Condoleezza Rice IV Hearst Broadcasting Corp.
Interview With Laurie Kinney of Hearst Broadcasting Corporation
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
September 8, 2006
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, good morning.
SECRETARY RICE: Good morning.
QUESTION: Over the last several days, the President has given a number of a speeches in the run-up to the anniversary of 9/11. One of the things that he has done is he has again talked about Iraq in the context of the war on terror. But Democrats disagree about the relevance of Iraq in this context and in fact Senator Jack Reed said yesterday that U.S. action in Iraq was always a goal for the Administration even before 9/11. So whatever Iraq has become now, is that true? Was action in Iraq always a goal?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it depends on how you think about the need to respond to September 11th. If you think that September 11th was simply the 19 hijackers who ran the planes into buildings and perhaps the al-Qaida network and their safe haven in Afghanistan, and that if you've dealt with that you've dealt with the causes of 9/11, then of course you don't see Iraq as a part of the war on terror.
But of course, if you see instead, as the President does, that there is an ideology of hatred that has been born of the problems in the Middle East, then you see that going to the source of that, dealing with the root causes, is very important. And in that context it's very hard to imagine a different kind of Middle East with Saddam Hussein still in power. Iraq is, like the young democracies that are being -- that are growing up in Afghanistan and in other places, those young democracies are the answer to the ideologies of hatred that the terrorists drew upon to cause September 11th. And that's the link between Iraq and the 9/11 events.
QUESTION: Moving forward, you said it's hard to imagine a different kind of Middle East with Saddam Hussein in power. Is it hard to imagine a different kind of Middle East with the current Iranian regime in power?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, certainly the Iranian regime will be a regime that is intent on having a Middle East that would be 180 degrees different than the Middle East that the United States and its moderate allies see. That's a Middle East in which there is hope, in which there is liberty and freedom, in which there is prosperity and in which terror is fought, not supported.
Iran's Middle East of course would be very different and there is no doubt that Iran is challenging to have a larger regional role. That's why it is extremely important that Iran not get a nuclear weapon. It's why the work that is being done in the Security Council, the work we've done with the Europeans, with the other members of the Security Council; it's why the work that is being done to cut off financing for terrorist organizations that Iran may support; and it's why supporting these democracies that are a kind of bulwark against the kind of Iranian vision for the Middle East is so important.
QUESTION: British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced this week that he will likely step down sometime within the next year and many observers attribute that to the fact that he's taken a lot of heat for his stance on Iraq and more recently for the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. So what is your reaction to his announcement and more broadly what does that say about the possibility that -- will allies fall away from us if they stand with the Administration's position on these issues?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, obviously Prime Minister Blair and Great Britain as a whole have been firm allies of the United States in the war on terror. Great Britain of course has been a firm ally of the United States alongside for many, many years. But, we've had no better ally than Great Britain in this period.
I am not a judge of British politics. I know that the Prime Minister has been there for a long time. I know that he has done a lot to try also for reforms in Great Britain itself. I can't judge his future there, but I can say that he has been stalwart and he understands what is at stake as we fight these terrorists who are determined to threaten our way of life.
QUESTION: The Washington Post reports this morning that you fought long and hard within the Administration for a change in the way that these CIA secret prisons, as the President talked about this week, were managed and in fact to empty them now, perhaps permanently. Is that the case? What was your position on those prisons?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, what the President did in his speech was to put our anti-terror policies, our detainee policies, on a firm footing going forward. And there were many people involved in those decisions; and if there's one thing I never get involved in and I really hate are Washington tick-tock stories because they always get part of the story or get the story wrong.
And in this case, this was a President who was determined to lead our Administration to a point that we would have all of the tools in place for fighting the war on terror, that we would have tools that were of course legal that lived up to our treaty obligations.
But when you look at what the United States faced on the day of September 11th, we faced this nightmare scenario where we had people inside our country plotting to hurt us, who succeeded then in killing 3,000 innocent Americans, and it's not surprising that the President at that time mobilized every conceivable legal tool to deal with that, including an ability to deal with detainees in a way that allowed us, in accordance with our treaty obligations, to get the critical information to prevent another attack.
After a long debate in the Congress and new legislation there, after a Supreme Court decision, it was time to put this program on firm footing by going back to the Congress for new legislation, and that's really what the President is doing.
QUESTION: One of the other things that the President has said this week is that 9/11 really highlighted the extreme threat that would exist if terrorists got their hands on weapons of mass destruction.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Where is the nexus where you would see that most likely happening now? Where is the biggest threat of that occurring in this world?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is something that we have to be very concerned about because, as the President said, the real nightmare is that you would have a 9/11 but with weapons of mass destruction involved.
And there are several sources. Of course you have to worry about state sponsors of terror. And it's one reason, again, that no one wants to see Iran with a nuclear weapon.
It's also the case that there are unfortunately black market networks of the kind that we broke up in the A.Q. Khan network that was actually selling nuclear know-how and technologies to states and could of course sell them not just to rogue states but of course to terrorist entities.
We worry -- and the President and President Putin have signed an accord on preventing terrorists access to nuclear materials because of course there's an awful lot of nuclear material in the world. There are scientists who at the end of the Cold War were out of work, and so that kind of knowledge in and of itself is very dangerous and in danger of transfer.
And of course we have to be concerned about states like North Korea also that might choose to proliferate these technologies. And so the international community has to be united in making certain that these sources of weapons of mass destruction for terrorists that cannot be accessed.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.