WALLACE: Finally, Haditha. This week, new Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki said the killing of Iraqi civilians in that town is not an isolated event.
I want to put up what he said. This is a phenomenon that has become common among many of the multinational forces. No respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch. It’s unacceptable.
Secretary Rice, is the prime minister right?
RICE: The prime minister is speaking to the concerns of the Iraqi people for greater security, and he obviously is concerned about reports that concern us as well. The president made very clear that these reports are deeply troubling.
But let me say just a couple of things, Chris, quickly. First of all, I talked to Prime Minister Maliki. He knows the importance of having coalition forces there until his own forces are capable of carrying out security missions, and indeed, overwhelmingly American forces are respected for what they are doing.
These are our sons and daughters and husbands, people who are putting their lives on the line every day for the Iraqi people, taking terrible sacrifice and putting their lives on the line.
When there have been any suggestions of misconduct, those suggestions are thoroughly investigated with due rights for the accused, but thoroughly investigated, and people are punished. So whether it is Haditha or what happened at Abu Ghraib, I can assure you that the investigation will be thorough and that people will act on what is learned.
But Prime Minister Maliki understands that he needs the coalition forces there.
WALLACE: What do you think of his very broad indictment of U.S. troops? He said that this is common, killing on a suspicion or a hunch. What do you think of his broad criticism of the role of U.S. troops who, after all, liberated his country?
RICE: Well, first of all, this was in a much longer set of comments. And I know now Prime Minister Maliki. I know what he thinks of the importance of American forces there.
Iraqis have told me themselves that there are neighborhoods in which people will not open the door for the Iraqi police, which is why they need a good ministry of interior, but they will for coalition forces.
We have had some bad incidents and there continue to be allegations of others which will be investigated. But overwhelmingly, American forces there putting their lives on the line every day, protecting Iraqis, helping to liberate them “” that is appreciated by the Iraqi people and by the prime minister.