Interview With Marc Bernier of WNDB RadioSecretary Condoleezza Rice
September 26, 2006
QUESTION:Madame Secretary, welcome back to the Marc Bernier program.
SECRETARY RICE: Thanks. It's nice to be with you.
QUESTION: A question, and I've read all of the accounts, and like everybody else I saw the interview. You're saying that President Clinton's claim that he left behind a plan for how to deal with the al-Qaida is flatly false?
SECRETARY RICE: What I'm saying is that the 9/11 Commission has handled all of this. I testified for hours before the 9/11 Commission. So did every other official who had been involved in counter-terrorism prior to September 11th. And I'm just going to let that speak for itself.
People should go and read the 9/11 Commission Report. I think what that report made very clear is that our country was not organized to fight a war on terror. We were still fighting a kind of law enforcement action. We didn't -- weren't really responding to the attacks that the terrorists were making on us. And what I'm spending my time and attention doing now is trying to make sure that we are responding properly so that we don't experience those attacks again.
So Marc, I'll just let the 9/11 Commission Report speak for itself. I think it makes clear that the Bush Administration did what it knew to do between coming to office and September 11th.
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, can you tell me, do you know if it's true that in the previous administration -- I don't want to go too deep into this -- but is it not true that the United States had Usama bin Laden within our gun sight and then failed to execute the order to take him out as it was portrayed in the 9/11 movie.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do not know the facts of that. Again, the 9/11 Commission's looked into all of this. And look, I will tell you this, you -- sometimes you have information, you try to go after one of these terrorists and you're not able to do it. But what we have to do now is to make sure that we are fighting these terrorists.
And the difference now in the way this President is fighting the war on terror and the way the war on terror was fought before is that he understands that this is really a war. And he understands that if we don't fight them and fight on the offense, then they're going to come and -- come after us again.
And I just want to assure the American people that there is a hunt for Usama bin Laden, but there is also an effort to take down al-Qaida's major lieutenants. That's why we've had the successes we've had. And if we will just get Congressional support for the President's tools to fight this war on terror, then we can try to prevent another 9/11.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say, Madame Secretary, that it was looked upon as more of a police action in the prior Administration and President Bush fights a war in this administration?
SECRETARY RICE: I don't think there's any doubt that prior to 9/11 people looked on this as a police action. We even used the terms of law enforcement. We didn't allow our law enforcement people to talk to our intelligence people. That was one of the reasons that we didn't see what was coming at us on September 11th. We didn't think about being at war with these people although they had, of course, declared war on us. So we're not going to make that mistake again. And I understand that there are those who think that the war on terror is a metaphor, it's not. This is a real war and we have to use all the tools available to the Commander-in-Chief to make sure that we're fighting this war effectively.
QUESTION: In the New York Post, Madame Secretary, you're quoted as saying there isn't a particularly good direct way to neutralize the Iranian threat, so what do we do, negotiate?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that we have to do several things. The first thing is that we have got to get the international community focused on making sure that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon. And for that, you can use negotiations if the Iranians are prepared to negotiate. If they're not prepared to negotiate, then you have to use sanctions.
Secondly, you have to rally likeminded states who are fearful of Iranian power, moderate states who don't want Iran to extend its power into the region. That's why we work with states in the Gulf; that's why we work with moderate Arab states to check Iranian ambitions. But in the long run, the best thing that we have going for us is that when Iraq is stable and when Iraq is capable of giving a different kind of model in the Middle East, that's one that's not theocratic, one that is able to bring all people, Shia and Sunnis and Kurds together, that's going to be a direct threat to the Iranians because it says that it is Iraq's model, not Iran's model that is the future for the Middle East.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, on 60 Minutes Sunday night, President Musharraf of Pakistan said in essence that he was told by former Under Secretary Richard Armitage that if Pakistan did not cooperate with the United States in the post 9/11 effort, that they would be in essence bombed into the Stone Age. At least one of the presidents, President Musharraf's aids or assistants was told that. Do you know if that's true?
SECRETARY RICE: I don't. And I -- Richard said that he didn't say this. I'll tell you what I remember and you can only relate what you remember. And what I remember is that a few days after September 11th, the Pakistanis were confronted with a choice. They had been supporters of the Taliban. They've been only of three countries supporting the Taliban. And we really did confront the Pakistanis with a choice: you're either on the side of the terrorists or on the side of those who were fighting them and they made the choice to be on the side of those who were fighting them. And Musharraf has been a good ally in the war on terror ever since. And so that's what I remember is I remember there was a moment of clarity in which Pakistan made clear that it was going to be on our side in this war.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you also are quoted as saying you're never going to have a Sunni-Shia reconciliation if you don't have a political system in which the interests of all can be represented and that's what Iraq represents. Is it an option to consider that Iraq might be divided into three countries?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, there are people who've argued this. It's funny, though, you don't hear very many Iraqis argue that this is the right approach. You mostly hear this from Americans or from think tanks because Iraqis recognize that they are in many ways a very intermingled society. You will meet an Iraqi who is a Shia himself married to a Sunni. They live in mixed communities. The tribes are mixed, some are Sunnis, some are Shia, some are mixed. And so what they want is a national unity government that's going to bring all of them together in a single political entity and that's what they're working toward. And frankly, I think this is an idea that's more popular among Westerners than it is among Iraqis.
QUESTION: One final area, Madame Secretary, you were also quoted as saying that you would like to see increased better relations between the Japanese and the Chinese. Hard feelings are very hard to mend in the case between the Japanese and the Chinese, particularly when we go back to the 1930s. What will it take for a reconciliation of relations between the Japanese and Chinese in your judgment?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it will take, first of all, political will. Japan and China have enormous trade with one another. They are in the same neighborhood facing a lot of the same problems like, for instance, the threat of a North Korean nuclear program. And I think it's going to take some political will. It's going to take acknowledging that there are problems there. But I sit with the Chinese and the Japanese and I think they're working through their problems. It's just that history is sometimes hard to overcome. People have to overcome it and they have to admit that there were problems of history in the past and then get on with the future, because China and Japan have more in common in the future than they have in conflict.
QUESTION: Well, I know your staff has you on a tight schedule, Madame Secretary. So I'll end this with this simple comment: What I wouldn't have given to be in the room with you and your ensemble as you play your music in the afternoon. It's quite a group of people and it has to be very refreshing for you.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you. It's great fun for me and some time maybe I'll get a chance to play for your audience.
QUESTION: Very good. Thank you, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY RICE: Thanks a lot.
Released on September 26, 2006