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Condoleezza Rice IV Wiith Jack Straw In Birmingham

Interview With United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jack Straw With Kathy Times of WVTM NBC-Birmingham

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Birmingham, Alabama
October 23, 2005


QUESTION: Ms. Rice, my first question is for you. Now that you had an opportunity to revisit Birmingham, what are your thoughts on the city today as compared to when you were a child here?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Birmingham is light years away from where it was when I was a child. Not just in terms of its racial attitudes and the integration of the races, which is quite dramatic here -- and a black mayor -- and to think that Bull Connor's successor would now be a black woman is pretty remarkable. But also, this was a state where the industrial base was starting to crumble, when I was a child. And now you see the medical technology in the University of Alabama-Birmingham leading. I think that my colleague, Jack Straw, has been impressed by the Mercedes plant on the way from Tuscaloosa, which shows that investment is coming into the state. It's a thoroughly modern city now and I'm very proud of it.

QUESTION: This question is for both of you. It seems as though, obviously, Americans are starting to grow impatient with the war in Iraq. How do you convince them that we are still on the right course? I heard someone say that we're only on "halftime" in the war. How do you address this concern with the British as well as Americans?

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, what we know from what we've been involved and what I know from my constituents and my voters in my district, is that whatever view people took of the war itself, the vast majority of people want us to see the job through. And they can see that the Iraqis themselves are desperate for democracy. There used to be a time where people said, "Well, the Arabs weren't fit for democracy." That's all changed; we've seen it. We've seen it elsewhere in the Arab world. We had a huge turnout in January, eight and half million voters; another big turnout in the referendum two weeks ago. So we can see what is happening. People are willing, I think, to stay there until the job is done. And although, yes, the violence continues, they also know that Iraq is getting better and it is, so that's where the British people are.

SECRETARY RICE: I would simply add -- I agree with everything that Jack has said -- that yes, it is a generational commitment to a stable and democratic Iraq. But the military commitment is really to get to the place where the insurgency and the terrorists cannot destabilize the government. And we are training Iraqi security forces really rather rapidly to be able to do that eventually on their own -- and as the President said, when they're able to stand up to that task, then we can stand down from that task. So when we talk about needing a stable and democratic Iraq as a centerpiece, as a pillar of a different kind of Middle East, so that we don't experience the kind of terrorism that we did on September 11th. That generational commitment is not principally a military commitment. That will be a political and economic commitment. The military commitment is to break the back of the terrorists and break the back of the insurgency so that the Iraqis can secure themselves.

QUESTION: Well, America was not safe on 9/11 and entered into a war in which the facts were not laid out. The name of an intelligence officer was leaked and the federal government was ill prepared to handle Hurricane Katrina. How do you feel history will treat you and the Bush Administration?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me question the premise that you started with. The notion that the facts were not laid out on the Iraq war is simply not right. The President went to the American people. He laid out the facts as we knew them at the time. Saddam Hussein had been sanctioned by UN Security Council Resolutions 17 times. Somebody else, other than the United States thought that he was a threat to peace and security. This is somebody against whom we've gone to war in 1991 because he tried to annex his neighbor Kuwait. And so he was a threat to peace and security.

The United States, of course, is a country that is not -- that's the great democracy, but it's not perfect. And the area of devastation for Katrina, I've heard my colleagues say, is the area greater than the size of Great Britain itself. And so of course it was difficult to respond to Katrina. I think that you will see in the rebuilding of the Gulf that it has -- the great tragedy that has happened to so many people has yet given us an opportunity to rebuild the Gulf somewhat better.

And so I think that this President will be judged as someone who took on big challenges, who took on September 11th, not just as a single terrorist attack but rather as having to fight the struggle of our time against an extremist ideology that not only blew up the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but a subway in London, nightclubs in Bali, the tourist areas in Sharm el-Sheikh, a train station in Madrid. This is a worldwide threat and I think this President -- by the way, Prime Minister Tony Blair who has been his strong partner in this, will be judged as people who understood the magnitude of the challenge that has been issued to them and actually responded, not in a small way, but in a bold way. And when there is a peaceful, more democratic Middle East that doesn't spawn the extremist ideology, history will judge them well.

QUESTION: And one final thought. How do you convince African Americans -- or would you -- that they should consider the Republican Party when so many are Democrats and disagree with many of the views of the Republican Party?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would ask them, first of all, not to categorize people as the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but actually look at what they stand for and what they've done. And I would ask people to look at the President's No Child Left Behind education policies, which, as the President has put it, are trying to address the "soft bigotry of low expectations for our children." I went to Brunetta C. Hill. I saw these bright young children and bright young faces. Nobody should believe that they aren't going to be able to read at third grade level when they're in third grade. It's ridiculous. And this President has had the courage to stand up and say it's ridiculous.

Secondly, this is a President who has cared about historically black colleges, which educated my parents, for instance; about community colleges, has cared about minority homeownership, has appointed minorities, particularly African Americans, to extremely high-ranking positions in the government. So I would say, look at what this President has done. Look at what he's done as a Republican and make that the basis for your decision, not a label, which can be deceiving.

QUESTION: We asked viewers and I just want to follow up just really quickly.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: You talked about children. We asked viewers to send us write questions. When they ask you: Of your role -- I'm a mother of two, grandmother of six -- what can we do as individuals to ensure the safety of these precious children in these dangerous times of terrorism?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, the most important thing that can be done to secure the future of these children is to realize that the liberties and the freedoms that we have here -- the liberties and the freedoms that we were once denied in Birmingham -- really do have to spread across the world. You know, there was a time when we fought a war in Europe and helped our friends in Great Britain. And everybody assumed we would fight again in Europe. No one actually believed that there might be a Europe in which no one could imagine a major war.

Because we were true to our democratic principles after World War II -- after we defeated Adolf Hitler -- and because we were true to our democratic principles in Asia after we defeated fascist imperial Japan, we have now strong democracies in Germany and Japan that anchor a peaceful Europe and a peaceful Asia. We have got to get there in the Middle East. And I know it's hard and I know that as we're losing people -- and we honor every sacrifice of a human being, of an American soldier or Marine or Airmen -- but as we are involved in that sacrifice, let's remember that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice. And if we could leave to those children a Middle East in which no one could ever imagine a major war -- or no one could imagine the emergence of extremist ideologies, we would've done the very best that we could.

Now, as individuals, it means that we have to keep our resolve and our faith and support our men and women in uniform and support what they're doing. And so I'd say to individuals, if you see a man or woman in uniform walking down the street, thank them. Thank them for what they're doing to secure -- and British men and women in uniform are doing the same. But individuals can make a difference.

QUESTION: You answered the question about how you think that we view Mr. Bush. How do you think they'll view you when it's all said and done?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I -- first of all, I don't know and I'm enough of a historian to care only that -- if I can contribute in some small way to the building of a foundation so that 30 or 40 years from now we can look back and say this was a period when we laid a foundation where we ended the prospect of major war in the Middle East, I'll be happy.

QUESTION: Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.

2005/T16-10

Released on October 24, 2005

ENDS


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