doubts the time is right to impose a Libyan no-fly zone and agrees with Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the United States needs to proceed with caution. In a wide-ranging Thursday interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, the former defense secretary also defended Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, saying he gets undue criticism for being corrupt.
“I was President [Ronald] Reagan's Middle East envoy and spent a lot of time in that part of the world, and I think it would be very good thing for the people of Libya and for the people of the region if Gadhafi left,” said Rumsfeld, whose new book is titled “Known and Unknown: a Memoir.”
“You've got choices. You have choices of overt action and covert action,” he said, adding he doesn’t know if covert action is underway. “I listened to Secretary Gates … and agreed with him that it's a lot more complicated.
“It depends on what they were doing. I don't know that you should put in a no-fly zone at the moment,” he said. “I don't know what the aircraft are doing – what the Libyan aircraft are doing.”
O’Reilly noted reports the Libyan air force is bombing and massacring civilians to keep Gadhafi in power and shouldn’t that justify a no-fly zone.
“No. I think – I think, they ought to do the other things and be prepared to do that,” he said.
O’Reilly then turned to U.S. policy in Afghanistan and asked whether the Obama administration is making the right decisions in supporting Karzai.
“I have a lot of confidence in [Gen. David] Petraeus [but] the reality is that country is going to have to nation-build itself, we cannot nation-build for it,” Rumsfeld said.
“The criticism of Karzai have been misplaced. There is no indication that Karzai is corrupt,” he said, adding “there was an election, he is the president of that country – we want him to succeed.”
O’Reilly said that not everyone is convinced that Karzai was trustworthy, or Afghanistan salvageable. “Everybody says that it’s too corrupt, too backward,” O’Reilly noted.
Calling the corruption claims “baloney,” Rumsfeld said. “Look at the United States? How many Congressmen have been sent to the slammer?
The former defense secretary then said there was a pretty good chance one of the U.S. goals in Afghanistan is attainable and the Taliban can be defeated.
“Close question,” he said. “The Taliban are determined, they are extremists, they are brutal.”
On Iraq, O’Reilly asked whether the war was “a big screw up.”
“I think you are wrong and I will tell you why,” Rumsfeld said. “It was an evolving situation. General [Tommy] Franks had a plan where we could have put 450,000 troops in Iraq. He made recommendations to me. I agreed with him. The other people in the National Security Council agreed with him.
“The people, his battlefield commanders agreed with him. What happened then? I mean, he was very successful with the major combat operation,” he continued. “Several things happened, 100,000 prisoners Saddam [Hussein] let loose from his prisons. He called for jihad and it was not predicted there would be an insurgency of this nature but they came from Iran, they came from Syria.
“We talked about any number of things that could go wrong. We didn't know what would go wrong.”
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