Condoleezza Rice Interview on CBS Face the Nation
Interview on CBS Face the Nation With Bob Schieffer
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
April 30, 2006
QUESTION: And good morning again. The Secretary joins us in the studio this morning. She is just back from Iraq and I want to ask you about the situation on the ground there in a minute. But first I want to ask you about this. We have heard these rumors for years and now former Secretary of State Colin Powell put it on the record this morning. He said flatly he had recommended that a much larger force be sent to Iraq in order to keep the peace, and he says that that recommendation was rejected. Let me just ask you flatly -- you were there -- is that the way you heard it?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President received advice from all of his advisors. Ultimately, any advice went through the Secretary of Defense and through the commanders on the ground. They put together the war plan. They determined the numbers that it would take to execute the war plan and indeed to execute the immediate postwar phase. And so the President listened to that advice and that was determinative.
QUESTION: But was that the Secretary's recommendation?
SECRETARY RICE: I really, Bob, don't remember the specific circumstance that Secretary Powell is referring to, but I do know that if there were questions about troop levels, they were, of course, raised. The plan was put together. The President was able to ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff directly whether or not they thought that the plan was executable and whether or not the resources were there. I was in that meeting when he asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and indeed they said yes and that was the plan that was put forward and executed.
QUESTION: Well, in retrospect, it looks as if Secretary Powell was correct.
SECRETARY RICE: The number of troops on the ground was there to execute the plan. Now, we are in a phase now where we see that the number of foreign forces is not really the issue, the number of coalition forces is not really the issue. The issue is what can Iraqis contribute to their own security. And during my conversations with Iraqi leaders, they are very anxious to take more responsibility but they recognize that their security forces need to be trained and ready to go. They're taking more and more responsibility, and that's the phase that we find ourselves in now.
QUESTION: Well, I guess the point of my question was that clearly we did not have enough people in the beginning to keep the peace because, I mean, if you look at what's happening there --
SECRETARY RICE: But if you look at what happened in the immediate aftermath of the war, the Iraqi army, in effect, kind of disintegrated. Secondarily, there was systematic looting that obviously had been planned, really, where it was not really the number of forces on the ground; it was the systematic looting that took place.
As I've said many times, Bob, there will be time to go back and look at those days of the war and after the war to examine what went right and what went wrong. But the goal and the purpose now is to make certain that we take advantage of what is now a very good movement forward on the political front to help this Iraqi Government.
QUESTION: I don't want to just keep talking about the past here, but I think we have to know that it was the United States that disbanded the Iraqi army. But let me just go on to what's happening now.
SECRETARY RICE: Bob, let me just say one thing, though. The order to disband, yes, came from the Coalition Provisional Authority, but in fact, the army kind of melted into nothing. And again, we can all go back. I'm quite certain that there are many things that could have been done a bit better. I'm quite certain that there are things that, in retrospect, we would do differently. But that's the nature of any big complicated operation. Anybody who goes back and reads the history of any operation in the past will tell you that there are things that went wrong and things that went right, and we'll go back and see what those were another time.
QUESTION: All right. Well, let's talk about now. American casualties this month are the highest since November. Your State Department just released a report last week that said that the number of attacks on Iraqis has skyrocketed. But you continue to say that we're making progress there. Where do you see these signs in light of what we're seeing happening everyday?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the progress is, of course, on the political front. And you defeat an insurgency through politics, not just through military force. And yes, this is a very difficult set of circumstances. It was always going to be hard once a dictator of Saddam Hussein's reach and brutality was overthrown to get a stable foundation for a democratic Iraq.
But the Iraqis have gone out. They've voted three times. They now have a permanent government. They now have a permanent government that, as one of them said to me, the Iraqi people have had enough, he said, and we've got to bring ourselves together in a national unity government, appoint ministers who are nonsectarian and who are competent, and get this country moving permanently in the right direction.
That's a sign of progress. I know what people see on their screens every day. I see it, too. But I also know that the violence is accompanied by a political process in which the Iraqis have met every deadline, they've met every test, and in which they themselves are moving forward.
QUESTION: Let's shift to Iran quickly. Their Oil Minister said today that he doesn't think the United Nations is going to impose sanctions because he said it'll just drive up the price of oil even more and the United States wouldn't want that. Well, there is something in what he says. Sanctions probably would drive up the price of oil.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it --
QUESTION: But what will we do? Are we going to push for sanctions?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it depends on what kind of sanctions ultimately are levied against Iran. First of all, we are going to press for a Chapter 7 resolution which would take the presidential statement that was passed a month ago and would now make it compelling, a compellence on Iran to do that.
I don't think that -- you know, we're going to take it one step at a time. No one is talking about going to oil and gas sanctions. This is an Iran that does not want to be isolated from the international community. The international community has a number of steps that it can take through financial measures that it can take, through asset freezes.
QUESTION: Well --
SECRETARY RICE: But you know, when the Iranians say things like we don't care if there are sanctions, then I ask myself then why are they working so hard to stay out of the Security Council, why are they suddenly saying they're interested in the Russian proposal, why are they suddenly saying oh, by the way, yes, we will allow snap inspections, why are they suddenly saying, well, let's get this back into the IAEA? It really doesn't sound like a regime that is simply unaware of what might happen to them.
QUESTION: So you still hold out hope that we can do something short of warfare that would stop them from enriching uranium and moving toward building a nuclear weapon, if that's what they choose to do?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I absolutely believe that we have a lot of diplomatic arrows in our quiver at the Security Council and also likeminded states that might be able and willing to look at additional measures if the Security Council does not move quickly enough.
QUESTION: Well, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Richard Lugar, Republican, says we ought to talk to them face to face. Would we ever consider that?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we do talk to the Iranians about limited issues. We've talked to them in Afghanistan. We've --
QUESTION: What about this?
SECRETARY RICE: On this, I think the Iranians know what they need to do. The United States has been very clear in public, in private, in every way conceivable, that we back completely the options that have been given to the Iranians for a civil nuclear program, whether it's the EU proposal or the Russian proposal.
QUESTION: Well, let me just ask you, when you bring up Russia, shouldn't we be getting more support on this from the Russians and from the Chinese? Why do we have such a hard time convincing them that we ought to take strong measures?
SECRETARY RICE: The Russians and the Chinese did vote -- well, the Russians did, the Chinese abstained -- to refer this to the Security Council. There is a presidential statement that was unanimous in the Security Council. But yes, I do think that as we go forward the international community is going to face a choice, just as Iran faces a choice: Are we going to be credible in what we have been saying about the need for Iranian compliance, are we going to continue to allow the will of the international community to be defied? That is a choice.
And my own view and I think the view of the Europeans and of others is that the credibility of the Security Council is extremely important not just to this case but to the broader search for peace and security. And so when we go back after the 30 days having just expired, no one can contemplate just another presidential statement. We need to get to a Chapter 7 resolution.
QUESTION: Let me ask you also about the issue where foreign policy and domestic policy converge, and that is the issue of immigration. And now all of a sudden, a lot of people on the right are saying this whole issue of the Star Spangled Banner being sung in Spanish is a bad thing. You're not just a diplomat. You're also a musician. Where do you come down on that?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I've heard the Star Spangled Banner sung in any number of ways and -- in any number of ways. I think what's really being expressed here is that our immigration policies really need both to be humane and to defend our laws and defend our borders and to recognize that when people want to come here they want to come here because they're seeking a better way of life. Now, the President is a former border state governor and he clearly believes that a comprehensive approach to immigration, where we recognize the economic role that these people play but yet keep a firm hold on border security, keep a firm hold on the fact that people have to be legal. It's extremely important.
QUESTION: So what language the national anthem is sung in is not a problem for you?
SECRETARY RICE: From my point of view, people expressing themselves as wanting to be Americans is a good thing. But we have laws about how they do that, how they become Americans. And I sincerely hope that we can come to an immigration policy that is comprehensive and that befits the fact that this is, after all, a country of immigrants.
QUESTION: I think you kind of dodged that question.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know --
QUESTION: I mean, does it make any difference or not?
SECRETARY RICE: What? What language the national anthem is sung in?
QUESTION: The language it's sung in.
SECRETARY RICE: I've heard the national anthem done in rap versions, country versions, classical versions. The individualization of the American national anthem is quite underway. I think what we need to focus on is an immigration policy that is comprehensive and that recognizes our laws and recognizes our humanity.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you very much, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Hope to see you again sometime.
SECRETARY RICE: Okay, good.