Rice IV Amy Smith of the Halifax Chronicle Herald
Interview by Amy Smith of the Halifax Chronicle Herald
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
September 12, 2006
QUESTION: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
SECRETARY RICE: All right.
QUESTION: First of all, I wanted to ask you how you found out about the attacks on the U.S. Embassy this morning in Damascus and your reaction and how do you think the attack will affect U.S.-Syrian relations?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I received a phone call. I was awakened to a phone call that said that at that time there was ongoing action at the Embassy. There was a shootout of some kind and then several -- probably a half hour later I received a call saying that things were currently calm and getting a kind of first account of what had happened there.
I think it's going to take a little time to figure out what happened, who's responsible. But again, Syrian forces did respond and they responded expeditiously and probably helped to -- and did help to secure the Embassy and we really appreciate that. But I don't know who caused it and it's a little bit early to tell.
QUESTION: So the impact on the relations between the two countries is --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, this happened hours ago, but it's -- but the Syrians were carrying out their responsibilities, but they carried them out and that's a good thing.
QUESTION: Switching gears, I wanted to ask you about the plan to require all travelers in and out of the U.S. to carry a passport by 2008. That's raised concerns about the impact on trade and tourism on both sides of the border. So I'm wondering if there's any way to bring in a security system that won't harm the economies of both countries.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, we are very attuned to allowing normal commerce to take place and just the normal exchange of people. I'm quite aware of it, you know, there are kids who go and play hockey games in the United States and vice versa, and so we want to keep that free flow of people. We do need to make sure that people are using authentic documents. But we are not at this point to require a passport. We are looking for a relatively inexpensive and simple but authenticable document that people could use to move back and forth. We're going to be publishing the rules for that and I'm quite certain that we'll work this out. But there's a lot of conversations going on back and forth about how to get it done. We're very aware that we want to keep the border as open as possible.
QUESTION: When do you expect all of those details to be hammered out?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Department of Homeland Security has responsibility for propagating the rules and I know that they are working to do that very, very quickly.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, federal new democrats, at their convention, voted for a pullout of troops in Afghanistan by February 2007. Meanwhile, NATO is calling for more troops. I'm just wondering what impact a withdrawal of Canadian troops would have on the efforts in Afghanistan.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that a premature withdrawal of Canadian or any forces from Afghanistan would have a very destructive and devastating really impact on what is now a very fierce effort to finally secure Afghanistan. They've made a lot of progress and it's -- the Taliban is trying to fight back. There is no doubt about that. But they're not going to succeed unless we lose our will and unless Afghanistan does not have the -- democratic government of Afghanistan -- does not have the support that it needs. And so it's extremely important that we remain committed to this course.
We all have to remember that the failed state of Afghanistan is what helped al-Qaida to become strong, to produce the kind of attack that they produced. And in our interdependent world, it wasn't only Americans who died on September 11th. And those attacks have not been just against the United States, they've been worldwide. There's no place to hide from these people. There's no separate peace with al-Qaida. There's no separate peace with the Taliban. You can't somehow make yourself immune by refusing to fight them, because their goal is to kill innocent people and they'll do it one way or another.
QUESTION: Now during your speech you expressed sympathy for the community of families who have lost people during these conflicts. I'm wondering if you're concerned about the latest friendly fire deaths impact on U.S. relations.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm concerned about the friendly fire deaths, first and foremost. This is the saddest of events when there are friendly fire incidents. I called Peter Mackay almost as soon as I learned of it to express our condolences. Obviously, we are doing everything that we can to prevent these sorts of incidents. We've had friendly fire deaths with our own, where Americans have killed Americans. It's one of the really awful things that happen sometimes in war. But I'm not -- it's not the matter of concern about the relationship. I just -- it's one of the saddest things that can possibly happen. And I hope that we'll continue to make progress through technology and other means to diminish the chance that it could happen again.
QUESTION: Now, your academic career, of course, focused on Soviet studies. Do you see the war on terror as a generational struggle similar to the Cold War as opposed to a short-term mission? And are Canadians and Americans prepared to be in this for the long haul?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do see it, the war on terror, as a generational struggle. Because we will continue to make progress against al-Qaida, for instance, the organization that did 9/11. We've rounded up a lot of their field generals. We'll continue to make progress in securing ourselves better borders and intelligence sharing and the like. We'll continue to make progress in taking away safe havens like Afghanistan. But the long struggle is that you ultimately have to defeat this ideology of hatred or there will be more al-Qaidas. And that has to be the process of replacing the ideology of hatred with an ideology of hope. And when you think about it, that's probably the most -- the closest analogy to the Cold War. Because by the time the Soviet Union collapsed, communism was dead as an ideology and it -- people no longer believed in it.
We're at the beginning of a struggle for the minds and attention of a lot of people who are, because of an absence of hope, attracted to this awful ideology of hatred. But I believe that since human beings don't want to be in a position where their children are going off to be suicide bombers, that we've got the upper hand because ours is an ideology of hope and prosperity and theirs is one of death and destruction.
QUESTION: Well, how do you deal with the threat of homegrown terror within the U.S. and among its allies since 9/11? How do you counter that?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, first you have to counter it through intelligence and law enforcement and just making sure that you are doing everything you can to be vigilant against people who might launch attacks from within. I believe that we've got a better chance in societies that are open and tolerant.
The United States has an enormous Muslim population. You can go to most neighborhoods and you'll have a Muslim family somewhere in the neighborhood. And so the great, great, great majority of American Muslims, and I'm sure Canadian Muslims, are people who are prospering in the society and who love the society and love the freedoms and defend the freedoms. And as long as we keep that in mind as we're trying to deal with our very small minority of homegrown terrorists, I think we'll be fine.
QUESTION: Now what -- what impact has the length of the war, news of the secret CIA prisons had on the American image around the world?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I know that there are people who are concerned about these issues and clearly there are people who don't like all of the decisions that the United States has taken. It's a time when we've had to take some very difficult decisions. But I would hope that what people see is a United States that is fighting a different kind of war and having to come up with tools, legal tools, tools that are treaty compliant, but new tools to fight that war on terror. The long pole in the tent in the war on terror is information. If you're going to stop a terrorist from committing an attack, you have to know that an attack is coming. You have to get information from detainees. And the people that the President talked about the other day, who had been a part of our intelligence program and have now been transferred to Guantanamo for, we hope, trial in military commissions, were the leadership, literally the field generals of al-Qaida. And I would just ask, would people have not wanted us to do everything that we could within the law to find out what they knew? Would people have not wanted us to find out from Abu Zubaydah who Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was so that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could be captured so that he could tell us about anthrax plots against the United States? What was the alternative? And we did it within our laws. We did it within our treaty obligations. But what was the alternative?
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.
Released on September 13, 2006