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Condi Rice: Iran is weak, Afghanistan is better, and the tea party is good for America

Condoleezza Rice, the former US Secretary of State, discusses her family, growing up in the segregated South, racism and sexism, the Iraq war, Iran, the war in Afghanistan, the world after 9/11, China's power, the tea party, and the state of things in Washington.

October 22, 2010

Condoleezza Rice, the former US Secretary of State, has just published a memoir, “Extraordinary, Ordinary People,” about growing up in the segregated South. She was interviewed by Olivia Ward of the Toronto Star this week, and this interview was made available to the Global Viewpoint Network.

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Olivia Ward: Your career has been a runaway success. What role did your family play?

Condoleezza Rice: When people ask me this question I say you have to know John and Angelena Rice. My parents were in many ways ordinary people – mom a schoolteacher, dad a high school guidance counselor, Presbyterian minister, and later university administrator. I doubt they ever made $60,000 between them. But somehow in these crucible years of Birmingham, Alabama, during segregation, they and my community had us all believing we might not have a hamburger at the Woolworth lunch counter, but we could be president of the United States if we wanted to be.

Race wound won't ever completely close in US

Ward: Did you find it more difficult coping with racism or sexism during your career?

Rice: While in the US, race is a very open wound that I don’t think will ever completely close, I do think we’ve got to the point where we don’t have so much role definition in the way we see a person. They can be a doctor, secretary of state, and now president. With women, it’s still a problem. As secretary of state, they’re never going to offend you. But for women in the field it’s still hard. We still have a long way to go on the gender side.

No regrets that we overthrew Saddam Hussein

Ward: Iraq is also a painful subject: 100,000 Iraqis dead, and 4,000 Americans. Do you have any regrets about the invasion?

Rice: I have absolutely no regret that we overthrew Saddam Hussein – although, of course, I wish things [afterwards] had gone better. There were many sacrifices made in that war, and those of us who were responsible for helping President [George W.] Bush make those decisions mourn those losses and will always be haunted by them. But I also recognize that the arc of history is a long, not a short one. We shouldn’t judge big historical changes as snapshots. The conversation we’re having now isn’t about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction or invasion of Kuwait, but can Sunni and Shia find a way to form a government [in Iraq]. Just think about what that means for the Middle East – a multi-confessional Arab state, the most important one strategically, and the discussion is about forming a government.

Iran is weaker power now than at any time

Ward: Some would say the war destabilized the Middle East, and left Iran more powerful in the region.

Rice: I don’t agree. While I’m very concerned about Iranian nuclear weapons, I think it’s a weaker power now than at any time since the revolution. After [the contentious election of] 2009 the clerics are at each other’s throats, and the economy is sinking under the weight of sanctions and the bad decisions of [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. The countries in the region are worried. A weak state can be dangerous. But Iraq will ultimately be a balancer to Iran. Iraqi Shia aren’t Persian, but Arab. They have no intention of letting Iran run their country.


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