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Condoleezza Rice Discusses Iraq Invasion, Cheney Clashes

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 7, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, former Secretary of State and presidential adviser Condoleezza Rice has a new book out called, "No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington." In support, she's on a media blitz, and Iraq is a frequent question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

RICE: We need to find a way to help the Iraqis sustain themselves through this period and to -- to deal with their somewhat meddlesome neighbor in Iran.

I'm really rather reluctant to criticize negotiations that I didn't participate in, but it would have clearly been better to have a residual force.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O'REILLY: Here now is Dr. Rice. So Dick Cheney wouldn't come on this program. He wouldn't sit in the chair in which you are sitting, even though he had a book. And the reason he wouldn't because he knew I was going to ask him about this sound bite. Roll the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: But we weren't. Did that catch you by surprise?

RICE: That we were not greeted as liberators?

O'REILLY: Correct.

RICE: Well, I knew that the Iraqis were an irascible people. I knew that they were tough people and that they didn't much like foreign intervention. So I thought that we would be welcomed by some who had suffered under Saddam Hussein, but, frankly, I didn't expect flowers to be thrown at our feet, no.

O'REILLY: OK. But now therein lies my problem as an American citizen, not as "The Factor" guy. I believed Dick Cheney when he said that, and I believed Colin Powell when he said weapons of mass destruction. And then I made my editorial decision based upon what those two men said and what I read in The New York Times, of all places, on the front page that confirmed what Colin Powell said, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

RICE: Yes.

O'REILLY: So I told the millions of people who watch this program, we've got to go in there. And, you know, Cheney is right, that once we overthrow Saddam, Iraq will cooperate with us. We'll try to get a democracy up and running. And I was wrong. I was wrong. And that…

RICE: Well…

O'REILLY: And that hurts me not only with the audience, but personally because Iraq didn't greet us as liberators and you say you had some misgivings. I never heard those misgivings.

RICE: Well, no. Look, some -- some Iraqis did greet us as liberators.

O'REILLY: Not many.

RICE: Well, Bill, these are a tough people. But let's review why we went into Iraq. We did think, through the intelligence briefings that we were getting, that the intelligence briefings that were given to the Congress, that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his biological…

O'REILLY: So you believed that…

RICE: …and chemical weapons…

O'REILLY: …as well as everybody else?

RICE: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: OK.

RICE: And so did Colin Powell when he made that presentation.

O'REILLY: Absolutely. He believed it.

RICE: We thought that he might be as little as a year from a nuclear weapon. And remember, Bill, Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass -- of mass destruction was not a theoretical proposition. He had used weapons of mass destruction…

O'REILLY: No doubt if he had…

RICE: …before…

O'REILLY: …if he had that stuff…

RICE: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: …it could have wound up anyplace.

RICE: And he had used them before.

O'REILLY: Right. But it turned out to be false. It turned out not to be true.

RICE: It turned out that he did not have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction…

O'REILLY: He didn't have any…

RICE: …in the waiting.

O'REILLY: …delivery system at all.

RICE: What he had was the capability, through scientists, through an infrastructure…

O'REILLY: OK.

RICE: …and I'm really glad today that we're not talking about an arms race between Iran's Ahmadinejad for a nuclear weapon and Saddam Hussein's Iraq for a nuclear weapon.

O'REILLY: OK. But the blood and treasure that we expended -- a trillion dollars and all the people who were killed and maimed over there, it seems to me that it wasn't worth it in the sense that our military performed heroically, but right now, Iraq could descend into chaos as early as next year…

RICE: Saddam…

O'REILLY: …easily.

RICE: …Saddam Hussein, in the middle of the Middle East, was a security threat. We had been to war against him a couple of times. He's still shooting at our aircraft every day as a result of the…

O'REILLY: We could have handled him differently though.

RICE: …the 19 -- no, we tried…

O'REILLY: We could have strangled him.

RICE: We tried to strangle him and he was breaking out of those constraints. We tried to strangle him; he tried to assassinate George H.W. Bush. We tried to strangle him; he continued to threaten Kuwait. And so yes, I wish that we had been right or the intelligence agencies had been right about the state of his weapons programs, but the Middle East without Saddam Hussein and a chance at a more democratic…

O'REILLY: But what are you going to say to…

RICE: …Middle East is a much better place.

O'REILLY: What are you going to say to the moms and dads and husbands and wives who -- whose loved ones are dead or maimed if this time next year, Iraq is in a civil war, which is absolutely possible, because President Obama is withdrawing all the American troops now and then it's -- it's just a mass chaotic situation? What are you going to say to them?

RICE: Well, I don't -- I'm not going to deal in a hypothetical because right now we have an Iraq that is trying to build…

O'REILLY: It's shaky.

RICE: It's shaky, but all young democracies are shaky, Bill. We…

O'REILLY: But this is a civil war we…

RICE: But we have to…

O'REILLY: …that happened over there.

RICE: We have an Iraq, Bill, that isn't in -- it is contradistinction to the Iranians for instance seeking weapons of mass destruction.

O'REILLY: No.

RICE: We have an Iraq that is about to be the ninth largest purchaser of American military equipment in the world, the fourth largest in the region. We have an Iraq that has a chance to stand up to Iran because you know as well as…

O'REILLY: All right. So that's what you would say…

RICE: …you know as…

O'REILLY: …even if it goes south…

RICE: …you know as well as I do…

O'REILLY: …we gave them a chance?

RICE: …you know as well as I do that the Iraqis hate the Iranians. And that will be a good buffer against Iranian power, which is the real…

O'REILLY: Although you have these…

RICE: …problem today.

O'REILLY: …Shiite presence that doesn't hate Ahmadinejad…

RICE: Well, let's just put it this…

O'REILLY: …and the mullahs and that could…

RICE: …let's just put it this way.

O'REILLY: …and that could cause a lot of trouble.

RICE: Maliki spent his exile in Syria…

O'REILLY: All right.

RICE: …because he hated the Iranians so much.

O'REILLY: Do you understand or acknowledge -- I haven't finished your book entirely…

RICE: Yes.

O'REILLY: …that the Iraq deal ruined President Bush's presidency, that -- that people -- the American people turned on him. In fact, when Obama announced that he's telling -- and I don't think -- I don't think he had any choice, because they wouldn't indemnify American troops from prosecution over there and you couldn't leave American troops in there if the Iraqis are going to try them. And that was the -- the tipping point. But do you understand why most people want out of Iraq and why Bush got hurt so bad…

RICE: I certainly…

O'REILLY: …when that went south?

RICE: I certainly understand why Americans want wars to end. But remember, President Bush was re-elected, also, in 2004…

O'REILLY: But he did…

RICE: …after the Iraq war had…

O'REILLY: Right.

RICE: …been prosecuted because I think the American people do understand that when there's a security threat, you need to deal with it. Now, as to the immunity clause, we actually did manage to negotiate an immunity clause with the Iraqis so that our forces…

O'REILLY: But they wouldn't…

RICE: …could stay.

O'REILLY: …they wouldn't give Obama the same clause.

RICE: Well, we…

O'REILLY: That's what he said.

RICE: …we don't – well…

O'REILLY: Is he lying?

RICE: …all that I know is I -- I have no idea. I wasn't inside the negotiations. But I know this. A residual force would have been preferable for all…

O'REILLY: No doubt…

RICE: …for all of the reasons…

O'REILLY: …but he said he couldn't do it.

RICE: …for all of the reasons that we needed…

O'REILLY: Right.

RICE: …an Iraq that was not going to be Saddam Hussein's Iraq, an Iraq that can stand up to Iran, an Iraq that can fight back…

O'REILLY: Yes.

RICE: …against Al Qaeda terrorists. But I'll tell you something, and the bottom line, I'm very, very regretful for all the life that was lost. You can't help…

O'REILLY: Yes, I just…

RICE: …to be part of that.

O'REILLY: …if we had to go in a time machine…

RICE: But I'm also…

O'REILLY: …I think we should have done it another way.

RICE: I'm also not regretful that Saddam Hussein is gone.

O'REILLY: No, I'm not either.

RICE: And that would be…

O'REILLY: Nobody is.

RICE: …and that will be…

O'REILLY: We're rid of the guy.

RICE: Well, sometimes you only have choices as to how you can do something.

O'REILLY: All right.

RICE: Saddam Hussein was leaving no other way.

O'REILLY: Now, we want to talk about Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and you, all right? You guys will be forming a rock group soon and going out on the road, so we'll have more on that with Dr. Rice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'REILLY: Continuing now with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, whose new book is called, "No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington." So Vice President Cheney was critical of you over the weapons of mass destruction controversy in Niger, Africa, all right, the yellowcake thing.

RICE: Right.

O'REILLY: And people remember that -- that Saddam Hussein was allegedly trying to buy stuff and ba-ba-ba-ba-ba. And, again, it didn't turn out to be true. So Cheney writes, "She" -- you, Dr. Rice -- "came into my office, sat down in the chair next to me and tearfully admitted I had been right. Unfortunately the damage was done." Cheney referring to a difference of opinion that you guys had because you said, well, we shouldn't have included that into the president's speech when he was explaining to the American public.

RICE: That's right. Yes.

O'REILLY: So were you crying in Cheney's office?

RICE: No.

O'REILLY: So he made that up?

RICE: I don't know why he thought I was crying. Maybe the tears were in his eyes. No.

O'REILLY: That never happened?

RICE: I was not crying. No.

O'REILLY: So this is hyperbole on the part of the vice president?

RICE: No. Maybe it's hyperbole. You know, I have cried. I cried when I saw wounded soldiers. I cried a couple days after Sept. 11. I cried when I was sitting with the victims of rape in Darfur, who had been raped, some of them, by U.N. peacekeepers. But in the vice president's office because of a press report, no.

O'REILLY: He didn't like you because you didn't agree with him on a lot of things.

RICE: Right.

O'REILLY: North Korea, terrorism watch lists. You wanted them off, he didn't. Then there was the controversy over Sheikh Mohammed -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. You wanted, what, to stop the waterboarding at that point?

RICE: No, no, no. I just wanted to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Guantanamo -- out of the shadows…

O'REILLY: Yes.

RICE: …tell the American people we had the mastermind of 9/11. The United States doesn't disappear people. We say where they are.

O'REILLY: But he didn't want that, because he wanted to do it secretly. He thought he would get more Al Qaedas, though, right?

RICE: Well, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was pretty much past his intelligence value we were told.

O'REILLY: So why didn't Cheney, in your opinion, when you had this difference of opinion -- and I'm sure you listened to his point of view.

RICE: I did, of course.

O'REILLY: Why didn't he want a public exposition of what Mohammed had done and where he was going?

RICE: I don't know. He…

O'REILLY: He never told you?

RICE: Well, his view was that once you started down that road, you would begin to unravel the entire operation. We still had some of these people that we needed for intelligence value. But my -- my point to him, and the president ultimately agreed, is that we had done nothing to be ashamed of.

O'REILLY: OK. So he didn't want any exposition of what the USA was doing at all?

RICE: That's my recollection.

O'REILLY: OK.

RICE: Yes. Right.

O'REILLY: All right. Now, he's a hard guy, Cheney. He's a tough guy, all right. And -- and he wanted North Korea to be on the terrorism list, you wanted to engage them, to hope that they -- you could bring them into some…

RICE: No, I…

O'REILLY: …kind of rationality, right?

RICE: …I wanted -- no, not to -- no. Rationality and North Korea should never be in the same sentence.

O'REILLY: All right.

RICE: What I wanted was to get inspectors on the ground. I wanted the North Koreans to begin to dismantle their nuclear capability for a plutonium bomb. And I believed we were going to learn more on the ground than sitting in Washington, D.C…

O'REILLY: All right, so you…

RICE: …and knowing nothing about the program.

O'REILLY: …another disagreement. It happens…

RICE: It's -- it's a…

O'REILLY: …all the time.

RICE: …a substantive disagreement.

O'REILLY: OK.

RICE: And these things happen all the time. Not personal, substantive.

O'REILLY: Yes, but it was personal in Cheney's book and in Rumsfeld's book. Rumsfeld talked down to you. He said you were an academic, that you wanted to have meetings and all of that. And then you said that your joint appearances with the Secretary of Defense were disastrous. So what was the beef there?

RICE: Well, Don is a kind of irascible, grumpy guy. And I think that sometimes Don had trouble with the fact that we were now in a position of colleagues. He had been my mentor. He'd been someone who championed my career. But, again, we had substantive disagreements, not personal disagreements.

O'REILLY: But you -- don't you think that both guys were a little torqued off that you were challenging them?

RICE: Well…

O'REILLY: That you were intruding on their turf?

RICE: Oh, I think they, both of them, understood that I was a National Security adviser. I had a close relationship with the president. I think sometimes Don thought that I was putting the president's words in -- or my words in the president's mouth. That absolutely wasn't true.

O'REILLY: So -- so was this -- just a -- a power thing, like who can get the president's ear and they thought you were a threat?

RICE: Bill, that's Washington all of the time.

O'REILLY: But I think that's what it is. I think it…

RICE: It's Washington all of the time.

O'REILLY: …or was.

RICE: And fortunately, we were able to mostly make it work. I had my job to do. When I became Secretary of State, I was no longer the honest broker. I was no longer coordinating them. I could make my own views known. And I think from the vice president's point of view, he didn't like that I won most of those arguments. But I did.

O'REILLY: No, I -- I can't imagine that he would like that.

RICE: Right.

O'REILLY: Now, from reading your book, it seems to me you're glad you're out of it.

RICE: I am. Awfully nice to be back at…

O'REILLY: But you had a…

RICE: …Stanford University. I've been there 30 years.

O'REILLY: Watching the football team maybe go for the national championship, right?

RICE: We -- we're taking it…

O'REILLY: You're a big football fan.

RICE: I'm a big football fan.

O'REILLY: Right.

RICE: We're taking it one step at a time. Oregon Ducks and then we'll see.

O'REILLY: The Oregon Ducks are tough.

RICE: They are tough.

O'REILLY: OK.

RICE: They are tough.

O'REILLY: All right. It's a fascinating book, and I appreciate you coming in and taking the fire. "No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington." And, you know, I think if the vice president is watching, that you should be, you know, like a no-spin Dr. Rice here and come on in and have a chat. It wasn't too painful, was it?

RICE: Oh, it was great, Bill. Always great to be with you.

O'REILLY: All right. Thank you, Doctor.

RICE: Thank you.

O'REILLY: I appreciate it.

RICE: Thank you.

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