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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 11, 2003
Interview of the National Security Advisor by KHOU-TV, Houston, Texas
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
November 10, 2003
2:37 P.M. EST
Q Ms. Rice, the United States military is increasingly coming under fire and being engaged by these insurgents in Iraq. Is this starting to look more like war again, and less like peacekeeping?
DR. RICE: The American Armed Forces and the coalition armed forces are, indeed, encountering remnants of the old regime. And they marrying up with some foreign terrorists that are coming into the country because they know the importance of Iraq to their mission of destabilizing the United States and its allies. And so, yes, we're facing remnants. But these are not -- this is not a large-scale, organized army of the kind that we were fighting in March and April of this past year, with the kind of nationwide command and control structure. These are largely remnants.
They do coordinate -- there's no doubt about that -- and they are increasingly sophisticated. But we have a good strategy for addressing them, which is, first of all, to go to the places where they try and hide and to root them out. We're using intelligence increasingly given to us by the Iraqi people to capture and detain and, in some cases, kill these bad guys who want very much to stop the progress that is being made in Iraq.
These are the same people who tortured and murdered and maimed Iraqi citizens for the almost 30 years of the Saddam Hussein regime. And so it's not surprising that they're perfectly happy to attack the International Red Cross, or the United Nations, or for that matter, to threaten school children. So we have a good strategy for dealing with them. That strategy depends heavily on increasing the number of Iraqis involved in their own security. We have nearly 118,000 now, Iraqis, who are on a daily basis involved in their own security. They are the ones who will fight for their country, and they are fighting for the progress that's being made.
Q With that said, let's delve a little bit deeper into that strategy because now at this point, the United States has lost more troops after the war than during the war -- since that invasion began. Will the casualty rate ever really have an effect or an impact or dictate American policy? Will it ever make a difference in how long we stay or when we leave?
DR. RICE: The President is committed to getting this job done in Iraq. We would not have gone to war in Iraq had it not been critical to American security. When we were attacked on September 11th and lost 3,000 lives in one day, the President made clear that we were going to fight this war on the offensive. We were not going to sit back and wait to be attacked again. And that's what we're doing.
And the President mourns every loss and knows the sacrifices that we're asking of men and women in uniform, and particularly, their families. But nothing of value has ever been won without sacrifice. And American security is at stake here. We learned on September 11th that we can't just sit back and expect our oceans to protect us. And so this is a war, this is an effort that will make America more secure.
Q Whether Americans are dying overseas in Iraq, or here in this country, what's being done to reevaluate that strategy in Iraq? Because a loss of American life is a loss of life.
DR. RICE: The loss of American life is, indeed, tragic. The loss of coalition lives is, indeed, tragic. But we are committed, and this President is committed to showing that the will of the coalition will not be broken. We are going to do the job that needs to be done in Iraq. And again, we have to recognize what is at stake here. And what is at stake is our security to live in a world in which we do not have to worry about 3,000 lives being lost on one day out of another September 11th event.
Iraq is the central front now in this war on terrorism because with a stable and secure Iraq, a very hard blow will be dealt to the international jihad, the international terrorist movement that caused September 11th and intends to continue to pursue us. And so the President is aware of the sacrifices. He appreciates the sacrifices. But we also understand that this is a matter of will. We're determined to finish this job, and America will be far more secure for it.
Q Some Democrats are getting restless with the administration policy. In fact, today Joseph Biden called for NATO involvement. Will the administration now start actively seeking some outside involvement in Iraq?
DR. RICE: Well, we have nearly 40 countries involved in Iraq today. This is a coalition. The Poles and the Spanish are in charge of sectors. The British, of course, are there. America is not there alone. And we have more and more foreign -- more and more allied forces coming into help us in this cause.
But we have always wanted to have as much international participation as possible. But what's key is to get this job done. Everybody now understands -- and that's what the United Nations Security Council vote was about a few days -- a few weeks ago, Resolution 1511, that a stable and secure Iraq is fundamental and critical to the security of life as we know it in the free world.
Q Ms. Rice, we really appreciate the access through for administration. But this is fairly unprecedented. Quite honestly, if we called and asked for these interviews, we'd rarely, if ever, get them. With the death toll rising in Iraq, is there a fear within the administration that you're across losing public opinion with your policy with Iraq? Is that the reason that we're -- you're reaching out like this?
DR. RICE: It is extremely important in difficult times -- and these are difficult times in Iraq -- that the President and his advisors get every opportunity to speak to the American people because it is the American people who need to support his. And we believe we have excellent support from the American people. The American people need to understand what's at stake here. And so it's important to get that message out. And I hope we'll have a chance to do it again.
Q All right, we know these are difficult times. And we appreciate the access that you have provided. Thanks so much for joining us.
DR. RICE: Thank you very much.
2:43 P.M. EST END