Rice Interview With Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio
Interview With Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio
September 15, 2006
QUESTION: It's a great pleasure to welcome back to the heartland of America via our Newsmaker line, the Secretary of State of the United States, Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Condi, how are you?
SECRETARY RICE: I'm just fine. It's great to talk to you, Scott.
QUESTION: Well, we're glad to have you back, we certainly are. And these are busy times. These are perilous times, and we appreciate your leadership very much. I want to talk a little bit about an important tool in the war on terror and how we deal with detainees. Can it be possible, Dr. Rice, that this whole disagreement over how to interrogate terrorists, a program that has saved lives, prevented at least eight terrorist attacks we know about, could literally be solved with a dictionary?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President made very clear today that this is a program that we need. And I can tell you, Scott, having been national security advisor and watched the way we had to respond after September 11th, not only has this program saved lives in America, it's saved lives around the world. And I would hope that the Congress is going to pass a bill that gives to American professionals clear guidance, clear legal guidance on what is acceptable and what is not because otherwise we're not going to have this program.
QUESTION: So I mean, literally a dictionary and a little clarity is all we're looking for here and we're having this big dispute over that. I don't understand it.
SECRETARY RICE: We're just looking for clarity. Professionals are just looking for clarity. The common Article 3, which is one of the articles of the Geneva Convention, is an important article. It's one that the United States has supported, but it's vague as to what its meaning is. And all that we are asking, all the President is asking, all the professionals are asking is that it be clear that it is interpreted through U.S. law, so that they can know that they are in fact obeying the law.
QUESTION: The President said on Friday that it's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison to the behavior of the United States of America and Islamic extremists. Isn't that exactly what your predecessor Colin Powell has done by suggesting we're losing the moral high ground?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the President put it very well, because the fact is the United States has the moral high ground here. It's the United States that is defending innocent life around the world. It's the United States that's liberated, with coalition partners, 55 million people from tyranny. It's the United States that upholds human rights and the values of liberty and freedom. And I find when I travel that people understand that that is the role of the United States, both historic and current. And, so I don't see the argument that we somehow because we want to defend ourselves and defend innocent life around the world that that's somehow losing the moral high ground. I just think it's wrong.
QUESTION: So in those travels when your predecessor says something like that and others as well, John McCain, is that harmful to the reputation of the United States and to you doing your job?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think people understand that we have a free and open debate in the United States and people can say what they wish. But as one responsible for carrying out American foreign policy is the one responsible for talking to our European allies and to others. I am really very pleased to make the case that in this new war on terror, America and our allies ought to use every legal means within our treaty obligations, within our laws, and within our values to fight terror and to save innocent lives. You don't have the option of failing to get information that might save the lives of another 3,000 people.
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, we talk regularly on this program with our troops in Iraq. And they explained to us rather clearly that the violence reported with gusto in our media here and in some cases almost cheer leaded by the President's opponents, actually focuses in about four of the 18 provinces in Iraq.
SECRETARY RICE: That is absolutely correct. The military is right.
QUESTION: Yet, we hear from critics, day in and day out, that say Iraq is in a full-blown civil war, so which is accurate?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, what's accurate is that there are some very tough places like the Anbar Province where al-Qaida has had a strong hold, but you know, al-Qaida doesn't control a single town in Anbar any longer. Places that the names are now familiar, like Fallujah, are now far better than they were a year ago. And yes, Baghdad is very tough. But we are -- we're currently on -- with the Iraqis who are carrying out a Baghdad security plan that's starting to have an effect. The Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government has -- they have determined enemies. There are people who don't want to see a democratic and non-sectarian, unified Iraq. But most Iraqis want to see exactly that and they are sacrificing for it and they deserve our support.
QUESTION: Let's talk about Iran for a minute. Their renegade uranium enrichment program continues -- the President now predicting that no sanctions will be imposed and are unnecessary. Coming amid a shift from Russia and China from their previous position of support on sanctions, saying they now could be counterproductive. Have China and Russia reneged on us?
SECRETARY RICE: I believe China and Russia are going to end up voting for sanctions or at least allowing sanctions to go forward. We had a deal, and the deal was the following, and Iran understood that: If Iran was prepared to suspend its uranium enrichment and negotiate we were prepared to go down that road. And the United States prepared to go to the table for the first time in more than two decades. If Iran did not, then the Security Council would have to act.
And I just want to say that we are in the process right now of working with the European-Three but also with the Russians and the Chinese on a resolution which we intend to vote, to send a very strong message to Iran that it can't simply ignore the will of the international community. Now there are talks going on. We think that's a good thing. If the Iranians come out of those talks with Javier Solana, the European Foreign Policy Chief, and decide that they wish to suspend, then we're ready to negotiate.
QUESTION: There's a little bit of a dustup going on now between the House Intel Committee and the IAEA on the nature of the threat from Iran's nuclear programs. If you and I were today talking to the folks here in the Heartlands , say over at the Frying Pan in Morehead, over coffee, how would you describe the threat from Iran today?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would describe the threat, first of all, as one of Iranian ambitions. They clearly have ambitions to be a dominant force in the region, to be a force that supports terrorism and they want to have a nuclear weapon to help. There are certain technologies that if Iran perfects those technologies it will give them the ability to build a nuclear weapon. And so what we're trying to do at this stage is to stop Iran from acquiring those technologies that teach you how to build a nuclear weapon. We've got still a good chance to do that if the international community stays strong.
That, Scott, when you hear people talk about enrichment and reprocessing capability, it is learning to enrich and reprocess the fuel for nuclear weapons. That's the hard step and we're trying to keep the Iranians from learning to do that.
QUESTION: Should we worry about it? Should moms and dads listening to this program right now wondering about the America their children and grandchildren will inherit -- is this a front-burner worry for them today?
SECRETARY RICE: I think that people should be concerned that you have a state that supports terrorism that's seeking a nuclear weapon. And that's why this President is very strong both in the war on terrorism and in keeping the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous people. But yes, we face a very challenging world. We face a very dangerous world. And you have to have policies and you have to have means, and you have to be willing to do within your legal means and within your obligations whatever you can to deal with this very dangerous world.
The President has proposed to the Congress two very important pieces of legislation. One allows us to continue to surveil terrorists, within the law, but to surveil them so we know if they're plotting and planning against us. The other is to allow us to have a program which would get information from the highest-value detainees, people who planned and plotted September 11th and people like that, high-ranking people. We need that legislation and I hope that the Congress will pass those two important pieces of legislation.
QUESTION: There was a day in this country when American political leaders spoke with one voice when it came to foreign policy, Dr. Rice. Politics stopped at the water's edge is a term you hear often, but it's in our past. Given the fact that the Democrats today feel it's outrageous to mention a war in which 140,000-plus troops have their lives on the line as we speak on the anniversary of an attack like 9/11. Isn't that pathetic?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that -- look, we are an open society and people are going to debate, but there are only two things that I would ask people to keep in mind. The first is that whatever we think about the way we got into war, and people may disagree, let's realize that it would be enormously dangerous for the United States not to finish the job of helping the Iraqis secure themselves and defend themselves. Because either we will fight the terrorists on their territory or we will fight them again on ours. And the President is determined that we're going to stay on the offensive.
The second point is that -- again, I don't mind if people want to be critical of policy. But I find sometimes when people question the motives of their President -- that somehow this President just wanted to go to war and he therefore misled. These are accusations that are groundless, they're hurtful and harmful, and they shouldn't be tolerated.
QUESTION: Does it make your job tougher, given the political environment and that discourse? I mean, you've got the top Democratic leaders suggesting that you remove the threat of military action as a tool in the diplomatic effort over rallying the world to deal with the threat of Iran. I mean, does that make it that much tougher for you to do the job you need to do?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I know that the President is not going to take options off the table. I know that the President is committed to a diplomatic course, but that the President understands the seriousness of the problem we face. So no, we go about our business. I think America is respected. People don't always agree with us, but we have very strong and special responsibilities in this dangerous world and we're going to carry them out.
QUESTION: I have a marvelous idea for you to consider. When you need just some down time and to decompress a little bit from the many difficulties you are maneuvering so well as the Secretary of State for this President and you want to come -- you know, just utilize your wonderful skills as a world-class pianist, come on out to the Heartland sometime and we'll put up a little event for charity and you can come out here and spend a day in the Heartland.
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, that would be really fun. It sounds great.
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, great to talk to you. Thanks so much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thanks so much for having me on, Scott. Bye-bye.
Released on September 18, 2006