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Chicago Print Roundtable With Matt Nickerson, Chicago Sun Times, Ernie Torriero, Chicago Tribune and Stacy St. Claire, Daily Herald

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Chicago, Illinois
April 19, 2006

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, whatever's on your mind.  I won't start out with any remarks, just take your questions. 


QUESTION:  I'll start.  You know Secretary Rumsfeld has come under fire recently and, you know, you had also mentioned tactical errors made in Iraq.  Do you support Donald Rumsfeld staying on as Secretary of Defense?


SECRETARY RICE:  Well, first let me make very clear the President has great confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld and so do his colleagues.  We've worked with him.  We know his dedication.  We know his really extraordinary effort that he has put into all of this.  He's a good colleague.  Matter of fact, I was just with him at the White House this morning.  He had visiting four governors who had just come back from Iraq and Afghanistan and they had breakfast with us.  And Don Rumsfeld has been my friend for a long time.  I first met him here in Chicago and he's a really good Secretary of Defense, he's done a good job, and all of us have a lot of confidence in him. 


QUESTION:  (Inaudible) the American people's confidence in him to counter the generals have been saying?


SECRETARY RICE:  Well, the thing that the American people should know is that the President is determined to have, I think, a team in which he has confidence and a team that he believes can do the job.  These are challenging, difficult times and we all have to make difficult decisions.  I would be the first to say that I'm sure not every decision has been a good decision.  But this is a period of enormous historical challenge and change, and when you're in periods like this some things are going to go wrong and some things are going to go right, but very often you can't tell what a good decision was until history has a chance to judge it, and sometimes what seemed to be a good decision turns out to have been a bad decision in historical perspective. 


So what we do is we get up every day and we work hard to try to carry out the President's policies, policies that we believe and that I believe personally are going to make America more secure because it is a policy based on our values that is going to change the very nature of the Middle East, a region that desperately needs change.  And I think the President -- the President determines his team and I think he believes that he's got the right people and I certainly am glad to and proud to work with Secretary Rumsfeld. 


QUESTION:  Shifting gears a little bit.  Are you satisfied with the way we provide arms to our allies during this conflict?  I'll tell you a brief story.  We have a young crew in Baghdad who has helped us for three years.  One of the brothers, as of Wednesday, had a family gathering and there was a checkpoint when his younger sister was shot in the head.  And this idea of the arms and who has more (inaudible) becoming a big issue.  We ran a big thing on it Sunday.  I'm just curious as to what you think. 


SECRETARY RICE:  You mean unauthorized arms in the hands of people or --


QUESTION:  Unauthorized arms and where -- our checks --


SECRETARY RICE:  Our checks on --


QUESTION:  As to where the arms (inaudible).


SECRETARY RICE:  Yes.  Well, the first thing to recognize about Iraq and even to a lesser extent Afghanistan, but still true of Afghanistan, is that these are countries that, having been through a lot of civil conflict, have a lot of arms in the country and had them there before we arrived.  Unfortunately, the ability to smuggle particularly small arms but pretty lethal small arms and indirect fire arms in across borders is a problem.  It's why we've worked so hard, the military has worked so hard on the Euphrates Valley to try to stop smuggling of arms in from that area.  But it's a fact of life that it is unfortunately not hard to get arms in either of those places, but particularly in Iraq.


As to the arms that we provide, I think you would find that we have a set of checks and processes for providing arms, for instance, when we are arming the police or arming the army in either of those places.  It's done within the context of a training program.  And I think that you would find that the checks are as good as they are any place, but obviously in an environment like Iraq or Afghanistan one can't certify that things will not end up in other hands.  But we do everything that we can to make sure that it's all done in the context of the arming of the police -- or all done in the context of the training of police and the army. 


QUESTION:  Given the difficulties of the past three years in terms of intervention, how could America possibly consider some other plan -- another intervention?


SECRETARY RICE:  Well, first let me say that I'm going to guess at the kind of subtext of your question.  And I know that there's been a lot in the papers, speculation about what we may or may not do with Iran, and the President certainly is never going to take his options off the table.  And you don't want the American President to take his options off the table. 


But that's not the agenda with Iran.  The agenda with Iran is a diplomatic agenda.  We really do believe that a concerted diplomatic effort, one in which the international community is really united.  Part of the problem with Iraq was we lost our unity and Saddam Hussein recognized it, he played members of the Security Council off against one another.  I think people are aware of that and we are determined to be more unified in presenting Iraq with the very clear strategic choice that it needs to make.


Iraq is not -- Iran is not Iraq.  They are very different situations with very different circumstances.  And if the Security Council acts in a coordinated fashion, really makes it clear to the Iranians that they either accede to the will of the international community or they'll be completely isolated, I think you'll see a change in Iranian behavior.  And that's what we're spending all of our effort doing. 


QUESTION:  You mentioned lack of unity was part of the problem with Iraq.  What would be the other parts of the problem? 


SECRETARY RICE:  Well, it went on for an awfully long time with Iraq.  I mean, we tend to forget that this was a more than 12 -- it was 12 -- more than 12 years in which Saddam Hussein frustrated the will of the international community.  We tend to forget that it wasn't just passive on his part.  You know, we were -- the United States and Great Britain -- flying so-called no-fly zones which were to keep his air force, his helicopters, from threatening his people in the north of the country and in the south of the country.  That's why we were flying those no-fly zones.  And every time -- practically every time we flew, he was shooting at our planes. 


I remember one of the first conversations that we had when we came in was, you know, we were doing these missions, they were dangerous, what if an American pilot was shot down?  How would we react to that?  And so this wasn't just passive aggression by Saddam.  It was active aggression. 


Just a year or so before the war, he refused to accept that Kuwait was indeed an independent country despite the fact that he had lost the war after going into Kuwait.  So the circumstances there were circumstances of a long period of conflict with the international system that actually began with a war that he started and where we had actually fought a war against him and we were in a period of a supposed armistice that he was continually violating.  So that's why I say the circumstances are different. 


But whenever there is a threat to peace and security, the best answer is for the international community to unite, to confront the troublesome state with a very clear choice -- either accede to the international community's demands or be completely isolated -- and I think that's what we will be able to do with Iran.  If things in the Security Council move too slowly, there are also options with states that may wish to impose their own measures, political or financial measures on Iran, and so that's something to consider.  But right now, we believe that the power of the Security Council to act is really the way to do it.


QUESTION:  And because you also know that any armed intervention would inflame things throughout the Muslim world?


SECRETARY RICE:  Well, Iran is not Iraq.  It's a different period of time.  It's a different set of circumstances.  We also have to acknowledge though that a nuclear-armed Iran would also inflame the region in different ways.  If you think about the kind of potential proliferation arms race that that will set off among Iran's neighbors, most of whom are frightened of Iran and Iran's aggressive behaviors+, particularly in some cases against minority populations in various countries, we have to recognize that we also can't do nothing because a nuclear-armed Iran would be a very devastating blow to peace and security in the region.


But we have a lot of options ahead of us and we're going to pursue those fully and the diplomatic options are many. 


QUESTION:  Under what circumstances would you see a military action (inaudible) in Iran?


SECRETARY RICE:  I don't think you can even speculate about such.  I think what we need to do at this point is to redouble, indeed triple, our efforts to convince the Iranians that they need to come back.  Iran is also not North Korea.  I've sometimes seen Iran compared to North Korea.  North Korea is a state that is very isolated, indeed kind of revels in its isolation.  In fact, one of the reasons that that regime is capable of controlling its people is that it keeps completely isolated from the international system. 


That's not Iran.  Iran is a modern state with people who are accustomed to interaction with the international system.  It's a great culture.  And I want to be very clear that we don't have any problem or any quarrel with the Iranian people.  This is the regime that is threatening to isolate itself.  The Iranian people we want to reach out to.  We'd like to see more exchanges with the Iranian people.  We'd like to see more scholars and athletes and musicians coming out of Iran because the Iranian people deserve that.


QUESTION:  If we could change gears a little bit (inaudible).  Our own part of the world, our own hemisphere, the democratic (inaudible) democracy, the Hugo Chavez situation, the south of the border situation, the tensions on the border.  What is your view about the situation now in our own hemisphere? 


SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I think we have to start by recognizing that this is a region that has come a long way from the period of the '80s when it was wracked with civil wars and juntas and when nobody thought about certainly democracy -- stability, let alone democracy.  And it's even come a long way from the '90s when you had Colombia really under threat of coming apart because of the FARC and the insurgency there.


So the reason that I put it in that context is that we sometimes tend to take things in a snapshot and say, well, you're having a rising left or Hugo Chavez is a problem or whatever, without putting it in the context of what we really now are trying to defend in Latin America, which is the fact that there are 34 democracies in Latin America, all of which can take a seat at the Organization of American States, which you have to be a democracy, except for Cuba, which is the one remaining true authoritarian regime.


Now, there are some challenges to that.  Let me be very clear that what is not a challenge is that governments may come from the left.  That's fine from our point of view.  We have very good relations with Chile.  We have excellent relations with Brazil.  We have good relations with Argentina.  Governments of the left, as long as they govern democratically and are committed to prosperity for their people through free trade and increasingly open economies, not a problem.  And this is sometimes characterized as the United States doesn't like governments from the left.  That couldn't be further from the truth. 


Governments, however, that come to power and don't govern democratically and that put pressure on civil society or on the church or on free trade unions, some of which is happening in Venezuela, or which somehow meddle in the affairs of neighbors, that's a problem.  And it's not just a problem for the United States.  It's a problem for the region. 


I think what we have to recognize about the United States and our policies there is, first of all, we have doubled official development assistance to Latin America in this Administration.  That's sometimes not known. 


But secondly, we have an increasing number of free trade agreements that are going to improve prosperity for people in the region -- the Central American Free Trade Agreement, free trade agreements with several countries in the Andean region -- and I think you will see more of that. 


Third, we recognized in the so-called Monterrey Consensus, a meeting that took place in Monterrey, Mexico, that it's not just enough to talk about economics and growth and trade; you really do in these countries where you have huge income inequality and problems for education and health, you do have to have those democracies capable of addressing the needs of their people.  And we have made common cause with well-governed countries, democratically governed countries that are trying to deliver for their people.  That's why the Millennium Challenge Corporation program that the President announced a few years ago, we now have compacts with Honduras and Nicaragua and El Salvador.  And I think you will see that that approach that says that foreign assistance ought to go to countries that are well-governed and really determined to better the healthcare and the education of their people, to fight corruption, that America is going to make common cause with them.


So we have a very active and I think ultimately very successful policy in Latin America, but yes, there are some pressures from populism of the Latin American variety, I think feeding on the fact that it's been hard for some of these young democracies to deliver for their people.  But the way to go at that is to help the young democracies deliver for their people. 


As to Mexico, we've never had better relations than with Mexico.  Whatever happens in the Mexican elections, we will work with that government because we have enormous interests in common.  And we work very hard on the border.  What I say to Latin American countries and to Mexico in particular is that we want to have immigration policies that are humane and that recognize the economic benefit, the economic contribution that immigrants make to the American economy.  But it also is the case that the United States has to be able to defend its borders, have our laws respected and that that, too, is a joint responsibility.  And we've found a lot of resonance on that point.


QUESTION:  What can be done diplomatically?  Chicago (inaudible) one of the first immigrant marches and we have a huge immigrant population.  What can be done diplomatically working with, you know, Mexico and Poland, our two biggest illegal immigration populations, to curb or to address the situation? 


SECRETARY RICE:  Well, on the -- I think the issues are somewhat different, but obviously I know that Chicago is a city of immigrants.  I'm a Californian.  We've got a huge immigrant population as well.  And it's our heritage.  Immigration is how most people got here, how most people's ancestors got here.  And so it's something to be proud of.  But countries have an obligation to help us defend our borders and to defend the rights of those who stood in line to immigrate legally.  It's not just that illegal immigration is a violation of law, but it also is unfair to those who have tried to immigrate legally.


And so the President has talked about a temporary worker program because he believes that whatever, however people got here, they need to be humanely treated.  They shouldn't have to live in the shadows.  He does not favor an amnesty which would reward illegal immigration in the face of those who stood in line. 


Now, you ask about the Polish population.  We're working with Poland right now on a roadmap to make Poland eligible for the Visa Waiver Program.  Poland is in an anomalous position because we have a Visa Waiver Program for the European Union, Poland now is a member of the European Union but doesn't qualify for the Visa Waiver Program because of a high number of overstays and rejections.


Now, one thing that we've done -- and I worked pretty closely with a number of congress people and senators on this.  One thing that we've done is to go back and try to restart the clock for Poland after the communist period ended because one explanation for the high number of overstays and the high number of rejections was that people were actually leaving a pretty oppressive system.  And when we reset that clock and then get the numbers more -- get the numbers in line with our requirements, I think you will see that we would hope to qualify Poland.  But we have a statute.  You have to meet the requirements of the statute. 


QUESTION:  Is there a time frame for the waiver program?


SECRETARY RICE:  There is not a time frame.  We're working through it.  We have a roadmap.  It's not time-based.  It's based on meeting some milestones that we've worked with our consular officials. 


QUESTION:  I'm once again shifting gears back towards the Middle East.  There was another tragic suicide bombing (inaudible). 


SECRETARY RICE:  Unconscionable.  And it just needs to be completely and totally condemned, as many in the region did and as Mahmoud Abbas did, the Palestinian President, the Palestinian Authority.  Unfortunately, Hamas missed a chance to demonstrate that it can be responsible.  How can you possibly say that you want peace and on the other hand say, well, there was a right to kill innocent people?  I mean, it just doesn't -- the world is not going to stand for that. 


And Hamas was elected and the President, more than anybody, believes that the Palestinian people should have their election on time and that we need to respect their choice.  But Hamas also needs to respect what it means to govern as a democratically elected leadership, and that means to be able to speak to the needs of your people. 


In order to do that, you've got to have peace.  There is no scenario in which life for the Palestinian people gets better with terrorism on the rise.  There isn't a scenario.  Because the Palestinians need a cooperative relationship with Israel and ultimately they need their own state.  The President was the one who made it a matter of U.S. policy that there would be a -- should be a Palestinian state.


But you're not going to get there if you refuse to recognize the existence of the other party.  You're not going to get there if you continue to condone violence of the kind that happened.  So we'll work with the new Israeli Government when it's formed to understand Israel's -- how Israel sees its options.  And we would like nothing better than to see Hamas make the right choice.  I know there have been stories about, you know, we want Hamas to (inaudible).  No, we would like nothing better than to see a Hamas come out and do the right thing and move forward on the Roadmap. 


QUESTION:  And is there anything that you can do to (inaudible)?


SECRETARY RICE:  Well, we have international discussions on this all the time.  Some people are maintaining their contacts with Hamas, but frankly not very many and a lot of them have been kind of one time.  But most of the international community, particularly the EU and the United States, have made clear that we are going to try to meet the humanitarian assistance needs of the Palestinian people but when it comes to funding Hamas we're not prepared to do it.  And I think Hamas is learning that they have a significant budget problem and, you know, I would hope that that would help convince them to change their behavior.  But what I really hope helps convince them to change their behavior is that they're not going to serve the Palestinian people by refusing the reality of the situation, which is that there needs to be a two-state solution, and two-state solution means accepting the right of Israel to exist.  We're not saying accept -- and this is not recognize Israel politically.  That's not the point.  Just accept the right of Israel to exist and let's go on from there. 


QUESTION:  On a lighter note, you mentioned meeting Secretary Rumsfeld here for the first time.  Do you have any other connections to Chicago, relatives, old friends? 


SECRETARY RICE:  I have a couple connections to Chicago, including the fact that I went to school in South Bend and this was a place of -- let me say escape from South Bend, even though South Bend was a wonderful place to go.  I can remember as a graduate student coming here to the Chicago Lyric and in those days they had kind of -- you'd get a cheap ticket to sort of stand in the, stand and listen to the performances and I heard a couple really great performances here.  This is a great city culturally, architecturally obviously.  It has a spectacular university in the University of Chicago from which my former boss, the President of Stanford when I was Provost, Gerhard Casper, was the Provost here at the University of Chicago.  And ironically, my two college roommates were both from Chicago, and so this is a city that I got to know a little bit as a graduate student but I've always thought it's one of the most beautiful cities in the country.  Look at that out there.  Spectacular.  But no, I'm not a White Sox fan.  (Laughter.)


QUESTION:  Are you a Cubs fan?


SECRETARY RICE:  Or theirs.  (Laughter.)


QUESTION:  One more then, shifting towards Asia.  The large influence of China.


SECRETARY RICE:  China.  We've got President Hu coming to Washington or coming to see the President tomorrow.  There probably is no more important single factor in international politics than the rise of China.  It's a growing economic power.  That means that it is growing as a political factor in international politics.  And we believe that that can be for the good if China is prepared to be responsible in its international behavior; if it's prepared, as it is doing, to work with us on issues like Iran or North Korea; if it is prepared, which it does somewhat less evenly, to completely abide by the rules of the international economy.  I mean, a big economy like that has a lot of advantages in that it grows in their markets, but it also has to respect intellectual property, it also has to make certain that it has a currency that is flexible and reflects the market rate, it has to make certain that all aspects of its economy are open. 


So there's a lot of potential here for China to be a very positive factor in international politics.  We have our significant disagreements with China and some of this relates to the fact that China's internal transition is still underway.  We work very hard to advocate for a stronger human rights record in China.  It's a country that needs a more open political system.  You know, ultimately you can't ask your people to think at work and not at home.  And I think it will begin to evolve.  Religious freedom is an area where we have considerable difficulty.  And we've been concerned about the Chinese military buildup, which needs to be transparently explained.


But while there are good things and bad things about the relationship (inaudible), I think on balance the United States has an obligation to work with China toward a positive role for China in international politics.  There ultimately won't be anything more important than that. 


QUESTION:  I know you get asked this everywhere you go, but what about - you're laughing -- what about 2008?


SECRETARY RICE:  2008?  By the beginning of 2009, I hope to be back in California at Stanford.  I know my strengths and what I do and enjoy doing, and see, I've never -- I didn't even run for president of my student government.  I have a lot of admiration for people that do, but I don't see it in my future. 


QUESTION:  And one more quick question.  Darfur. 




QUESTION:  The U.S. called it a genocide.


SECRETARY RICE:  A genocide, yes.


QUESTION:  What are you doing substantively about it?


SECRETARY RICE:  Well, first of all, we are leading the international effort to help under UN auspices to get a more robust security presence into Darfur.  The African Union force has done a good job and we've supported that force and we have -- we even have -- are trying to enhance NATO support to that African Union force.  But it's not large enough, it doesn't have enough mobility and it's not sustainable over time in a place that is the size of Texas.  Darfur is about the size of Texas. 


So we're leading the international effort to get a blue-hatted force that would have as its core African troops but might be able to draw in other countries as well, and then to support that force with mobility and planning and logistical support so that it's able to move out to different parts of Darfur.  We do know that where there is a monitoring presence, the violence is not -- is down. 


Secondly, the United States is the single most active and the largest donor of humanitarian assistance and we are going to continue to support the nongovernmental institutions and organizations.  I've met a lot of these people from nongovernmental organizations that are just delivering unbelievable service on the ground.


Third, we are very actively engaged in trying to help get a peace agreement for Darfur.  The United States led the effort through Jack Danforth to get an agreement between the North and South that ended the decades-old civil war in which millions of people are dying.  And so we're trying to make sure that that gets implemented because you don't want to lose the North-South agreement as you're working on Darfur. 


At the same time, we've been working with and encouraging the Government of Sudan to sit down with the rebels, the rebels to unify their position, and to get a peace agreement.  Because without a peace agreement, it's going to be very hard to really stabilize the situation here.


Finally, we are using both diplomacy and persuasion with the Sudan Government, the Khartoum government, but also we have not been shy about using more coercive means.  We are just about to list several members of the Sudan Government for personal sanctions, which I think is an important signal.  And so we've used the UN to give the international community tools that can be used both to persuade the government to accept this UN force but ultimately also to punish some of the behavior that has been so bad.  Look, the President asks me about Sudan all the time.  It's something that is very front and center in his mind because he recognizes the great tragedy that is going on there, the moral responsibility of the international community to act and the role that the United States can play in mobilizing the international community.  And so it's something that he spends a good deal of time on personally. 


QUESTION:  Okay, thanks a lot.


SECRETARY RICE:  All right, thank you very much.  It was a pleasure to meet you.


QUESTION:  A pleasure to meet you.


QUESTION:  Thank you.



Released on April 20, 2006

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