Sunday, April 18, 2004
WALLACE: As we said, the Israelis killed Hamas leader Rantisi yesterday, the second attack on a Hamas leader in less than a month.
When the president met with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon this week, did he ask, and did he get any assurances, that the Israelis would not continue these assassination attacks?
RICE: The president said to the prime minister what he has said to him repeatedly, which is that it is important for Israel to defend itself, that everyone understands that Israel is in a war against terror, but that Israel needs to consider the consequences of the actions that it takes.
And, clearly, the important thing that the president and the prime minister talked about was the disengagement plan that the prime minister will now put to referendum before his party in Israel that would bring Israeli forces and Israeli settlements out of Gaza. That is ultimately going to be the best way to move this forward.
WALLACE: I want to get to that in just a moment, but on the question of assassinations, he did not say this is not helpful?
RICE: U.S. policy — well, first of all, the Israelis of course don't tell us that they're about to do something. And the United States has no advance knowledge of any sort of thing of that kind. The president has made clear in the past that it is important for Israel to keep in mind the consequences of everything that it does.
Obviously Wallace sees he's not going to get an answer so he changes topics. How hard can it be to say targeted assinations of leaders is a bad idea?
But this takes the cake:
WALLACE: The book also reports that after the CIA briefed the president in December of 2002 on the evidence that it had about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that Mr. Bush said this, and let's put it up: "I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD, and this is the best we've got?" And CIA Director Tenet answered the president, "Don't worry. It's a slam dunk."
Did that happen?
RICE: It did happen. The fact is that we all thought that the intelligence case against Iraq was very strong — not just the United States intelligence agencies...
WALLACE: But that's not what he's saying there. He seems to be saying, "That's all you've got?"
RICE: Well, the presentation, let's say, was not, I think, overwhelming to people. But let's review what we knew about Saddam Hussein. We knew that this was somebody who has used weapons of mass destruction, who was still deceiving the international community about weapons of mass destruction, who had a kind of association with them that was...
WALLACE: Dr. Rice...
RICE: ... well-, well-known.
WALLACE: But all I want to ask you about, how could the presentation to the president of the United States not be overwhelming?
RICE: That's what the president wanted to know.
It wasn't over-freakin'-whelming and we went to war? Somebody get me a drink.