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Interview With Sean Hannity of The Sean Hannity Show

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
August 3, 2006

(2:30 p.m. EST)

QUESTION: And joining us back on the Newsmaker Line, we're always pleased, proud and happy to have her with us is our Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is with us. How are you, Madame Secretary? Welcome back.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you, Sean. I'm doing just fine and you?

QUESTION: I'm doing great. But I wouldn't want -- I don't envy your position right now. We've got a lot of problems going on in the world. You've just been a whirlwind tour. Tell us a little bit about it.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's indeed a time that we've got a few challenges. But it's -- Sean, I think people should recognize there's a lot of change going on in the world and there are going to be times of turbulence. But change -- the change that's going on is for the better and we are determined that the changes are going to continue to go in the right direction. And so on Lebanon, we're trying to get an end to the violence. Everybody wants an end to the violence. We just want to make certain that we have principles in place that will not permit a return to the status quo ante, where you have a state within a state like Hezbollah that launched this attack across the blue line into Israel, abducted soldiers, fires rockets and did it without the knowledge of the Lebanese Government. That just can't happen again.

QUESTION: No, I agree with you. Although I will tell you I've been very disappointed with some of the public statements of the Lebanese Prime Minister and Defense Minister, very supportive of Hezbollah.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, they have a difficult circumstance, of course, because the government includes Hezbollah ministers. But we have to recognize that while Lebanon's political situation is complicated, there are some very good people there who want to carry out a program in which Lebanon, the state of Lebanon, extends its authority throughout Lebanon, in which the Lebanese armed forces are the only armed forces in the country where Hezbollah is disarmed and where Lebanon can live in democracy and peace. And we have to support those forces and I think Prime Minister Siniora's government is one of those forces.

QUESTION: Do we make some excuses, though, when the Prime Minister of Lebanon, when the Defense Minister of Lebanon come out so openly in support of this state within a state, Hezbollah, and actively say that they're doing good work?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would have preferred that they didn't say it, absolutely, Sean. But I think they've also made very clear that they understand their obligations to disarm Hezbollah. And so what we have to do is to support the process in Lebanon by which the Lebanese Government has full authority and in which Hezbollah is disarmed. That's the best outcome that we can expect.

QUESTION: Why do we always see the world reaction -- it's sort of almost knee-jerk fashion -- against Israel, or so it seems to me. Let me give you the example. We've had the recent tragedy in Qana and the death of some innocent civilians, everybody is sad over that, but this is a war. The war in this particular case, or this event of hostilities, began when Hezbollah captured and killed Israeli soldiers. Israel is defending itself. If it was an -- if these were American soldiers we would defend ourselves. We would defend our soldiers, our cities. Thousands of rockets are fired into Israeli cities targeting Israeli civilians. There is not the world condemnation outrage by the UN, the European Union, by France and some of our allies even. Does that surprise you? Is there a double standard?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States has just taken the position that we have to be very clear about a few things. The first is Hezbollah started this conflict. Secondly, they started it without the knowledge of their own government; that's a problem. We have to be very clear that Israel has a right to defend itself. And we have to be very clear that when these hostilities end, we're going to put in place a framework where this can't happen again. And so that's what we've concentrated on, Sean.

And yes, we've had to say what we think, which is that an immediate ceasefire without establishing that those are indeed the conditions on which we're going to go forward would not have been in anybody's interest. And to the degree that we've had to do that and be, as some people would call it "isolated," I'm perfectly happy to say what the United States believes.

QUESTION: Do you have faith in the United Nations? We saw when the UN observers were killed in this accidental fire, almost immediately UN Secretary General Kofi Annan claimed that it was a deliberate attack by Israel. There was no proof to support that. When the incident in Qana happened, he rushed out and he wanted an immediate meeting. But he did not do a similar -- did not respond similarly when thousands of rockets were fired against -- into Israeli cities. Is the UN effective? Are you disappointed in Kofi Annan's handling in any of this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the UN is made up of its member-states. And what the United States does is we use the UN and the UN machinery to bring people together around a set of principles, but we have to stay strong. I do think that the comments about Qana and about the UN peacekeepers were ill-timed and ill-formed and I've said that to the Secretary General. But I think that he's trying to do some good work. We just have to, as member-states, act on principle. And the Security Council when it acts will need to do that.

QUESTION: Well, if we look to root causes of problems we have to look to Iran and, of course, we have to look to Syria. Iran is funding Hezbollah to the tune -- as far as we know -- at least $100 million a year. A lot of the weaponry Hezbollah is using is coming to Hezbollah via Iran and Syria. How do we deal with the root cause?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you're right that the really big difference in this conflict from, say ten years ago is that Hezbollah is so much more capable because of Iranian money and Iranian technology. And so we, first of all, have to make sure that everybody recognizes that and that everybody recognizes that Iran is really a state sponsor of terrorism and this is what you're getting.

I think we also have to be very clear that Iranian influence cannot be allowed to spread in the region. That's why the way that this conflict ends is so important. It can't be that Hezbollah is able to somehow return to the same status quo ante that caused this problem in the beginning.

And of course, finally, we're dealing with Iran on a number of other issues. I was very pleased that we were able to get a UN Security Council resolution that I think is very soon, if the Iranians don't react positively, is going to lead to sanctions.

QUESTION: Do you believe the current hostilities were started at the behest of Iran, so as to distract from Iran's nuclear programs?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't know, Sean, and I never like to try to judge motivations. I will say that it's hard for me to believe that this would have been launched without Iran's, at least, acquiescence.

QUESTION: Let's listen to the words of Ahmadi-Nejad. He has now, in just the last day or so, called the Israelis bloodthirsty savages. We know he has denied the Holocaust has ever occurred. He has talked repeatedly about annihilating Israel and wiping it off the face of the earth and calling for Israel's destruction. He said just yesterday the solution to the Middle East crisis is to destroy Israel. Should we believe him? Do we really think that that is their goal? Is this what he wants to foment?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think whenever the president of a country says things like that, and I can't remember a president of a country saying that in a very, very long time, you have to take it seriously. I don't know if he means it, but I know that words can have meaning. And so I think you have to be very cognizant of the fact that is a country you cannot allow to have a nuclear weapon. This is a country that all peace-loving states need to band together to make sure that Iran can't have ambitions of this kind. And when Iran -- one of Iran's proxies, one of Iran's clients like Hezbollah launches an action like it did, then you have to make sure that the conflict is going to end on terms that demonstrate that that's not acceptable and it's not going to be allowed to happen again.

QUESTION: When Iraq was building up their nuclear capability in the early 1980s, Israel took some preemptive action and they knocked out those facilities. As a result there was worldwide condemnation of Israel's military action, even condemnation by the United States. Do we find ourselves in a position now where we have got to actively consider what the world would look like if there was a nuclear-armed Iran, and would it not be a good thing if those facilities were taken out early, like in the case of Iraq in the early '80s?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are very much aware of and thinking of what a nuclear-armed Iran would mean to the world. That's why we're working very actively to try to deny that capability to Iran.

I think you have to recognize that the Iranian program is somewhat different than what took place in Iraq in the 1980s. It's just a different level, different stage. And I think we believe that the course that we're on, which is to deny them the technology, even the very basic technology to make a nuclear weapon, is an effective way to deal with this problem.

QUESTION: I want to shift gears for just a second here. Madame Secretary, last month the Pentagon report revealed for the first time that our troops had discovered some 500 artillery shells loaded with chemical weapons since we invaded Iraq. Congress Pete Hoekstra spent a lot of time discussing it publicly, as did Senator Rick Santorum. It was such an issue of contention in the lead-up to the war. Why has the Administration basically seemingly ignored that when I would consider that vindication for its original position? Don't you think that would be something the American public would want to know the truth on and something we should focus on?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, as I understand it, the Administration worked with Congressman Hoekstra and with Senator Santorum, and in fact it was information that was declassified. It's there to be seen.

It's quite clear that Iran -- that Iraq clearly had weapons of mass destruction capabilities. We know that. We know they had used them. I think there are questions about when these weapons may have been -- when they may have actually been a part of the arsenal or not, but I've never doubted that they had the capability and I've never doubted that this was the right decision to take down a dictator who had used weapons of mass destruction, who was still seeking that capability and who, if left to his own devices, I think would have used the Oil-for-Food program, the so-called sanctions against him, to restore its capabilities because he certainly had plenty of money and it was a program that was, as the President put it at one point, like Swiss cheese. So since I've absolutely never doubted the appropriateness, the rightness of what was done, I think that's really the issue.

QUESTION: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is with us. Madame Secretary, I want to ask this question. We have seen in the last hundred years of human history terrible evil inflicted upon innocent people, more recently Rwanda; in the past we have seen the forces of Nazism and fascism in imperial Japan and totalitarianism and communism and the deaths under Mao and Pol Pot and Stalin, et cetera. We saw the deaths on 9/11. I think the biggest threat the world faces now is this issue of terrorism, which we have discussed so often now since 9/11.

When I watch the reaction of world events, we see the unfolding of these hostilities in the Middle East right now and I listen to the European Union members and the United Nations and Spain and Germany and France and Kofi Annan in particular, there seems to be, at least in my mind, and tell me if I'm wrong, an unwillingness for many in the world to face the truth about the nature of the threat of this fanaticism that we describe as Islamic fascism. Am I correct in my analysis that the world collectively, seemingly, does not want to, with the exception of Tony Blair and George W. Bush and the United States and Great Britain, does not want to face this threat head on?

SECRETARY RICE: I think that everybody recognizes this as a threat. I mean, you can't go to a capital and not have people recognize that this is a threat. I do think there are sometimes differences on how urgently it needs to be confronted and how comprehensively it needs to be confronted. The big difference is that the President -- and I think Prime Minister Blair is in that same category -- just doesn't believe that you can confront terrorism just by taking down kind of one terrorist at a time or even one terrorist organization at a time; you've got to change the very nature of the Middle East which produced it.

And that's why when the President says we're in a war on terrorism, not a police action, a war on terrorism, and that war has fronts in Afghanistan and in Iraq, that war has got to confront state sponsors of terrorism like Iran and say to them that, no, the international system is not going to permit the funding of people who just kill innocent human beings because that's what they do. It's not as if these human beings are collateral damage for them. They just kill them because that's what they do.

Yes, there is a kind of moral clarity that I think is really very important. And the President, more than anybody, is providing that moral clarity.

QUESTION: You're a great student of history, Secretary Rice. Is it an accurate analogy, for example, if we go back and watch Winston Churchill, he was way ahead of his time in assessing the danger and the threat and the rise of Nazism and there were many, many people, as you know, that believed that there could be peace in their time. There was an opportunity for the French when the Nazis were battling Poland where they could have easily defeated them. They did not fight them. Six weeks later, in six short weeks after they rearmed and redistributed their forces against France, we know what happened.

Do you see an analogy in terms of this collective thought process among many that there are people that actually believe that there can be some type of negotiated settlement with this very wide-growing problem of Islamic fascism?

SECRETARY RICE: I think that there are perhaps people who believe somehow that there are negotiated solutions with terrorists. I don't and I know the President doesn't. But this is in that sense, these people, the terrorists, are irreconcilable to a peaceful democratic Middle East. They're just irreconcilable.

Now, there are an awful lot of Arabs, an awful lot of Muslims, who want to be a part of that democratic and peaceful Middle East. And we have to work with those people. There are partners in the Arab world, there are partners in the Palestinian territories, there are partners in Lebanon, who want to be a part of the peaceful world, and those terrorists are as much their enemy as they are ours. And so it's not us against the Muslim world or us against the Arab world. It's all those who want a peaceful and more prosperous and indeed freer future against those whose only ideology is one of death and hatred and destruction.

QUESTION: And remember, we've got to look at the world. The terrorists are killing Muslims and Christians and Jews and it's a fanaticism that, if they were successful in their goal of destroying Israel, they would move to Europe and certainly their biggest target of course is the United States of America.

SECRETARY RICE: No one is off limits to these people in their desire to destroy. And again, we have good friends and allies and what we're doing is we're strongly committed to helping those people develop. That's why a democratic and peaceful Iraq is so important. That's why it's linked to American security. That's why a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan is so important. Why a Palestinian partner for peace is important, why a Lebanon that is fully in control of its own territory is important.

But there are elements that would destroy them as well as us, and so we have to stay united with our partners and we have to do so on the basis of the principle that terrorism and peace and democracy are simply irreconcilable.

QUESTION: We always appreciate your moral clarity and these are very consequential, transformative times in which we're living in, and you are going to have a big impact on history, Secretary Rice. I've got to ask you one fun question because you expect it. I always do every --

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. You always do, Sean. Right.

QUESTION: All right. So here's my question. So if you don't get the job as NFL Commissioner and there's a draft effort for you for President, would you accept it if drafted?

SECRETARY RICE: I was lately thinking about president of one of the teams. You know, my -- the beloved 49ers aren't playing so well.

QUESTION: Oh, so you're thinking you could take over and fix that problem immediately?

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) I'm sure the president of the 49ers would be delighted to hear that.

QUESTION: I just want you to know you effectively dodged and ducked my question again, but of course out of friendship we'll let it pass.

SECRETARY RICE: Thanks a lot, Sean. It was great to be with you.

QUESTION: Always appreciate your time. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the Sean Hannity Show. We'll continue.



Released on August 3, 2006

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