Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Larry King Live
Interview with Donald Rumsfeld
Aired December 05, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a one-on-one about friendly-fire casualties. The fate of that American Taliban fighter and a lot more.
Then, unique perspective on the challenges facing George W. Bush from key members of Ronald Reagan's administration. Former Bush secretary of state James Baker, who served as Reagan's treasury secretary, and chief of staff.
In Tokyo, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Howard Baker, former Senate majority leader was a Reagan chief of staff. General Alexander Haig, U.S. Army Retired, Reagan's first secretary of state. And Caspar Weinberger, Reagan's secretary of defense.
And then later, Chicago, their musical message, "Feeling Stronger Every Day." They're all next, on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're at the Pentagon, the department of defense, the secretary of defense is our special guest tonight. The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld, he has served his country in many capacities.
You like this job?
RUMSFELD: It's an amazing job. It is so important to the country and it's so complex. But the great thing about it is you're dealing with such spectacular people, the men and women in uniform.
KING: You've got a lot of them in this building.
RUMSFELD: Well, you do. All over the world, as a matter of fact.
KING: Do you get to really know this building?
RUMSFELD: Oh, sure.
KING: Yes? You've been all over this building?
RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, yes. I had lunch down in the cafeteria today.
KING: You eat with the guys, right?
RUMSFELD: Well, we do, sure. Every once in a while, if I don't have a meeting with congressman or something like that.
KING: All right, let's take first things first, and lots to discuss tonight. What can you tell us about the death of the three troops and the 19 injured in the B-52 accident?
RUMSFELD: Well, I guess the most important thing I can say is that it's a terrible tragedy and our heart goes out to the families and the friends of those fine people. We lost some Afghans also in that same incident.
There's an investigation under way. The first report was that there might have been a car bomb. The later report is that it looks more like it was an errant piece of ordnance that landed, a so-called JDAM, a 2,000-pound bomb, which is, I think, probably the most likely situation. And as we know, in every conflict there are unexpected, unintended deaths. And it is a shame, but it happens.
KING: How, Mr. Secretary -- who makes the call? Does the president call the relatives? I mean, when someone dies like this.
RUMSFELD: The services have a whole set of procedures and they see that it's done. And the commanding officers of the units are involved and the chaplains are involved. And, of course, it's such a terrible tragedy for those families.
KING: What's it like for you?
RUMSFELD: Oh, it just...
KING: It can't be just dismissed as casualties of war.
RUMSFELD: Oh, no, no, no, no. These are human beings. They've got brothers and sisters and wives and children and parents.
KING: Have you ordered a thorough investigation?
RUMSFELD: Oh, you bet.
KING: Will this stop any other B-52-type occurrences?
RUMSFELD: No. In every...
KING: Things go on as planned.
RUMSFELD: Oh, indeed. But in every conflict, in the history of any country, there are really threat categories of casualties, and one category are combat inflicted by the enemy; another are inflicted by friendly fire; and the third are the kinds of things where we lost two crew members in the helicopter in Pakistan, where it was neither. It was an incident or an accident or something that occurred that was not in a combat zone. And there's a reasonably predictable percentage that fall into each of those categories, and it's just the nature of what's happening.
I mean, the real people responsible are the Al Qaeda and the Taliban for attacking this country, because we wouldn't be in this war. We didn't pick this fight. This is something we've got to do to defend the American people. And thank goodness there are wonderful young men and women who are willing to voluntarily put their lives at risk so the rest of us can live in freedom.
KING: When the results of this are known, is it released?
RUMSFELD: Oh, sure.
KING: Do you tell us...
RUMSFELD: Oh, absolutely.
KING: ... what happened and why it happened?
RUMSFELD: Absolutely. I mean, you know, that's the kind of a country we have: We tell the truth about what took place and how it happened.
In this case, if you think about it -- I don't want to prejudge any investigation, because I have no knowledge at all -- but if you think about it, let's take a hypothetical case. There's someone on the ground, and this is a GPS-guided weapon, it's very accurate, and there's someone on the ground who decides what the coordinates are, latitude, longitude, where it should be aimed. And they then communicate that to the aircraft, and then the aircraft then manually puts it into -- through the fire control system, then it goes into the weapon. Now, there's plenty of places for error.
KING: The human element is involved.
RUMSFELD: Well, the coordinates could have been wrong in the first instance. They could have been transmitted incorrectly. They could have been received incorrectly. They could have been put into the fire control system incorrectly. And many other things that could also have happened. There could be a bent fin on the weapon. The weapon could be one of the weapons that didn't work right. In other words, if you think about your automobile, anyone listening to your program has had an automobile accident of some kind -- they bumped a fender, they made a mistake.
RUMSFELD: Human beings make mistakes.
Second, they know that their cars are in the shop part of the year, and they're in there because they don't work right.
And when we think of our weapons, we have the most accurate weapons on the face of the Earth, but a very smart weapon, a good weapon, might work 85, 90 percent of the time. The rest of the time it doesn't work right. Now that's a very good percentage, but it means that there is one out of 10 that's going to not do what it was intended that it do.
KING: So every soldier knows this...
RUMSFELD: Oh, you bet.
KING: ... going in. They've got a chance to be killed by their own; that's...
RUMSFELD: You bet.
KING: ... the breaks of the game, as they say.
RUMSFELD: And God bless them, it's one of the risks they take to defend this country.
KING: Today aside, is this effort going as seen?
RUMSFELD: I think what the public is seeing is what is happening. I think that they can -- the American people can feel that it's a tough job. It's a dirty job. It's going to take time. There isn't any army we can go out and defeat. There's no navy we can sink. There is no air force we can shoot out of the sky.
It is a very complicated process where we have to apply pressure on the terrorist networks all across the globe by arresting people and interrogating them, by gathering intelligence from people who live next door and know something, by the countries that have friendly intelligence services, by freezing bank accounts, by working with people, like the opposition forces in Afghanistan, to try to root out the Taliban who've been harboring the Al Qaeda terrorists. It is a complicated, long, difficult, messy, dirty job.
KING: Is there, therefore, possible to be a victory day?
RUMSFELD: Well, there won't be a...
KING: Celebration one day? RUMSFELD: ... signing ceremony on the Missouri, like there was for -- when the war ended -- World War II ended.
It isn't going to end in a sense of a climatic victory. We're going to be successful. And we're going to be successful, because the president is absolutely determined to stick out.
KING: But how will we know? In other words, we could have stopped something today, right, at an airport that might have been stopped. How will we know we're successful?
RUMSFELD: That's the problem. We know we are having success, because we're making lives very difficult for these terrorists. And we're making lives difficult for them in Afghanistan, the amount of real estate they can move around on is vastly restricted today. Their money is short. They're having trouble communicating with their troops.
But they're still there. They're still alive. The senior leadership for the most part is there. But we're going to get them.
Now, we're also making life difficult around the world in a number of other countries. So you're quite right. We could have, today, this hour have stopped or prevented by -- because of an arrest in the Philippines through Malaysia or in Saudi Arabia or someplace else, stopped a terrorist attack in the United States and not even know precisely that for two, three, four months.
KING: Because of this, therefore, do you support all of General Ashcroft's moves?
RUMSFELD: Well, I think Attorney General Ashcroft is doing a good job for this country. He's a serious person. He's a thoughtful person. He is working very closely with the president, and has undertaken a series of steps that are -- fit the circumstances that we're in.
We have to recognize that weapons of mass destruction exist. There's no question but that the terrorist networks will be willing to use them. There's no question but that the terrorist networks have relationships with countries that have weapons of mass destruction. And that means that we've got to be vigilant and we have to go about this task in a serious, purposeful way. We have to do it in the American way, and we have to do it in a way that's respectful of our values. And certainly the president and the attorney general understand that and will do that.
KING: But none of these measures give you pause, or make you think this is not the American way?
RUMSFELD: Well, take the one that I'm involved in, the so-called military tribunal.
KING: Right. RUMSFELD: The president has signed a military order, designating me, as secretary of defense, to be responsible for a military commission or tribunal, in the event one is required. There's been a lot written and said about it on talk shows and so forth. A lot of it's been interesting and thoughtful and constructive. Some of its been, kind of, shrill, I've thought, and not terribly well-pointed, or well-aimed. Sometimes -- there's an old saying in the Pentagon: ready, fire, aim.
RUMSFELD: (inaudible) mixed up. And I've taken some of things I've heard about this subject to be a little bit of that. Instead of ready, aim, fire, there's ready, fire, aim.
KING: But you agree with the concept of a tribunal?
RUMSFELD: Oh sure. I mean, we've got a history in this country from the Revolutionary War on of using a military commission. It has some distinct advantages. It's a tool that ought to be available. Obviously it would receive very limited use. It hasn't received any yet; the president hasn't designated anybody. But when it does, we're going to be very careful and measured and responsible with respect to the use of that authority. KING: A lot of bases to cover. We'll be right back at the Pentagon, with the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. This is LARRY KING LIVE, don't go away.
KING: Let's touch some other bases, Mr. Secretary. Are we trying to capture or bring Mullah Mohammed Omar to trial? Is there a price on his head?
RUMSFELD: Oh, you bet there is. He is the one who rejected every single one of the president's and the United State's requests that he turnover the Al Qaeda leadership, and Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants. He has been every bit as vicious and terroristic in his behavior. I don't know if that's the quite way to characterize it. He has been harboring the terrorists, and has been every bit as strong and anti-innocent people as has Osama bin Laden.
KING: Would you classify him with Arafat?
RUMSFELD: No. I think Al Qaeda...
KING: I mean, it's been said that Arafat harbors terrorists, and if you harbor them...
RUMSFELD: Oh, I see what you're saying.
KING: In other words, can you draw a line between them? Or is it apples and oranges?
RUMSFELD: Well, in the first place, I think what we have is we have a situation where Mullah Omar and the Taliban have harbored the Al Qaeda in that country, and the Al Qaeda unquestionably have been involved in killing thousands of innocent Americans, men, women and children of all religious faiths, from two or three, four dozen countries.
Now, that is a sizable event that occurred. And they are threatening additional attacks on the United States of America.
KING: And it's different from the Palestinian-Israeli situation?
RUMSFELD: Well, it certainly is from our standpoint.
Now Mr. Arafat, clearly, has a background as a terrorist. There's no question there are terrorists as part of the Palestinian -- in his general geographic area. He has been an interlocutor, however, with the Israelis over a period of time, which is something one could not say about Omar or Osama bin Laden.
KING: I ask it of you, because you served so many posts, and one of your posts for President Reagan was special envoy to the Middle East.
RUMSFELD: It is, indeed, one of the posts I served in.
KING: So you have experience. And Colin Powell, last week, said that, of all of the problems, this is the toughest.
RUMSFELD: It is a tough one, there's no question.
RUMSFELD: All of our adult life, that's been a problem for the world and for the people in that region. It's a terrible, sad situation.
Israel has, of course, a very energetic, vibrant economy, and the neighboring countries are quite poor and don't have very good economies. And if they could create a peaceful environment there, there's no question everyone would benefit in the region.
KING: But it's tough.
RUMSFELD: There's just so many people in that part of the world who would like to shove Israel into the sea and not have it be there. And until people are willing to accept the presence of Israel, Israel, obviously, is not going to be able to make a deal.
Mr. Barak, the last one, went quite a distance, and Mr. Arafat walked away from that. And now we see these terribly vicious suicide bombing attacks coming out of the Palestinian community, which is just so vicious.
KING: And we understand Israel's retaliation.
RUMSFELD: Well, I must say, I do. I think that a country that is that small does not have a big margin for error. It is impossible to defend against terrorists in every place, at every moment, against every technique. The only way you can do that is to take the battle to them.
And therefore, you use the word "retaliation." I don't think of it as retaliation. I think of it as self-defense. What we're doing is self-defense.
KING: We're not retaliating?
RUMSFELD: No, I mean, it's not retribution or...
RUMSFELD: ... or revenge. In my mind, goodness no. That's not what I'm about.
What I'm about is, we've got a wonderful country. And thousands of Americans were killed, and they were killed by people who have vowed to do it again and again. And we can't let them do that. We simply are not going to change our way of life.
We're free people; that is what we are. And we're not going to live in a fortress, and we're not going to live underground in tunnels, and we're not going to spend every minute of our waking days looking around for someone, afraid they might kill us. We can't function that way.
We need a peaceful, stable world for this economy of ours, for people to have opportunity, for people to be able to go to school and know their kids are going to come home safely. And that's why we're doing this. We're not doing this to be retaliating or for retribution or revenge.
KING: And where, Mr. Secretary, do you think or do we know it will stop? What are you views on going to Iraq, other nations that harbor terrorism?
RUMSFELD: Well, what...
KING: What's your view?
RUMSFELD: I don't know what will be decided by the president. It's certainly something that is at that level for our country.
KING: It's his goal?
RUMSFELD: You bet. And what the rest of us can do is to discuss with him and offer advice and counsel and -- but the reality is that there are a set of countries on the terrorist list that have a history of engaging in terrorist acts and in harboring terror. Many of those countries have weapons of mass destruction. We must not make a mistake on this issue. Because if weapons of mass destruction come into the hands of terrorist networks that are vowing that they will engage in vicious acts against our country and our deployed forces and our friends and allies, that means not thousands of people dead, it means tens of thousands of people dead. These are enormously lethal, powerful weapons.
KING: So you have to think about taking action?
KING: Premeditated action, preempted action?
RUMSFELD: Exactly. We have no choice but to say to ourselves, "What do we owe the American people as part of this government of the United States? What does the president owe the American people?" And he has to make that judgment.
And he made that judgment. He said, "We are going to go after the Al Qaeda. They have done a terrible, terrible thing, and they're threatening to do more. And we can't let them do that. We can't let them keep killing thousands of Americans."
So we're going to go find them. We're going to root them out, whether they're in Afghanistan or some other part of the world. And they are all over the world, they must be in 40 or 50 countries -- the Al Qaeda organization.
KING: If we do go to Iraq, are we going to need Turkey to say, "OK"? RUMSFELD: I don't like to even get into the subject of Iraq, Larry. It seems to me that that's a decision that is not mine to make. It is something that the...
KING: You'll be asked for input.
RUMSFELD: I suppose. I generally am on things like that. But it doesn't serve any useful purpose, really, to be speculating -- for me to be speculating.
RUMSFELD: Yes. Other people can speculate. But in the job I'm in, it's not useful.
KING: When we keep reading -- you can clear this -- I've known you a long time in various posts -- about a rift between you and the secretary of state....
RUMSFELD: Utter nonsense.
KING: You want to go and he wants to...
RUMSFELD: Utter nonsense. He is a friend of mine. We're on the phone twice a day. We meet together, probably at least one a day. He's a thoughtful person. I enjoy working with him. And needless to say, nobody can agree with everybody on every issue every day of the year.
But we have a superb working relationship. I've got a lot of respect for him, and to suggest that there's some sort of a rift is just plain false. There isn't.
KING: How has the press handled itself generally in this whole -- here we go. Do you not...
RUMSFELD: Well, my wife, Joyce, tells me in the morning, she says, "Now, Don, the press has their job, and you have your job." And that's fair.
KING: You didn't have it in private industry?
RUMSFELD: Oh, no, you don't really. But I must say the Pentagon press corps I've gotten to know, and they're good, talented people. They're serious people. They're some really talented people there, and they make it a profession, and they -- a war -- you know, a war brings either the best or the worst out of people. And it's going to bring some of the best out of journalists, just as it will other people: soldiers and sailors and Marines and airmen.
KING: And secretaries. Tough nut. This is not easy times.
We'll be right back with more of Secretary Rumsfeld; don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: We're back with Secretary Rumsfeld.
Do you like this image? You now have this new image called sex symbol.
RUMSFELD: Oh, come on. KING: Come on -- I think you are the guy.
RUMSFELD: For the AARP. I'm pushing 70 years old, Larry.
KING: You're kidding?
RUMSFELD: No. I'm 69 and half years old. Don't give me that stuff.
KING: Do you like being kidded on "Saturday Night Live"?
RUMSFELD: I must say I found it amusing.
KING: Watched it?
RUMSFELD: I did not watch it, no. And someone gave me the tape, and then I saw it on CNN -- a part of it...
RUMSFELD: Well, it's amusing. It's in good fun. And I thought it was clever.
KING: Touch some other base.
RUMSFELD: Overstated, however. I'm not that bad.
KING: Would we ask friends to help us, like Kuwait? Would we ask Kuwait to help us, say, launch troops?
RUMSFELD: Well, we are asking them to help us, and they are helping us. I mean, we must have 30, 40, 50 countries around the world that are helping us right now on this project.
KING: Is Saudi Arabia helping?
RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. My goodness, yes.
RUMSFELD: Egypt's helping. Dozens and dozens of countries are helping with overflight rights, with landing rights, with intelligence gathering, with law enforcement, with freezing bank accounts, with supplying troops in some cases and supplying aircraft and ships in other places.
KING: Is it very important that the coalition hold?
KING: It's not important?
RUMSFELD: No, let me explain my answer.
First of all, there is no coalition. There are multiple coalitions. And the project of going after terrorism involves every aspect of the globe and a whole variety of different ways of doing it: financial, economic, political, diplomatic, military, overt, covert.
Countries do what they can do. Countries help in the way that they want to help. It is not a single coalition for a single project -- for the entire project, it's a single coalition for a single project. And those countries that want to supply intelligence are doing it, those countries that want to supply law enforcement assistance are doing it.
And that's the way it ought to work. I'll tell you why. The worst thing you can do is to allow a coalition to determine what your mission is. The mission has to be to root out the terrorists. It's the mission that determines the coalition. So it's what element of that task do countries want to help with, and that then is the coalition...
KING: But the task is preeminent.
RUMSFELD: The task overrides everything. We have to go do this to defend this country.
KING: Bin Laden: Is it a must to get him, one way or the other?
RUMSFELD: Well, sure.
KING: (inaudible) because he was a symbol or not as a symbol?
RUMSFELD: I'm afraid the truth is that if he were not here, if he disappeared off the face of the Earth, which would be a wonderful thing for the world, the Al Qaeda network would still go on. So we have a bigger job than one person, and I think it trivializes it slightly to personalize it into a single human being.
But he's important, let there be no doubt, and we're after him, and we intend to find him and get him.
KING: What do you make of this, kind of, tragic case of young Mr. Walker? His father was on our show the other night. Captured in the Taliban area, an American, 20 years old.
RUMSFELD: Well, I don't know quite how we're going to handle him yet. We're thinking about that. And, I mean, the fact is he was in the prison uprising where an American was killed and is an Al Qaeda member. He was fighting on the Al Qaeda side, the non-Afghan forces, against us, against the people in that compound where an American was killed.
You know, how do you handle that? Well, I guess you can look throughout history and see how things like that are handled.
KING: You think he might be brought to trial?
RUMSFELD: I'm trying to think precisely what I should say...
... to be honest with you, because I don't want to...
KING: Why I like you, Don.
RUMSFELD: I don't want to -- I mean, here, what we know at this moment is there is a person who says he's an American and probably is, who was fighting with the Al Qaeda forces against Afghanistan opposition forces and against U.S. forces that were with those people. He was found in a prison, having been captured. And there was an uprising in the prison, and they killed an American.
KING: You're building a case.
RUMSFELD: I didn't build a case; he did. His behavior is what it is. And I think that, when someone does that, why, the United States has an obligation to very seriously make judgments about how that ought to be dealt with. And we will make those judgments, and we're in the process of thinking that through, and I don't want to be prejudging anything.
KING: Speaking of casualties of war, we've interviewed his brother and sister, the pilot of that American Airlines plane that went into this building can't get buried at Arlington Cemetery because he wasn't a certain age...
RUMSFELD: Oh, no, no, Larry. No, no, Larry. That will all be worked out.
KING: Are you going to get him buried here?
RUMSFELD: Well, I don't know, but you've got very limited space at Arlington Cemetery. There are a set of rules that the Congress and the department have worked out over years that are assumed to be fair and reasonable.
In every case that comes along, somebody would fall inside the rules or they fall outside the rules. In this particular case, the pilot, obviously, was a very fine person. He served on active duty. He served in the Reserves. He is, I believe, eight years younger than the age when the rule permits a person under that aspect of the rules to be buried in Arlington Cemetery.
On the other hand, his father's buried in Arlington Cemetery. There is a family plot, and it may well be that in the course of discussion with the Army that they'll find ways to work those things out. KING: Are you the decider?
RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness. Normally, it's done under a set of rules that have been approved by the Department of the Army, which is the custodian. There's a superintendent for the cemetery. There's the secretary of the Army. There's me, secretary of defense. And then there's the president of the United States. And that's the chain of command, and people at various levels. And the (inaudible) can always enter into this thing as well.
KING: You assume that it looks like it's going to happen, though.
RUMSFELD: Well, I don't know. But I mean, there's also -- there are several issues that need to be talked about and thought about, but I think that it would be wrong to say, "Isn't that a shame that somebody falls outside the rules?" The rules -- people can fall in or out -- outside of one rule and inside another rule depending on how things can be accommodated.
KING: And times change, right?
KING: Events change.
RUMSFELD: Sure, sure. And everyone has to have respect for the life he lived.
KING: You take this job home?
RUMSFELD: I have to think about that. I'm rarely home. You start out awful early in the morning and get home awful late at night, and generally work there. And the phone, last night, I suppose, rang at, like, 1 in the morning.
KING: That's never good, right? A call at 1 in the morning.
RUMSFELD: No. It had to do with this friendly fire death.
KING: The telephone rings...
RUMSFELD: No, they never call with good news and wake you up with good news.
KING: You were right here when the Pentagon...
RUMSFELD: I was.
KING: And someone told me that you had spoken to a congressional delegation...
RUMSFELD: Right here in this room.
KING: ... in this room about terrorism that morning. RUMSFELD: I had said at -- I had an 8 o'clock breakfast -- that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, 10, 12 months, there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people, again, how important it is to have a strong, healthy Defense Department that contributes -- that underpins peace and stability in our world. And that is what underpins peace and stability. It's the fact -- we can't have healthy economies and active lives unless we live in a peaceful, stabile world. And I said that to these people.
And someone walked in and handed a note that said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. And we adjourned the meeting. And I went in to get my CIA briefing right next door here, and the whole building shook within 15 minutes. And it was a jarring thing.
KING: And you ran toward the smoke?
RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness, who knows? I wanted to see what had happened. I wanted to see if people needed help. And went downstairs and helped for a bit with some people on stretchers. And then I came back up here and started to realize I had to get back up here and get at it.
KING: I know we're out of the allotted time, but Gary Hart has said that he expects -- his commission previously said this would happen. You were pretty prophetic that morning. But it's going to happen again.
RUMSFELD: Well, we have to recognize that it's a dangerous and untidy world. There's a lot of very powerful, lethal weapons that exist and ways that people can impose enormous damage. And we have to be vigilant. We have to be willing to invest to see that we have the kinds of capabilities that we can deter and defend and, where necessary, preempt.
KING: But it's an every-minute job.
RUMSFELD: It is. It is.
KING: Thank you, as always.
RUMSFELD: Thank you. Appreciate it.
KING: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, from Houston, Texas, James Baker, former secretary of state for George Bush, treasury secretary and chief of staff for Ronald Reagan.
In Tokyo, Howard Baker, the United States ambassador to Japan, chief of staff for Ronald Reagan, former U.S. Senate majority leader. In West Palm Beach, retired general Alexander Haig, secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, more than 30 years in the military. And in Bar Harbor, Maine, Caspar Weinberger, secretary of state secretary of defense in the Reagan Administration, author of a terrific new book, by the way, "In the Arena, A Memoir of the 20th Century."
Ambassador Baker, what did you make generally of remarks by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld?
AMB. HOWARD BAKER, U.S. AMB. TO JAPAN: I think Don Rumsfeld was right on the mark. I think he pointed up the fact that we not only have to be vigilant, but we have to be strong and courageous in the fight against terrorism. And terrorism is a brand new concept. We're making the rules in a way, as we go along.
But I think Don is doing a tremendous job. I think he's leading the American armed forces in a decisive way and serving the president's purpose admirably.
KING: General Haig, what's your assessment?
ALEXANDER HAIG, REAGAN SECY. OF STATE: Well, I think from day one, Don has had a full grasp of this global terrorism issue. He knows that it's not a situation in which coalitions determine the mission, but the mission determines the coalition, and therefore you have a number of interlocking coalitions.
That's a very important concept that he's described there, because in the past, we have violated it from time to time to our regret.
KING: And Caspar Weinberger, you held that job. What's your assessment of one of the people who followed you, the current secretary of defense?
CASPAR WEINBERGER, REAGAN DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think he's doing a superb job. I think Don Rumsfeld knows the whole situation. He knows the building, he knows the military, and he knows the whole global problem as well or better than anybody else. I think particularly one of the good things he's doing is holding a daily press conference. It is a difficult thing to do, but he is getting the information to the people, perhaps more than anyone else on a daily basis.
And his approach, as you heard, I think is exactly right. We have to be doing the things he's described, and I particularly liked the description of the job itself. You asked him if he took it home with him. You take that job everywhere you go. You are never without it. It is a 24-hour-a-day job and he is a superb person to have there. I am just delighted and I think we are very lucky to have him.
KING: We're having a little satellite difficulty with Houston. So, we can't hear James Baker, but as soon as we can, we will check in with him. He can hear us but we can't hear him. As soon as we work that out, we will check in with the former secretary of state. So, we will go back to Tokyo and Ambassador Baker. When there is no precedent, when there's never been a war like this, what do you go with?
H. BAKER: Well, to begin with, you go with the realization that it is a war without boundaries and you understand that terrorism can occur anywhere, and you probably go, I believe we are going, with the idea that there's going to be no big cataclysmic battle, or no clear- cut victory. But the very best we can hope for is that by responding, as President Bush has said, to find them and punish them, that we will create a strong deterrence for other would-be terrorists who might try or be tempted to do this in the future.
KING: Sadly, General Haig, there's no way to ask him, but how do you think President Reagan would have dealt with this?
HAIG: Well, you know, it's a strange thing, Larry. But I went to Chicago in 1980 with President Reagan when he addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars. And in that speech in 1980, he said that we have to combat global terrorism in a more effective way, and we have to rebuild our strength to enable ourselves to do that.
Unfortunately, his theme was not picked up, and I repeated it myself in the first weeks of the being secretary of state. But it was simply not picked up. Since that time, we have lost credibility in a number of ways and in the Middle East, in particular, and thereby, have been confronted with a growing menace, which is now venal, global and is a threat to our very way of life.
KING: Caspar Weinberger, why didn't we pay attention to the warnings? WEINBERGER: Well, I think it's because most people don't much care for thinking about wars or military strength or certainly not spending on the military until we're right in the middle of something that we have to do it, as we are now.
And generally by waiting that long, you come out to the point where you've waited too long and it's too late to do much about it. Now we're doing something about it and fortunately we have a certain military strength to build upon. We lost a lot of that military strength during the eight Clinton years. We're regaining it now under President Bush and Don Rumsfeld, and we're going to do it as fast as we can.
Unless we have it, we are going to invite more terrorism. I think there's no question about that. The thing that people around the world are always talking about is too strong an America, a dominant America and all that. What they really fear is a weak America. Then there is no force that can stand up to terrorism or other threats, and that's what we have to do, that's what we are doing now.
KING: We'll be right back with our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. By the way, Michael Chertoff (ph) , the assistant attorney general who testified the other day in front of Congress concerning the recent edicts of the attorney general, John Ashcroft, will be our special guest. We'll be right back.
KING: Ambassador Baker, during the Reagan years, the United States certainly had its share of casualties, Marines in Beirut, invasion of Grenada, various Iraqi missile problems, et cetera. How does, how do you deal with that governmentally when you lose people? Isn't that the hardest part of governing?
H. BAKER: Oh, it has to be the hardest part of governing. I remember when President Reagan went to Florida to extend his sympathy and to speak on the occasion of the loss or the bombing of the Stark. And there were thousands of people in that hangar. And there was a primal moan that went out from the families and friends of those who lost their lives in that accident. But I watched President Reagan. He's a calm, steady person. But you could see tears coming up in his eyes. It has to be the heaviest burden a president, a commander in chief ever carries.
KING: I'm told now, that we can now hear Houston. Houston, can you hear us? James Baker, secretary of state, are you OK? Can you hear us now?
JAMES BAKER, BUSH SECRETARY OF STATE: I can hear you fine, Larry. I'm sorry about the technical glitch from this end.
KING: We apologize, because we're going to have all of you back for a major program for a full hour. We want to discuss the Reagan years and all the rest. James Baker, what was your assessment of Donald Rumsfeld tonight?
J. BAKER: Well, I think that Don Rumsfeld and the entire administration, Larry, are doing a bang-up job with a very difficult task. And I think, I really am hard-put to think of any mistake, anything you could characterize as a mistake, in the way the administration and particularly the secretary of defense and the high- level policymakers, the president, secretary of state and others, have handled this from September 11 on.
It's almost been a, I think a textbook case of the way this difficult problem should have been addressed.
KING: Is not, James Baker, friendly-fire the most difficult thing to deal with?
J. BAKER: Very difficult the deal with. Of course, we that in the Gulf War. We had quite a bit of it, as a matter of fact, and I think that if not most of our casualties, many of our casualties came from friendly fire and it's very difficult.
KING: General Haig, is it an accepted part of war? Or is it always a calamity?
HAIG: It's always a calamity, any death is a calamity, whether it's self-inflicted, or friendly or enemy-inflicted. But is that the nature of war, and I think most of our young men and women who serve know that.
KING: Caspar Weinberger, is this a war, we asked Donald Rumsfeld this as a former secretary of defense, is this a war that's ever really going to have an end?
WEINBERGER: Yes, I think it will have an end. It will wind down certainly. You'll recall we have had, we have had major campaigns against major criminal activities in the cities, New York City for, many years ago, had all kinds of racketeering and protection games and criminality all over. And with a very vigorous district attorney, Tom Dewey and a number of others, that was reduced down to a very, very low point.
It's all in the vigor with which you prosecute it, in the vigor with which you go after it, and in the certainty of the punishment that these people get. All of those things are a centerpiece of what Don Rumsfeld and President Bush are doing right now. So I think it will, if not end, it will certainly be diminished down to the point where we won't have to have this kind of a response every hour of the day.
KING: Ambassador Baker, is there a lot of talk about this in Japan? H. BAKER: Well, it is the No. 1 topic of conversation, only after the state of the Japanese economy. But the Japanese, you know, are a very special people and they have a constitution that prohibits involvement in military conflict. They have a culture against that, but the prime minister and this government have been very supportive of the United States. Actively engaged in the arrangement of nations to fight terrorism.
And it is much talked about in this country and widely supported in Japan. I think it's going to have a major impact on the future relationship not only between Japan and the United States, but Japan and the rest of the world.
KING: James Baker, you led a coalition, a difficult coalition through a Gulf crisis. But Secretary Rumsfeld said tonight, the coalition doesn't lead, we lead, they latch on to our trail -- true?
J. BAKER: Well, I think that's true. I think that was true with respect to the coalition in the Gulf War and it's certainly true with respect to the coalition today. And today's coalition is different, frankly, Larry, than the one we had ten years ago for the Gulf War.
Because the tasks are varying and changeable in this war against terrorism. The coalition will change from time to time here, because some countries will be able to support us in some ways against some elements of the war against terrorism and not in others.
In the Gulf War we had a very discreet task, we had a specific enemy, it was a nation state that it invaded another nation state, and we knew exactly what we wanted to do, which was to throw them out of Kuwait. It was very, it was much easier, I think, to maintain that coalition, perhaps, than it might be in this case. Perhaps a bit more difficult to form it because in this case, today, the entire world saw the horror of what happened live on television on September 11.
KING: We thank you all very much. Again we plan to devote a full hour to the Reagan cabinet and those who served under, in the Reagan Administration. Many of them still now active. But we thank James Baker, Howard Baker, General Alexander Haig and Caspar Weinberger. And Caspar's new book, "In the Arena, A Memoir of the 20th Century," I read it in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , a terrific read.
And speaking of terrific, we have a great musical group to close it out tonight. The venerable Chicago, there they are assembled in Los Angeles. They will join us right after these words.
KING: We close out each night with a musical piece, an upbeat piece. No better group to do it than Chicago. By the way, Donald Rumsfeld was from Chicago. They have a new Christmas album, "Chicago 25." It's now in the stores.
This group was formed in 1967. They have been ever-lasting, a major, major scene in the American musical outlook. They're going to do a number calling "Feeling Stronger Every Day," from the "Chicago Five" album back in June of 1973, it is appropriate now. Here they are from Los Angeles, the great musical aggregation, Chicago.
(MUSIC, CHICAGO SINGS "FEELING STRONGER EVERY DAY")
KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Michael Churchoff (ph) the assistant attorney general will join us. He testified before the Senate committee early this week -- or rather, late last week.
Aaron Brown is next. He'll host "NEWSNIGHT" out in New York and one of his guests will be Charles Burlingame (ph) , the brother of the late pilot who went into the Pentagon and who is trying to get his own burial plot that we just discussed with Donald Rumsfeld at Arlington.
Here he is with NEWSNIGHT in New York, Aaron Brown.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com