- By Annie LowreyAnnie Lowrey is assistant editor at FP.
With a hat-tip to our incoming intern Michael Wilkerson, here’s tape of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defending the Bush administration enhanced interrogation policies — which she insists never led to torture — speaking off-the-cuff at a Stanford University dorm. Here’s a really quick transcript [updated] — will correct for word-errors:
How are we supposed to continue promoting America as this guiding light of democracy and how are we supposed to win hearts and minds in the world as long as we continue with these actions?
Well, first of all, you do what’s right. That’s the most important thing — that you make a judgment of what’s right. And in terms of enhanced interrogation, and rendition, and all the issues around the detainees. Abu Ghraib is, and everyone said, Abu Ghraib was not policy. Abu Ghraib was wrong and nobody would argue with…
Except that information that’s come out since then speaks against that.
No, no, no — the information that’s come out since then continues to say that Abu Ghraib was wrong. Abu Ghraib was. But in terms of the enhanced interrogation and so forth, anything that was legal and was going to make this country safer, the president wanted to do. Nothing that was illegal. And nothing that was going to make the country less safe.
And I’ll tell you something. Unless you were there in a position of responsibility after September 11th, you cannot possibly imagine the dilemmas that you faced in trying to protect Americans. And I know a lot of people are second-guessing now, but let me tell you what the second-guessing that would really have hurt me — if the second-guessing had been about 3,000 more Americans dying because we didn’t do everything we could to protect them.
If you were there in a position of authority, and watched Americans jump out of 80-story buildings because these murderous tyrants went after innocent people, then you were determined to do anything that you could that was legal to prevent that from happening again. And so I think people do understand that.
Now, as to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and so forth — I agree with you. We have tried to use the trafficking in persons and all of those measures, human rights reports and so forth, to put a spotlight on the kinds of problems that you have in places like Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or Oman or other places. But you can’t — you don’t have the luxury in foreign policy of saying, alright, I won’t deal with that country because I don’t like its human rights record. You don’t have that luxury. So if you need Saudi Arabia to fight al Qaeda internally — which is by the way where al Qaeda came from — or if you need Saudi Arabia to be part of a coalition that’s going to help bring a Palestinian state, you can’t decide not to deal with Saudi Arabia because of its problems with human rights. Or, if you need to make sure that the Gulf is safe from Iranian influence — you want to talk about human rights abusers? — Iran.
I’m well aware.
I’m well aware.
So, foreign policy is full of tough choices. Very tough choices. The world is not a bunch of easy choices in which you get to make ones that always feel good.
I’m aware, but…[I’m sorry, we have to move]
Let him finish, let him finish.
Even in World War II, as we faced Nazi Germany — probably the greatest threat that America has ever faced — even then…
With all due respect, Nazi Germany never attacked the homeland of the United States.
No, but they bombed our allies…
No. Just a second. Three thousand Americans died in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
500,000 died in World War II, and yet we did not torture the prisoners of war.
And we didn’t torture anybody here either. Alright?
We tortured them in Guantanamo Bay.
No, no dear, you’re wrong. Alright. You’re wrong. We did not torture anyone. And Guantanamo Bay, by the way, was considered a model "medium security prison" by representatives of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe who went there to see it. Did you know that?
Were they present for the interrogations?
No. Did you know that the Organization — just answer me — did you know that the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe said Guantanamo was a model medium security prison?
No, but I feel that changes nothing…
No — Did you know that?
I did not know that, but that changes absolutely nothing.
Alright, no — if you didn’t know that, maybe before you make allegations about Guantanamo you should read.
Now, the ICRC also had access to Guantanamo, and they made no allegations about interrogations at Guantanamo. What they did say is that they believe indefinite detention, where people didn’t know whether they’d come up for trial, which is why we tried with the military commissions system to let people come up for trial. Those trials were stayed by whom? Who kept us from holding the trials?
I can’t answer that question.
Do your homework first.
I have a question…
Yes. The Supreme Court.
I read a recent report, recently, that said that you did a memo, you were the one who authorized torture to the — I’m sorry, not torture, waterboarding. Is waterboarding torture?
The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations, under the Convention Against torture. So that’s — and by the way, I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency. That they had policy authorization subject to the Justice Department’s clearance. That’s what I did.
Okay. Is waterboarding torture?
I just said — the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so, by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture.
That’s the most articulated defense of enhanced interrogation — now, we call it torture — we have from a high-ranking Bush official.