QUESTION: ...I don’t think people necessarily compute that a democratic Iraq translates into a safer United States. I don’t think that message is necessarily gotten through to people.
SECRETARY RICE: Well –
QUESTION: They see it as way over there and –
SECRETARY RICE: No, Katie, they – I don’t disagree that’s what the polls show right now. I do think that in time, when this settles out again, that the ground is there for – to return to the argument we were making and to win that argument.
There’s a reason Americans also don’t want us to pull out of the Iraq because they understand that somehow it’s linked to our security. If they didn’t understand that, why wouldn’t they say, well, you know, we’ll just – because I think they do understand it’s linked to our security.
QUESTION: And on that – on the flipside, you know, the argument it simply galvanized extremism worldwide and seemed to chin up -- chin it up, I guess, that’s what people argue.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I find this the most bizarre argument of all. For the period from the emergence of Usama bin Laden at the beginning of the ‘90s, but I think George Schultz would argue going all the way to back to ’83 and the bombing of the barracks in Lebanon, you had a terrorist threat that was growing and getting stronger and getting bolder. And it was essentially undisturbed by American policy. It was – or world policy – and there were skirmishes here and there, but basically, nobody took it on. And then it exploded in a big way on September 11th and we recognized and now are getting fuller view that there were so over the world, that they were laying in wait, that this is an ideology of extremism that has been growing and gaining steam for an extended period of time. And so now we’ve confronted it. And people say, “Oh my goodness, they’ve come out so you must have created them.” No, we didn’t create them. They’ve now come out to fight because we’re fighting them.
And so when you hear people say, you know, Iraq is a training ground for terrorists. It’s a battle ground.
QUESTION: Haven’t a lot of foreign fighters infiltrated the border and it came to light in an (inaudible) this morning –
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Of course they have. So –
QUESTION: -- and he was talking about that and how it sort of decreased recently but so many – in other words, so I see your argument for the world, but what about for Iraq itself?
SECRETARY RICE: But, Katie, the problem is there were some --
QUESTION: -- you like to talk crossfire? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: I’m an academic, I love debate. No, look, they were someplace causing these problems and now they decided, because they understand the centrality and the importance of Iraq, that they’re going to fight in Iraq. But we were going to fight them in Iraq or we’re going to fight them someplace and they weren’t sitting someplace drinking tea and engaged in productive lives and decided, oh my goodness, they’re fighting in Iraq now so I think I’ll go to Iraq. That’s not who these people are. These are hardened, core veterans of jihads who now have come to Iraq to fight, so they have to be defeated somewhere. We just as well defeat them in Iraq. And that’s why I find the argument, that, you know, I was saying earlier, it’s like saying, "Well, the Nazis got experience on the battlefield." Well, yes, they did, when we decided to do battle with them. They’re getting experience on the battlefield because we’re doing battle with them. But the absence of Iraq, it would’ve been – it would’ve been Afghanistan or it would’ve been the U.S. presence in the Gulf.
Tony Blair took this on very effectively yesterday when he said, "When are we going to stop allowing the extremists to make us the excuse for their extremism? When are we going to stop falling prey to the argument that we created extremism when we know that in fact this has been there, unattended and now we’ve finally confronted it." And I think that’s really the crux of this.