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On the Record

Iraq Update

Susan E. Rice

Tavis Smiley, host: On today’s program:…when can the US-led coalition declare victory in Iraq, and what is victory, for that matter? The death of Saddam Hussein, the discovery of weapons of mass destruction and their dismantlement? These are just some of the questions, of course, that are getting harder and harder to find answers to. Joining us now to help answer some of these questions are Susan Rice, a senior fellow of foreign policy at The Brookings Institution and a former assistant secretary of State in the Clinton administration and special assistant to the president. She joins us via phone from Washington. And via phone from Virginia, Loren Thompson, CEO of the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank. Loren and Susan, glad to talk to you, as always…

Ms. Rice: Well, I think…to a large extent, that we have seen immediate military victory, but we have a long, long road ahead of us. I think that as the administration itself has said that we must find or capture, kill or otherwise account for Saddam Hussein and his closest supporters, we also critically have to come to terms with this issue of weapons of mass destruction. We have every reason to believe that they’re there; at least according to our intelligence community. And I don’t doubt that. But we sure haven’t found them, and that is an issue of great urgency.

And it also calls into question the notion or rationale for war. The issue wasn’t whether they had the weapons; it was whether, in fact, they would use them in such a way that would pose a threat to the United States. And the fact that they were never employed in combat when the regime was on its last legs, in my mind, begs the question of whether they would have used them under other circumstances long before we poked the hornet’s nest.

Smiley: But let me ask you, Susan, if the Bush administration—again, to my question a moment ago. If we don’t find Saddam dead and so we can’t convince the American public we’ve got this guy’s DNA, we’ve matched it, these are his body remains, he’s dead—if we can’t find him, if we don’t find weapons of mass destruction, if we don’t find chemical or biological weapons, how does the Bush administration justify having gone into Iraq?

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