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AMERICA AT WAR - 6.29.04
In Focus  :  This Moment in History  :  Condoleeza Rice Interview
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Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill is an innovative public affairs series from PBS that brings together both compelling examinations of critical issues and a dynamic pairing of two of the most respected names in journalism.


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This Moment in History Today's Military Wartime Leaders

Condoleeza Rice Interview

Gwen Ifill:
Dr. Rice, does the handover mark a turning point in any large way in U.S. foreign policy?

Dr. Condoleeza Rice, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs:
Clearly, the handover of sovereignty to a new Iraqi government marks, I would say, a starting point for the Iraqi people — the opportunity now to have control of their own political future. But for American foreign policy, it is the beginning of a set of milestones — meeting a set of milestones.

Gwen Ifill:
You say a set of milestones. Do those milestones extend beyond just Iraq and Afghanistan to other larger, smaller goals?

Condoleeza Rice:
This — this is a long war, in which we're engaged, and it is a long time to build the proper peace. When we recognize that, as long as freedom and liberty are marching forward, the United States is safer. When freedom and liberty are in retreat, then the United States is clearly in a weaker position.

And so, yes, this is a part of a bigger picture. Iraq and Afghanistan fit into a strategy of trying to help the forward march of liberty and freedom into parts of the world where it's never been and to parts of the world where many people wonder if it's possible to have freedom and liberty take root.

Gwen Ifill:
Americans watching this war have now become familiar with names like Karballah, Fallujah, Nadjaf - places where, even as we speak, there are still daily instances of violence, which the president did warn us would happen. How has America's stance toward warfare in an environment like this changed — not only since 9-11, but since — in this particular war?

Condoleeza Rice:
The towns that you've called, Fallujah and Karballah — yes, they've been places of — of violence and of difficulty. But they're also places where, increasingly, Iraqis are stepping forward to try and build a better political future for themselves.

It takes years to build the habits of democracy, and — and these are people who lived under the worst kind of tyranny until only about a year ago. I think they've made tremendous progress in a year.

Gwen Ifill:
Have the efforts involving NATO and the United Nations and the group of eight industrial nations — have those been efforts on the part of the administration to repair frayed international ties?

Condoleeza Rice:
Some did not think that it was — was time to finally deal with Saddam Hussein, but a lot of nations did think that it was time to deal with Saddam Hussein.

And so what has happened now is that, I think, countries are realizing that, whatever our path here, however they felt about the need to use force to enforce those resolutions, we now have to look to a future.

So, yes, there were difficult times in the alliance. There were difficult times between old friends; but, ultimately, our values unite us — and especially when there are people in need of our help to secure a freer future.

Gwen Ifill:
Let me take you back to the war on terror. One Al Qaeda leader who you do not have, aside from Osama bin Laden, but who you mention even more freq- frequently than bin Laden, is Abu Mussab Al-Zarkawi. why do we hear more about him these days than we do...

Condoleeza Rice:
Yes?.

Gwen Ifill:
...about bin Laden?

Condoleeza Rice:
Well, we hear more about Zarkawi, because he's operating these days — and he's operating in Iraq. I should mention that, of course, he operated in Iraq before the war. One of the clear indications that terrorists were taking safe haven in Iraq was that Zarkawi was in Baghdad. He had op- — he operated his network out of Baghdad.

Gwen Ifill:
Is part of the reason why you mention him, as well, is he is — he is the link — if any link at all exists between Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and 9-11?

Condoleeza Rice:
Well, it's really more because he's the face of terror in Iraq. That's why you're hearing so much about him. He — he's the one who makes clear that he is responsible for the barbaric beheadings of — of people in Iraq. When there's a car bombing, he's the one who comes out to say that he's responsible. He's the one who threatened Prime Minister Alawi.

And we and the Iraqis are after him, and we — we will get him eventually.

Gwen Ifill:
Do you think Americans are getting all this? Polls are beginning to show a flagging of support for the war on terror, however you define that, or a sense that maybe the United States is not being as successful as was originally thought.

Condoleeza Rice:
We have to remember that September 11th did change our strategic perspective forever. Much as Pearl Harbor changed our strategic perspective in 1941, September 11th changed our strategic perspective. We have to fight the terrorists on the offense.

This is a global threat. It's a global challenge to the international state system. It is virulent, and it grew undetected and undealt with for a very long time.

It's gonna take us a while to root it out. But the only way that the United States is going to be secure is if we stay the course.

Gwen Ifill:
Let's talk about another flashpoint, if I may use the term, which is North Korea — and Iran — different parts of the world, but just the same kind of intransigent problems in that they are conflicts waiting to happen to the United States. How does your vision as National Security Advisor and the president's vision as the Commander-in-Chief apply to those two areas? We have the nuclear threat in North Korea and possibly, as well, in Iran.

Condoleeza Rice:
The president has been very clear that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is one of the two most important threats of the twenty-first century, the other being terrorism, and, of course, the possible links between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction being our worst nightmare.

And where it comes to states like Iran and North Korea, we've been able to develop coalitions of states that diplomatically are trying to deal with those situations.

Gwen Ifill:
After the Cold War was over, we thought we had achieved so much in this country. It turns out it got a lot more complicated after the Berlin Wall fell.

Condoleeza Rice:
It's absolutely clear that after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe — and I think many people thought that our security problems were behind us.

And we got a rude awakening, eh, on September 11th; that underneath, this virulent, malignancy had been growing — terrorism — which we call it; but, really, terrorism is their method. What really was happening here was that in the Middle East the status quo was breaking down in a way that was very — was completely antithetical to our interests.

When we face a period like now, when we have the twin threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and it sometimes look bleak, the lesson of the cold war is: link your values to your security and be faithful to those values as one of the most important answers to the challenges.



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