As part of the legacy interview series which started in early December with Fox News, the Secretary sat down with Zain Verjee of CNN on December 17 in Washington, D.C. Below is part of that interview. You can read the entire text here.
QUESTION: The worst breach of national security in the history of the United States came under your watch.
SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Did you ever consider resigning?
SECRETARY RICE: I believe that this was – this was —
QUESTION: Taking responsibility?
SECRETARY RICE: I do take responsibility. But this was a systemic failure. The United States of America had experienced terrorist attacks in 1993, in 1998 in our embassies abroad, in 2000 against the Cole, and then finally in September of 2001. But the fact of the matter is that we had not thought of this. We, the administrations before us, had not thought of this as the kind of war against the terrorists that we were going to have to wage.
And by the way, some of the things that people have been most critical of have given us, really, the capacity to respond. The ability to surveil terrorists through the Terrorist Surveillance Act so that there isn’t a gap between what terrorists are saying when they are abroad and what terrorists are saying when they’re in the United States. These are tools that simply didn’t exist prior to September 11th.
QUESTION: Do you regret your role in the Iraq war?
SECRETARY RICE: I absolutely am so proud that we liberated Iraq.
SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely. And I’m especially, as a political scientist, not as Secretary of State, not as National Security Advisor, but as somebody who knows that structurally it matters that a geostrategically important country like Iraq is not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, that this different Iraq under democratic leadership —
QUESTION: But it still (inaudible) into total chaos and (inaudible).
SECRETARY RICE: No, under a democratic – well, but look, we are at a place now where because of difficult decisions that the President took we have an Iraq that is well on its way to being a multiethnic, multiconfessional democracy —
QUESTION: Many Iraqis don’t agree with you.
SECRETARY RICE: — that is stable. Well, you only have to look at the case. You only have to look at the declining violence. Fragile, yes, but declining.
SECRETARY RICE: And you have to ask yourself, would you really rather have a Middle East, which you know has to be different than it’s been for these many years, would you really rather have an Iraq with Saddam Hussein at its center? That’s the other choice, and I don’t think that’s a good choice for the world.
QUESTION: What needs to happen for the world to say that the Iraq invasion was justified, positive, and right?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it will take some time for the effect of a change in Iraq to an implacable – from an implacable foe to a friend of the United States to show its effects. But when I see the Egyptian Foreign Minister go to Iraq for the first time in 30 years, when I see that the Iraqis stood up to Iran, despite all of Iran’s efforts –
QUESTION: And the Iraqis are showing through — throwing shoes at the President?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, an Iraqi is throwing a shoe at the President. Let’s remember again, Zain, if there was anything that was unfortunate about that incident, it was that it was what got reported. Because as a serious scholar of international politics, do I really think that 30 years from now or 20 years from now or 10 years from now, that will be – a shoe being thrown at the President is somehow going to be what was important about Iraq? Of course not. And that’s why when people report on today’s headlines instead of on history’s judgment, they make a mistake.
QUESTION: On a personal note —
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: What about you? What have people got wrong about you?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I don’t know and I really don’t care.
Doggone Canadian asking these questions! After all the time you spent together traveling to Libya and elsewhere, you had the balls to ask these questions? Son of a motherless goat! But looks like Zain got a hug after the interview and an invite to “come to California.”