MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the situation, the non-military situation, if you will, in Iraq and that is the whole issue of looting. This was the scene with the Museum of Antiquities, which housed treasures dating back thousands and thousands of years from the beginning of civilization. And it was ransacked and destroyed, about 170,000 items. The head of the museum said, “Our heritage is finished.” What happened there? How did we allow that museum to be looted?
SEC’Y RUMSFELD: “How did we allow?” Now, that’s really a wonderful, amazing statement. No, let me…
MR. RUSSERT: But, how are we…
SEC’Y RUMSFELD: …just say a word, here.
MR. RUSSERT: No, no. Wait, wait.
SEC’Y RUMSFELD: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
MR. RUSSERT: No, let me be precise, ’cause it’s an important point.
SEC’Y RUMSFELD: But we didn’t allow it. It happened. And that’s what happens when you go from a dictatorship with repressed order, police state, to something that is going to be different. There’s a transition period, and no one is in control. There are periods where-there was still fighting in Baghdad. We don’t allow bad things to happen. Bad things do happen in life and people do loot. We’ve seen that in the United States. It’s happened in every country. It’s a shame when it happens. I’ll bet you anything that if they – when order is restored, and we have a more permissive environment, that there will be opportunities to ask people to return some of those things that were taken. We’ve already found people returning supplies to hospitals.
MR. RUSSERT: What the heads of the museum will say is that they actually asked for the U.S. to help protect it, and that the U.S. declined. Is that accurate?
SEC’Y RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness. Look, I have no idea. We’ve got troops on the ground, and who do you know who he asked, and whether his assignment that moment was to guard a hospital instead? Those kinds of things are so anecdotal. And it always breaks your heart to see destruction of things. But…
MR. RUSSERT: The Red Cross said hospitals were also looted. Does that surprise you? I mean, it’s one thing for the Iraqis to ransack, loot Saddam’s palaces, and steal his faucets, it’s quite another to loot their own museum and their own hospitals. Did that surprise you?
SEC’Y RUMSFELD: Surprise me? I don’t know. Disorder happens every time there’s a transition. We saw it in Eastern European countries when they moved from the Communist system to a free system. We’ve seen it in Los Angeles, here in our own country, we’ve seen it in Detroit, we’ve seen it in city after city when there was a difficulty. And it always breaks your heart. You’re always sorry to see it.
And it isn’t something that someone allows or doesn’t allow. It’s something that happens.
We know that people – there are people who do bad things. There are people who steal from hospitals in the United States. So does it surprise me that people went into a hospital and did something? I guess it doesn’t surprise me. It’s a shame. It’s too bad. And we’re trying to get medical supplies in to the hospitals that were robbed, and we’re doing it, and we’re having good success at it.