Condoleezza Rice Discusses Iraq With Lawrence O'Donnell: 'Saddam Hussein Was A Threat' (VIDEO)

05/06/2011 02:13 am ET | Updated Jul 05, 2011

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat down with Lawrence O'Donnell Thursday night on MSNBC's 'The Last Word.' O'Donnell discussed the death of Osama bin Laden with Rice, but the main topic of conversation was the Iraq War.


Referencing a statement by former President George W. Bush that framed the perceived threat from Iraq in the context of the 9/11 attacks, O'Donnell said to Rice that "Iraq had nothing to do with September 11th." Rice responded, "after September 11th, of course you look at threats differently, your country has just been attacked, you know that you cannot allow threats to materialize."

She continued:

Rice: "If one looks at what happened to us on September 11th, we didn't connect the dots, there was a threat materializing that we didn't respond to. Saddam Hussein had been a threat from the time that he invaded Iran in the late 1980s through 1991, when in fact he went into Kuwait, dragging us into war. We thought he had reconstituted his weapons of mass destruction. And in a context in which terrorism and weapons of mass destruction was a nexus that we could not allow, we decided that this was a threat that had to be dealt with."

When O'Donnell questioned Rice further about the matter, Rice was insistent that Hussein posed a threat:

Rice: "Saddam Hussein was a threat, he had used weapons of mass destruction.....you have not focused on the fact that Saddam Hussein had been a threat to the United States of America, to the Middle East, since he invaded Iran. Now we made the wrong call then, and we supported him against Iran. He then became a more monstrous threat. After 1991, shooting at our aircraft in the no-fly zone that was supposed to be keeping his air force on the ground. Trying to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction. Breaking out of the sanctions through the scandalous oil for food program. Yes he was a threat. With or without mature weapons of mass destruction, he was a threat. And nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice, of course the lives lost will never be brought back. But an Iraq that is not a threat to invade its neighbors, not a threat to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction, not a threat to pay Palestinian terrorists as suicide bombers, that is going to be a better Iraq and a better Middle East. And so, in fact, I think that what we did in Iraq will be demonstrated by history to be an important part, an important pillar, of a new Middle East."

O'Donnell said that Hussein was not a threat to the U.S., and Rice responded, "you may not view him as a threat. Most of the world did."

Toward the end of the interview, O'Donnell turned the conversation to the recent uprisings in other Middle East countries and wondered if it would have been wise to let a similar organic movement occur in Iraq. Rice stated:

Rice: "Saddam Hussein was a threat. And we dealt with the threat. We didn't go to Iraq to bring democracy anymore than dealing with Adolf Hitler was to bring democracy to Germany. But once there, we felt that we had to help the Iraqi people get to democracy. And it's simply ill-informed and ahistorical to suggest that a dictator as brutal as Saddam Hussein would have allowed an Arab uprising in his country."

The conversation concluded with Rice insisting that the uprisings currently taking place in the Middle East would not have been possible in Hussein's Iraq:

Rice: "If you think for one minute that you were going to be able to take Saddam Hussein down by mass protests in the streets, then you're clearly ill-informed."

O'Donnell: "We'll never know."

Rice: "Yeah you're right, we'll never know, but I would have to say, anybody who thinks that that was going to happen, would have to be pretty ill-informed."



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