Italy were fascist states, and Japan during World War II. And throughout the entire Cold War, those countries stood with us against the Soviet Union. How does that happen? How did they go from being fascist states to being democracies, and to helping to prevent the Soviet Union from expanding across Europe?

South Korea, same people in the North, same people in the South. South of the DMZ, robust economy, vibrant democracy; up North, darkness, starvation, concentration camps. They had to lower the height for getting in the military in North Korea to 4'10" for adults because of starvation.

RUMSFELD: Now, think of those people. Think if we'd said, "Oh, it's not worth it."

The extremists are determined to destroy states. They are determined to destroy free systems. They are determined to take their violence and spread it across this globe. And we can't let them do it. And the "Financial Times" is wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

PHILLIPS: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld adding the National Press Club there. One of the reporters bringing up an article about when will troops withdraw from Iraq? Basically talking about past wars, fascist countries, and comparing that to extremism, saying that although he recognizes the deaths of soldiers and innocent civilians, and also the injured soldiers at Walter Reed, that this fight in Iraq is worth is it.

We're going to take a quick break, with more LIVE FROM right after this.

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