Condoleezza Rice on War & Peace
Secretary of State
Indeed, that is the question of the hour. Where does America stand? You see when the friends or foes alike don't know the answer to that question, unambiguously and clearly, the world is likely to be a more dangerous and chaotic place. Since world war II, the US has had an answer to that question. We stand for free peoples and free markets. We will defend and support them.
The argument was really more straightforward: Saddam Hussein was a cancer in the Middle East who had attacked his neighbors, throwing the region into chaos. He had drawn the US into conflict twice, once to expel him from Kuwait and a second time to deliver air strikes against suspected WMD sites. Saddam wa routinely shooting at our aircraft patrolling under UN authority. The world had given Saddam one last chance to come clean about his weapons programs or face serious consequences. This time the word of the international community had to mean something.
The Vice President was dead against taking any responsibility, arguing tha the information had been in the CIA's NIE and was therefore legitimate.
The headlines were screaming that the President had used false language in the State of the Union. Given that no WMD had been found, there was now a growing presumption that the intelligence had been wrong, or, worse, that we'd somehow manipulated it in a rush to war. The CIA director issued a statement that made clear that the Niger claim had come from intelligence sources. In other words, that the President hadn't been lying.
A: We have built an international coalition of states led by the US, the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China which is showing Iran that there is a course of cooperation. And if they are not willing to cooperate and give up the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon then there are consequences. And we’ve passed three Security Council resolutions. Iran has increasingly difficult access issues with th international financial system. People, for reputational and investment risk reasons, are not investing in Iran.
Q: Is it not worth trying to open a discussion with the Iranian leader to get these thoughts on the table?
A: We’ve certainly made every attempt to open a dialogue with Iran. But we need to have them suspend their enrichment and reprocessing, because what we don’t need to do is to negotiate while they’re perfecting the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon.
A: Well, troops are already coming home from the levels that we needed to surge into Iraq to help to deal with the very precarious security situation there, a situation that is much improved, though still fragile. We are training the Iraqi security forces to be able to take control of their own provinces and to be able to carry out their own security tasks. We’re seeing the benefit of that now, as they have the lead in securing Sadr City, as they took the lead in securing Basra in the south. And what is more, the Iraqis have passed national reconciliation language and the amnesty law, a law on de-Ba’athification, a law on provincial powers. They’ve passed two budgets. And by the way, the budget of Iraq this year is significant. It’s $49 billion. We have told them--and they are doing it--that they need to take more responsibility for their own reconstruction, for their own security costs, and they’re doing exactly that
For months, Tenet had been pressing Rice to give the CIA stronger authority to conduct covert action against bin Laden. On June 30, a top-secret intelligence brief contained an article headlined “Bin Laden Threats Are Real.” Tenet hoped his abrupt request for an immediate meeting would shake Rice.
Tenet left the meeting feeling frustrated. Though Rice had given them a fair hearing, no immediate action meant great risk. The July 10 meeting went unmentioned in the various investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks, but it stood out in the mind of Tenet as the starkest warning on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Tenet’s deputy later said, “The only thing we didn’t do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head.”
“Yes,” she said. “Because it isn’t American credibility on the line, it is the credibility of everybody that this gangster can yet again beat the international system.” As important as credibility was, she said, “Credibility should never drive you to do something you shouldn’t do.” But this was much bigger, she advised, something that should be done. “To let this threat in this part of the world play volleyball with the international community this way will come back to haunt us someday. That is the reason to do it.”
Other than Rice, Bush said he didn’t need to ask the principal advisers whether they thought he should go to war. He knew what Cheney thought, & he decided not to ask Powell or Rumsfeld. “I could tell what they thought,” the president recalled. “I didn’t need to ask them their opinion about Saddam Hussein.
A: Al Qaeda is not more dangerous today than it was on September 11th, but you don’t have to make that choice. Al Qaeda is dangerous. And we’re going to have to pursue them and we’re going to have to defeat them. This is going to be a long war. It is a comprehensive war. It is not going to be enough to win in Afghanistan, to even kill bin Laden and to return to law enforcement.
Q: So capturing or killing al Zawahiri doesn’t end this war?
A: That will not end this war. What will end this war is a sustained effort, over a long time, in which the US mobilizes all of its military means, its law enforcement means, its means of taking away economic support -- takes all of those measures and pursues them on a daily basis; and in which we are not, as a country, afraid to go after them where they live. We are not going to be able to sit back here and fight this war on the defense.
A: The war on terrorism is a broad war, not a narrow war. And Iraq--the most dangerous regime in the world’s most dangerous region in the Middle East--is a big reason, or was, under Saddam Hussein a big reason for instability in the region, for threats to the US; he was firing at our aircraft practically every day as we tried to keep his forces under control; he had used weapons of mass destruction; he had the intent & was still developing the capability to do so. Saddam Hussein’s regime was very dangerous. And now that Iraq has been liberated and that Iraq has a chance to be a stable democracy, the world is a lot safer and the war on terrorism is well-served by the victory in Iraq.
She was notably less eager than Powell to ingratiate herself with Arab opinion. In November, Rice threw in her lot with the Rumsfeld factions against the Powell faction. She remained exceedingly cautious. But in her careful way, she was decisive.
A: Our goal has been to make certain that we make steady progress toward getting back into the Mitchell plan. It is also important that we work with other Arab leaders. The President does imagine a Palestinian state as a part of his vision for the future.
Q: Would East Jerusalem be the capital of such a state?
A: We understand the importance of Jerusalem to the great religions of the world, and we believe that this is something that must be settled in final status negotiations.
A: Should people in the Arab world look forward to a US plan for the Middle East to be announced?
A: We are constantly evaluating how we can best push the process of Middle East peace forward. I wouldn’t put any time line on what the US might do next. We really do believe right now that our best strategy is to work with the parties to get into the Mitchell Process.
"There's no deate in the world as to whether they have these weapons. We all know that. A trained ape knows that."
--Donald Rumsfeld, Sept. 13, 2002
"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
--Condoleezza Rice, Sept. 8, 2002
"Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof--the smoking gun--that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
--George W. Bush, Oct. 7, 2002
"We know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire
nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
--Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003
"I don't believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons."
--Donald Rumsfeld, May 14, 2003
Although the deceptiveness of these statements was later revealed, most of our trusting citizens were supportive of the war. Exaggerated claims of catastrophe from nonexistent WMDs kept the fears alive, with V.P. Cheney repeatedly making false statement, such as, "Instead of losing thousands of lives, we might lose tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of lives in a single day of war." National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice backed him with horrifying references to mushroom clouds over the cities of America. There is little wonder that, at least for a few months, fearful American citizens and members of Congress supported the unnecessary war
A: We have very good relations with a number of governments in the Middle East. But we care very much also about the people of the Middle East. We think that the US is a place in which religious tolerance and a belief that all people should live together in peace is a message that would resonate with populations in the region. We’re trying to do a better job in getting that message out to people We want it to be very clear that the war on terrorism is not a war against Islam. Islam is a religion that respects innocent human life. So we cannot believe that Islam would countenance the kind of destruction that we saw on September 11th.
We are concerned about the economic opportunity for people in the Middle East. We believe that the policies that the US is pursuing are good for the Middle East as a whole-populations that are Arab, as well as the population of Israel.
A: Iraq has been a problem not just for US policy, but for policy in the region, as well. This is a country that has threatened its neighbors, that has been harmful to its own people. And we believe that our policies toward Iraq simply are to protect the region and to protect Iraq’s people and neighbors.
Q: Is there military action awaiting as a second stage of this war on terrorism?
A: Pres. Bush has made very clear that the war on terrorism is a broad war on terrorism. You can’t be for terrorism in one part of the world and against it in another part of the world. There’s a reason Saddam doesn’t want UN inspectors-because he intends to acquire weapons of mass destruction. But for now, Bush has said that his goal is to watch and monitor Iraq; and the US will act if Iraq threatens its interests.
A: We do not believe that Syria can be against al Qaeda, but in favor of other terrorist groups. But we have had some discussions with Syria. President Bush invites countries to stop the practice of harboring terrorism.
Q: So if Syria does not cooperate against people who are from Jihad or Hamas, they should be targeted also?
A: We have ruled out at this point issues that draw distinctions between types of terrorism. We just don’t think that’s the right thing to do. You can’t say there are good terrorists and there are bad terrorists. But the means that we use with different countries to get them to stop harboring terrorists may be very broad. And there are many means at our disposal.
There are not a lot of discussions with Syria, but we have had discussions with Syria that suggest: get out of the business of sponsoring terrorism. We’re asking that of every state of the world. You cannot be neutral in this fight; you either are for terrorism or against it.
A: The network have been very responsible, because they understood that having a 15-minute or 20-minute tape that was pre-taped, prerecorded, that sat there and did nothing but incite hatred and, ultimately, attacks against innocent Americans was not a matter of news, it was a matter of propaganda, and it was inciting attacks against Americans. Now, I understand that Al Jazeera has guidelines of its own on how to handle a tape like this, and we applaud that you would have guidelines of this kind, because what we do not need is to have a kind of free rein to sit and use the airwaves to incite attacks on innocent people.
Q: Overall, how do you perceive Al Jazeera as a credible or independent media?
A: If I did not have respect for Al Jazeera, I would not be doing this interview.
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