Condi Rice Gets Grilled
Gwen Ifill asked some very hard questions of Condi Rice last night and got some remarkable answers.
Condi says she feels responsible for letting those 16 words into the SOTU because it detracts from the righteousness of the war.
But what I feel, really, most responsible for is that this has detracted from the very strong case that the president has been making. There are people who want to say that somehow the president's case was not strong, the intelligence case was not strong. I've read a lot of intelligence cases over my almost 20 years now in this field, and this was a very strong case.
And, she never, ever read any of those memos that warned about using faulty intelligence in the speech. Besides there wasn't any real specifics about why it was removed from the Cincinnati speech either, just some vague issues.
And Director Tenet had called Steve Hadley and he told him, in no specifics, he told him I don't think you should put that in the president's speech because we don't want to make the president his own fact witness. Both Steve and Director Tenet remember the conversation in that way.
What we learned later, and I did not know at the time, and certainly did not know until just before Steve Hadley went out to say what he said last week, was that the director had also sent over to the White House a set of clearance comments that explained why he wanted this out of the speech.
I can tell you, I either didn't see the memo, I don't remember seeing the memo, the fact is it was a set of clearance comments, it was three and a half months before the State of the Union. And we're going to try to have a process now in which we don't have to depend on people's memories to link what was taken out of the speech in Cincinnati with what was put into the speech at the State of the Union.
And of course, Saddam was an imminent danger to our country because that he was actively reconstituting a nuclear program. So the war was absolutely justified.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: What we knew going into the war was that this man was a threat. He had weapons of mass destruction. He had used them before. He was continuing to try to improve his weapons programs. He was sitting astride one of the most volatile regions in the world, a region out of which the ideologies of hatred had come that led people to slam airplanes into buildings in New York and Washington.
Something had to be done about that threat and the president to simply allow this brutal dictator, with dangerous weapons, to continue to destabilize the Middle East.
GWEN IFILL: And what you said, going into the war, using very stark language, I believe you were the one who said that you couldn't afford to stand by and watch a, looking for a smoking gun which could become a mushroom cloud. You made not only this case about the potential for purchasing uranium, yellow cake, from Niger, you also said that there were aluminum tube purchases, which indicated that the reconstitution of the nuclear program might be underway.
You also said there were satellite photos that showed that buildings were being rebuilt in places where there had been a nuclear program before. Taken together, this was all to make the point that Saddam Hussein was possibly on the verge of reconstituting a nuclear weapons program. Is that, in retrospect, supportable?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: It's absolutely supportable, and listen to the list that you just gave. What this was, was a description of his procurement network. We knew that he had, as Colin Powell talked about in his presentation at the United Nations, an active procurement network to procure items, many of which, by the way, were on the prohibited list of the nuclear suppliers group. There's a reason that they were on the prohibited list of the nuclear supplies group: Magnets, balancing machines, yes, aluminum tubes, about which the consensus view was that they were suitable for use in centrifuges to spin material for nuclear weapons.
Of course, as Greg Thielmann said, it really does depend on whose opinion you believe. The country's nuclear scientists in the DOE did not believe these tubes could be used for a nuclear program. But their opinion obviously doesn't matter when you've got truth and justice on your side and can find a whole bunch of other opinions to back up your belief.
As Bush said: �Dr. Condoleezza Rice is an honest, fabulous person, and America is lucky to have her service." Yes, indeedy.