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O'Reilly, Rice spar over Iraqi 'killers' and left's 'vitriolic hatred' towards Bush administration
Mike Sheehan
Published: Tuesday April 3, 2007
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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a memorable visit to The O'Reilly Radio Factor today, heatedly debating with the show's host about Iraq.

O'Reilly began by pushing Rice on the Bush administration's approach to Iran, which continues to hold British sailors it captured in the Persian Gulf and has resisted freeing them thus far. "In front of the world this is still a rogue nation that's actually winning," said O'Reilly. "You know, they're embarrassing Great Britain in this situation and, you know, that means a lot in the Arab world."

Rice agreed that Iran was a "rogue nation," but added, "I think that we are dealing with a situation in which the Iranians are just getting more and more isolated," an argument O'Reilly found tough to swallow. "I don't know if the world has the will to confront the bad guys at this point in history," he remarked.

O'Reilly then moved onto the subject of Iraq. "Madame Secretary, you have to understand that most Americans have given up on the war on Iraq and they don't want any more," he said. "This is public opinion I'm talking about. So it's a very tough sell for you and the President, isn't it?"

Rice responded by talking about Bush's commitment to Iraq as "important to our security," but O'Reilly persisted in saying "Americans aren't buying it" and "they don't get it." Rice ran off a list of circumstances complicating the Iraq war before admitting, in words that echo the President's oft-spoken words, "This is hard. This is really hard...

"But," she continued, "I can assure you that it is going to be a lot harder for America and for American interests if we prematurely withdraw from Iraq and Iraq becomes a safe haven for terrorism and if it becomes a source of instability in the Middle East."

O'Reilly countered sharply, "I believe that, but I don't know if you're going to be able to rally the American public after four years of disappointment in that theater." He then took aim at citizens of Iraq. "My analysis is the Iraqi people themselves haven't stepped up. They're more interested in killing each other than they are in forming a democratic nation.

"There's simply too many killers there, too many factions that don't want democracy," O'Reilly continued. "And I'm not sure, no matter what surge you have, that you can overcome the Iraqi people not cooperating."

Rice disagreed, countering, "Let's remember that twelve and half ... million Iraqis voted for a democratic future. ... [I]nnocent Iraqis are dying. Iraqis are dying as policemen, they're dying as soldiers. That shows that they want to build a different kind of Iraq."

O'Reilly remained unconvinced, insisting perhaps cynically to Rice that Iraqis are self-defeating, even attacking their own public services. "[T]hey can continue to do that ad infinitum unless the people themselves cooperate and rise up. And when I was over there in December, that wasn't what was happening, Madame Secretary."

Rice conceded, to a degree. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the problem's been solved or that we've made substantial progress. I can tell you that there are initial signs that are good."

O'Reilly brought the back-and-forth on Iraq to a close, before asking Rice about the Bush administration itself. "How do you process the vitriolic hatred now directed not only at President Bush but at you and other members of the Administration by the left and far left in the United States of America?" he asked. "It has reached, I think, a more intense level than even Vietnam."

Rice replied, "Criticism comes with the job. I agree that I think that sometimes the nature of the discourse isn't very civil, but that's life.

"I know that the American people are frustrated," she admitted. "I think they want to see that we can make progress. I think they want to see that Iraqis care about their future. And I think they're going to start to see that."

Rice's defense of President Bush remained steadfast. "[W]hen you're in a position like this or you're the President of the United States," she said as the segment came to a close, "you have to do what you think is right for the country, and that's what we're going to keep doing."

The official U.S. State Department transcript of Rice's appearance on O'Reilly's show follows:

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MR. O'REILLY: We have Madame Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the line, and last time we spoke was last summer and you were confident then that the U.N. was going to really get tough on Iran. It didn't happen until last week. Why the delay with Iran? Why is the world not being tougher on this country?

SEC. RICE: Well, we've actually had two Security Council resolutions on Iran and I think they've gotten progressively tougher. But what we've really been able to do, Bill, is to use those Security Council resolutions to allow what I would call collateral effects on the Iranian economy, meaning that those Chapter 7 resolutions which puts Iran in very bad company has made people think twice about investment. We know that the number of export credits that they're getting is going down. They're having trouble using the financial and banking systems. So, in fact, I think we're having an effect on the Iranians. I can't tell you when reasonable people in Iran will decide that they can't afford the level of isolation, but I think we're having an effect.

MR. O'REILLY: Okay. But see, it doesn't play out that way in front of the world because they grab 15 British military and they thumb their nose at the world and they continue to cause trouble in Iraq and they do all this other business. So while behind the scenes what you're saying may be true -- I have no reason to doubt it -- in front of the world this is still a rogue nation that's actually winning. You know, they're embarrassing Great Britain in this situation and, you know, that means a lot in the Arab world.

SEC. RICE: Well, they're clearly a rogue nation. I would agree with you on that. But I think that we are dealing with a situation in which the Iranians are just getting more and more isolated. This latest seizure of these British sailors is not going to improve their position in the world; it's going to worsen their position in the world. And they need to release these people.

MR. O'REILLY: All right. Well, hope you're right. You know, I'm not sure. I don't know if the world has the will to confront the bad guys at this point in history.

And now we go over to President Bush this morning, where he's basically saying to Congress: Look, if you keep playing around with these timetables, I'm going to veto it, the soldiers aren't going to get their money, it's going to put them in jeopardy in Iraq and other places. But on the other side, Madame Secretary, you have to understand that most Americans have given up on the war on Iraq and they don't want any more -- they don't want to hear about it, they don't want any part of it, it's been a fiasco. This is public opinion I'm talking about. So it's a very tough sell for you and the President isn't it?

SEC. RICE: Well, the President is committed to this because it is important to our security. Yes, it is very important that we carry through on helping Iraq to form a stable democratic society. It is very important that we follow through on making certain that Iraq remains territorially integrous so that the region doesn't come apart. But the truth of the matter is, as important as it is for Iraqis, it is doubly important for Americans because we cannot have --

MR. O'REILLY: But most Americans aren't buying it.

SEC. RICE: Well, Americans --

MR. O'REILLY: They don't get it.

SEC. RICE: I understand that people are skeptical. I understand that people are frustrated. The President said when he launched this new strategy that he counted himself among Americans who found the current situation unacceptable. But we have a new strategy, a new commander in the field, a new ambassador who's gone out there. They're having some initial success in helping to bring some stability to Baghdad. This is hard. This is really hard, Bill. But I can assure you that it is going to be a lot harder for America and for American interests if we prematurely withdraw from Iraq and Iraq becomes a safe haven for terrorism and if it becomes a source of instability in the Middle East. And so --

MR. O'REILLY: I believe that, but I don't know if you're going to be able to rally the American public after four years of disappointment in that theater. And my analysis is the Iraqi people themselves haven't stepped up. They're more interested in killing each other than they are in forming a democratic nation. You had a success in Kuwait after the first Gulf War. You had a success in Afghanistan after the Taliban was removed. You are not having a success in the hearts and minds in Iraq. There's simply too many killers there, too many factions that don't want democracy. And I'm not sure, no matter what surge you have, that you an overcome the Iraqi people not cooperating.

SEC. RICE: Bill, if that were the case, I would agree with you. If the problem was the Iraqi people and that they did not want to live in a stable society together, I would agree with you. But I don't think that is the issue.

MR. O'REILLY: Then who's killing each other?

SEC. RICE: But these are death squads and militias and terrorists who are keeping not just us from succeeding, but Americans -- Iraqis from succeeding.

MR. O'REILLY: There are so many of them. There are so many of them.

SEC. RICE: No. Bill, just a second. Let's remember that twelve and half Iraqi -- twelve and half million Iraqis voted for a democratic future. They have lived for years under tyranny and it's hard to come to political solutions where you used to use violence and repression. But Iraqis, innocent Iraqis are dying. Iraqis are dying as policemen, they're dying as soldiers. That shows that they want to build a different kind of Iraq.

MR. O'REILLY: Some of them do. But look, you're a student of history, as am I, and you know that in Northern Ireland, it didn't stop until the women of the Northern Ireland -- the women -- basically told the men on both sides: You knock it off. Most people in Northern Ireland wanted peace. But the bombers and the terrorists prevented Northern Ireland from becoming a peaceful region because a very few minority -- as you're seeing in Iraq -- and I don't know if it's a few. I think the Shi'a and the Sunni and the al Qaeda there combined are a fairly formidable army and they have terrorized the people that you say are voting. The people are -- don't have security. They blow up the services and they can continue to do that ad infinitum unless the people themselves cooperate and rise up. And when I was over there in December, that wasn't what was happening, Madame Secretary.

SEC. RICE: But I have to tell you, Bill, that you are right. The majority of Iraqis want a peaceful life. And yes, there are a minority of terrorists and death squads, Sunni and Shi'a, who are trying to take that possibility from them. But they are, in fact, investing in their future, investing in their future with their own lives.

Now, what the President decided in January was that we needed to give the government our support and our help so that they could do the job of bringing stability and security. And there are good initial signs. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the problem's been solved or that we've made substantial progress. I can tell you that there are initial signs that are good.

MR. O'REILLY: Okay. Look, I wish you the best. I see your vision. I'm on your side as far as geopolitics are concerned. But I know the American public doesn't want any more of this, that they've thrown in the towel after four years. And that leads me to my final question. How do you process -- you yourself -- the vitriolic hatred now directed not only at President Bush but at you and other members of the Administration by the left and far left in the United States of America? It has reached, I think, a more intense level than even Vietnam.

SEC. RICE: Bill, I'm going to do what I think is right. The President is going to do what he thinks is right. Criticism comes with the job. I agree that I think that sometimes the nature of the discourse isn't very civil, but that's life. I know that this is important for America and for America's future. And by the way, I know that the American people are frustrated. I don't agree that they've "thrown in the towel." I think they want to see that we can make progress. I think they want to see that Iraqis care about their future. And I think they're going to start to see that. But when you're in a position like this or you're the President of the United States, you have to do what you think is right for the country, and that's what we're going to keep doing.

MR. O'REILLY: Madame Secretary, always a pleasure to speak with you. Thanks for taking the time to be on the Radio Factor.

SEC. RICE: A pleasure to be with you too, Bill.

END.

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