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Hillary Rodham Clinton, Robert Gates hit Sunday shows defending Libya attacks

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WASHINGTON--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates hit the network Sunday shows--ABC, CBS, NBC-- to explain and defend the Obama administration on Libya, paving the way for President Obama's Monday night address to the nation.

Clinton to NBC's David Gregory: "I think we've prevented a great humanitarian disaster, which is always hard to point to something that didn't happen, but I, I believe we did. And now we're beginning to see, because of the good work of the, the coalition, to see his, his troops begin to turn back towards the west and to see the opposition begin to reclaim ground they had lost."

Gates to CBS' Bob Schieffer:

SCHIEFFER: There are some people in the Pentagon quoted in various newspapers as saying this no-fly zone may last for three months or so. How long do you think this is going to be in place?

GATES: I don't think anybody has any idea.

Gates to ABC's Jake Tapper:

TAPPER: Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to

the United States?

GATES: No. No, it was not -- it was not a vital national interest

to the United States, but it was an interest. And it was an interest

for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about, the engagement of

the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian

question that was at stake.

There was another piece of this, though, that certainly was a

consideration. You've had revolutions on both the east and the west of

Libya. They're fragile.

TAPPER: Egypt and Tunisia?

GATES: Egypt and Tunisia. So you had a potentially significantly

destabilizing event taking place in Libya that put at risk potentially

the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt, and that was another

consideration I think we took into account.

ABC News Transcript

-ABC-

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER (voice-over): This morning, "Target: Libya." Clinton.

Gates. Rumsfeld. Three major headliners, only on "This Week."

U.S. and allied bombs and missiles hammer Libyan targets, the rebels

gain ground, and the president prepares to make his pitch to the

American people.

OBAMA: It is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go.

TAPPER: But what if Gadhafi stays? Just back from the Middle East,

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

come to "This Week" for their first interviews since the attacks began

to make the president's case.

What does victory look like? Can it be achieved? And at what cost?

Then...

RUMSFELD: I don't have any regrets at all.

TAPPER: The man who helped George Bush wage two wars, what would

Donald Rumsfeld do in a third war? I'll ask him, and he'll respond to

critics who say he's been rewriting history.

Plus, George Will and the roundtable will debate the Libyan mission,

the president's message, and why at least one Republican White House

hopeful is having a tough time agreeing with himself.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the Newseum in Washington, D.C., "This Week"

with Christiane Amanpour starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Good morning, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Christiane is

off today.

As we come on air this morning, some major developments in Libya to

report since the morning papers. Rebel forces have scored a key

strategic victory, taking back the oil town of Brega in the east. They

now continue to push west towards Tripoli.

ABC's Alex Marquardt is in the opposition capital of Benghazi.

Alex, what's the mood where you are?

MARQUARDT: Good morning, Jake. Well, there is a lot of excitement,

a lot of gunfire and honking on the front lines, as you might imagine.

A quick advance towards the west was expected following the stalemate

that was broken by the coalition air strikes, but even this took many by

surprise, with opposition leaders here telling me today that they're

hoping that the rebels will slow down a bit, allowing them to regroup

and allowing senior defected military officials to take over, because

the next city is Sirte, which is Gadhafi's hometown, and they're unsure

exactly what sort of weapons he has there.

Now, turning to Tripoli, there was a disturbing incident yesterday

that reminded us of the brutality of this regime. A woman burst into a

hotel that houses a lot of foreign journalists. She said that she had

been arrested and raped by Gadhafi forces. Officials and security

forces in the hotel tried to silence her. They put a hood over her.

There was a scuffle that ensued. She was driven off. A government

spokesman said that she was mentally ill and drunk, but then allowed for

the fact that she might have been actually raped and said they're

looking into it.

Jake?

TAPPER: ABC's Alex Marquardt in Benghazi with the very latest from

Libya. Alex, stay safe.

President Obama is set to address the nation tomorrow night. He's

under intense pressure to explain his decision to attack Libya and to

outline his plan to bring this military campaign to a successful

conclusion.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And joining me now in their first interview since the

attacks on Libya began, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense

Secretary Robert Gates.

Madam and Mister Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. I'll

start with you, Secretary Gates. The mission is a no-fly zone and

civilian protection, but does not include removing Gadhafi from power,

even though regime change is stated U.S. policy. So why not have as

part of the mission regime change, removing Gadhafi from power?

GATES: Well, first of all, I think you don't want ever to set a set

of goals or a military mission where you can't be confident of

accomplishing your objectives. And as we've seen in the past, regime

change is a very complicated business. It sometimes takes a long time.

Sometimes it can happen very fast. But it was never part of the

military mission.

TAPPER: NATO has assumed command and control for the no-fly zone,

or is this weekend, but not yet for the civilian protection. When do we

anticipate that happening?

GATES: I think Hillary's been more engaged with that diplomacy than

I have.

CLINTON: Well, we -- we hope, Jake, that NATO -- which is making

the military planning for the civilian protection mission -- will meet

in the next few days, make a decision, which we expect to be positive,

to include that mission, and then just as the arms embargo and the

no-fly zone has been transitioned to NATO command and control, the

civilian protection mission will, as well.

TAPPER: What do you say to the people in Ivory Coast or Syria who

say, "Where's our no-fly zone? We're being killed by our government, too."

CLINTON: Well, there's not an -- there's not an air force being

used. There is not the same level of force. The situation is

significantly different enough that the world has not come together.

However, in Ivory Coast, we have a U.N. peacekeeping force, which we

are supporting. We're beginning to see the world coalesce around the

very obvious fact that Mr. Gbagbo no longer is president. Mr. Ouattara

is the president. So, you know, each of these situations is different.

But in Libya, when a leader says, "Spare nothing, show no mercy,"

and calls out air -- air force attacks on his own people, that -- that

crosses a line that people in the world had decided they could not

tolerate.

TAPPER: When do we know that the mission is done, the -- the no-fly

zone has succeeded, civilian protection has stopped? When -- when...

GATES: I would say, for all practical purposes, the implementation

of the no-fly zone is complete. Now it will need to be sustained, but

it can be sustained with a lot less effort than what it took to set it up.

As I indicated in my testimony on the Hill, you don't establish a

no-fly zone by just declaring it. You go in and suppress the air

defenses, and that mission is largely complete.

I think we have made a lot of progress on the humanitarian side, and

his ability to move armor, to move toward a Benghazi or a place like

that has pretty well been eliminated. Now, we'll have to keep our eye

on it, because he still has ground forces at his beck and call.

But the reality is, they're under a lot of pressure, their

logistics, with -- there are some signs that they're moving back to --

back to the west, away from Ajdabiya and other places. So I think that

we have prevented the large-scale slaughter that was beginning to take

place, has taken place in some places.

And so I think that we're at a point where -- where the

establishment of the no-fly zone and the protection of -- of cities from

the kind of wholesale military assault that we have seen certainly in

the east has been accomplished, and now we can move to sustainment.

CLINTON: You know, Jake, I would just add two points to what

Secretary Gates said. The United States Senate called for a no-fly zone

in a resolution that it passed, I think, on March the 1st. And that

mission is on the brink of having been accomplished. And there was a

lot of congressional support to do something.

There is not a perfect option when one is looking at a situation

like this. I think that the president ordered the best available

option. The United States worked with the international community to

make sure that there was authorization to do what we have helped to

accomplish.

But what is quite remarkable here is that NATO assuming the

responsibility for the entire mission means that the United States will

move to a supporting role. Just as our allies are helping us in

Afghanistan, where we bear the disproportionate amount of the sacrifice

and the cost, we are supporting a mission through NATO that was very

much initiated by European requests, joined by Arab requests.

I think this is a watershed moment in international

decision-making. We learned a lot in the 1990s. We -- we saw what

happened in Rwanda. It took a long time in the Balkans, in Kosovo to

deal with a tyrant. But I think in -- what has happened since March 1st

-- and we're not even done with the month -- demonstrates really

remarkable leadership.

GATES: I would just -- I would just add one other thing, and sort

of a concrete manifestation of where we are in this, and that is we in

the Department of Defense are already beginning to do our planning in

terms of beginning to draw down resources, first from support of the

no-fly zone and then from the humanitarian mission. Now, that may not

start in the next day or two, but I -- but I certainly expect it to in

the very near future.

TAPPER: Well, I wanted to follow on that. How long are we going to

be there in this support role?

GATES: Well, I think -- as I say, we will begin diminishing the

level of our engagement, the level of resources we have involved in

this. But as long as there is a no-fly zone and we have some unique

capabilities to bring to bear, for example, intelligence, surveillance

and reconnaissance, some tanking aviation, we will continue to have a

presence.

But a lot of these -- a lot of the forces that we will have

available, other than the ISR, are forces that are already assigned to

Europe or have been assigned to Italy or are at sea in the Mediterranean.

TAPPER: I've heard NATO say that they anticipate this -- some NATO

officials say this could be three months, but people in the Pentagon

think it could be far longer than that. Do you think we'll be gone by

the end of the year? Will the mission be over by the end of the year?

GATES: I don't think anybody knows the answer to that.

TAPPER: Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to

the United States?

GATES: No. No, it was not -- it was not a vital national interest

to the United States, but it was an interest. And it was an interest

for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about, the engagement of

the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian

question that was at stake.

There was another piece of this, though, that certainly was a

consideration. You've had revolutions on both the east and the west of

Libya. They're fragile.

TAPPER: Egypt and Tunisia?

GATES: Egypt and Tunisia. So you had a potentially significantly

destabilizing event taking place in Libya that put at risk potentially

the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt, and that was another

consideration I think we took into account.

TAPPER: And, Secretary Clinton, how does the -- it...

CLINTON: But I -- Jake, I just -- I just want to add, too, because,

you know, I know that there's been a lot of questions, and those

questions deserve to be asked and answered. The president is going to

address the nation on Monday night.

Imagine we were sitting here and Benghazi had been overrun, a city

of 700,000 people, and tens of thousands of people had been slaughtered,

hundreds of thousands had fled, and as Bob said, either with nowhere to

go or overwhelming Egypt while it's in its own difficult transition, and

we were sitting here.

The cries would be, why did the United States not do anything? How

could you stand by when, you know, France, and the United Kingdom, and

other Europeans, and the Arab League, and your Arab partners were

saying, "You've got to do something"? So every decision that we make is

going to have pluses and minuses.

TAPPER: You heard the secretary of defense say that Libya did not

pose an actual or imminent threat to the nation. And bearing in mind

what you just said, I'm still wondering how the administration

reconciles the attack without congressional approval with then-candidate

Obama saying in 2007 the president does not have power under the

Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation

that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the

nation. And as a senator, you yourself in 2007 said this about

President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: If the administration believed that any, any use of force

against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek

that authority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Why not go to Congress?

CLINTON: Well, we would welcome congressional support, but I don't

think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention, where

we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a

humanitarian mission, is the kind of unilateral action that either I or

President Obama were speaking of several years ago.

I think that this had a limited timeframe, a very clearly defined

mission, which we are in the process of fulfilling.

TAPPER: I want to get to a couple other topics before you guys go,

and one of them is in Yemen. President Saleh, a crucial ally in

counterterrorism, seems quite on his way out. Secretary Gates, you said

this week, "We have not done any post-Saleh planning." How dangerous is

a post-Saleh world, post-Saleh Yemen to the United States?

GATES: Well, I think -- I think it is a real concern, because the

most active and, at this point, perhaps the most aggressive branch of Al

Qaida, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, operates out of Yemen. And we

have had a lot of counterterrorism cooperation from President Saleh and

Yemeni security services. So if that government collapses or is

replaced by one that is dramatically more weak, then -- then I think

we'll face some additional challenges out of Yemen. There's no question

about it. It's a real problem.

TAPPER: And, Secretary Clinton, on Pakistan, Pakistan has been

trying to block U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the FATA region. It

continues to work with terrorists who attack India. It held a U.S.

diplomat in its prisons for several weeks, as I don't need to tell you.

Has this relationship gotten worse in the last six months, U.S.-Pakistan?

CLINTON: Well, Jake, it's a very challenging relationship, because

there have been some -- some problems. We were very appreciative of

getting our diplomat out of Pakistan, and that took cooperation by the

government of Pakistan. We have cooperated very closely together in

going after terrorists who pose a threat to both us and to the

Pakistanis themselves.

But it's a -- it's a very difficult relationship, because Pakistan

is in a hard position, trying to figure out how it's going to contend

with its own internal extremist threat.

But I think, on the other hand, we've also developed good lines of

communication, good opportunities for cooperation, but it's something we

have to work on every day.

TAPPER: And, finally, we've talked a bit about the end of this

operation, how it ends. I'm wondering if you can envision the United

States supporting a plan where Gadhafi is exiled. Would the U.S. be

willing to support safe haven, immunity from prosecution, and access to

funds as a way to end this conflict?

CLINTON: Well, Jake, we are nowhere near that kind of negotiation.

I'll be going to London on Tuesday for a conference that the British

government is hosting. There will be a number of countries, not only

those participating in the -- the enforcement of the resolution, but

also those who are pursuing political and other interventions.

And the United Nations has a special envoy who will also be actively

working with Gadhafi and those around him.

We have sent a clear message that it is time for him to transition

out of power. The African Union has now called for a democratic

transition. We think that there will be developments along that line in

the weeks and months ahead, but I can't sitting here today predict to

you exactly how it's going to play out. But we believe that Libya will

have a better shot in the future if he departs and leaves power.

TAPPER: All right, Secretaries Clinton, Secretary Gates, thank you

so much for joining us.

GATES: Thank you.

CLINTON: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Next, what would Rumsfeld do? I'll talk Libya strategy

with Donald Rumsfeld, the man who helped lead the United States into

Afghanistan and Iraq. And I'll get his response to the harsh criticism

being leveled at his best-selling memoir.

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Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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