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Rumsfeld Rebuffs Criticism on Postwar Iraq

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at a Pentagon press briefing in April.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at a Pentagon press briefing in April.

Recent attacks on oil pipelines and on U.S. soldiers in Iraq were the work of Saddam Hussein loyalists, criminals and "jihadists who came in from Syria for the most part," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says.

In a Morning Edition interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, Rumsfeld acknowledges that he cannot be sure who is continuing to attack U.S. interests. "But the truth is, a person who wants to can attack at any time, at any place, using any technique... and the damage, of course, is done to the Iraqi people," who are being deprived oil revenues as a result of the sabotage, the defense secretary says.

Rumsfeld also counters suggestions by current and former U.S. officials that there had been inadequate planning for the postwar situation in Iraq. "A lot of the planning that was done, interestingly, was for things that eventually, fortunately, didn't happen," Rumsfeld says. For example, he says, officials had plans to deal with the burning of oil fields and with a major humanitarian crisis. "So there was a good deal of planning. It is never possible to plan perfectly or to plan for everything..."

Rumsfeld also discusses his commitment to "transform" the U.S. military, saying the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the continuing war on terrorism demonstrate the need for a shift away from a traditional military structure. "We have to be able to move quickly and be agile and have a smaller footprint and we have to be able to deal with the so-call asymmetrical threats -- the kind of threats we're facing with terrorists and terrorist networks. I think the people in this department understand it and that they're making good progress on it."

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.