Published April 18, 2004
The following is an excerpt from FOX News Sunday, April 18, 2004.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward has a new book that looks behind the scenes at the Bush administration's plans to attack Iraq. Among the highlights, war plans were being drawn up while the military was still fighting in Afghanistan. And President Bush was reportedly very skeptical about the CIA's first presentation to him on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
And on this very busy week for U.S. policy around the world, we are delighted to be joined by the president's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice.
Dr. Rice, welcome.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Thank you very much.
WALLACE: We have a lot to talk about today.
RICE: We do.
WALLACE: As we said, the Israelis killed Hamas leader Rantisi yesterday, the second attack on a Hamas leader in less than a month.
When the president met with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon this week, did he ask, and did he get any assurances, that the Israelis would not continue these assassination attacks?
RICE: The president said to the prime minister what he has said to him repeatedly, which is that it is important for Israel to defend itself, that everyone understands that Israel is in a war against terror, but that Israel needs to consider the consequences of the actions that it takes.
And, clearly, the important thing that the president and the prime minister talked about was the disengagement plan that the prime minister will now put to referendum before his party in Israel that would bring Israeli forces and Israeli settlements out of Gaza. That is ultimately going to be the best way to move this forward.
WALLACE: I want to get to that in just a moment, but on the question of assassinations, he did not say this is not helpful?
RICE: U.S. policy — well, first of all, the Israelis of course don't tell us that they're about to do something. And the United States has no advance knowledge of any sort of thing of that kind. The president has made clear in the past that it is important for Israel to keep in mind the consequences of everything that it does.
WALLACE: All right. The attack came, as we said, just three days after the president endorsed Prime Minister Sharon's new Mideast initiative.
Egyptian President Mubarak said that he was shocked by this decision. And let me put up something else that he said: "I'm afraid there's going to be more escalation of tension, much more violence."
Why shouldn't we expect the Arabs to look at the president's endorsement of Sharon and Sharon's assassination of Hamas and come to the conclusion the U.S. is our enemy?
RICE: Well, let's look at what the president did. The president is endorsing a plan that he believes will lead to peace and to a two- state solution in the Middle East.
First of all, all of the negotiations that we've had over the last 30 years on this conflict, particularly intensively since the Madrid conference almost 12 years ago now, for all of the negotiations, for all of the special envoys, for all of the trying, the Israelis had not given back essentially a kilometer of land in the occupied territories.
Now we have an opportunity for an Israeli prime minister — not just any Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in many ways the father of the settlement movement in Israel — to begin to remove settlements, to take Israeli armed forces out of the Gaza, to do so in a small portion of the West Bank, and to leapfrog in many ways a lot of the careful steps that have been anticipated on the way to peace.
RICE: This is a tremendous opportunity, and I would hope that the Palestinians will avail themselves of this opportunity to show that they can build a peaceful, democratic governing structure, to show that they can fight terror, to show that they are prepared to deal with the needs of their own people.
WALLACE: Dr. Rice, you and the president keep talking about this as an opportunity for the Palestinians. But that's not what Israeli Prime Minister Sharon said in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv two weeks ago. Let me put up what Sharon said.
"Approval of the plan" — the Sharon plan — "would be a severe blow to the Palestinians and their dreams."
That's what he's telling the Israelis.
RICE: Well, I do not know what the context of that is, but I will tell you what he told the president and I will tell you what his chief of staff, Dov Weissglass, said to me in a letter that follows up that set of discussions: that he remains committed to a two-state solution, that he understands that there has to be a Palestinian state.
You know, Chris, for years, people avoided even saying the words "Palestinian state" until this president said there will have to be a Palestinian state. Now you have the Israeli prime minister talking about a Palestinian state.
He has said that he understands that while these are unilateral moves, and therefore not technically under the road map, that they are not doing anything inconsistent with the road map. This will strengthen the road map.
And I should also mention that the president said in his statement that he is not judging final status issues. Final status issues will have to be negotiated between the parties. But he does recognize that there are some realities that are going to have to be taken into consideration when we get to final status about where populations now exist, about the fact that there will be a Palestinian state to which Palestinians can return.
All that the president did here was to take an opportunity to help the Israeli prime minister disengage from, leave the Gaza, give up territory. And everybody has to see the opportunity in that.
WALLACE: All right. Let's turn to Iraq and the Army private, Matt Maupin, who's being held hostage. His captors said that they would like to trade him for Iraqi prisoners that are being held by us. There have historically been prisoner changes, spy exchanges.
Will the president consider such a swap?
RICE: Well, on the ground, people are doing everything that they can, both to make people as safe as possible against this latest technique of hostage-taking and to see what can be done to free these hostages.
But I think you can be certain that negotiations with terrorists are not on this president's agenda.
WALLACE: Would a prisoner exchange be considered negotiations?
RICE: Chris, I'm not going to get into a speculative discussion of what might be done here. But the fact is that these are killers and thugs who are trying to intimidate the international community. They're trying to intimidate the United States, and they will not succeed.
We are working, as you might imagine, to try and see what can be done to free hostages. But it has to be understood in the context of not allowing the intimidation of either the United States or its allies, or the Iraqi people, for that matter, to take place.
WALLACE: All right. Let's talk about the book, Bob Woodward's account of the lead-up to the war in Iraq.
According to Woodward, the president asked Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, in November of 2001, 72 days after 9/11, to come up with plans for a possible war against Iraq. This is at a time when we were still heavily engaged in Afghanistan.
RICE: The president apparently did talk to Don Rumsfeld and say to him, you know, "I need to know what my options might be concerning Iraq."
The president, on September the 15th at Camp David, decided that our response to September 11th was going to be against Afghanistan. We planned for Afghanistan; we fought the war in Afghanistan.
By the end of November, things are starting to wind down in Afghanistan, and I do think the president's mind was beginning to move to what else he would have to do to deal with the blow, with the threat that had emerged as a result of 9/11.
And Saddam Hussein and Iraq was, of course — this was the most hostile relationship that we had in the Middle East. It's not at all surprising that the president wanted to know what his options were before he began a course of diplomatic activity, of going to the United Nations, of trying to figure out how to carry out, by the way, a regime-change policy that had been the law of the land in the United States since 1998.
WALLACE: The book also reports that after the CIA briefed the president in December of 2002 on the evidence that it had about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that Mr. Bush said this, and let's put it up: "I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD, and this is the best we've got?" And CIA Director Tenet answered the president, "Don't worry. It's a slam dunk."
Did that happen?
RICE: It did happen. The fact is that we all thought that the intelligence case against Iraq was very strong — not just the United States intelligence agencies...
WALLACE: But that's not what he's saying there. He seems to be saying, "That's all you've got?"
RICE: Well, the presentation, let's say, was not, I think, overwhelming to people. But let's review what we knew about Saddam Hussein. We knew that this was somebody who has used weapons of mass destruction, who was still deceiving the international community about weapons of mass destruction, who had a kind of association with them that was...
WALLACE: Dr. Rice...
RICE: ... well-, well-known.
WALLACE: But all I want to ask you about, how could the presentation to the president of the United States not be overwhelming?
RICE: That's what the president wanted to know. But the intelligence underlying the National Intelligence Estimate, which was the basis for the president's — the intelligence basis — not, by any means, the entire basis for or against Iraq, but the intelligence basis, was pretty categorical.
At that particular moment in time, the presentation was not that categorical. But it did say — the National Intelligence Estimate said he has chemical and biological weapons, he's been improving his capability, and by the end of the decade, if something's not done, he could have a nuclear weapon. That was the assessment.
Chris, even since David Kay has been there and Charlie Duelfer has been there, we are learning that the Iraqis did have an active program. They were seeking capabilities beyond those that they already had. And this was, after all, a state that had already succeeded in making weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was in violation, material breach of Resolution 1441.
The president went to war on a total picture about Iraq. And he went to war on an intelligence basis that was sound.
WALLACE: And what about Woodward's contention that Cheney and — the vice president, Cheney, and Secretary of State Powell are so estranged on policy that they don't talk?
RICE: Well, first of all, I haven't read Bob's book. And I'm really looking forward to it because he's a great reporter, he's a wonderful writer. And I think it will be a good read.
He's explaining a complex set of arrangements in which we, of course, were trying to manage diplomacy and military issues and so forth. But I can tell you, I've had lunch on a number of occasions with Vice President Cheney and with Colin Powell, and they're more than on speaking terms. They're friendly.
WALLACE: You don't have to pass notes between the two of them?
RICE: No, no, of course not. They're very friendly.
WALLACE: I'd like to ask you about something that Senator John Kerry said Friday. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA): I'm tired of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and a bunch of people who went out of their way to avoid their chance to serve when they had the chance. I went. I'm not going to listen to them talk to me about patriotism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Dr. Rice, what do you think of that?
RICE: Well, I'm not going to respond to that. I don't know what Senator Kerry was driving at.
All that I know is that you have a group of public servants here working for this president of the United States who are facing some of the most difficult challenges that the United States of America has faced since World War II. And that's what we're focused on.
WALLACE: Do you think that this president, this campaign, is attacking John Kerry's patriotism?
RICE: I don't think anyone is attacking anyone's patriotism. Let's talk about the ideas. Let's talk about how one intends to lead in a period of time in which the United States has taken a tremendous blow after September 11th and is now poised for war.
Let's talk about — you know, at the 9/11 hearings, very interesting, a lot of talk about what we should have done earlier in Afghanistan. A pretty good argument, actually, for not allowing gathering threats and dealing with threats when they emerge. And that's what this president has said. He's said that 9/11 has taught us to deal with threats differently.
Now, we are having a debate. Some people think that the response to 9/11, to that act of war that was committed against us, to the people who tried to decapitate us on that day and shut down our financial system, that the response to that ought to be limited war. We'll win in Afghanistan, we'll kill bin Laden, and we'll return to defensive position.
This president believes that it's a broad war, that you not only have to deal with Afghanistan, but you've got to deal with the circumstances in the Middle East that have created Al Qaida, created the ideologies of hatred that are driving them, that you've got to have peaceful and stable Iraq as a lynchpin of a different kind of Middle East.
That's the debate we ought to be having, not about somebody's patriotism.
WALLACE: You talk about the 9/11 commission. I'd like to play a moment from your appearance before that commission. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAIME GORELICK, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: The FBI doesn't work the way it should, and it doesn't communicate with the intelligence communities.
Now, you have said to us that your policy review was meant to be comprehensive. And yet there is nothing in it about the vast domestic landscape that we were all warned needed so much attention. Can you give me the answer to the question why?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: When commission member Jaime Gorelick was questioning you about that, did you know that when she was the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, that she had issued an order that, in fact, helped build the so-called wall even higher?
RICE: I did not know that, Chris. I did know, of course, that she'd been deputy attorney general. I did know that there were responsibilities there for issues concerning counterterrorism, but no, I did not know.
WALLACE: Do you find it a little curious?
RICE: Well, look, the commission needs to look into what might have been done differently. I have no quarrel with that.
I do think that what is being exposed here is that we had problems in the way that the country was organized structurally. We have not had an attack on American homeland in almost 200 years, and it's true, we were not really organized for homeland defense.
WALLACE: But she apparently was, some would say, part of the problem.
RICE: Well, there was not an organization of the country for homeland defense in administrations that have gone on for quite a long time in responding to the terrorist threat.
I'm just glad that we now have the Patriot Act, which allows us to break down those walls. I'm very pleased that Bob Mueller has been aggressive in reforms at the FBI to try to make prevention more than an issue, to try to make sure that intelligence and criminal work together; that Tenet has made, George Tenet has made reforms in the CIA.
But the fact is, we may still have more to do, and this president is open to that.
WALLACE: Speaking of terror attacks, in the next segment, we have an interview that we did this week with the outgoing prime minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, in which he says that he has warned President Bush that he believes the terrorists will try to do the same thing in this country in November that they did on 3/11 in Spain, try to turn the election by launching a terror attack.
How seriously does this president take that warning, that, in fact, the terrorists will try to play politics here?
RICE: Oh, I think that we do have to take very seriously the thought that the terrorists might have learned, we hope, the wrong lesson from Spain.
I think we also have to take seriously that they might try during the cycle leading up to the election to do something. In some ways, it seems like it would be too good to pass up for them, and so we are actively looking at that possibility, actively trying to make certain that we are responding appropriately.
The hard thing about terrorism is that they only have to be right once, and we have to be right 100 percent of the time. And nobody can be certain that there won't be another attack. But, of course, we are concerned about the election cycle.
WALLACE: And finally, Dr. Rice, we may not have Bob Woodward here, but we have come up with tape of a secret meeting between you and Vice President Cheney. Take a look, and then we'd like to ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET JACKSON, SINGER: Sir, I was a provost at Stanford. I am a concert-level pianist. I've read "War and Peace" in original Russian.
DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR: Ah, loosen up, Condi...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Do you have anything to say for yourself?
RICE: I have nothing to say for myself. You know, the vice president was once on his way to being an academic, so we have a lot in common.
WALLACE: How would you — let's not even get to the wardrobe malfunction, but how would you rate Janet Jackson's Condi Rice? What does she need to work on?
RICE: I thought the hair was pretty good.
WALLACE: Hair was pretty good?
I think you're a better actress than she is.
RICE: Well, next time, maybe I'll do it myself.
WALLACE: Dr. Rice, than you so much for coming in. We very much appreciate it. Please come back.
RICE: Thank you. I enjoyed it, Chris.