RICE: U.N. DISUNITY UNDERCUTS CHANCE FOR PEACEFUL RESOLUTION OF IRAQ
CRISIS; 'UNITED STATES HAS NO DESIRE TO BE AN OCCUPYING POWER'
Condoleezza Rice is the National Security Advisor to U.S. President George
W. Bush. She spoke with Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels in Washington
on Feb. 26.)
NATHAN GARDELS: Angela Merkel, the opposition leader in Germany,
met with you and received red-carpet treatment from the administration.
France has been referred to as ''unfriendly.'' What is the feeling in
the White House these days about the current French and German leaders
and the reliability of ''old Europe''?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We are concerned that the debate at the United
Nations has been allowed to slip into one about delay, about more time.
It seems to be about ''checking'' the efforts of the United States, Great
Britain and Spain rather than stopping Saddam Hussein.
We've been down this road before. In the 1990s Saddam was able to split
the Security Council, to placate, to deceive. Now, suddenly, there seems
to be a lot of support for Resolution 1284, passed in 1999, which was
supposed to get inspectors back into Iraq. But France abstained then!
We fully expect in the next week or so that Saddam will begin to do what
he has always done: a little bit of progress here, a little cooperation
there. He'll destroy this missile. Find this or that bomb he couldn't
find a few weeks ago when he was supposed to declare it. He will play
every game in the book to try to buy time.
Those who let him buy time are putting off the important decision the
Security Council needs to take to, once and for all, affirm that it is
a powerful force for peace. We have to rid Saddam of his mass destruction
weapons because he himself has decided he will not voluntarily do it.
GARDELS: This transatlantic crisis is not the normal contretemps
of recent decades. Isn't it qualitatively more serious?
RICE: It is very unfortunate. If we had a chance for a real peaceful
resolution of this, it would have been through unity in the Security Council
to make Saddam Hussein the issue. Unfortunately, he has read that he can
continue to play members of the Security Council off against one another.
Every once in a while we need to go back and remember what it is that
has made the transatlantic bond strong: that is, a commitment not only
to security but to values. The most important value is that people have
a right to live in freedom, not tyranny. The Iraqi people deserve that
right just as much as any European or American.
GARDELS: So the transatlantic damage is not irreversible?
RICE: I certainly hope not. But it is going to take some work.
GARDELS: Perhaps it is time to shift focus from the debate over
inspections and even beyond the war itself to post-Saddam Iraq. What is
your broader vision for Iraq?
RICE: If we do have to use force, the world will see a United States
-- and we believe a coalition -- that is dedicated first and foremost
to the immediate betterment of life for the Iraqi people. The first to
benefit in a post-Saddam world will be the Iraqi people themselves.
This is an educated population, a people who are quite capable of getting
on the road to democratic development. The United States will be there
to support them in doing that.
In the immediate aftermath of any hostilities we are most concerned that
humanitarian needs are taken care of. We are working with all kinds of
non-governmental organizations and the official relief agencies to pre-position
humanitarian aid and food supplies. We have already made available tens
of millions of dollars for this purpose.
We would also be devoted, as soon as possible, to getting the administrative
structures of the Iraqi government back up and running so that the Iraqi
people can begin to take control of their own lives.
Most Iraqi citizens are going to have a tremendous future in a post-Saddam
Iraq. Members of Saddam Hussein's inner circle, of course, cannot have
a future, but most Iraqis will regain their country.
We are hopeful that, if we do indeed use military force and begin the
march toward a post-Saddam Iraq, that Iraqis outside Saddam's inner circle
will understand that their future is not with Saddam and his regime. We
hope they will not carry out orders to use weapons of mass destruction
or burn the patrimony of Iraq in the way the oil fields of Kuwait were
In a broader sense, an Iraq that is disarmed of weapons of mass destruction,
where the territorial integrity is preserved, where there is a road to
democratic development would be a tremendously positive factor for the
region as a whole -- a region that is beginning to hear very strong voices
from Bahrain to Morocco for political and economic reform. In fact, the
Arabs themselves are now talking about an ''Arab charter'' for such reforms.
Not least, with one of the great threats to the region and one of the
great supporters of terrorism gone from the scene, a great impetus would
be given to the prospect of Middle East peace. The Palestinian people
would able to more effectively pursue their dreams of a democratic state.
GARDELS: Is this a ''battle for the Muslim world'' that will change
the Middle East?
RICE: That is a misnomer. Nobody is battling for the Muslim world.
What we understand is there are ever stronger voices out there saying
what we believe: The rights to decide your own future, to live without
fear of arbitrary government, to be able to educate your children -- girls
and boys -- are non-negotiable demands of human dignity. These are universal
values. We want to help those voices emerge and be strengthened.
GARDELS: Isn't this democratization wave, though, likely to wash
over America's less-than-democratic allies in the region as well, such
as Saudi Arabia and Egypt?
RICE: There are people who value reform in almost every country
of the region. The Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia has been talking, as I
mentioned, about an ''Arab charter'' for economic and political reform.
This is not something to be feared in the region. It is something to be
desired. The whole region, so wealthy in economic and human resources,
has been held back by years of hatred and conflict. It is time the Middle
East be the vibrant and prosperous region it can be.
GARDELS: You were a player in American policy that led to the collapse
of Soviet empire and brought democratization to Eastern Europe. Do you
see this current push as a similar, parallel historical process of expanding
RICE: Yes, I see it as a continuation of historical process that
has been affirming across the globe that people want a say in their own
lives. Democracy and economic liberalization are desired by all.
It is interesting that you bring up Eastern Europe. Because, of course,
the Eastern Europeans -- those most recently freed from tyranny -- have
been some of the strongest supporters of trying to create conditions in
which freedom can be extended to the people of Iraq.
In all the discussion about the threat of Saddam Hussein -- goodness knows
there is a big threat with mass destruction weapons and the links to terrorism
-- it is important not to lose sight of what is happening to the Iraqi
people. I really do believe that one of the reasons we are getting such
strong support from the Baltic states, from Poland and Hungary, Romania
and Bulgaria is that they know what it is like to be denied freedom.
GARDELS: The United States has decided on an ''interim administration
headed by an American'' to rule postwar Iraq instead of a provisional
government of Iraqis.
Recently Sharif Ali bin Al Hussein, a member of the Iraqi National Congress
who heads the royal family in exile, told me:
''Occupation by the United States is unwarranted and unwise. Once Saddam
and his weapons are gone, the military is no threat. Iraq's population
does not need to be 'de-Nazified.' Iraq is not Germany or Japan, but France
after World War II -- a country that has been liberated. Truly this occupation
idea is inadvisable. In a flash it will turn the Americans from liberators
into occupiers. The best thing is for them to leave as soon as possible.''
How do you respond to the opposition of the Iraqi opposition to your plan?
RICE: The United States intends to stay in Iraq as long as we are
needed, and not a day longer. We have no desire to be an occupying power.
All that we want to do is to make certain that the territorial integrity
of Iraq is preserved, that sectarian violence does not break out and that
the immediate humanitarian concerns of the Iraqis are taken care of. We
want to get the country on the road to reconstruction and a democratic
future. We want to be sure that process is begun, and we want to be certain
it will be finished.
Everyone in this administration, especially the president, wants to see
the Iraqis in control of their own future absolutely as soon as possible.
GARDELS: Who will control the oil in post-Saddam Iraq?
RICE: The oil and other resources of Iraq are for the Iraqi people.
That is to whom it belongs and that is whom it should benefit. The big
change will be that instead of oil revenues benefiting Saddam Hussein
and building palaces for this horrible regime, instead of funding terrorists
or financing the development of mass destruction weapons, the resources
of Iraq will be turned to the use of the Iraqi people. That is the only
way it should be, and that is the only way the United States wants it
GARDELS: If a post-Saddam Iraq is part of the broader vision of
democratizing the region, will U.S. troops remain stationed there for
as long as 50 years, the way they have been in Germany and Japan since
World War II?
RICE: Again, it is not ''our'' vision for democratizing the region
that this is about, that we will impose somehow. It is about democracy
as a universal value that all people want being given the opportunity
to take root.
Of course, there will be a period during war termination, as the war is
winding down and stability is being reestablished, in which our coalition
forces will be the most active.
We will stay in Iraq as long as necessary to ensure this opportunity,
but, really, not a minute longer. Our hope is that after that period,
the international community will take an active role.
(c) 2003, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 2/26/03)