Sen. Barbara Boxer
(D-Calif) told Secretary of
State-designate Condoleezza Rice during confirmation hearings today (Tuesday, Jan 18) "your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this (Iraq) war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth."
Rice responded, "Senator, I have to say that I have never, ever lost respect for the truth in the service of anything. It is not my nature. It is not my character. And I would hope that we can have this conversation and discuss what happened before and what
went on before and what I said without impugning my credibility or my integrity."
Boxer also faulted Rice's opening statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which "you never even mention indirectly the 1,266 American troops that have died, or the 10,372 who have been
wounded—many mentally...And 25 percent of those dead are from my home state. And this from a war that was based on what everyone now says, including your own administration, were falsehoods about WMDs, weapons of mass destruction."
Rice responded that "I mourn the dead and honor their service, because we have asked American men and women in uniform to do the hardest thing, which is to go and defend freedom and give others an opportunity to build a free
society, which will make us safer."
Concerning weapons of mass destruction, Rice said: "The fact is that we did face a very difficult challenge in trying to understand what Saddam Hussein had in terms of weapons of mass destruction...We knew that he was the world's most dangerous man in the world's most dangerous region. And we knew that in terms of
weapons of mass destruction, he had sought them before, tried to build them before, that he had an undetected biological weapons program that we didn't learn of until 1995, that he was closer to a nuclear weapons
program than anybody thought. And we knew most importantly that he had used weapons of mass destruction."
The secretary-designate added: "That was the context that frankly made us awfully suspicious when he refused to account for his weapons of mass destruction programs despite repeated Security Council resolutions and despite the fact that he was given one last chance to comply with Resolution 1441....
"We went to war because this was the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a man against whom we had gone to war before, who
threatened his neighbors, who threatened our interests, who was one of the world's most brutal dictators. And it was high time to get rid of him, and I'm glad that we're rid of him."
Boxer responded that the administration sent American military personnel to Iraq "because of weapons of mass destruction. Later, the mission changed when there were none...Everybody admits it but you that was the reason for the war. And then once
we're in there, now it moves to a different mission, which is great. We all want to give democracy and freedom everywhere we can possibly do it. But let's not rewrite history. It's too soon to do that."
Rice countered: "Saddam Hussein was a threat, yes, because he was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. And, yes, we thought that he had stockpiles which he did not have. We had problems with the intelligence. We are all, as a collective polity of the United States, trying to deal with ways to get better intelligence.
"But it wasn't just weapons of mass destruction," Rice continued. "His territory was a place where terrorists were welcomed, where he paid suicide bombers to bomb
Israel, where he had used Scuds against Israel in the past.
"And so we knew what his intentions were in the region; where he had attacked his neighbors before and, in fact, tried to annex Kuwait; where we had gone to war against him twice in the past. It was the total picture, Senator, not just weapons of mass destruction, that
caused us to decide that, post September 11th, it was finally time to del with Saddam Hussein."
Boxer also was critical of a suggestion by Rice that the United States has been prevailing in the war against terrorism by denying
territory to the terrorists..
""You say they have left territory—that's not true," said Boxer. "Your own documents show that
Al Qaeda has expanded from 45 countries in '01 to more than 60 countries today."
Rice responded that she was "referring to the fact that the al Qaeda organization of Osama bin Laden, which once trained openly in
Afghanistan, which once ran in places like Pakistan, can no longer count on hospitable territory from which to carry out their activities. In the places where they are, they're being sought and run down and arrested in ways that they never were before."
(see earlier confirmation story)
(see story on vote by committee)