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ASD PA Clarke Interview with Sam Donaldson

Presenter: Victoria Clarke ASD (PA)
September 10, 2002

Monday, Sept. 9, 2002

(Interview Sam Donaldson)

Donaldson: In the prosecution of the war on terror a lot of the spotlight now is focused on Iraq and the Administration's desire to change the regime. They've made no bones about it. They intend to do that if they can, and they can if they use military means, and the President has said that, if necessary, we may have to do that.

Yesterday on CNN's Late Edition Condoleezza Rice who is the National Security Advisor made the case that while we can't be absolutely certain of what weapons Saddam Hussein has at the moment we know he's trying to acquire them and we'd better stop him now rather than later.

Here's the way she put it.

"I don't think anyone wants to wait for the 100 percent surety that he has a weapon of mass destruction that can reach the United States because the only time we may be 100 percent sure is when something lands on our territory. We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor. And joining us now from Washington is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke. Welcome, Secretary Clarke.

Clarke: How are you, sir?

Donaldson: That's a pretty scary way that the National Security Advisor put it. Did you intend to scare everybody in the country?

Clarke: Well, what we intend to do is have a very honest and adult conversation with the American people and with our friends and allies. We are living in a dramatically, dramatically different world than we were even a few years ago and the President's made clear, the only option that we are taking off the table is the option of doing nothing which is what some people sound like ... the course they want to choose.

We face a very real threat by weapons of mass destruction. We face a real and growing threat in terms of Hussein's capabilities with weapons of mass destruction. And when you're talking about something, a chemical or a biological weapon, for instance, that could kill not a few hundred but perhaps thousands and thousands and tens of thousands, time is not on our side.

Donaldson: Well Secretary Clarke, there's a suggestion that the President may decide to go to the United Nations and ask for a tough resolution which gives a time certain for full compliance with inspectors or else. Is that what you're considering?

Clarke: Well it's not up to me to preview the President's speech but he has made very clear that the road ahead in deciding what the course of action will be will be a lot of consultation and cooperation and collaboration with our friends and allies. This is a threat that's not just posed at the United States, it's also posed at our friends and allies around the world. So consultation and working with those friends and allies is very much a part of this process of deciding what the right course of action is.

Donaldson: Secretary Clarke, before I let you go I want however to remind us all of the words of the Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday on Meet the Press who also talked about consultation but he had a bottom line which sounded fairly ominous. This is some of what he said.

CHENEY QUOTE: "We'd like to do it with the approval and support of the Congress. We'd like to do it with the sanction of the international community. But the point on Iraq is this problem has to be dealt with one way or the other."

Secretary Clarke, as you said he seems to be saying doing nothing is not an option.

Clarke: Very challenging times require a lot of leadership.

Donaldson: Secretary Clarke, thanks for joining us.

Clarke: Thank you.

Donaldson: Victoria Clarke is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.