Interview With British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on the Jonathan Dimbleby Programme ITV1Secretary Condoleezza Rice
April 1, 2006
QUESTION:Welcome back to the Maritime Museum in Liverpool. With me, the American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the British Secretary of State Jack Straw.
Condoleezza Rice, there's a big buzz about your visit. Some of it's positive, some of it is pretty angry. Do you understand why there's that anger?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I certainly understand that people have a right to express whatever views and emotions they may have. And I understand that there are policies that people don't agree with and the wonderful thing about democracy is that they can express those views. And I think it simply makes the point that human beings are best off when they have systems of government that listen to them and that allow free expression. And that's what we're seeing around the world, that there are no people on earth who should not have that ability to express themselves.
QUESTION: And it follows from that, Jack Straw, that you don't have to be an extremist to be angry about the United States or indeed hostile to the United States Government.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: We've not accused anybody of being extremist. People have perfectly moderate, but perhaps strong views. And some have strong views on the United States. I'll just say this about demonstration. Demonstration is fine. And I was teasing demonstrators through the meeting of the press conference yesterday that I could organize rather bigger demonstrations. What's remarkable about the demonstration in the front of the town hall in Blackburn was that there were demonstrators against Secretary Rice's visit but equally there was an equally large crowd of people who spontaneously had turned up in support, which I've never, ever seen before because people, if they're agreeing with someone on the whole, they don't bother to get out of bed and prove it. (Laughter.)
The thing I didn't actually terribly appreciate was the suggestion which is not particularly democratic that the Secretary shouldn't be in these places in order to hear what other people had to say. And one of the really great things about this visit is that, for example, when Secretary Rice met with Muslim leaders in Blackburn, they were very polite, they were really appreciative of the fact that she had come to Blackburn and then - there was a serious discussion with very different views being (inaudible) across the table. And it was really good two-way traffic.
QUESTION: I want to look at some of these views and some of the issues that provoke dismay and anger, which you, as it were, Secretary of State, have to defend. You rightly, in millions of people's view, denounced Saddam Hussein. You point out that he was responsible for the death or slaughter of up to 300,000 people, -- he was a monster. Millions, as I say, agreed with you. But people are frustrated, anxious and in some cases angry now, about the daily carnage in Iraq and you don't seem to accept any responsibility for that.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would ask people to be angry at the terrorists who are blowing up innocent Iraqis. The United States of America and Great Britain liberated Iraq along with others from this terrible tyrant, and he was indeed a terrible tyrant. Human rights abuses, wars against his own people, wars against his neighbors --
QUESTION: Understood. That's understood. You've made that point very clearly.
SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely. And the point is that it is not the United States of America or Great Britain that goes into a schoolhouse and shoots at sight a young teacher for teaching girls. It's not the United States or Great Britain that sets off a car bomb among young, innocent police recruits who are only trying to serve their country. And so I would ask people to direct their anger at the right place.
QUESTION: So do you take no -- you acknowledge thousands of tactical mistakes. Do you accept no responsibility that those mistakes have contributed towards the killing and the bereavement that those in Iraq endure.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I guess it's not possible to use a figure of speech rather than to be literal. I was being -- giving a figure of speech when I talked about thousands.
But of course I've certainly made mistakes. You can't make decisions without making mistakes.
QUESTION: But you don't link -- excuse me. You don't link those mistakes that you've made in any degree to the suffering today, the killing today, in Iraq? You don't think if you'd done it differently we might be spared that today?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, history will tell because you can never tell -- and I'm enough of an historian to know that things that looked like a brilliant strategy in the immediate period later looked like terribly mistaken or in fact really mistaken strategies.
QUESTION: Well, we're getting the --
SECRETARY RICE: And ones that at the time looked like mistakes later turned out to have been exactly the right thing to do. So I'll let history judge those things.
But I want to make a very clear point. The terrorists are the ones who are keeping the Iraqis from -- who are trying to keep Iraqis from fully realizing their potential. They are the ones who talk about civil war between Iraqis, even though the Iraqis themselves talk about governments of national unity or visiting each other's mosques.
QUESTION: But it's clearly -- it's not only those people who talk about civil war. We have senior Iraqis talking about civil war. Indeed, we have the American Ambassador to Iraq saying that Iraq -- now I'm quoting exactly -- is really vulnerable to civil war. Do you accept what he says?
SECRETARY RICE: Of course it's vulnerable when you have people like Zarqawi trying to stimulate civil war and trying to foment civil war. Of course it's vulnerable when it's had years of sectarian tension, where people settled their differences by -- just give me a moment. Where people settled their differences either by violence or by repression and are now trying to do that by politics and by compromise.
But we have to look at the alternative, and the alternative is that these people would continue to live in the captivity of a tyrant, that Saddam Hussein would continue to threaten his neighbors and his own people. That period is over and the Iraqis are now on a course, the very difficult course, toward a more democratic future. And that's something that we should celebrate. Difficult as it is, it is better than the alternative.
QUESTION: Was it a tactical error or a strategic error to disband the army, to disband the police, to take a huge number of Baathist civil servants out of their roles of administration, which many people say was a major contributory factor to the prospect of or the vulnerability to civil war today?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, when this history is written, one of the things --
QUESTION: What's your view now?
SECRETARY RICE: When this --
QUESTION: What's your view now?
SECRETARY RICE: No, when this history is written, one of the things that will be clear is that the Iraqi army, in a sense, melted away and we were faced with no structures of the army. And I'd ask you: Should we instead or should the Iraqis instead, who after all helped to set the de-Baathification procedures, simply have ignored the many, many people who were oppressed by the Baath Party? So yes, there may been some excesses in de-Baathification. Iraqis now admit that. There are efforts to correct that.
But on the other hand, it is also true that the Baath Party and the leadership of the Baath Party under Saddam Hussein committed hundreds and thousands of atrocities, and that also had to be dealt with.
QUESTION: Jack Straw, the Secretary of State has acknowledged that Iraq is vulnerable to civil war and says of course Iraq is vulnerable to civil war. Is it not a pretty dramatic strategic error for neither President Bush nor Prime Minister Blair apparently to be aware that there was a risk of internecine war between the religious and ethnic groups of Iraq before they went in?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: No, look, that's simply untrue. And you may (inaudible) quote some -- an extract from some leaked memorandum.
QUESTION: But some leaked memorandum, Secretary of State, is none other than David Manning, our man in Washington.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: But I was present --
SECRETARY RICE: As was I, by the way, and I don't remember the discussion that way either.
QUESTION: So you're saying you didn't -- you don't recall seeing the risk of internecine war?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: No, but allow me to finish, please.
QUESTION: Always do. Thank you.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: But I was present in the cabinet room in Downing Street on two or three occasions at least when we had detailed discussions with the Prime Minister and groups of Iraqi experts about the ethnic makeup of Iraq and of course the whole history of what had happened from the time of its liberation to --
QUESTION: So you knew there was a risk?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Of course we knew there was risk. And let me just make the point about de-Baathification. This is part of this story. Yes, we may have, you know, not quite got the de-Baathification right, but remember where the pressure was coming from for de-Baathification. It was not coming from the beltway in Washington or from Downing Street. It was coming from the Shia. And when I was last in Iraq only six weeks ago, one of the Shia politicians was saying it was all very well for you to say to this government we should now be getting some Baathists back, but tough, we don't think we ought to. So the Shia are 60 percent of the population. The Baathists were exclusively drawn from a rather narrow segment of 20 percent. Of course we were aware of that.
If you ask me -- I'm not speaking for the Secretary -- what mistake that we made, I underestimated the scale of the viciousness of the terrorism against ordinary Iraqis.
QUESTION: We know that Paul Bremer, your man who went into Iraq afterwards, said we didn't see the insurgency coming even.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we certainly knew that there was the possibility that after the war, the major military operations were completed, that there would be people who tried to fight back. But the notion that you can foresee everything in as historically a complex operation as Iraq is simply ludicrous. And no, I want to be very clear about this. This notion that somehow you look into a crystal ball and you say, oh, this might go wrong or that might go wrong and we'll do this, I can tell you --
QUESTION: But there were of lot of people --
SECRETARY RICE: I can tell you about the number of things that didn't go wrong, the number of things that we prevented. And because we prevented at the time, for instance, a large-scale sectarian violence, the Iraqis have had the chance to build a political system that to this point has indeed been resistant to large-scale sectarian violence.
QUESTION: We shall see what happens, Secretary of State, of course.
SECRETARY RICE: We shall. We shall indeed.
QUESTION: Let's move on to Guantanamo Bay, which is another area which creates great anger with some people. You insist that the prisoners there are treated properly. You say nothing that happens there could be described accurately as torture. And then the administration says if people say, well, why should we believe you, you (inaudible) the Red Cross -- is that good enough?
SECRETARY RICE: I don't think that's what I said. I said that a number of people have been to Guantanamo, including many members of our own Congress who don't agree with our policies, and people who go to Guantanamo have a slightly somewhat different view of Guantanamo than people who don't.
QUESTION: Then what are we to make of the fact that the Red Cross -- again, it is a leaked memo -- that the Red Cross says that the psychological and physical coercion at Guantanamo is "tantamount to torture." Is that --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, but let's first -- yes, there's a leaked memo. But let's first talk about what has been said here. There are people who are concerned that people do not know when the end of their detention is coming. That is the context for what you are talking about. We're not talking about physical abuse of people. We're talking about the question of when will people be released.
Now the question of --
QUESTION: But the --
SECRETARY RICE: -- I know that International --
QUESTION: The International --
SECRETARY RICE: I need to finish. I need to finish.
QUESTION: I'm actually not going to stop you, but just in parenthesis, the International Red Cross is regarded as the body that arbitrates in these matters, and it says the behavior is tantamount to torture.
SECRETARY RICE: You asked a question. Let me give you an answer. And let me give you an answer in context. And that context is the question of whether or not people know when their detention will end.
Now, we don't want to be the world's jailer and we certainly want to try people or release them. One of the misunderstandings about Guantanamo is the sense that somehow hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people have been there forever with no prospect of release. Indeed, we have released hundreds of people from Guantanamo either because we've deemed them not as dangerous as thought or because we've released them to their governments, as we did with Great Britain.
SECRETARY RICE: And so the United States very much wants to try people and get them out of Guantanamo, but --
QUESTION: But you may not be able to get them out? They may stay there indefinitely?
SECRETARY RICE: Until we can try people or until we can release them to their governments. We're most certainly not going to release them out on the general population.
QUESTION: There's no time limits?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's --
QUESTION: As you say, you've --
SECRETARY RICE: Let's remember why people are in Guantanamo. They're not --
QUESTION: Just if you would answer my question first. It's only fair to --
SECRETARY RICE: No, you --
QUESTION: You quite rightly gave your answer. I'm quite rightly asking questions.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Although you want to see them out -- of course you want to see them tried --
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, of course we do.
QUESTION: No one disputes that you would wish to just, but you can't say they won't be there indefinitely, which may contribute to the ICRC saying that what the behavior is, the treatment is tantamount to torture. So my question to you is --
SECRETARY RICE: First of all, we simply don't agree because if the United States thought that it was engaging in torture, we wouldn't do it. But the notion that somehow people have a right to be released from Guantanamo because we cannot give them a date certain at which they will be released, given the context in which Guantanamo exists, let's remember why people are in Guantanamo. They're in Guantanamo because they were picked up on the battlefields of Afghanistan, because they were caught plotting to commit other terrorist acts against innocent people, because they were financing terrorist acts against innocent people. These are not people who are at Guantanamo because they exercised their free speech right.
QUESTION: But they are only in a free society which you represent. They are allegedly guilty of all those offenses until a court has found them guilty.
SECRETARY RICE: And there will be an opportunity to examine exactly that. But until we can do that, we also have an obligation not to release people who can be harmful to innocent people into the streets. But I want to repeat, Jonathan, many, many people have been, in fact, released from Guantanamo, including British citizens.
QUESTION: Now let me ask you one more question which relates to the Red Cross. Why do you keep in prison people who you regard as very dangerous in some parts of the world, not in Guantanamo Bay, and you do not allow the Red Cross access to those people? Why is that?
SECRETARY RICE: We do have circumstances, and it's permitted, in which for security reasons we cannot allow access.
QUESTION: Is that because you don't trust the ICRC?
SECRETARY RICE: No, no. It is a matter of security --
QUESTION: Because they very much want to go in.
SECRETARY RICE: It's a matter of security of the personnel, security of our own people, the way in which people communicate. And so yes, there are some cases, but they are -- they are very --
QUESTION: Could you say how many possibly?
SECRETARY RICE: They are -- no, I'm not going to sit here and try to give you numbers. We've been --
SECRETARY RICE: We have been very cooperative with the ICRC. I meet frequently myself with --
QUESTION: But they're very frustrated --
SECRETARY RICE: I meet frequently myself with the head of the ICRC and I think you will find that when the ICRC has questions, we try to give them answers. But we are in a different kind of war here. We're in a situation in which we have people who would, not as a matter of collateral damage but as a matter of design, kill innocent people were they released onto the streets. And we're simply not going to let it happen.
QUESTION: Jack Straw, very briefly on the latter point, not on the Guantanamo where you've made your position very clear, on the last point. Is it acceptable to the British Government, given what people think about the ICRC -- historically it's been dictators who don't let -- have access for the ICRC. Is it acceptable to the British Government, the position of -- you say that you're a candid friend. Is it acceptable, the position that Condoleezza Rice has outlined?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: I trust Condoleezza Rice. Iíve said, of course, but it's really rather important.
I'd just say this. The United Kingdom doesn't have facilities like this but we are different from the United States in two respects. Number one, we are not the world's superpower, and when we were the world's superpower and with those responsibilities, we acted a little differently. Number two, we were not the victims of the 11th of September. And I quite often say to people around Britain, had we been the victims of the 11th of September, had those planes driven into the House of Parliament, to Downing Street, to Canary Wharf and the city of London, the reaction in the United Kingdom to these issues would have been different.
And there's a wider issue here which we've been discussing during the course of this trip. Douglas Hurd -- he was an opponent -- Lord Hurd -- an opponent of the military action in Iraq, made this point yesterday that the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions and all these other wonderful institutions and treaties and instruments for behavior internationally have up to a point served the test of time, but his adjective -- not mine -- was that these are now rusty. And the thing they never took account of was that today's conflicts would arise not between sovereign states but between sovereign states and failing states and terrorists. And that's the new context we've all got to come to grips with, not just --
QUESTION: And in your view, that justifies the American perspective on its attitude to the ICRC? Just a yes or no from --
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Look, I'm not saying what we would have done exactly.
QUESTION: You might have done it differently?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Had we been in the United States position. What I'm saying is that this explains the United Statesí position. I don't have the responsibility -- United States President and Congress have -- of the context of being the superpower and above all the politics of being the victim of September the 11th.
QUESTION: I'm aware that I need to move on. We've got a lot still to get through.
SECRETARY RICE: There's really something I would like --
QUESTION: If you don't mind going on a bit longer, that's okay.
SECRETARY RICE: No, no. I mean, but there's something very important here. It is not as if the United States shuts out the ICRC and I don't want you to leave your viewers with that impression. I myself have sat with the president of ICRC repeatedly. The President of the United States has sat with the president of the ICRC. When we receive requests or inquiries from the ICRC, we go as hard and as fast as we can to answer them.
We've been the strongest supporter financially and morally of the ICRC, and so I don't want you to leave the impression that somehow we have shut out the ICRC. That would simply be incorrect.
QUESTION: Then let's move on. Israel, the elections. The British position is very clear. The West Bank settlements are illegal, annexation is illegal. Is it also the case that you regard any move, or at least any outcome which would have permanent borders imposed unilaterally by the year 2010, because at the moment the Israeli Government is saying that's illegal as well?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: For borders to be legal, they'd have to be internationally recognized and the Israeli Government know that as much as anybody else. Withdrawal from the Gaza --
QUESTION: The Israeli Government?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, they do. Of course. I mean, they --
QUESTION: So why are they talking about forming the borders unilaterally?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: The problem that the -- it's a matter for them to explain rather than me, but the problem the Israeli Government has faced is that what, as they see it, the lack of a really serious interlocutor. And in the latter days of Arafat, I mean, he was not serious.
Now, there is an opportunity here. Ehud Olmert has been very courageous -- he was when he was deputy to Ariel Sharon -- in saying to the Israelis themselves look here, we cannot go on expanding and expanding our borders, giving credit for the fact --
QUESTION: But he is saying he's going to retain major settlements, 50,000-plus people inside of this boundary. That's part of his deal with the Israelis. And that's --
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, at the risk of being criticized for spelling out some realities, everybody knows that if we were ever able to get to final settlement negotiations, which is actually what the U.S. and the UK and the international community are committed to, but it does require there to be negotiations between an Israel which recognizes a Palestine, which it does, and a Palestine which recognizes an Israel, which currently it does not.
Were we to get there, were we to get there, then part of those final negotiations would include the settlements. And no Palestinian I've ever spoken to says that all settlements would be knocked out. That's not realistic. They understand that. What they want is a deal, a settlement, which secures peace on both sides and a viable Palestinian state.
QUESTION: Secretary of State, is it your position that any deal that's going to hold cannot be imposed unilaterally by Israel without a negotiation with the Palestinians and endorsement by the international community? Would America ever support a unilateral border?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's certainly our view that a negotiated solution is the way that we should do this. But let me just remind people, the Israelis also just unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza and I found it a little odd at times that people would say, well, you can't withdraw from the Gaza, after years and years and years of saying withdraw form the Gaza. So sometimes something like the withdrawal from the Gaza, which was then coordinated with the Palestinians, and I was deeply involved in that coordination myself, was actually a very good move forward.
So let's talk to the parties, including the Israelis once they form their government, and let's talk about how to get back on the roadmap. But they do have to have a partner for peace and you can't have a partner for peace if, as the current Palestinian Government led by Hamas says, Israel has no right to exist. So when we talk about the conditions for peace, we also have to talk about the conditions on the Palestinian side for peace.
QUESTION: And you've very importantly said there they do have to get back on the roadmap.
SECRETARY RICE: That is certainly our view. But currently, the only party on the roadmap that doesn't recognize the existence of the other party is on the Palestinian side.
QUESTION: Iran. Potentially a very significant, important and dangerous crisis. You hope that diplomatic efforts will prevail. Does that mean as, at the moment, you will continue to work exclusively through the UN in search for a solution?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we're going to continue to work however we can diplomatically. We're going to work with our British colleagues, with our European colleagues. We'll work with countries that are not on the Security Council to try to convince Iran that they are on the wrong course. We believe that the diplomacy has a chance to work, but we're going to work with whomever we can in whatever forum we can diplomatically to try and bring the Iranians around.
QUESTION: You make a distinction. You say that military action is not on the agenda but it remains on the table. What is that distinction?
SECRETARY RICE: The distinction is that the President of the United States does not take his options off the table. In fact, I'm not sure that you want the President of the United States to take his options off the table. But at this point in time, the agenda is to make this work diplomatically. And we believe that there is a lot of diplomatic effort and a lot of diplomatic possibility still to be explored.
QUESTION: But that doesn't -- when you say it's never taken off the table, the United States in the end does reserve, from your perspective, the right to take preemptive military action against Iran if you feel that that is the only way to ensure that they comply with what you regard as the proper outcome?
SECRETARY RICE: Let me be very clear and go to the bottom line.
SECRETARY RICE: Iran is not Iraq. I know that's what's on people's minds. Iran is not Iraq. The circumstances are different. We don't have 12 years of Security Council resolutions, a case in which a state attacked its neighbor or tried to annex its neighbor, as it did with Kuwait, where we were still in a state of war after the armistice in 1991. I just want to be very clear: Iran is not Iraq.
However, the President of the United States doesn't take his options off the table. We are committed to a diplomatic course because we believe that a diplomatic course can work.
QUESTION: So when your good friend Jack Straw says it's inconceivable that military action would be taken and he cannot imagine the circumstances, are you with him or are you saying (inaudible) we do reserve --
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: She has her own position, a slightly different position, but --
SECRETARY RICE: I do have a slightly different position.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: And people say, oh, you agree with the U.S. or the U.S. agrees with the UK all the time. We do have a slightly different position and we can talk about it, but the important thing that the Secretary --
QUESTION: Explain the difference.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, I mean the difference should be obvious because Iíve offered one for you --
QUESTION: But just quickly --
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, people have listened to this interview. I've said what I've said and secondly the President of the United States saying he doesn't take the option off the table. But in practice, you've just heard the Secretary of State say very eloquently that Iran is not Iraq. Of course we understand. We both understand. The two governments understand why people are so worried about the prospect of military action against Iran being imminent. Because of what they thought happened in Iraq. But as the Secretary said, there is a huge difference. I mean, 12 years of Security Council resolutions. Iraq invaded two of its neighbors. They were --
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, I mean, you understand. I know you do, Jonathan. But many people don't understand it. I mean, where we are at the moment is we are working very hard to resolve this by diplomatic means and, although it's deeply frustrating and hard-going, as we have progressed we've moved from the negotiations being just with the European 3 -- Germany, France and the United Kingdom -- with tacit support from the U.S. Government, to a position where the U.S. Government is more actively involved in setting the strategy of asserting negotiation. And now we also have China and Russia there and --
QUESTION: Do you think China and Russia -- sorry to interrupt you. Do you think China and Russia will endorse, if you both think that sanctions have to be after the 30 days from now, have to be introduced in order to oblige Iran's complying, do you think China and Russia will endorse sanctions?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, let's see. But if I can --
QUESTION: Well, what do you think?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Look, it depends, on the circumstances. But I'd just tell you this, that Sergey Lavrov and Minister Li from Russia and China are very, very seasoned international diplomats and politicians. Sergey Lavrov knows off by heart what's in the UN Charter. So Sergey Lavrov, when we were discussing whether this matter should be reported to the Security Council, if you report him out of the Security Council, the Security Council could then make use of its powers, including Article 41, which is about measures and sanctions, non-military action, so he knows that.
Of course we also need to understand that Russia is anxious about Iran. On its borders they've got some thousands of people working there. They're worried about the possibility of the Iranians stirring up trouble for them. But they also share our high suspicions that Iran may be using its civil nuclear capability to develop a nuclear weapon and they do not want that. So we've actually brought up bigger concerns than anybody imagined.
QUESTION: And I now move strictly to my final question, Secretary of State. We know that George Bush, the President, refers to his father as 41. Is it true he refers to you as 44? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: Well, not that I've heard. No, I'm very happy doing this and I'll be a very happy academic someday.
QUESTION: And from what you've said, are there any circumstances, any nomination for presidency?
SECRETARY RICE: Jonathan, I don't know how many ways to say no. I think I've said it many times.
QUESTION: It must be very disappointing for you that she won't say yes because you've (inaudible) so much. You'd rather like her as President, wouldn't you?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: That's a matter for the American people but, above all, for Secretary Rice. I think she's doing a great job just now.
QUESTION: Secretaries of State, thank you both very much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
QUESTION: And that brings us to the end of this week's program. Next week we'll be back in the studio as usual, next Sunday at 11:30. Hope to see you then. For now, from the city of Liverpool, good afternoon.
Released on April 2, 2006