Rice Cites "Great Progress in One Year" in Iraq
Washington -- Marking the one-year anniversary of "Operation Iraqi Freedom,"
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice pointed to progress achieved in Iraq
against insurgents and praised the bravery exhibited by Pakistan's military in
securing its border area with Afghanistan against terrorist infiltrators.
Rice appeared on four television interviews March 19, marking one year since
U.S. and coalition military moved against the regime of Saddam Hussein.
In her interview on CBS's "Early Show," Rice said, "I think we've made great
progress in one year. ... [W]e've freed 25 million Iraqis. There are no more
rape ... and torture rooms in Iraq. This brutal and dangerous dictator ... is
gone. And the Middle East is going to be a very much safer place."
Asked if the Bush administration had exaggerated the threat Iraq posed, Rice
replied, "I have no idea what you're talking about, because I can tell you that
[Saddam Hussein] ... was a threat to peace and security, and the world is far
better off without him." She pointed to the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, the
four-day military action against Iraq by the Clinton administration in 1998, the
passage by Congress that same year of the Iraq Liberation Act -- which
specifically called for regime change in Iraq -- as evidence that the former
leader had been considered a threat for many years by multiple administrations.
As for the price America's military has paid to free Iraq, Rice said, "[W]e
really do mourn every life, as well as those who are injured and have to go
through -- now -- [a] painful recovery. ... But nothing good is ever won without
On NBC's "Today" show, she answered the charge that the administration had
underestimated the difficulty of securing the peace in Iraq by saying, "We knew
that this was going to be challenging. ...[but]they are making progress."
"Yes, it's tough," she said. "There are a lot of people who would like to
unravel that progress, because they're fighting as if Iraq was the central front
of the war on terrorism. It is."
On ABC's "Good Morning America" Rice said, "[T]here are people who are trying to
throw Iraq back into the Dark Ages. There are former regime elements who
oppressed their fellow Iraqis for decades and are still trying to kill them. And
there are foreign terrorists. ..." And on CNN's "American Morning," she
explained, "[T]hese are hardened terrorists [in Iraq]....
An additional difficulty is that no one realized how much Iraq's infrastructure
had deteriorated over time, Rice said.
Concerning the fighting now going on in Pakistan at the time of the interviews,
and the rumors that a major al-Qaeda figure -- perhaps Osama bin Laden's deputy,
Ayman al-Zawahiri -- is trapped by Pakistani forces, Rice said, "[T]here clearly
is a fierce battle going on there on the Pakistani-Afghan border. But I think we
don't know whether there's a ‘high-value' target there, and we certainly don't
know whether it's al-Zawahiri. We'll just have to wait and see."
During the NBC interview, Rice praised Pakistani military efforts to secure "a
part of Pakistan that has basically been uncontrolled for centuries." She also
cited the brave and courageous efforts of the Pakistanis fighting in the
frontier territories. On CNN, Rice said that the Pakistanis "have been terrific.
Many of the al-Qaeda leaders that we have rounded up have been thanks to the
Pakistanis. ... They've been one of our best allies in the war on terrorism."
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
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