Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday he would not support sending U.S. troops into war-torn Libya, pointing out what he calls a key difference between leader Moammar Gadhafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
Unlike Hussein, Gadhafi chose not to continuously provoke the international community, Rumsfeld told CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight.”
“After he saw what happened to Saddam Hussein, he (Gadhafi) did not want to be Saddam Hussein,” said Rumsfeld. “He gave up his nuclear program.”
Hussein “killed hundreds of thousands of his own people” and was a brutal dictator, Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld said he was not surprised by recent popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. “The natural state of man is to want to be free. To have opportunities. To have choices,” he said.
He cautioned that it’s too early to tell whether new or reformed governments in those countries will be friendly to the United States.
Rumsfeld, who has a new book, “Known and Unknown,” discussed the U.S. decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
Although no weapons of mass destruction were found, Hussein had the personnel and materials in place to produce them and there was a “broad uniform” belief that he had them, Rumsfeld said. There had been desire for a regime change in Iraq dating back to the Clinton administration, he said.
Rumsfeld told Morgan he had not believed the likelihood of a popular revolt against Hussein succeeding was high.
Asked if he had regrets about the war in Iraq, Rumsfeld said, “lives were lost on my watch.”
The Abu Ghraib prison scandal also was a major setback, he said.
The campaign against al Qaeda and other groups should not have been termed “a war on terror,” Rumsfeld said.
The term “war” makes people believe there is a conflict with a sure beginning and end, he said.
Four years after being replaced by Robert Gates as defense secretary following heavy Republican losses in the 2006 mid-term elections, Rumsfeld has maintained the swagger and bravado that were his hallmarks when dealing with the media as a Cabinet member.
Asked what he would like on his tombstone, Rumsfeld said, “He served.”