Interview on Fox News Sunday With Chris WallaceSecretary Condoleezza Rice
December 7, 2008
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
SECRETARY RICE: Pleasure to be with you, Chris.
QUESTION: Are you persuaded by the evidence you’ve seen that the Mumbai attack was launched from Pakistan, and are there signs the attackers were trained either by current or former Pakistani military or intelligence?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have passed information to both India and Pakistan. I think we do believe that there was – there is evidence of involvement somehow on Pakistani soil. I believe that the Government of Pakistan very much wants to do the right thing here because they understand that Pakistan has a responsibility even if these were non-state actors, which I believe they were, non-state actors operating on Pakistani soil. It is still Pakistan’s responsibility to respond.
QUESTION: So when you talk about responding, have you urged Pakistani officials to arrest anyone they believe was involved and turn them over to India?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the important thing is to make sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that any information that they might have about follow-on attacks can be gleaned, and therefore it is very important that these people be arrested. The investigation is still ongoing, and Pakistan needs to cooperate transparently. They’ve said that they will. But they also need to act because, clearly, there are organizations that have longstanding operatives in this kind of activity. This was a very sophisticated attack. It makes one concerned about follow-on attacks. And so I emphasized to Pakistan that they really must cooperate.
QUESTION: When you said cooperate, the Indians specifically have said we don’t want Pakistan to try them themselves, we want them to turn them over to our jurisdiction. Is that something that you support, or if Pakistan acted on its own would that be enough?
SECRETARY RICE: I think the important thing is that Pakistan act and that these people are brought to justice and that any information that they may have is put to use in making sure that follow-on attacks don’t happen.
QUESTION: Has Pakistan agreed to a 48-hour timetable to take action?
SECRETARY RICE: No, there’s not a timetable involved here. Obviously, this is counterterrorism work. It’s hard work and it’s not as if these people are sitting on the surface. But Pakistan – the leaders in Pakistan were very clear with me that they understood their responsibilities. And now we’re waiting. We expect things to happen.
QUESTION: Well, I want to ask you about – a little bit about the nature of your conversations with Pakistani officials, including the President. Have you made it clear to Pakistan that failure to act and to act in a comprehensive fashion will affect U.S. relations with Pakistan, including the possibility of the millions of dollars we give them in military aid?
SECRETARY RICE: I have made very clear that Americans also died in that attack and that the United States expects the full and complete cooperation of Pakistan and Pakistani action and that, yes, it is a matter for our relationship.
QUESTION: When you say “a matter for our relationship,” --
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, it is a very serious matter that Americans were killed in that attack as well. And I made very clear to the Pakistanis that we are a friend of Pakistan, we are an ally of Pakistan, but when something like this happens, the United States expects Pakistan to act.
QUESTION: How dangerous would you say the situation is now, the potential threat in the relationship between India and Pakistan? And as a follow-on, does India have the same right that the United States believes it has to take action against threats on foreign soil?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, the relationship between Pakistan and India is better than it was in 2001 and 2002, when we faced a similar crisis. And in fact, the Pakistani Foreign Minister was in India at the time that the – that this all happened. So the relationship is better, and that is serving us well. The United States also has better relations with each of those countries than we had in 2001-2002. That is serving us well. But there is no doubt that the Indian Government, the Indian people, are outraged. They feel vulnerable and they expect, as we do, Pakistan to act.
When it comes to something like this, it is important not to take steps that will make a situation worse. The regional circumstances here are such that any response should be focused on getting the perpetrators and focused on making sure that follow-on attacks don’t happen. And I emphasized that to the Indian Government.
QUESTION: So unilateral action by India would not be helpful?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I just think that we don’t – they shouldn’t do anything that will make the situation worse. And by the way, Chris, I didn’t hear a lot of bellicose talk between – by Indian leaders or the Pakistani leaders. This is a relationship between India and Pakistan that has improved, and they’re trying to build on that. But India expects Pakistan to act, and so does the United States.
QUESTION: President Bush made a major speech on Friday reviewing his policies over the course of his two terms in office in the Middle East, and I wanted to explore that with you. First of all, this statement:
“We have made our bottom line clear. For the safety of our people and the peace of the world, America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”
Secretary Rice, for all the rhetoric, isn’t the reality that Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon today than it was eight years ago?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, Iran is still pursuing, quite clearly, the technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon. But Iran also faces a heavy set of sanctions, not just through the UN – that’s one thing – but also through the companies and banks that will no longer deal with Iran. Iran’s isolation has deepened. And indeed, Iran is more isolated and there is a greater international consensus about the Iranian program than at any other time.
QUESTION: But forgive me; when the President says we will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon – we’re not stopping them from developing a nuclear weapon.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are working very hard with the international community to make certain that they don’t get the technologies. Let’s remember that we are talking about a country that is pursuing an enrichment and reprocessing capability that can either be for civilian affairs or for nuclear affairs. Our determination is that Iran is not trustworthy with that kind of technology. And yet, as to yet, the Iranians have not given in to the demands of the international community. But we continue to put the pressure on, and the diplomatic course is really the best course at this time.
QUESTION: All right. President Bush also made this claim:
“The most vexing problem in the region, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is now greater international consensus than at any point in modern memory.”
Secretary Rice, there’s a complete split among the Palestinians between Fatah and Hamas. There’s a sharp disagreement among the Israelis about the peace process. We’re nowhere near a peace agreement.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I simply don’t agree with that, Chris. Since the Annapolis process, these parties, Israel and the Palestinians, have been negotiating seriously on all the so-called core issues – borders, refugees, et cetera. They are moving toward that agreement. There is a better situation on the ground with Palestinian institutions, security institutions, beginning to take responsibility. And when the President says that there is an international consensus, he means the Annapolis process that brought 54 countries together, including, by the way, the leading Arab states – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, even Syria – to back a particular process to get to this accord.
Finally, I would just note that Hamas is pretty isolated. It is true that there is Hamas in Gaza, but Hamas has few friends with the exception of Iran and, to a certain extent, Syria. The major Arab states are backing Mahmoud Abbas, backing the Palestinian Authority in the Annapolis process to try to find a peace with Israel. And Israelis – since Ariel Sharon, the father of the settlement movement, said that it was going to be necessary to split the land, Israelis have been united, more united behind the two-state solution than at any other time as well.
QUESTION: Then there is Iraq. The President said the other day that the biggest regret of his presidency was the failure of intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq. What responsibility at the time you were National Security Advisor – what responsibility do you feel for that failure? And if you had known then what we know now, that there were no weapons of mass destruction, would you still have recommended going into Iraq?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, this was a very dangerous regime, and we thought they had a more active weapons of mass destruction program than they had. And, Chris, we can go back and try to do the what if, but the fact is, at the time, we believed that they were – that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his biological and chemical weapons program and was likely making progress on his nuclear program. And that was the assessment of the intelligence community.
Now, we have reformed the way that information gets to presidents, and if I had it to do over again, yes, I’d have the system in place that we have now, not the system that we had then. But this system of alternative views that are put forward in a more – a crisper and clearer way is important to understanding intelligence. But across the world, people believed Saddam Hussein was hiding his weapons of mass destruction program. He had used weapons of mass destruction. We had found a nuclear program that was more advanced than we thought in 1991.
And so while it’s fine to go back and say what might we have done differently, the truth of the matter is we don’t have that luxury, and we didn’t at the time.
QUESTION: The President does say that it is his biggest regret. As National Security Advisor, somebody who was marshalling the intelligence – I know you weren’t in charge of it – and was making recommendations, running the national security process, does it pain you that we went to war under what turned out to be not false but mistaken premises?
SECRETARY RICE: Of course. I would give anything to be able to go back and to know precisely what we were going to find when we were there. But that isn’t the way that these things work. And I still believe that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein is going to turn out to be a great strategic achievement, not just for the Bush Administration but for the United States of America.
Because now, in the place of a country that has long been at the center of Middle East politics as a bulwark against Iran – the only problem was there was a murderous dictator who killed his own people and put them in mass graves, who attacked his neighbors twice, caused millions of deaths in wars in the region, dragged us into the war three times, and sought and used weapons of mass destruction, you now have a young, democratic, multiethnic, multiconfessional Iraq that has just signed an historic agreement with the United States establishing a long-term relationship as well as a strategic forces agreement to allow American forces to help them finish the job, and who is going to be friendly to the United States. That’s a trade up. And you now have an Iraq that is at the center of the Middle East, a bulwark against Iran without the tremendous downsides that came with the murderous and aggressive regime of Saddam Hussein. And so in terms of the strategic position in the Middle East, this Iraq is going to be at the core of a different kind of Middle East, and one that will be safer ultimately for the United States.
QUESTION: This may well be the final interview we do with you as Secretary of State. And over the years, you’ve been a good sport about playing a lightning round with us where we ask quick questions and you give quick answers. So let’s do it one last time.
Did we misjudge Russia’s Vladimir Putin?
SECRETARY RICE: We tried to give Russia a chance to enter the international community on 21st century terms, not 19th century terms. It was worth the choice.
QUESTION: And did it turn out, though, to be a mistake?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it wasn’t a mistake to have that policy. But unfortunately, I think high oil prices and fears of the color revolutions led to a different Russia than we expected.
QUESTION: What would you tell Hillary Clinton is the biggest difference between her experience so far and the challenges of being Secretary of State?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, as Secretary of State, you get to represent this great country. That’s the good news. It’s also a huge institution with more than 50,000 people worldwide. And the big challenge is to mobilize that great strength of the Foreign Service and the Civil Service in one direction. And these days, the challenge is that diplomacy has changed so much: It’s not done so much in the halls of governments; it’s really done in the field with military (inaudible) in places like Kabul and Baghdad, with aid workers in places like Mozambique. It’s a great challenge. But it’s tough.
QUESTION: I appreciate the answer. You’re not observing the lightning round rules very well. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: I’m doing my best. I’m doing my best. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you – and this will be a tough one to get into a quick answer. Did Donald Rumsfeld mismanage the Iraq war in the beginning?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the Iraq war, in the beginning, we did very well. I don’t --
QUESTION: I’m talking about the occupation.
SECRETARY RICE: Look, I don’t think we had the right structure. I’ll be very, very blunt. We tried in Afghanistan to use a kind of UN structure with countries adopting ministries. We tried in Iraq to give it to a single department, the Department of Defense. That’s why the President has now said that we need a Civilian Response Corps that can do those activities. But clearly, we didn’t have the right structure.
QUESTION: And is that Donald Rumsfeld’s responsibility?
SECRETARY RICE: No, I – look, I take responsibility for that, too. We just didn’t have the right structure.
QUESTION: Is it true that during the first term he wouldn't return your phone calls as National Security Advisor?
SECRETARY RICE: No, absolutely not. It’s simply not true.
QUESTION: I mean, there have been reports that he wouldn't return --
SECRETARY RICE: I know. And I don’t know where they come from. I talked to Don at least once or twice a day. And so --
QUESTION: Probably more than you wanted. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: I just don’t know where that comes from.
QUESTION: A couple of last things we want to get into with you. Last week, you asked for and got the opportunity to play the piano for the Queen of England. Let’s watch.
(A video clip was played.)
QUESTION: So how was that experience? How was it to play at the palace for the Queen?
SECRETARY RICE: It was pretty special to play at the palace, and playing for the Queen was really fantastic. David Miliband’s wife, the Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, is a fine violinist, and she brought some of her friends from the London Symphony. It was really special.
QUESTION: I heard that she said, “I didn’t know you were good.” So if she didn’t expect --
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, no. She said, “I don’t know you were so good,” which was very kind.
QUESTION: Finally, you say that after you leave office, you’re going to go back to Stanford and teach, and you’re also going to write a book about your parents, who brought you up in Birmingham, Alabama. I’d like you to take a moment or two, if you could, to reflect on the journey from the little girl in Birmingham, heavily segregated Birmingham, Alabama, to being Secretary of State, and now to leaving as a new African American President takes office.
SECRETARY RICE: This is an extraordinary country. It’s a country that has started to overcome these old wounds, or has overcome these old wounds in remarkable ways. But you know, what it really says about America is that it’s who we claim to be, we are. I remember very well segregated Birmingham. I remember when you couldn't go into a restaurant. And now, after two back-to-back Secretaries of State, you’re going to have a black President of the United States. And around the world, people say, “How could that be?” And I say it’s because we are America.
And I’ll tell you, Chris, the most important thing in remaining that way is confidence in what my parents had confidence in, and that is that if you give people a chance, if you educate them well, then they can achieve great things. And it really doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going. And it really doesn't matter if you came from modest circumstances, you can do great things.
And so that’s really the part of America that’s splendid. It’s – yes, there are racial issues that we’re overcoming. But what we’re really demonstrating by this is that that great national myth – and a myth isn’t something that’s untrue, it’s just outsized – that great national myth of the log cabin is very much intact.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, I’m going to thank you. I want to thank you for coming in and talking to us over the years and answering our questions, good and bad, in tough times and easy times. And we appreciate your always stepping up to the plate and answering them. Thank you, and we wish you all the best.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Chris, and all the best to you and the great crew here at Fox News.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Released on December 7, 2008