May 3, 2003 | Broadcast

Defining Victory in Iraq.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, those comments made just two days ago. When Lee met Grant at Appomattox, it was clear who had won the Civil War. Likewise, when the Japanese surrendered to MacArthur on the USS Missouri.

Well, President Bush says the major combat in Iraq is over. Victory was achieved on the battlefield. But has the war been won?

Joining us from Washington are Clifford May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and P.J. Crowley, a former White House national security spokesman.

Thanks very much for being with us.

P.J., let me start off with you.

When will final victory be declared? What will it take for that final victory to be declared?

P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY SPOKESMAN: Well, I think the president’s right in saying that the military phase of this campaign is over and now we need to shift gears from combat to reconstruction and building a better Iraq. That is going to take a long time and I think, you know, going forward, what happens now will be critical for that larger calculation, whether this is truly an advance in terms of a larger war on terrorism. If we get Iraq right and that sets forward a dynamic in the Middle East, that could well be true. The harder Iraq is to put together, put back together, we could see a retreat in terms of the gains that we’ve had on the war on terrorism.

COOPER: Cliff May, is winning the peace more important or as important to winning the war in terms of being able to say the whole thing was a victory?

CLIFFORD MAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, we need to do both. I mean what we’ve accomplished in Iraq is this, we eliminated a terrible threat to the U.S., we liberated the Iraqi people and we’ve given them a tremendous opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have to establish a free and democratic and prosperous country.

But what President Bush said that was vital to understand is the battle of Iraq, not the war of Iraq. Iraq was one battle in a long war on terrorism. Afghanistan was another battle. We’ve lost some battles. 9/11 was a lost battle. The attack on the USS Cole was a lost battle. The ’93 bombing of the World Trade Center or the bombings of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, those were lost battles.

Only after 9/11 did we realize we have a war to fight.

We need to do two things now. We need to continue to prosecute this war against global terrorism and the Jihadist ideology that drives it, and we need to say to the Islamic world, we want you to join the free world. We’re not here to fight Islam. We are here to fight the radical Islamists who are committing acts of terror against the United States, against Israel, against other free world countries. That’s the larger picture.

COOPER: P.J., let’s focus back on Iraq. If weapons of mass destruction are not found, can victory still be declared?

CROWLEY: Well, that’s a very interesting question. Is, you know, clearly Saddam Hussein pursued a, had a desire for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. At various times he possessed a certain level of capability. I don’t think there’s any doubt there’s something there. But — and I think it’s important to find out what is there and what’s happened to what we can account for, because if we, if it’s because we’ve destroyed it, fine, and we can certify that Iraq has, in fact, been disarmed.

But because we know that this capability was mobile, if this has moved across borders and is now somehow on the black market, we ironically will win the war but make our larger proliferation effort that much more difficult if this does, in fact, get into the hands of terrorists or other rogue states. MAY: Let me make an important point, Anderson, that hasn’t been heard too much before. We have had scientists now coming forward, saying I was working on making disease bombs, I was working on botulinium toxin, on anthrax. Whether or not they know where those, the results are, I can’t tell you yet. But there’s a problem for the scientists who want to come forward because they open themselves to prosecution as war criminals as soon as they do and it’s not enough to say yes, but I was just taking orders or yes, but I was afraid.

We are going to have to find a mechanism under which we can give immunity to those scientists who come forward early and disclose fully so that they are not subject to prosecution if we want them to cooperate and tell us everything they know, everything they did and give us some clues as to where the products of their research may be right now.

COOPER: P.J., symbolically as well as strategically, how important is it to find Saddam Hussein, dead or alive?

CROWLEY: I think it’s going to be important practically. I think that for the Iraqi people who really wanted to move on and establish a kinder, gentler state, if you will. It will be important to find him, just as, I think, while we have al Qaeda on the run, it will be important symbolically and practically and materially to find Osama bin Laden.

So I don’t think that we can solidify the advances that we’ve made without getting these two guys in custody. MAY: I think P.J. is right but let me add this. Osama bin Laden knows how to organize a movement from caves. We’ve just arrested some terrorists in Pakistan who were planning to hijack airplanes or steal airplanes and run them into U.S. consulates. By contrast, I don’t think that Saddam Hussein knows how to operate when he is not, does not have access to his palaces and his personal trainers and his thugs and his weapons and his money. I don’t think he is going to be as effective, assuming he is alive.

So I think we, it’s a symbolic, symbolically it’s important. Tactically, practically it’s not quite as important that we know where Saddam Hussein is, though certainly I’d like to do that.

CROWLEY: But, Anderson, I think that what’s important is if you believe in the vision that members of the Bush administration have enunciated about using Iraq to establish a larger dynamic in the region — and I certainly hope that they have the staying power to see that through — then getting Saddam Hussein, bringing him before some sort of tribunal and having an accounting will be important and will send a very strong signal to other leaders in the region that they will be held accountable by their people and by the international community for their actions. MAY: By the way, that’s one of the things that Colin Powell I hope will be doing when he goes to Syria, is saying to Bashar al-Assad, the dictator there, if we find out — and I think we have already — that you are helping Saddam Hussein or others get out, get to other countries, sending them to Lebanon, getting them passports, doing other things to assist these guys, we’re going to take very serious actions.

Plus, we need to tell Assad you’ve got to close down the terrorist training camps that you operate, close down the terrorist offices, get your troops out of Lebanon, which right now is a vassal state. We have a lot more to do in this war on terrorism and there are other terrorist sponsors around the world we have to focus on.

COOPER: All right, we’re going to have to leave it right there.

Cliff May, P.J. Crowley, I appreciate you joining us both.

Thanks very much. MAY: Thank you.