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Condoleezza Rice Interview on ABC, Charles Gibson

Interview on ABC Good Morning America With Charles Gibson

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 16, 2005

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, we have had a successful and relatively violence-free election in Iraq. What does that mean in practical terms?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I think we ought to congratulate the Iraqi people on an extraordinary day. They came out in huge numbers. They came out from the Sunni community which had boycotted the elections in January. You saw people taking a blind relative to the polls, little children celebrating with their ink-stained fingers. And so this is a great day for the Iraqi people. But I think what it means in practical terms is that Iraqis are demonstrating that they believe their future is with the political system. And even people who have tended to be skeptical of the politics, maybe have even rejected it, voted yesterday and that will be a message to violent people that the future of Iraq is one that can be -- where differences can be resolved politically and peacefully.

QUESTION: The President has given a series of speeches, four speeches in recent days on Iraq, and I've read them. The two most important quotes, I think: "We will not leave until victory has been achieved; As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." So does this election represent a realization of either of those goals?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it certainly represents a fundamental realization that Iraqis are going to take control of their future and they're going to take control of it. They are taking control of it in a way that is going to be peaceful and based on politics. Now, they still have a long way to go. They've got a long government formation process ahead of them, but they also have a difficult security situation. That's why the United States and the coalition is still there. That's why we are training Iraqi security forces. But you know even there, yesterday when you looked at the pictures of the elections, you saw Iraqi security forces in the streets, you saw Iraqi security forces at polling stations. These people are clearly determined and committed to a future of democracy and some have paid for their lives with it. Others may still. But they made a huge step forward yesterday.

QUESTION: But what frustrates people, I think, is that there is no definition in those statements by the President, no benchmarks, no specificity of what something like this election may mean in terms of getting troops home or in terms of reducing the massive amounts of money we're spending there.

SECRETARY RICE: The reason that yesterday was so important is that Sunnis who have largely been the -- at least the basis of the insurgency, the insurgency has really taken hold in those regions -- Sunnis went out in large numbers and voted. They told -- even some of the most radical and hard-line leaders told their people, go out and vote. These people are making a choice for peace and that means that the time is coming in which this insurgency will have no foothold, in which it will be defeated, defeated by Iraqis and in which we can fully come home.

QUESTION: One other quick issue. There's a story in The New York Timesthis morning that the President authorized eavesdropping on people inside this country without warrants. Number one, is it true? Number two, did you know about it? Number three, can you justify it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Charlie, I'm not going to comment on a newspaper article on intelligence activities. But I can tell you that the President -- everything the President could do to protect the country he did, but he did it within the law and he did it with a healthy respect for the civil liberties that are the core -- at the core of who we are and what we represent. This is a President who was faced with new and difficult circumstances, but he always behaved within the law and with the respect for civil liberties.

QUESTION: If we had the NSA eavesdropping on people inside this country without warrants, are you saying that's within the law?

SECRETARY RICE: I'm not going to comment on intelligence activities, but the President has acted lawfully and those who are engaged in our intelligence activities act within the law as well.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I wish you a happy holiday. Thanks for being with us.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Charlie. Happy holidays to you, too. 2005/1176

Released on December 16, 2005


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