Donald Rumsfeld

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Donald Rumsfeld (born July 9, 1932) was the United States Secretary of Defense, succeeded by Robert Gates. He also served as Defense Secretary 1975–1977 under President Ford, and in other roles under various presidents.


  • Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.
    • Department of Defense news briefing, February 12, 2002 [1]. Note he repeated essentially the same quotation four months later, almost verbatim:
  • Now what is the message there? The message is that there are known "knowns." There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that's basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.
    • Press Conference at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, June 6, 2002 [2]
  • The absence of evidence is not necessarily the evidence of absence.
    • Department of Defense news briefing, February 12, 2002 [3]
  • I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that.
    • Interview with Steve Croft, Infinity CBS Radio Connect, November 14, 2002 [4]
  • And it is not knowable if force will be used, but if it is to be used, it is not knowable how long that conflict would last. It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.
    • TownHall Meeting At Aviano Air Base in Italy, February 7, 2003 [5]
  • It's a difficult thing today to be informed about our government even without all the secrecy.
    • Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1966 [6]
I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it. I read eight headlines that talked about chaos, violence, unrest. And it just was Henny Penny -- "The sky is falling." I've never seen anything like it! And here is a country that's being liberated, here are people who are going from being repressed and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator, and they're free. And all this newspaper could do, with eight or 10 headlines, they showed a man bleeding, a civilian, who they claimed we had shot -- one thing after another.
From the very beginning, we were convinced that we would succeed, and that means that that regime would end. And we were convinced that as we went from the end of that regime to something other than that regime, there would be a period of transition. And, you cannot do everything instantaneously; it's never been done, everything instantaneously. We did, however, recognize that there was at least a chance of catastrophic success, if you will, to reverse the phrase, that you could in a given place or places have a victory that occurred well before reasonable people might have expected it, and that we needed to be ready for that; we needed to be ready with medicine, with food, with water. And, we have been.
Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here.
  • I don't believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons.
    • At a hearing of the Senate's appropriations subcommittee on defense, May 14, 2003
  • You and a few other critics are the only people I've heard use the phrase immediate threat. I didn't, the president didn't. And it's become kind of folklore that that's what's happened.
  • But no terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
    • Hearing Before the House Armed Services Committee, September 10, 2002 [7]. Quoted on March 14, 2004 by Thomas Friedman in reply to the previous statement.
  • I'm not into this detail stuff. I'm more concepty.
    • Interview with the Washington Post January 09, 2002 [8]
  • Look at me! I'm sweet and lovable!
    • Foreign Press Center, 21 Jun 2002 [9]
  • [Osama bin Laden is] either alive and well or alive and not too well or not alive.
    • DoD News Briefing October 07, 2002 [10]
  • I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?
    • Written on a memo in reference to the treatment of Guantanamo prisoner and to the way he worked in his office as Secretary of Defense, 2002. Reported in The Washington Post, 24 June 2004.[11]
  • We're so conditioned as a people to think that a military campaign has to be cruise missiles and television images of airplanes dropping bombs, and that's just false. This is a totally different war. We need a new vocabulary. We need to get rid of old think and start thinking about this thing the way it really is.
    • on CBS' Evening News, October 9, 2001 [12]
  • We know where they [Iraq's WMD] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat....I would also add, we saw from the air that there were dozens of trucks that went into that facility after the existence of it became public in the press and they moved things out. They dispersed them and took them away. So there may be nothing left. I don't know that. But it's way too soon to know. The exploitation is just starting.
  • I didn't advocate invasion…I wasn't asked.
  • …it seems to me that it's up to all of us to try to tell the truth, to say what we know, to say what we don't know, and recognize that we're dealing with people that are perfectly willing to, to lie to the world to attempt to further their case and to the extent people lie of, ultimately they are caught lying and they lose their credibility and one would think it wouldn't take very for that to happen dealing with people like this.
  • As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.
    • "Troops put Rumsfeld in the hot seat", CNN, 2004-12-08. URL accessed on 2006-04-07.
    • Responding to the question "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?"
  • I shouldn't get into ... this is diplomacy, and I don't do diplomacy.[15][16][17]
  • We do have a saying in America: if you're in a hole, stop digging ..... erm, I'm not sure I should have said that.[18][19][20]
  • What we are seeing is not the war in Iraq. What we're seeing is slices of the war in Iraq.[21][22][23]
  • It recalls to mind the statement by Winston Churchill, something to the effect that: I have benefited greatly from criticism, and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof. [24]
    • During the Nomination of Robert Gates for the next U.S. Secretary of Defense, November 8, 2006
  • It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog. [25]
    • referring to the ongoing War on Terrorism
  • Those who follow orders to commit such crimes will be found and they will be punished. War crimes will be prosecuted. And it will be no excuse to say, 'I was just following orders.' Any official involved in such crimes will forfeit hope of amnesty or leniency with respect to past action.
    • Pentagon briefing, March 20, 2003 [26]
  • Oh, Lord. I didn't mean to say anything quotable.
    • Interview with Associated Press Friday, September 7, 2001 [27]
  • Let's hear it for the essential daily briefing, however hollow and empty it might be. We'll do it.
    • Meeting with Media Pool Bureau Chiefs October 18, 2001 [28]
  • Congress, the press, and the bureaucracy too often focus on how much money or effort is spent, rather than whether the money or effort actually achieves the announced goal.
    • "Rumsfeld's Rules" January 12, 1974 [29]
  • It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.
    • Rumsfeld's Rules" January 12, 1974 [30]
  • Be able to resign. It will improve your value to the President and do wonders for your performance.
    • "Rumsfeld's Rules" January 12, 1974 [31]
  • There will be good moments, and there will be less good moments.
    • April 7, 2004, in reference to the 2004 spring uprising in Iraq [32]
  • I don't know what the facts are but somebody's certainly going to sit down with him and find out what he knows that they may not know, and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know, and that's a good thing.
    • Talking to reporters about whether President Bush knows about equipment inadequacies in Iraq[33]
  • Pieces of intelligence, scraps of intelligence…you run down leads and you run down leads, and you hope that sometimes it works.
    • DoD News Briefing May 01, 2002 [34]
  • And there is, I am certain, among the Iraqi people a respect for the care and the precision that went into the bombing campaign.
    • DoD News Briefing April 09, 2003 [35]
  • Stuff happens.
    • DoD News Briefing on the issue of looting and chaos in Baghdad, Saturday, April 11, 2003 [36]
  • I suppose the implication of that is the president and the vice president and myself and Colin Powell just fell off a turnip truck to take these jobs.
    • In response to Jeffrey Goldberg's question to comment on accusations that the Jewish lobby maneuvered the administration into war. The New Republic, October 8, 2007. [37]


  • Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet.
    • Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on September 23, 2004
    • Regards upcoming elections in Iraq
  • That just couldn't be any more wrong than spreading marmalade on a steaming pile of flapjacks.
    • Response to the suggestion that "your planning (or lack thereof) has created utter disaster zones in both those countries (Afghanistan and Iraq)".
  • I didn't know you were Secretary of Defense. Nice to meet you, Mr. Secretary of Defence. Maybe you can tell us: are we spreading our armed forces too thin? Because you'd know – you'd know where all of the Army's 33 brigades are stationed - and their missions, secret and otherwise. And while you were dispatching the U.S. forces and preparing strategies to defeat the enemies of freedom, you thought "Hey, I really think it would be swell if I spread our forces too thin." Right? That’s what you thought, didn't you?"
    • Response to a journalist who asked "Don’t you think we’re spreading our forces too thin?"
  • Here in the Bush Administration, we're all grown-up enough to not let little things like Ivy League rivalries get in the way of work.
  • This war has been marked by so many lies and evasions that it is not right to have the war end with one last lie.
  • Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Saddam Hussein is not iminent, that he is 5-7 years away from having a nuclear weapon. I would not be so certain.
    • Face the Nation
  • You may find people who will contend that patriotism is something to be a little bit embarrassed about or that honor is somewhat outdated as a notion and that concentrating on America's imperfection makes you a realist. Not so. That's the sign of a cynic. Being a cynic is easy. You can just sit back, heckle from the cheap seats, while others serve, storm beaches, build nations, meet their destinies. Idealists write history's stirring chapters; cynics read those chapters and seem not to understand. Choose to be an idealist. There have always been those who contend that what's wrong with the world is America. Don't believe it.

About Donald Rumsfeld

  • We are paying a very heavy price for the mismanagement -- that's the kindest word I can give you -- of Donald Rumsfeld, of this war. The price is very, very heavy and I regret it enormously. I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history.

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