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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert
December 20, 1998, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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MR. RUSSERT: Joining us for the very latest on Iraq, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Madame Secretary, welcome.


MR. RUSSERT: The operation is over. Did everyone return home safely?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, everybody is home safe; and I think we owe a great debt of thanks for Americans in uniform for what they did there.

MR. RUSSERT: Does Saddam Hussein still have biological and chemical weapons?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that as a result of this mission that took 70 hours, Saddam Hussein is weaker. All the targets and things that he cares about most have been destroyed -- many of them.

The region is safer because we have managed, I think, to degrade his ability to threaten his neighbors. The box he is in is stronger because of the credibility of our use of force. We have done this all with a minimum of criticism in the international community. So I think that we have accomplished what we needed to.

But obviously it is very hard to say that everything that he has in the weapons of mass destruction has been destroyed. His capability of threatening his neighbors and delivering them has been severely degrading.

MR. RUSSERT: When you say degraded, what does that mean? It means he still has them; he still has biological and chemical weapons.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, itís hard for us to say that everything is gone. But let me just go through some of the things that happened.

There were 100 targets that were hit over four nights. There were 650 strike sorties; there were 400 cruise missiles delivered. The destruction was heavy and devastating, as I said, to most of the targets that he holds the most dear. So there were nine missile R&D facilities hit; 18 out of 19 of his weapons of mass destruction security aspects -- thatís the Republican Guard and his special concealment units -- were destroyed; 20 out of 21 command and control areas, 20 were damaged severely or destroyed; and eight palaces.

So when he claims heís victorious, that is sheer propaganda.

MR. RUSSERT: But he has the capacity to rebuild very, very quickly. And if he, in fact, rebuilds all those sites six months from now up and running, what do we do?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, weíre back; and we have said very clearly that we reserve the right to use force again. I think weíve proven our ability to deliver a very tough blow.

MR. RUSSERT: The UN weapons inspectors were removed from Iraq. Saddam says they will never be allowed back in. Thatís a real blow to us.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, the truth, Tim, is that they have not been able to do their job effectively for the last eight months. They did a tremendous job before; and as we said, many times they were able to destroy more weapons than the Gulf War. But they have not been able to do their job effectively.

The truth is that if there is no way for the international community to monitor what heís doing through UNSCOM, then the sanctions will remain in place. Saddam has to take some affirmative actions in order to let UNSCOM and the IAEA -- the International Atomic Energy Agency people -- back in.

MR. RUSSERT: But not having the inspectors on the ground is a real loss. Last year, President Clinton was on this program and we talked about this. Let me show the tape to you and our viewers and get your reaction to it.

(Video clip is shown.)

MR. RUSSERT: So the inspectors were able to destroy these weapons. We have lost them, so all we have left it bombing and bombing is not nearly as successful as the weapons inspectors on the ground.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That is true -- when they can operate and do their jobs well. But we have to remember that for the last eight months, they have not been able to do their job and we do have other means for monitoring and determining what they have. Obviously, on-the-ground inspectors that are doing their jobs is the best. But if we canít do that, then we have other means for monitoring; and as I said, we reserve the right to use force again.

MR. RUSSERT: Scott Ritter, one of those former inspectors, said that this was a total set-up; that it was a deliberate attempt to provoke and elicit Iraqi defiance; and that the United States was a party to writing the United Nations report all as, in effect, a ploy to begin the bombing.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thatís just wrong. I can tell you that Chairman Butler is a very independent actor. We knew ahead of time, obviously, because he stated, that these inspections were going to take place at a particular time. He had intrusive inspections.

Frankly, I thought that Saddam Hussein would comply. He had an easy way of complying and then going to the comprehensive review. To say that it was a set-up is just dead wrong. What happened here was that Butler acted independently and we were prepared to take action if, in fact, as Butler said, he was not able to do his work. But absolutely no set-up.

MR. RUSSERT: There was a lot of discussion in this country about end-game. What d we really want to achieve. Jack Kemp, the Republican candidate for Vice President in 1996 had this to say: "What specific purpose is the bombing meant to achieve -- to get the inspectors back in Iraq; to topple Saddam Hussein; to inflict punishment? Or does it have no more purpose beyond venting frustration from years of failed policy?"

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that obviously there is no silver bullet for dealing with Saddam Hussein or it all would have been taken care of a long time ago.

We have been able to maintain the toughest sanctions regime in the history of those kinds of regimes. But this mission was designed in order to degrade Saddamís weapons of mass destruction programs and those associated delivery systems and his ability to threaten his neighbors. That has been a successfully accomplished mission. In the longer term, we have made very clear that we would like to see a different regime -- a regime that respects the international community, but most of all, reflects what the Iraqi people want. That is what weíre going to be working towards by more active support of the various opposition groups.

MR. RUSSERT: Can the economic sanctions against Iraq ever be lifted as long as Saddam Hussein is in power?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, if Saddam Hussein were to abide by the Security Council resolutions; but I think that is very unlikely. Saddam Hussein has that option -- he has had that option all along. He said at the end of the Gulf War that he would disarm. He has not done that. He needs to follow through on his international obligations.

MR. RUSSERT: But if he did that -- if he did it -- he obeyed all the UN regulations and resolutions, he could stay in power?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, yes, if he did. But I think Iíve used this term often -- it is hypothetical and simply I donít see it in the works.

MR. RUSSERT: Nearly a quarter of a million Iraqi children have died because of lack of food and medicine. Does the United States bear any responsibility for that by enforcing the sanctions?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, Saddam Hussein bears full responsibility for that. It is actually the United States that was the author of the oil-for-food program which permits Saddam to sell oil for food. If we had not done that, and if the sanctions werenít in place, then he would be selling oil for tanks. So it is the United States and our allies that have made sure that the people of Iraq have food.

Let me just make something very clear, Tim. The embargo and the sanctions have never prohibited food and medicines from going to the Iraqi people.

MR. RUSSERT: The Republican National Committee circulated a box chart from The Washington Times the other day. It lists five different examples that every time the President was in political trouble -- impeachment, his finger-wagging declaration that he did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky, when the judge in the Paula Jones case made public some documents, the Paula Jones case was filed -- five different times he used or threatened to use military action. Theyíre obviously trying to make a correlation between use or misuse of American foreign policy to distract attention from the Presidentís problems. How do you respond to that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I respond to the fact that it is completely wrong. I am President Clintonís chief diplomat and foreign policy spokesperson, and I have been involved in every one of the decisions during -- I donít know what it says in that box -- but in every foreign policy decision that we have made; and they have had their own clock. They have to do with the process of diplomatic negotiation, reacting to activities that are against US national security interest.

But during this period, I think people have to remember that the President has been involved in getting the peace in Northern Ireland. We have improved our relations with China. We have dealt deliberately with whatís been happening in Bosnia and Kosovo. We have moved smartly on the Wye process. The President has been involved in all of that, and the timing has been dictated by the internal clock of foreign policy and by nothing else.

MR. RUSSERT: Last January the President had a Cabinet meeting, brought in all his secretaries. You came out and talked to the press and said the President said the allegations against him are untrue and heíll be fine. The President has now been impeached and the allegations were true. Were you misled or misused by the President; and has that affected your ability to do your job?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have spoken on this before; and I said, yes, I was misled, and the President apologized. But I can assure you that in no way has this affected my ability to do the job or, more importantly, the Presidentís clout and credibility internationally. I have spoken to over 30 foreign leaders -- either foreign ministers or heads of state. All of them have been supportive of this last action. In fact, many of them thought it was necessary, and they have made very clear that it is Saddam Hussein who is to blame. They have made very clear their confidence in the President of the United States, and have shown this through their support. So this has not affected the way that I or the President can do our jobs.

MR. RUSSERT: Finally, will the impeachment and a Senate trial affect American foreign policy?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The answer to that is no; because the President is doing his job, I am doing my job, the other part of the national security team are all on the job. We are determined to protect and defend US national interest.

MR. RUSSERT: Madame Secretary, thank you for joining us, and I hope you have a great holiday.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you; you, too, Tim.

[End of Document]

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