Rumsfeld began taking questions from the audience. One of those who posed a question was Ray McGovern, who spent 27 years as a C.I.A. analyst.
RAY McGOVERN: And so, I would like to ask you to be up front with the American people. Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary and that has caused these kinds of casualties? Why?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I haven’t lied. I did not lie then. Colin Powell didn't lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate, and he presented that to the United Nations. The President spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence people, and he went to the American people and made a presentation. I'm not in the intelligence business. They gave the world their honest opinion. It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.
RAY McGOVERN: You said you knew where they were?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were, and we were --
RAY McGOVERN: You said you knew where they were, “near Tikrit, near Baghdad, and northeast, south and west of there.” Those were your words.
DONALD RUMSFELD: My words -- my words were -- no, no, no, wait a minute! Let him stay one second. Just a second.
RAY McGOVERN: This is America, huh? Go ahead.
DONALD RUMSFELD: You're getting plenty of play, sir.
RAY McGOVERN: I'd just like an honest answer.
DONALD RUMSFELD: I’m giving it to you.
RAY McGOVERN: We're talking about lies and your allegation that there was bulletproof evidence of ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Was that a lie or were you misled?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the prewar period. That is a fact.
RAY McGOVERN: Zarqawi, he was in the north of Iraq, in a place where Saddam Hussein had no rule. That’s where he was.
DONALD RUMSFELD: He was also in Baghdad.
RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, when he needed to go to the hospital. Come on, these people aren't idiots. They know the story.
DONALD RUMSFELD: You are -- let me give you an example. It's easy for you to make a charge, but why do you think that the men and women in uniform every day, when they came out of Kuwait and went into Iraq, put on chemical weapon protective suits? Because they liked the style? They honestly believed that there were chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons on his own people previously. He had used them on his neighbor, the Iranians. And they believed he had those weapons. We believed he had those weapons.
RAY McGOVERN: That's what we call a non-sequitur. It doesn’t matter what the troops believe. It matters what you believe.
MODERATOR: I think, Mr. Secretary, the debate is over. We have other questions, courtesy to the audience.
Click the link above and read the interview with McGovern. Here's an excerpt:
JUAN GONZALEZ: And when Secretary Rumsfeld responds about the troops believing that there were chemical weapons, because they were wearing uniforms or chemical suits. Your response?
RAY McGOVERN: Well, talk about that disingenuity. I mean, sure, they wore chemical [suits], because Rumsfeld and his generals ordered them to. This proves nothing, other than they went through with this charade. The Australian troops wore no such protective covering, because they knew there were no weapons there. The Australians knew these weapons were a figment of the propaganda put out by our Defense Department, so they blithely went in there without any protective covering. So it was all a charade.
And I suppose the good news is that finally someone had a chance to ask Don Rumsfeld -- if I were in Washington, I never would have got into a session where Rumsfeld spoke. I have to give him credit that he took questions and answers. But, you know, it's really interesting that when I walked into the place, I wrangled a ticket very surreptitiously. I was met with this little blurb on Donald Rumsfeld, and as I read it, I had to chuckle. It says, “There’s going to be a question-and-answer period, but please adhere to these guidelines. Refrain from using the word ‘lie’ in relation to the war in Iraq. Do not question the secretary’s personal responsibility for torture. And please don’t discuss first use of nuclear weapons against Iran. If you violate these guidelines, you'll be immediately removed from the auditorium, flown to an undesignated prison location somewhere in Eastern Europe and tortured. Thank you for your cooperation. The World Cannot Wait.” A wonderful, wonderful group. Those were the folks that spoke up and tried to brace Donald Rumsfeld with the lies and their charges of him being -- and he is, arguably -- a war criminal. And we shouldn't shy away from saying that.