Following a second round of questioning Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 14-2 to send Secretary of State designee Condoleezza Rice's nomination to the full Senate. During testimony before the vote, Sens. Joeseph Biden (D-Del.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) offered pointed criticism of Rice's candor and the administration's policy in Iraq. Here is a transcript of the session.
LUGAR: This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is called to order.
We appreciate the attendance of senators. We appreciate especially the attendance of our witness, the nominee for secretary of state, Dr. Condoleezza Rice.
And I want to thank Dr. Rice and her staff and all members for their diligence throughout yesterday. As has been mentioned, we had over nine hours of testimony. I think very good questions and very good answers. And as I was just visiting with my colleague Senator Boxer, almost every point of view of the American public was heard, asked and part of that dialogue.
We want to continue that this morning with another round of questioning from committee members who have remaining questions to ask. Some do have questions, some do not. And therefore, a number of members will pass.
But we will have a five-minute round and then this will conclude at 10 o'clock. We've announced to members they should anticipate a business meeting and a roll call vote on the nomination, with that activity commencing at 10 o'clock.
But prior to that time, we look forward to questioning.
Let me say from the beginning, at least on my part, I will pass on this round and I will now call on Senator Dodd for the remaining questions he might have.
DODD: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And let me join you in commending our colleagues on the committee yesterday and our nominee as well. It was a long day.
If nothing else, I was very impressed with your tenaciousness to sit at that table and have 18 of us up here raising questions that cover the entire globe in matters of deep concern to all of us. And we appreciate your willingness to go through that.
It was a long day, but I think a worthwhile one, Mr. Chairman, as you point out. And I'm sure our colleague Senator Biden -- I don't know if he's going to be along or not this morning.
But I just have a couple of matters I'd like to raise if I may with you as this time moves on.
A little more than 10 days ago, Dr. Rice, a disturbing report surfaced that the United States, specifically the CIA, was making a practice of handing over detainees from U.S. control to third countries for the purposes of interrogation. This process is referred to as rendition I think is what it's called. And the intelligence agency admits to practicing it since the early 1990s.
In this report, there are several accounts of prisoners being transferred by the U.S. to certain countries and then allegedly being tortured during those interrogations.
Last year, I introduced an amendment to the defense authorization bill, part of which would have prevented the Department of Defense from transferring persons to third countries without keeping a record of the transfer and the reasons for it.
I wonder if you might comment on this, if you're familiar enough with the practice, and whether or not we might be willing at least to -- one, at least either preventing these renditions from occurring, or if not, at least keeping some record so we have some way of determining how these people are being treated.
Are you familiar with the subject matter?
RICE: Thank you, Senator.
May I just take one moment before I answer any question just to also thank the members of the committee for yesterday? I think it was an extensive, some would say even exhaustive, look at the questions that we face in American foreign policy. But I think it was an important day.
I appreciate very much the spirit in which the questions were asked. And I look forward -- and I really meant what I said and want to underscore -- I look forward to working with each and every member of the committee in a bipartisan fashion so that we can fashion an American foreign policy for the 21st century that takes advantage of the substantial opportunities before us, recognizing that these are also difficult times for the country.
RICE: And I want to thank you, especially, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership of yesterday and to tell you that I look forward to many other sessions of that kind.
RICE: Now let me turn to Senator Dodd's question.
The United States is not permitted to transfer anyone if we think that they are going to be tortured. And, in fact, we make efforts to ascertain from any party that this will not happen. And you can be certain that we will continue to do so.
I want to be careful on commenting on intelligence matters, particularly in open session. But to say that we do -- anything that is done is done within the limits of the law. It is done with a recognition that the United States is special and has special responsibilities, and that we will continue to do that.
As to keeping a record, I would have to demure for now. I don't have enough information...
DODD: If you'd look at that for me and get back.
RICE: I will. And I'd be happy to talk with you about it at some point when we're not in open session.
DODD: And this may be the last, Mr. Chairman, (inaudible) make sure we have enough time for others, as well.
Mentioned earlier Senator Nelson, Senator Chafee and I made this trip into South America. And one of the issues (inaudible) is the contraband issues and the narcotrafficking issues. It's very, very common. The economic issue is important, as well.
I don't know if you had a comment on this. I'd ask you to pay particular attention to that tri-border area that Senator Chafee, Senator Nelson and I spent some time in that Brazilian-Argentinian- Paraguayan corner where it is termed the Wild West, in terms of contraband issues and money flowing back and forth and some very, very important questions. And there needs to be some specific attention, I think, paid there -- more attention than we are now.
The narcotrafficking issue -- there's a great concern about the ballooning affect we've seen over the years. And that is, we've put a lot of attention as we have over $3 billion in Colombia over the last few years. And there's concerns now of this problem reemerging again in Peru and Bolivia where it was in the past, even parts of Brazil.
DODD: The issues of Venezuela obviously get affected by these decisions as well. And there really is a need, I think, for a more comprehensive approach to this.
When we had the certification process here, which the chairman and those who remember, it was a rather difficult process we went through year in and year out declaring which countries were complying or not complying with our anti-narcotics efforts. It caused a lot of acrimony between countries that would be labeled not being supportive.
And so we changed that. We dropped that. But we promised when we did it that we were going to replace it with something. Just doing nothing about it was not the answer.
And part of what we talked about was developing a more comprehensive approach, where, as a consuming country, we'd work more closely with the producing, transferring, money-laundering nations as well.
I would urge you to see if we can't revitalize that. There is a growing concern with the great disparity of resources we're applying to these countries as they battle with these issues. And it's something that really deserves more attention. And we're going to find this problem just moving from nation to nation in these countries without really addressing it more thoroughly.
And if you want to comment on that at all or not, but I'd ask you to really pay attention to that if you could.
RICE: Thank you, Senator. I will take a hard look at it.
We had in concept, when we had the Andean initiative, exactly this in mind, of course which was that if you stop the spread of narco-trafficking in one place, it would find a home in another. And it was intended to be comprehensive in terms of alternative livelihoods and in terms of economic development to forestall that.
But it's a very good point, and I'll take a hard look at it.
DODD: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Senator Dodd.
Many senators have come in since the beginning of the hearing. Let me mention we're going to have five-minute round. Senators are not obligated to use their five minutes, some will want to pass.
But in any event, at 10 o'clock, Senators, then we'll gather for a business meeting on the nomination.
CHAFEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And good morning, Dr. Rice.
I see you're fourth in line for succession to the presidency, and so this is an important hearing we're having, and also in that line of succession the only one that hasn't appeared before the public in any kind of capacity in the electoral process.
CHAFEE: This is an important process.
Going back to my questions from yesterday of finding common ground. And as I look back in history -- and you're an historian -- and the success we had with the thaw with the People's Republic of China had a lot to do with the exchange of ping-pong teams, of all things.
And I always admired the architects of that doctrine in that we knew that the Chinese ping-pong players were probably beat us it 21 to 2 or something, but that wasn't what was important. It was the start of finding common ground.
And I was wondering -- in some of my questions, you seemed to reject that doctrine of finding common ground.
RICE: Thank you, Senator, for giving me an opportunity to answer that, because obviously with need to look for common ground.
There is no reason that the United States has to have permanent enemies. We have had circumstances in which there have been major changes in the world.
And, you know, the Libyan experience shows that if there are countries that are prepared to forswear behavior that is dangerous to the international system, that we can start down a different path.
And I'm glad that you mentioned the ping-pong diplomacy because obviously in almost every circumstance, the exchange of people of civil society, of nongovernmental actors, is often an important tool in thawing difficult relations. And so I don't want to leave the impression that I would be by any means opposed to looking for those opportunities. And I will look for them.
CHAFEE: Can we specifically go back to Venezuela again? Where can we find common ground?
RICE: Well, we have -- obviously, we talked about the economic relationship yesterday. And there's common ground there. We sit together in the OAS. We sit together in the Summit of the Americas.
The point is that we don't have a problem with finding common ground. We have, right now, a government in Venezuela that has been unconstructive in important ways.
RICE: And I would just urge that the entire neighborhood, as well as the Venezuelan government, look at what's happening in terms of democracy in Venezuela, in terms of Venezuela's relations with its neighbors.
But this is a matter of sadness, not of anger.
CHAFEE: And with Iran, is there any potential for finding common ground with Iran?
RICE: Well, I think the problems with Iran are well known. And we've tried to make them known to the Iranian government, often through third parties, sometimes when we've been in -- or together.
This is just a regime that has a really very different view of the Middle East and where the world is going than we do. It's really hard to find common ground with a government that thinks Israel should be extinguished. It's difficult to find common ground with a government that is supporting Hezbollah and terrorist organizations that are determined to undermine the Middle East peace that we seek.
So I would hope that the nuclear issues will be resolved. It's extremely important to the world that Iran not acquire a nuclear weapon. And we are working closely with the European Union on that.
I would hope that the Iranian government does something to make clear to the world that they're not going to support terrorists who are determined to undermine the two-state solution in the Palestinian -- in the Holy Land.
And those are barriers to relations.
RICE: And we just have to be honest about it.
It's a very different view. Not to mention, by the way, that a theocratic government that has a view that the mullahs ought to rule, that has no rights -- or has a human rights record that is really appalling and that treats its citizens, its women in that way, is not a regime with which I think we have very much common ground, particularly given the way that we would like to see the Middle East develop.
CHAFEE: It seems to me, going back into history, the same occurrences were with the People's Republic of China at the time. They were arming the -- in the middle of the Vietnam war, arming our opponents in that war.
I mean, there was every opportunity to accentuate our differences and everything wrong with them. But nonetheless, through this thawing, this process of exchange and ping-pong diplomacy, now the two countries are not killing each other.
And interestingly, on Iran, I went to a conference in Bahrain earlier in December, and the Iranians were there. I looked up out of curiosity, who are these delegates from Iran. And each of the three delegates from Iran had been educated at the United States, one at the University of Houston, one at the University of Cincinnati and one at Michigan State.
And I wasn't surprised. There is common ground.
But given every opportunity to express even the slightest finding of that common ground, I find that you've instead fallen to accentuating and magnifying our differences.
RICE: Well, Senator, let me make just make the following point.
You know, when the Forum for the Future was held, the very important meeting that was held to talk about reform in the Middle East, the Iranians were invited. The Moroccans wanted to invite them. We said we had no objection. And they didn't come.
And I think there's a reason they didn't come, which was that that was a gathering of civil society and business leaders and people in the country who wanted to talk about reform.
RICE: That's an opportunity for Iran to interact with the world.
We showed, I think, our respect for and our humanitarian impulse to the Iranian people with our response to the Bam earthquake. And it was a very great moment in the history of American compassion and generosity. And I hope we'll have other opportunities that are not linked to disaster to let the Iranian people know that we have no desire to isolate them from the international system or from others.
And so, I understand your question. It's a complex problem when you're dealing with a regime that really has views that we consider illegitimate. But from the point of view of the Iranian people, this is a people who should be in contact with the rest of the world.
CHAFEE: Well, thank you very much.
I know my time is up. I'll just say, I thank you for your time.
And yesterday, we talked about Martin Luther King Day and I recommended you read his great treatise, "Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community."
RICE: Thank you.
LUGAR: Thank you, Senator Chafee.
BIDEN: Madam Secretary, you had a long day yesterday but you've got many long days ahead of you as secretary of state. But I'd like to cut right to it.
Yesterday as -- and I'm going to make it clear, I intend to vote for you because I believe strongly, the president is entitled to his Cabinet unless the person he taps is so far out of the mainstream -- and you are clearly not -- or is not intellectually capable to handle the job -- you're clearly capable. And he obviously values you very, very much as his counsel.
BIDEN: So I'm going to vote for you. But I must tell you it's with a little bit of frustration and some reservation.
The questions we asked you in writing, and then yesterday at the hearing, I thought gave you an opportunity to acknowledge some of the mistakes and misjudgments of the past four years.
And I want to make it clear, and I made it clear time and again, no matter who is president -- no matter who is president -- could have been the Lord Almighty, it could have been Al Gore, it could have been John Kerry, could have been anyone, it could have been John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan -- after 9/11, they would have made mistakes. There's no way in which we could have undertaken this effort without some mistakes being made.
So the point we're -- at least I, and I don't think anyone else here is different -- was trying to get to you with you yesterday is not to play, "I got you" or embarrass the president, but about what we've learned, what we'd do different, how we'd proceed differently given the opportunity again or given a similar circumstance, which we may face.
We may face a God-awful choice in Korea. We may face a God-awful choice in Iran. And we may face an awful choice with regard to Syria.
And so we're trying to get some insight into how a second term, a second chance, a second round might be different, not even because anybody else would have done it better, not because -- that Al Gore, had he been president, would have done it better.
But instead of seizing the opportunity, it seems to me, Dr. Rice, you have danced around it and, sort of, stuck to the party line, which seems pretty consistent: You're always right, you never made any mistakes, you're never wrong.
And it's almost like, "If I acknowledge any misjudgments on the part of me or the president or anybody in the team, it's a sign of weakness."
But I personally don't think it is. I think it's a sign of some degree of maturation, strength.
Yesterday, you claimed my colleague Barbara Boxer was impugning your integrity when she asked you about the changing rationale for the war in Iraq.
I wish, instead, you had acknowledged the facts: The administration secured the support of the American people and of the Congress for going to war based overwhelmingly on the notion that they believed and it was portrayed, in my view, by the administration -- understandably from your perspective -- that Iraq was an imminent threat because it possessed or was about to possess weapons of mass destruction.
BIDEN: Now, when it turns out there are no such weapons, you claim the war was based on removing a dictator.
Now, my recollection -- I've asked my staff to go back and check this, and before the hearing is over this morning they'll have statements -- my recollection it was explicitly stated it was not about regime change, that's not why we were going to war; that would be the effect, but that wasn't the rationale for going to war when we went to war.
Now, I'm glad Saddam's gone. He deserves a special place in Hell -- a special place in Hell.
I, like others -- Chuck Hagel and I, we went up into Irbil. We got smuggled in before the war into northern Iraq. We rode on a seven-hour ride through the mountains -- I understand why the Kurds now say "the mountains are our only friends." And three or four hours before that in Turkey. And we met with the widows of those people who were gassed. We saw the pictures of little kids' eyes bulging out. And, you know, we saw what "Chemical Ali" actually did to those people. So he deserves a special place in Hell.
But if you read the resolution Congress passed giving the president authority to use force if necessary, it was about disarming Saddam. It was about disarming.
And reread the words of the president and other senior officials in speech after speech, TV appearance after TV appearance, you left the American people the impression that Iraq was on the verge of reconstituting nuclear weapons.
I don't doubt you believed that. But to pretend we didn't leave them that impression and leave the Congress the impression -- in fact, I'm not positive of this, but I think I was on "Face the Nation" the day that the vice president was on "Meet the Press." And he got asked about nuclear weapons -- the vice president said, "They have reconstituted their nuclear weapons."
And I got on -- asked on either "Late Edition" or one of the -- the same day, on Sunday I said -- they said, "Is that true?" And I looked at the camera and said, "Absolutely not."
One of two things, either the vice president is deliberately misleading the American people and the Congress, or you all are not telling the Congress the truth -- and at that time, I was the ranking member and just prior to that, the chairman -- telling us the truth about what we had in terms of intelligence. Because as I said, I have seen nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing up to that date to indicate they had reconstituted their nuclear capability.
And so, the -- back then, as I said, we were all left with the impression, as Senator Boxer suggested, that this was about weapons of mass destruction and an imminent threat.
BIDEN: Now, when I said about -- I don't know, six, eight months, maybe longer -- I said the administration claimed that there was an imminent threat, it was pointed out to me that the phrase "imminent threat" was not used by the president.
But here's what other senior officials said, "immediate threat," quote. "Moral threat," quote. "Urgent threat," quote. "Grave threat," quote. "Serious and mounting threat," quote. "Unique threat."
Now, it would almost be funny if it wasn't so, so serious that we are, sort of, dancing on the head of a pin here whether "imminent" was stated.
Now, you say that. I was corrected by other administration officials for saying that the president said "imminent."
But here's my point: Especially on matters of war and peace, we've got to level with the American people if we want, not only their support -- if we want to sustain that support.
My greatest worry -- and it genuinely is a worry -- if that if we're going to get the job done in Iraq, you're going to have to come back here for another at least $100 billion before it's over, probably close to $200 billion before it's all over.
And I'm worried your friends on that side of the aisle are going to say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, Jack, y'all didn't tell me that."
Now, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they'll all today pledge publicly that if you asked for $200 billion, they'll belly up to the bar and do it. I can tell you, I will. I can tell you, I will.
But you're going to have a little problem here -- you, the administration -- with this outfit, Democrats and Republicans, because I don't think they know what's in store here.
We've all got to be honest, also, with the world, otherwise, we'll do terrible damage beyond what we've already done to our credibility which is, in my travels around the world, at least in question, in many places.
You've heard a thousand times the analogy that was given about, you know, when Acheson went to de Galle and said, "You know, Mr. President, here I want to show you the pictures of the Cubans -- that the fact that the Cubans have put in Russian missile sites, et cetera, et cetera. And de Galle raised his hand and said, "No, no. I don't need to see that" -- I'm paraphrasing. He said, "I know President Kennedy would never mislead me in a matter of war and peace."
Well, we both know, because the world has changed, that even if Kerry had been elected, nobody out there is likely to believe the president of the United States on matters of intelligence just saying, "I know he'd never mislead me. You don't have to show me anything." Those days are gone, unfortunately, for awhile.
After Iraq, it's much harder for the world to rally to our side if we have to face a truly imminent threat in Korea or Iran.
BIDEN: The same goes for the way you answered my questions, in my view, about training Iraqi security forces. It is true: There's probably 120,000 people in uniform. But the question really is -- and I'll end, Mr. Chairman, I know my -- I'm going over my time.
The question really is, how many of those forces could supplant American forces? How many of them we could trade off for an American soldier? Because that's ultimately, again, the exit strategy: Get enough Iraqis there so we don't need American troops there.
Time and again, this administration has tried to leave the American people with the impression that Iraq has well over 100,000 fully trained, fully competent military police and personnel, and that is simply not true. You and I know that. We're months, probably years, away from reaching our target goal.
When the chairman and I were in Iraq with Senator Hagel, right after Saddam's statue went down, we asked the military as well as the police trainers, "How long would it take you to train a military force that's necessary?" They talked about 40,000. And they said, at least two, maybe three years.
"How long would it take you to train a police force capable of policing the country to replace the 79,000 thugs that were called police before?" They said, three to five years.
That was our people. Our people told us that.
And all of a sudden, Rumsfeld announces, "Hey, we've got this done. Don't worry, be happy." That calypso song should be the theme song of the Defense Department, the military of the Defense Department -- I mean, the civilians.
So, yesterday, I think you had a chance to help wipe the slate clean for the American people and our allies, tell them flat-out how hard it was going to be, how much more time it was going to take and why we needed to do it. It's not about revisiting the past, Dr. Rice, it's about how you're going to meet the challenges of the future.
BIDEN: And I must tell you, for the first time in the last four years, I have doubts about it either because you're not telling us, the president doesn't know, or you all don't have a plan. Because that's -- and I'm telling you honestly, that's what I walk away from this hearing worried about.
I'm going to vote for you. But I'm telling you, because of the standard I have about the president having intelligent, bright people, honorable -- and you're all of those things. He gets to choose who he wants.
But I just -- I left the hearing yesterday and got on the train somewhat perplexed.
And I'll end with this -- it's like the issue I asked you about Iran. If in fact, the Lord Almighty came down and said, "Look, we guarantee we can monitor, whether they're keeping the commitment, no nukes, no missiles, would we make a deal with them?" Doesn't mean we don't still fight about their support of Hezbollah, terror, human rights.
And my impression from you -- and maybe you can clarify it now -- is you said, no, we wouldn't make a deal if it were just those two things -- no nukes, no missiles, period, would we make a deal with them?
That's my question. Would we? Or do we have to have it all settled all at once with them?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
RICE: Senator, I'll be brief.
The question about Iran, I think, is a question of looking at the totality of the relationship.
Obviously, the pressing issue right now is to deal with Iran's nuclear program. And I think that we will see what becomes of the E.U.-3 efforts.
RICE: We'll work with them. We will see what we can do in the IAEA.
BIDEN: If we got that deal, would we sign it?
RICE: If the Iranians are prepared to verifiably and irreversibly get rid of their nuclear program, then that will be a very good day, and I think it would certainly change the circumstances that we are looking at.
BIDEN: I wish we had a court reporter who could play back what you just said.
What's the answer? Would you make the deal or not?
RICE: The answer is, Senator, is I'm not going to get into hypotheticals until I know what I'm looking at. That's the answer.
BIDEN: Well, you're in a hypothetical with China. You make a lot of deals with China. Their human rights program is horrible.
RICE: I understand those...
BIDEN: Their support is horrible. Their problems with us are serious.
I mean, I don't get it. Why can't you just say, if that worked -- wouldn't that be a nice message to send to the Iranians: "Hey, guarantee us no missiles, guarantee us no nukes, we can make a deal."
Is that a good idea?
RICE: Senator, what we have said to the Iranians is, look at the Libyan example. The United States doesn't have permanent enemies.
BIDEN: And look at the Libyan example and look at Gadhafi's role in human rights now in his country.
RICE: But what we've done with the Libyan example is that the Libyans made an irreversible -- we believe -- decision about their weapons of mass destruction. They made it, by the way, without a promise of specific deals.
We told them that there could be a path to better relations, and they're now on a path to better relations.
BIDEN: That's not what Gadhafi told me. I asked him why he made the deal -- straight up. The State Department was in there.
He said, "It was simple." He said, "I knew if I had used nuclear," -- well, first of all, he said, "Nuclear weapons didn't help you much," -- through a translator -- "nuclear weapons didn't help you much in Vietnam and in Iraq."