March 9, 2003 | Broadcast

CNN Sunday

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A war of words has erupted over documents the U.S. used to help make its case against Iraq. It concerned some papers Secretary of State Colin Powell showed to the U.N. Security Council when he laid out evidence against Baghdad last month. Well, Friday, chief nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei said he thinks some of those documents were fake, and today he explained why.


MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: We did not challenge the U.S. and the U.S. was not the only source of that intelligence. They expressed concern. They provide us with certain document that allege that Iraq had tried to import uranium from Niger in 2000, in 2000. We went through a thorough analysis of the document, we went through interviews of many people who were supposed to be involved. We got forensic expert, and we’ve come to the conclusion that these documents are forgeries.


COOPER: Well, that was from Richard Roth’s interview with him yesterday. So is this a big setback for the U.S., or simply much ado about nothing? Two different opinions right now. David Silverstein is with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Also joining us, syndicated columnist Norman Solomon. He’s also the author of “Target Iraq, What the News Media Did Not Tell You.” Gentlemen, thanks for being with us, both of you.

David, I want to start off with you. Is this much ado about nothing?

DAVID SILVERSTEIN, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: It is much ado about nothing. The fact remains that no matter what kind of bad intelligence might have been fed to the United Nations from U.S. or British or other sources, there is no erasing the fact that Saddam has violated U.N. resolutions for 12 years, that he’s used poison gas on his own people, that he continues to murder them at will. There is no getting around that. There is no getting around the fact that he’s a threat both to U.S. interests in the region and to our allies there. And so whether or not this turns out to be a forgery is almost immaterial. The time has come for Saddam to be removed.

COOPER: Mr. Solomon, do you believe it’s a forgery, and if so how important is that?

NORMAN SOLOMON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It’s clear that it is a forgery and it’s very important. The reason that the “New York Times” today editorialized that the statements on Friday at the U.N. Security Council were devastating from Blix and ElBaradei is that this is part of a pattern. Forged documents claiming that the Iraqis were seeking uranium to enrich for their weapons program turns out to be absolutely falsehoods. The much ballyhooed claim for aluminum tubes for a nuclear program, again, falsehood. A poison factory we heard so much about from Secretary Powell again doesn’t hold up when reporters go there.


SOLOMON: … plagiarized material from the Internet ballyhooed by the secretary of state turns out to be a graduate student’s paper. This is a big problem and it undermines the case for war.

COOPER: David?

SILVERSTEIN: Look, the fact of the matter is that U.N. Resolution 1441 passed unanimously. That means that all the countries that are members of the Security Council at that time last November subscribed to the fact that Saddam Hussein was in material breach of all the past resolutions that required him to disarm, to stop his oppression of his own people, to remove the threat to Kuwait and neighboring countries. So the fact is is that whether this is a forgery, whether this comes from someplace else that we don’t know where it could have originated, it’s immaterial. It doesn’t matter.

Saddam is a threat. Saddam is what matters, and his removal is ultimately what’s truly important here. This is much ado about nothing.

COOPER: Well, David, Norman seems to be indicating that he at least believes the U.S. administration knew that these documents perhaps were not accurate. Do you think that is at all a possibility?

SILVERSTEIN: Well, I’m sure Norman subscribes to the notion that there is this vast right-wing conspiracy out there that controls the minds of people and that we should all be walking around with tin foil on our heads to prevent it. But the fact is that this administration has only been here for two and something years, and the last administration was there for eight years and they were dealing with the same Iraqi threat. They were the ones that helped to pass numerous U.N. resolutions saying, what, Saddam is in violation and Saddam is a threat. So for this information to come out now really is, again, much ado about nothing.

COOPER: Norman, do you in fact wear a tin foil hat?

SOLOMON: Well, you know, if we can get away from the kind of silly straw arguments that we just heard and go to the facts, I mean, the reality is, while David may be convinced, so many delegations on the U.N. Security Council are not only not convinced, they are evidently very distraught by the continued flow of disinformation and misinformation from the U.S. government. It’s akin to going to a trial…

SILVERSTEIN: It’s about oil contracts for them, Norman. You know that.

SOLOMON: … and present — to go ahead and present basically perjured testimony in front of a jury of the Security Council. And we also know in the last half-day now, that there was an arrest in Britain of a woman in the security services there for leaking a document that appeared in the “Observer” newspaper in London a week ago, which is a form of the British government acknowledging now tacitly that in fact it was an authentic memo that we know involved — excuse me. Let me finish my sentence.


SILVERSTEIN: … do not exist, except in your mind and out there on the left coast.

SOLOMON: Excuse me. We now have the documentation that the U.S. was spying on the delegations at the United Nations who were the swing votes. So not only do we have, in a sense, the perjured testimony at the Security Council, we have jury tampering as well. This is not…


COOPER: Before we go too far afield, let’s try to keep it focused here on this most recent accusation that was made. David, I’m interested to know, do you think this is going to affect, I mean, whatever happens next at the U.N.? Is it going to have that big an impact?

SILVERSTEIN: No, it will have no impact whatsoever. Because the bottom line is this: Russia, China, France, any other country that is siding with them to oppose the U.N. resolutions to try and eliminate the threat of Saddam Hussein, they are doing it for one reason only, they are doing it for money. French, the French have $40 billion in oil contracts, the Russians have it in billions and billions of dollars in oil contracts. The Chinese, our dear friends, the ones who tried to knock one of our planes out of the sky not too long ago, the Chinese were the ones who were responsible for building the command and control network, the fiberoptic communication system that allows Iraq’s missile systems to communicate with each other and fire on American planes.

Look, the members of the United Nations Security Council are not members of a jury. They are not a tribunal. All they are is a collection of countries. Whether they buy into the fact that Saddam is a threat or they don’t, whether they do so because they believe that there is something to be gained by removing him or they don’t because they have monetary interests at stake and other interests, fine. The bottom line is that Saddam remains a threat.

COOPER: Norman, final thought, about 20 seconds left.

SOLOMON: Yes, I would jump and say that what we have here is projection. We’re hearing that oil interests are at the heart of opposition from France without acknowledging the U.S. government’s enormous oil interests.


SOLOMON: Let me finish. We have a slow motion Gulf of Tonkin incident here where document after document has been proven to be forgery.

SILVERSTEIN: Is that the best you can do, Norman? Come on.

SOLOMON: Gulf of Tonkin incident here…


SOLOMON: If you’ll stop interrupting me, sir.

SILVERSTEIN: … you can do better.

SOLOMON: This war is telegraphed ahead of time to be based on lies, and we know it now. We have to stop this war…

SILVERSTEIN: He murdered Iraqis, he murdered millions of Iraqis.


COOPER: Going to have it leave it right there. David Silverstein and Norman Solomon, appreciate you being here. Thanks very much.