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Rice on CBS Early Show With Harry Smith

Interview on CBS Early Show With Harry Smith

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 16, 2005

QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning, Harry.

QUESTION: This can't be viewed as anything less than a success as far as this election is concerned: Shiites, Kurds, most importantly, Sunnis voted. Can you calculate this morning what it means to the future of this country?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is just such a strong confirmation of the Iraqi people's determination to have a better future, of their commitment to democracy. Now, Harry, so many of the pictures were just very heartening. I saw a picture this morning of a blind man being led by his family to vote, little children dipping their fingers in the inkwell because their parents were telling them that this was something special, a woman who talked about how important this was to her and she herself was an election worker and she wanted to thank America for her new opportunity.

This really is a remarkable fresh start for the Iraqi people who've suffered too long under tyranny, who've suffered too long under conflict. And even though they have a difficult road ahead, this is a very happy day for the Iraqi people, and I think the American people should be proud of our part in helping them get to this moment.

QUESTION: So much of the insurgency in Iraq is rooted in the Sunni community. Does this mean -- can you read this in any way -- does this mean that the Sunnis are going to choose ballots instead of bullets?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think certainly the Sunnis have demonstrated that they believe that this political process is now the way to express their interest and to secure their own futures. As you know, Harry, Sunnis didn't vote in the January election and I think they've regretted it ever since. Their leaders went out this time, even the most -- some of the hardest line factions in the Sunni community went out -- religious leaders -- telling people to vote. Some of the insurgents said that they would not attack the voting.

Now, the Iraqi people and particularly Iraqi political leaders now have a heavy responsibility to make Iraq a country in which all Iraqis are represented. I'm quite certain that the parliament now elected in these elections is going to be much more representative. But all Iraqis now are going to have to work to make this a true national compact so that everyone can be included. But the Sunnis clearly chose politics this time.

SECRETARY RICE: The President admitted this week in a speech that the intelligence he based his decision to go to war in Iraq on was, in fact, wrong. You were his National Security Advisor at the time. Do you bear any responsibility as well?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course, we all wish that we had had better intelligence. The intelligence agencies, I think, were doing perhaps their best in a situation in which you had a very secretive government that wouldn't answer the questions that the international community was asking of it. The intelligence had been gathered over a 12-year period. The United States had based its policies on that intelligence for that entire 12-year period. And the view that Saddam Hussein was actively seeking weapons of mass destruction was a view that was held widely around the world.

But of course, all of us are responsible for the decisions that were made. The most important thing, though, is that you saw yesterday that the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was a right decision. It was not only an important decision morally, but strategically, to have an Iraq that is now voting and that is now solving its differences with politics, not with conflict and violence. It's going to make a huge difference to the Middle East.

QUESTION: Let me ask you quickly, the White House changed direction yesterday and decided to support John McCain's torture ban. Why did they decide to change their minds and is that helpful to you in the international arena?

SECRETARY RICE: What is helpful, as the President said yesterday, is that it is a real clear message to the world that the United States, as I said last week to my European counterpart, does not condone torture, would never condone torture, is a country of rule of law. This is a democratic system working and Senator McCain worked tirelessly with the Administration to get to legislation that will allow us both to protect the American people, which is the first obligation of any government, and to do so within our laws and within our international obligations. And I think we had a good day yesterday in that regard.

QUESTION: Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State of the United States, we thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us this morning. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. It's great to be with you. 2005/1177

Released on December 16, 2005


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